Elsa & Anna from Frozen, Rapunzel from Tangled. Images Courtesy of Disney
In celebration of Tangled’s 10th anniversary, it seems apt that we set it up against its main rival – Frozen. You may have wondered why the two are always pitted against each other. Well, let’s see: they were released in close proximity to each other (Tangled was released in 2010, Frozen in 2013), the visuals and aesthetic of both films are very similar (just take a look at Rapunzel’s features set against Elsa and Anna’s), and both these animated films play against established tropes in their own ways.
Yet somehow, Frozen is overwhelmingly more popular. The song “Let It Go” was everywhere, making adults groan and children jump with glee, but Tangled, which came onto our screens earlier, didn’t quite reach the level that Frozen accomplished. So, it’s time to compare the two, and prove once and for all that Tangled is the better film.
1. The Journeys
Both Tangled and Frozen deal with the main theme of self-discovery/self-actualization, where our main female protagonists embark on a journey and in the process, discover something about themselves. They both enlist the help of a male partner, and these male figures eventually become romantic partners.
The thing is, while Anna’s journey is perilous at times (there were wolves at some point, I think), it involves her going up a mountain, which doesn’t really have the scale that Rapunzel’s journey had. Anna’s narrative is tied to Elsa’s, and she makes the journey for her, and yes, they both discover things about themselves, but the focus is more on sisterhood. She also knew what she was headed towards, even if she didn’t know how it would end.
Rapunzel’s journey is catalysed by her curiosity, and a desire to live out her dream. She wanted to do something for herself, and she managed to exert a sense of agency despite Mother Gothel’s attempts to remove that from her. Rapunzel’s world was confined to the space Mother Gothel build for her, and yet she was brave enough to venture beyond when so much of the world is unknowable to her. There is a greater risk in her journey, and a greater pay-off later on when she finds out who she is in the process.
I am not saying that bonds of sisterhood is not important, but Rapunzel’s pursuit is more universal and relatable. The act of dreaming is a tale as old as time, something tied to the human condition. Tangled is telling us to be brave in chasing our dreams, because the act of dreaming is an incorruptible one.
2. Visuals & Aesthetic
While both films have a similar look with regard to the characters and the setting, unfortunately for Frozen, being set against a wintry backdrop isn’t the most visually engaging thing. It’s a beautiful film to look at, but I don’t remember any scene standing out to me in the way that it does in Tangled. I don’t even have to tell you which scene, I’m pretty sure you already know which one I’m talking about – the scene where Rapunzel and Flynn see the lights. It starts out quiet and dark, Rapunzel gently laying a flower in the water, and then, the lanterns make their way out into the sky.
It’s so so beautiful, like goosebumps on your arm kind of beautiful, as the lanterns surround them on all sides, and we see the lights reflected in the water while floating in the sky. I mean, can Elsa constructing an ice castle beat that in any way?
3. The Music
When it comes to the music in Disney animated films, we need to ask ourselves, which tunes are lasting bops? “Let It Go” was catchy in the moment, and “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman” was cute, but are these songs you find yourself listening to everyday? I have actually started my day with Rapunzel’s “When Will My Life Begin?” and “Mother Knows Best” is fantastically dramatic, and does well in giving us insight to the villain.
“Love is An Open Door” fares better as a bop, but it’s a duet where the guy turns out to be the villain, so it kind of spoils the supposed romance of it all. In comparison, we have Rapunzel and Flynn’s duet of “I See the Light”, which is wonderfully dreamy. While Anna and Hans’ duet highlights the artificiality of their insta-love relationship, in Rapunzel and Flynn’s we see authenticity and truth.
4. The Villains
Much like many of the Disney villains that came before him, Hans’ goal is a simple one – he wants power. This is similar to Scar, Ursula, Jafar and so on. While the revelation was certainly unexpected (though I already thought he was shady from the beginning), he isn’t a particularly memorable villain. Mother Gothel, on the other hand, is truly a unique kind of villain. The horror of her villainy is the fact that it isn’t as recognisable, since she is always claiming to be doing things for Rapunzel’s own good, when really, it is to her own benefit.
She is so good at it that sometimes, we are fooled into thinking that she does care and love Rapunzel in her own way, when really, she is the embodiment of a narcissistic parent. This is perhaps the scariest villain Disney has concocted, because not many of us are Disney royalty with villains trying to wrestle power away from us, but a smothering parent who reminds us of our inadequacies and works themselves busy into strengthening our insecurities, that is a reality that hits a little closer to home.
5. The Love Stories
Listen, Kristoff and Anna are great. He is a wonderful contrast to her perky ways, and is also visually constructed to be less attractive compared to someone like Hans, who has a more traditional look and body type, going against the archetype of the prince charming figure and being more desirable because of it.
He cares deeply for those he loves, and his relationship with Sven is truly adorable and sweet. Thus, it isn’t that Flynn Rider is better than him, he just ends up being a more memorable character because of the redemptive arc given to him. Kristoff was already a good guy from the beginning, and he consistently remained so. Flynn, however, was a wanted man, and didn’t really care about anyone but himself. This changed along the way. He was willing to sacrifice his own life so that Rapunzel didn’t have to be shackled, so that she could live a life on her own terms – he wanted her to be free even at such a great cost to himself.
We start the film knowing that Flynn will meet his death at some point, but when he does, it still feels so unexpected and heartbreaking. For all his flaws, he is a really likeable character, and I suppose it helps that he is voiced by someone as funny as Zachary Levi.
So there you have it, the five reasons why Tangled is better than Frozen, though credit must be given to Frozen for putting up a good fight. This is why Disney needs to stop it with all this live-action versions of animated films nonsense, and go back to making great films like these two. These stories are over, but there are many more princesses whose stories need telling, and maybe, just maybe, there will be an animated film that will come along and knock Tangled from the top space on my list. But for now, it’s staying there.
Happy 10th anniversary Tangled, thanks for being a beacon of light in my 2020.
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