November 24, 2010
On the Big Board
||Yes, Disney has been telling variations of this story for 75 years now, but they still manage to get it right almost every time. The animation in this is the most visually stimulating of 2010.
When Disney spends a quarter billion dollars, they expect results. This is why Tangled should be on your radar as one of the movies of choice this holiday season. The latest instant classic from Disney’s legendary animation department is THE most expensive animated movie ever made. With such a lofty price tag, expectations are high for this modern take on the Rapunzel fairy tale. When Rapunzel lets down her hair, you the viewer will know that the cost of animating this act is roughly $700,000 per square foot, which is roughly Penthouse in Dubai pricing.
Once we get past the production’s price tag, there is a lot of familiarity here. While Disney claims they have a strict No Princesses policy right now, Rapunzel is the daughter of a queen (i.e. the textbook definition of a princess). The fair-haired girl finds herself trapped in a tower by an enchantress. Fortunately for our heroine, she is a hot young female and since boys that age are only interested in one thing (for that matter, boys of any age are only interested in one thing), a dude gets obsessed with the idea of how to liberate her, first from the tower and presumably later from her sexual inhibitions. Don’t get all judgmental on me for saying that. If you’ve ever read the real Brothers Grimm stuff, you know that those dudes were freaks and that their stories were gradually homogenized into a more polite version of the original intent. Anyway, since this is Disney, there will be a lot more focus on the hair and probably a notably marketable cast of additional characters who inhabit the tower and make for wonderful stuffed animals.
In terms of the cast, this is largely a three person team with the always hysterical Mandy Moore voicing Rapunzel while Zachary “You Know Me As Chuck” Levi is her would-be rescuer. Broadway icon Donna Murphy (you probably know her as Mrs. Doc Octopus in Spider-Man 2) portrays the villainous Gothel, kidnapper extraordinaire. Of course, the important name here is John Lasseter, the Disney icon who is in charge of all the studio’s animated releases these days, all but guaranteeing them to be of the utmost quality. This particular film is directed by Byron Howard, whom BOP adores for his work on Lilo & Stitch (he was lead animator) and Bolt.
Bolt is a particularly important film to mention here in that Disney has been branching out from Pixar in order to have their own arm of 3D animated fare. They also have returned to their roots in traditional animation as well. The most recent of these titles, The Princess and the Frog, has several surface similarities to this project but given its $104.4 million domestic performance, Disney will need to do a lot better in order to justify the quarter-billion dollar price tag. Bolt and A Christmas Carol, the two most recent 3D animation titles, managed $114.1 million and $137.9 million, respectively. Perhaps the best direct comparison for Tangled is a live action film, Enchanted. The Amy Adams starrer that was a fairy tale come to life earned $127.7 million domestically, which still wouldn’t be good enough to justify the expense here.
Clearly, Disney is expecting more of a DreamWorks Animation/Pixar performance from Tangled, which would mean an opening weekend around $50 million and final domestic box office of $200 million. While that may seem outlandish at first, with a lucrative holiday release and the Disney marketing push in full force, Tangled is poised to surprise. Disney is the smartest studio in the industry as well as one of the most risk-averse. They wouldn’t bankroll such an expensive project unless they were sure it will pay off not just in theaters but also in toy stores this holiday season and for a few more to come. Rapunzel is a beautiful princess with long, luscious hair. They can make a mint here as long as the movie is good. (David Mumpower/BOP)