Monday, October 22, 2012


My first trek into a horror movie (and probably my last at the rate I'm going) is Psycho. If you haven't seen this movie and don't want it spoiled, then you probably shouldn't read this. It's a favorite horror movie of mine, and almost everybody has seen at least part of it. My earliest memories of this Hitchcock masterpiece came from Universal Studios Florida. They used to have this attraction there where you watched this short movie about all the different Alfred Hitchcock films and it showed the usual favorites: The Birds, Vertigo, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and-you guessed it-Psycho. Now, I didn't mind all the other footage, because to me it was just a bunch of old movies. I guess The Birds was a little unsettling, but it wasn't going to give me too many nightmares. Then, they played the shower scene from Psycho. Keep in mind, I was like seven or eight. I was traumatized. When you're a kid, one of the safest places is inside your bathtub/shower, and to see someone get stabbed to death inside a shower blew my mind. I liked scary stuff, but only because I knew it wasn't real. This was too real for me. I was super afraid of showering without the door locked for a long time. Any random noise would cause me to throw the curtain aside and prepare to fight...with...shampoo? Psycho was officially on my radar as a movie, and it was on the same trip that we saw the Bates motel. It was a replica of course, but it stood on the outskirts of the park until 1998 when they apparently tore it down. Seeing the footage, plus the hotel cemented it all in my mind. The hotel made it even more real for me since it was sitting right there in front of me, and if I bothered to go in there, I would be stabbed to death by an old woman! AAAHHHH! It wasn't even the first time I had seen the motel. America's Funniest People was a spin-off of America's Funniest Home Videos and ran for a couple of years in the early 90's. I can't find the footage, but for one of its openings it showed the Bates motel at the very end with the sound of thunder. I had always wondered what that creepy motel was from, and I found out that day at Universal Studios. Did I ever. I'm assuming that most or all of you have seen this movie, so I'm not going to bother with keeping the ending secret. You've literally had since the sixties to see this movie.

The movie Psycho is actually based off a book by the same name by Robert Bloch. Bloch published the book in 1959, and the movie came out in 1960, so you can see that Hitchcock wasted no time in getting this film made. The book was in turn based off of the serial killer Ed Gein. Both Gein and Norman Bates did their murders in a rural setting, both had deceased domineering mothers, had a room with a shrine dedicated to said domineering mother, and both dressed like women. When Hitchcock's production assistant read about the book, she showed it to Hitchcock, who proceeded to buy the rights to the film for $9,500 and told the production assistant to buy out as many bookstores of the book so as not to ruin the ending for movie-goers.  Paramount was not too thrilled about the prospects of the film and continually tried to prevent Hitchcock from making it. They told him it would cost too much, so he used a TV film crew from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. They said all their sound stages were being used, even though productions were in a known slump, and continued to say that the movie would cost too much. Hitchcock countered all this by saying that he would finance the movie himself, would film at Universal-International if Paramount would distribute, and he would also waive the director's fee of $250,000 for 60% ownership of the film negative. Paramount finally gave in. 

After receiving a dull treatment of the story from writer James Cavanaugh, Hitchcock met with proverbial newbie, Joseph Stefano. The meeting went well, and Stefano was hired as the writer of the screenplay. Hitchcock and Stefano changed a few things from the book. In the book, Bates was middle-aged, overweight, and more overtly unstable. On top of that, he was a drunk that had interest in the occult, and pornography. All these things were written out, partly due to the fact that they had cast Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, and he did not fit the book's description. The drunkenness was what brought on Bates' transformation into his mother in the novel, and so they had to re-thing that whole aspect. Probably the only other big change from the book was the way that Marion Crane dies. We all know that she dies in the shower by being stabbed to death, but in the book, she was beheaded in the shower. That's not even more terrifying is it?

Ever wonder why in the world that this movie is in black and white, even though the year is 1960 and color has been around for decades? This was another of Hitchcock's cost cutting maneuvers, but that wasn't the only reason. Besides admiring the black and white movie Les Diaboliques (left)and wanting the same feel, Hitchcock also wanted the film not to be too gory, as having a color movie with a stabbing may have been a little shocking at that time. The "blood" in the shower scene is famously chocolate syrup. Smart, huh? Another way that Hitchcock kept the film's cost down was by casting on a budget. He had gotten box office draws like Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, but both took the parts for a fraction of what they would of usually gotten paid. 

