Saturday, November 27, 2010

Unsplit Ends

Took Little Miss out to dim sum this morning and then to her first real movie in a theatre.

Dim sum was good, as always; Wong's King doesn't disappoint.

But the pleasant surprise was that the movie didn't either.

I don't have much left in the way of expectations from the Disney factory. Outside of the Pixar shop, most of the horses trotted out of the Disney stable lately seem to have been the broken-down get of the old sire Walt. Given that the man has been dead for decades, it's not surprising that his progeny are starting to get more than a little, well, sickly looking. So I expected something that would be barely tolerable for a four-and-a-half-year-old.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The story was nothing surprising - you can't exactly break the mold with fairy tales, right? And the "spunky princess" and the "rogue with a heart of gold" are chestnuts off many a tree other than the one in the Disney backlot.But the animation was lovely; bright and cheery in the Disney style but still rich with detail. The main characters, stock company troupers that they were, were rendered with loving care, well-written, and nicely voiced. The supporting "actors" stole the show (as they often do) in the form of the stalwart guard-horse and Rapunzel's little tough-guy chameleon pal.

Even the Bad Guy, who in this case was a Bad Gal, was rendered with care and attention; she was a villainess, yes, but one with flair and relish, a very diva of demonesses.So all together it made a really delightful hour-and-a-half for a dad and daughter to spend as part of a midday Saturday.

I think what made all the difference in "Tangled" was the sense I got of a genuine love of its creators for the two cartoon leads and the world they inhabited. I've sat through some of the worst of the Disney dreck - a father sacrifices for his progeny, sigh... - but much of the recent stuff the outfit produced since losing the Great Helmsman in the middle Sixties wasn't just bad, it was really soulless. By-the-numbers commercial crap with the heart of an adding machine and the soul of a cash register. The people making it hadn't just forgotten how to make a good movie; they'd forgotten how to make any sort of art at all.To make something of worth, you have to care. Your caring might come from love, or hate, revenge, anger, or desire. But if you don't care about your creation it will show, and it did.

The people who made Disney's latest picture may have had one eye on the bottom line; commercial art has to pay for itself, after all. But the other eye was on the characters they brought to life on the screen, and that eye was full of love.


basilbeast said...

The last animated flic I've seen in the theater was "How to train your Dragon" and that was good.

However, the bits and pieces I've seen of others from my projectionist job ( which I'm no longer doing ), show me the same characterization "ad nauseam".

The same self-asserting, plucky femmette who invariably gets stuck and the same klutzy, elbow-poking, stumbling but wry-humored but well-meaning stud.

But then I'm an old fogey, been there and done that.

Then again, I recall being taken to see "Sleeping Beauty" and being spooked by the witch-queen turning into a dragon.



FDChief said...

basil: I thought the Disney people did a nice job with the main characters. "Rapunzel" started with the stock "plucky feminette" but added some interesting layers. She wants to see the world but goes through a genuine attack of guilt and angst because she's disobeying her "mother". She's not stupid, but she's as ignorant as someone who has been stuck in a tower for 18 years would be. "Flynn" is wry and well-meaning but also kind of a softie, a bit of a schemer. He's a bit of a wide boy, which makes a good foil for her.

Like I say; nice bit of work from Disney.

As for spooked - the ending has a shockingly violent moment when the Bad Gal "kills" our hero. I was lucky that Missy is too little to understand what happened - my big boy would have been in tears.