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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tangled 2D/3D Blu-ray Review

Tangled marks Walt Disney’s 50th animated feature film and it’s a fitting choice since it seems to bridge the company’s legendary legacy of traditional animation with the new focus on computer animation.  Although the film is entirely CGI, Disney has perfected it so well that it’s taken what worked traditionally and integrated it into computer animation seamlessly.




Film (5 out of 5 stars) 

As most fairy-tales do, the movie opens with a story about magic, love, loss, and a recap of past events.  It seems that at one point, a single drop of sunshine falls from the heavens to land on a remote white flower thereby giving it magical properties such as healing and preventing old age.  An old woman named Gothel (Donna Murphy) discovers the flower and the power it offers and decides to keep it for herself and hides it from all others.  In the meantime, a kind and just King’s wife is deathly ill and he dispatches his troops to find the flower (it’s never explained how he even knew it existed).  When the men approach the hidden flower, the woman (who is now young thanks to the flower), panics and in her haste to run away, accidentally exposes the hiding place of the flower which is discovered and brought to the King.
After being healed by the flower, the Queen recovers and gives birth to a cute little girl named Rapunzel who is quickly kidnapped by Gothel once she discovers that Rapunzel’s hair has the same healing properties as the flower did.  Gothel hides the baby in a hidden tower in the forest and raises her as her own and becomes Mother Gothel.  After frantically looking for their daughter for years, the King and Queen fail to find her.  All they can do is to mark Rapunzel’s birthday every year by sending up floating lanterns into the sky to let her know that her parents are still thinking of her and hope that it will bring her home someday.
Almost eighteen years later, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is a kind young woman who has never been told of her heritage but is aware of her healing gifts.  Forced to remain in the tower, Rapunzel dreams of running outside and experiencing life but instead is left to find things to do inside the tower.  To pass the time, she has mastered cooking, cleaning, and painting (she’s painted every square inch of her room).  Her only companion other than the busy Mother Gothel, is her pet chameleon Pascal who plays hide and seek with her.  For her eighteenth birthday, Rapunzel asks Gothel to be allowed to see the floating lanterns that rise up every year on the day of her birth but she is cruelly rebuffed by Gothel.
Despite seeming to care about Rapunzel in her own selfish way, Mother Gothel keeps her in check by delivering back-handed compliments and dire warnings about the outside world designed to keep Rapunzel’s self-esteem down and to crush any desire she has about leaving.  The closest Disney villain to Mother Gothel is Ursula from The Little Mermaid, and they even have similar motives and songs.  Mother Gothel continues a long line of female villains stretching back to the first Disney movie Snow White, who do evil things because of their vanity.  If it’s a Disney male villain, then he is evil because of a lust for power.  I understand that these movies are based on pre-existing stories, but it would be nice to see those stereotypical motives shaken up. But I digress.  With Rapunzel sufficiently cowed, it appears that she will never get to see the world outside of her window.
That is, until a thief named Flynn Ryder (Zachery Levi) who has stolen a royal crown and after double-crossing his companions, comes across the hidden tower while trying to escape the guards chasing him.  After climbing up the tower to hide, Flynn is knocked out by Rapunzel and hidden away until Rapunzel convinces Mother Gothel to go on a three day trip.  Once they are alone, Rapunzel makes a deal with Flynn that she will return the stolen crown to him if he takes her to the castle to see the floating lanterns and then bring her back to the tower safely.
And so begins their adventures together.  Not only are they trying to escape the captain of the guard and his horse Maximus (who is by far the most determined to catch Flynn), but they are also being hunted by Flynn’s former criminal companions, and by Mother Gothel by now has discovered that Rapunzel has escaped the tower.  With a whole new world to explore and experience, Rapunzel quickly discovers that she is more than capable to take her place in it despite what Mother Gothel had told her for years.  For Flynn, who had always wanted to be alone and wasn’t trustworthy at all, he suddenly sees a new life path that never occurred to him before Rapunzel entered his life.  Flynn and Rapunzel represent a new dream for each other even though it takes awhile for them to accept it.  That future will be put to the test, as they both have to overcome all of the forces working against them before they can see if they can make that dream become a reality.
Tangled is a very enjoyable movie and the computer animation in this movie is very impressive.  It’s fluid (especially her hair), and more life-like than any other CGI movie to date.  The seamless integration of the detailed characterization  offered by traditional animation combined with the scope and depth of CGI, gives us the best of both worlds.  I also really liked the sidekicks who actually added a lot of humor and substance to the film instead of just being generic sidekicks who are only there because it’s expected.  While the plot has several holes in it, the movie is so engaging that you never really stop to worry about it.
I did however wonder about the ending of the movie which didn’t seem to follow the logic that had been previously established, so I brought it up to legendary Disney animator Glean Keane, who was the Executive Producer and Supervising & Directing Animator for Tangled during an interview that took place this morning.  (The full transcript of the interview is forthcoming).  Be aware that we are entering spoiler territory so if you haven’t seen the movie yet skip past this section and come back after you’ve seen the movie!
SPOILER
Sean Ferguson – “If the loss of her hair symbolized the loss of her power to heal, then how did her tears heal Flynn?  Is it an inherent power within her that works even without singing or her hair?”
Glen Keane – “The healing tear was an important element in the original fairytale.  It always symbolized for me that the true nature of Rapunzel’s gift came from her heart, not her hair.  This dramatic ending allows us to revisit a similar moment from Dumbo.  When he loses his magic feather and can still fly, he can fly because that’s who he was, a flying elephant.  Rapunzel finds that the healing power never left her and is actually released by love.  Does she keep healing every time she sheds a tear?  I believe that was the last of that power.”
END SPOILER
So there you have it! Straight from the legend himself! I’ll have the rest of the conversation with Mr. Keane posted soon.  Tangled is a fantastic family film and I thought it was a perfect movie to represent the 50th animated feature from Disney as it’s a blend of their legendary past and their innovative future.

Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

Tangled continues Disney’s recent unblemished record of perfect transfers for their animated films.  Both 1080p (1.78:1) transfers look absolutely gorgeous! Both the 2D and the 3D version have eye-dropping visuals and the colors are incredibly vibrant and lush.  A lot of the film is set in dimly lit areas but explodes in color when given the chance such as when Rapunzel finally leaves the tower and for the first time touches grass with her bare feet.  Black levels are solid and there’s also some excellent contrast as well.
The 3D version is just as good as the 2D version and despite being in 3D, the colors have just as much impact as the 2D version, but the added depth just makes it seem like you are there.  While not as aggressive as some 3D movies are as far as constantly extending items out to the audience, Tangled does have some nice moments that aren’t overdone such as the scenes from the tavern and especially the floating lanterns that look amazing in 3D.  There was one instance of ghosting but it wasn’t egregious enough to make me lower the score.  Although most of my colleagues here are against 3D, I love the depth and scope it offers when it’s done right.  And once again Disney has done it right!

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

The film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix is also extremely good with a lively well-balanced track that utilizes all of the channels well.  Dialogue is crystal clear and never drowned out by the effects or the score by Alan Menken.  The score itself is presented well mainly in the front and rear speakers and it blends in well with the rest of the movie.  There is also some very effective use of LFE channel that kicks in for the several scenes that call for it.  There are also some very nice scenes that offer excellent cross channel panning such as the scene in the tavern where Flynn and other objects are tossed about the room.  This is a fantastic lossless mix!

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars) 

This is the only area that the disc didn’t meet my expectations based on previous Disney releases.  Not only are there not very many extras on this four disc set, but the ones that are present aren’t as good as they could have been.  In a surprising departure from their norm, Disney didn’t offer any director commentaries, or any extensive behind the scenes featurettes like they usually do.  I do not understand why but it’s unfortunate in any case.
  • Untangled: The Making of a Fairy Tale – Exactly how long is Rapunzel’s hair? How many lanterns were used? Where did Pascal’s name come from? Which Disney animated feature first utilized CG animation? These and more will be answered when Mandy Moore and Zach Levi take viewers on a kooky behind-the-scenes tour to learn how the film was made.  This was a fairly silly and juvenile look at some clips of how they made the film along with some short interviews.  From it’s attempt to look both silly and edgy at the same time (I hate it when the camera cuts away to a 3/4 profile shot), this is very disappointing.  The young stars are likable enough but whoever came up with the script and directed this should be embarrassed.
  • Deleted Scenes – Co-directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno introduce three scenes (The Jaunty Moose, Chemistry Develops, and Vigor The Visionary) and illuminate why they were ultimately cut. All of these scenes are still in a storyboard format so don’t expect polished scenes.  None of these would have really added to the movie.
  • Extended Songs– The complete versions of two songs from the movie ( When Will My Life Begin and Mother Knows Best) are shared in a unique feature that explains the co-directors decision to scale them down.
  • Two Original Storybook Openings – Two alternate versions of the film’s opening sequence described by co-directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard.  The first one follows past Disney fairy-tale movies with an opening book and an animated recap while the second one is closer to the final version.  I think the final version works best for the film.
  • 50th Animated Feature Countdown – A video montage celebrating Tangled as the 50th film to join The Walt Disney Studios’ prestigious lineup of classic animated features.  A bunch of clips of the previous 49 Disney movies that made up the list.  It’s nice to see some old favorites pop up, even if it’s just for a second or two.
  • DVD Copy of the Film
  • Digital Copy of the Film

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars) 

Tangled is a lot of fun and it has a great cast that adds a lot to the movie.  With Zachery Levi, Mandy Moore, and the talented supporting cast that includes Donna Murphy, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, and even Richard Kiel (Jaws from the Bond movies!), everyone is pitch perfect in their role.  This set could have had a perfect score if they had put some more effort into the special features.  But no matter what, this is a movie that the whole family will enjoy!
Tangled comes out on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD on March 29, 2001.  Order your copy today!

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