For many years, the Magic Kingdom has opened its doors to the gay world. They even offer an annual Gay Week at both Disneyland and Disneyworld. For their efforts, they receive more than their share of outcries of eternal perdition from the extreme Right. At the same time, the business must be good enough to withstand the threats of banishment and damnation.
Still, there’s one place the Mouseworks rarely goes, if ever. That’s the place where Uncle Walt started his entertainment empire; the animated feature film. It looks like that’s changing with their latest holiday season animated feature film, Tangled.
No kids, the hero the appropriately named Flynn Ryder (voiced by Dexter’s Zack Levi) will ride into sunset with the latest—seriously female--Disney Princess, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore). Disney the Brand is way too smart to mess with THAT part of the formula. Yet, pay attention, there are some interesting hints.
The first hint is evil stepmother Goethl (Donna Murphy). She’s pulled right out of the pages of Mommie Dearest. This is the most wonderfully diabolical character since Susan Sarandon’s deliciously evil mom turn in Enchanted, and Murphy has a much better singing voice.
The next clue is Tangled is on one heck of a Broadway production. It’s only a matter of time before it goes on to the Great White Way. Part of this is due to the team they’ve put together. If you examine the credits of this film you’d discover some familiar names. The producers include Don Hahn and Al Menken. Tangled’s animation director is Glen Keane. The last time these three worked together was Disney’s one feature film to earn a Best Feature Film nomination, Beauty & The Beast. The teaming of these three creative forces make Tangled an incredible achievement in its own right.
Yes, the story is a Disney-fied reinterpretation of the old Grimm’s Fairy Tale. In Tangled, Rapunzel has the magical ability to heal just about anything and restore eternal youth…as long as you don’t cut her hair. Goethl kidnaps the young lass and locks her up in the infamous tower. Goethl’s scheme for eternal youth and virtual immortality probably would have worked. Except that’s when the suave uber thief Flynn didn’t give Rapunzel motivation to get out of Dodge. Now this soon-to-be classic Disney villainess has to really show how backstabbing and conniving she can be to win Rapunzel back.
Until this point, the film is a mish mash of sterling moments, such as Goethl’s knock out number “Mother Knows Best,” or Rapunzel going through mood swings that should have the young thing be locked up in real life. Then it kicks into high gear when Flynn he’s had enough of the young diva with the lethal frying pan. So he takes her to the most dangerous place he knows, a low down dive called the Snuggly Duckling.
Yes, you read that right.
It’s led by some of the ugliest looking ne’er-do-wells since Captain Hook’s crew. The only thing is they, like Rapunzel it turns out, have their share of dreams. The biggest, meanest looking one of them likes to collect his own glass menagerie, especially miniature unicorns. Another wants to be a mime. A third dreams of being an interior designer. The leader, Hook Hand (Brad Garrett), dreams of being the next Liberace.
Under lesser hands, this could have been incredibly insulting. Still, Keane manages to create some incredibly funny and just plain incredible performances out of these covertly queer characters. They easily out-perform Robert DeNiro’s Captain Shakespeare in Stardust. Further, with the aid of this crew of malfeasants Tangled kicks into overdrive, turning into a truly turbo-charged screwball comedy that matches some of the best work of Howard Hawks and Frank Capra.
Yes, like all true Mouseworks productions, the film will move towards its inevitably happy ending. Goethl will meet an extremely satisfying death. Rapunzel and Flynn with have the big kissing scene. The thugs will all stand around them with tears in their eyes. At the same time, one could also call it an incredibly satisfying conclusion.
More important, this is the most out I’ve ever seen in any Disney feature film ever. As said before, this movie’s prince charming won’t ride into the sunset with the boy of his dreams. The Magic Kingdom gets enough flack from the hell spawn of Anita Bryant as it stands.
Then again, Disney World has already announced its next Gay Week for 2011. While always espousing family values, they seem to be slowly but surely moving towards a more well-rounded world view. It looks like they’ve managed to make their cake and eat it, too. Luckily, Tangled is a tasty little sucker and we all get to have a bite.