The whole production was shot at Revue Studios, the same location as his television show. The film retained a tight budget of a little under $807,000 and filming took place between November 11th, 1959 and February 1st, 1960. As you can see, Hitchcock was not fooling around. Not only did he not want the movie to cost too much, but he didn't want too many people to read the book before they saw his movie. Nearly the whole film was shot with 50 mm lenses on 35 mm cameras. This trick closely mimicked the human perspective, which further involved the audience. This movie was all about suspense, and Hitchcock used everything he knew to help pull off that uneasy feel. The iconic house from the film was based off a painting of Edward Hooper's called The House by the Railroad (pictured left). In my opinion, Hitchcock couldn't have picked a better house, as this is one of the creepiest houses of all time. When I think of a haunted house, I picture this place. Both Leigh and Perkins were allowed to interpret their characters how they felt and move in the same fashion, as long as it didn't involve moving the camera. An example of what liberties the actors took is Perkins having Bates constantly munch on candy corn. Hitchcock was apparently a practical joker, or a filming mastermind, but most likely both. He had different versions of the mother corpse made and would hide them in Leigh's dressing room closet. Leigh never did find out if it was to keep her on edge for the role, or to gauge her reaction thus finding out which one to use that would best scare the audience.

Hitchcock is known for his economical way of shooting, mostly coming from his lack of re-shooting scenes. A few were a bit hard to do the first time around. After Leigh's character is stabbed to death, there is a close up of her eye. This had to be re-shot several times because the water kept getting into her eye, making her blink. Another scene that proved difficult to master was the reveal of the dead mother. The swinging of the chair, plus Vera Miles' character hitting the bulb, plus a lens flare all proved to be hard to coordinate and took a great deal of shoots to get just right. Another signature of a Hitchcock film is an appearance by Hitchcock himself. It's like Stan Lee now, but instead of being in a bunch of superhero movies, Hitchcock was in a bunch of thrillers and murder mysteries. His cameo comes at the very beginning as a man outside of Marion Crane's office. Rumors are that he didn't want to distract people with his appearance later on in the film, but the real reason is that he wanted to be in the same shot as his daughter, who played one of Marion's colleagues.

OK, so let's talk about the shower scene. Being that it is perhaps one of the most well known movie scenes of all time, there are a lot of myths and legends about it. So, here are a few facts about the scene. The scene entailed 77 different camera angles and was mostly close-ups. Hitchcock originally wanted to have no music whatsoever during the scene or any motel scene, but composer Bernard Herrmann convinced him to use the sequence he had made for the scene. Afterward, Hitchcock was so impressed with how it enhanced the scene that he paid Herrmann almost double what he originally was going to. That's part of the freakiness of the whole scene! The sticcado notes from the string section just put you on edge! The music just goes hand in hand with stabbing motions now. Like I mentioned before, the blood in the scene was actually Bosco brand chocolate syrup. Why chocolate syrup? Well, it looks a lot like blood in black and white, and the density is better than the fake blood they used at the time. How did they make the stabbing sounds? Well, they took a knife, and stabbed....a casaba melon. Not nearly as frightening, but it gave the desired sound.

Now for a little bit of movie myths. Rumors spread that Leigh didn't stay in the shower during the whole scene and a body double was used for some of the closeups. Not true! Leigh was used for the whole scene and a body double was only used for when her character is wrapped in the shower curtain. Another myth is that to get a good enough scream from Leigh, Hitchcock had ice-cold water used from the shower. False! Leigh herself has stated that she had all the hot water she wanted for the scene, and that all the screams were in fact hers. There is also another rumor that Leigh was only told to stand in the shower, and was not told about her impeding murder. Support for this rumor comes from those who say Hitchcock wanted a genuine reaction from her. Why isn't this true, though? Leigh signed onto the film only after she read the whole novel, so she had to know what was going to happen. Perhaps the most insidious rumor about the scene came from graphic designer Saul Bass, who claimed that he directed the iconic scene, and not Hitchcock. There are people on both sides that swear on their mother's grave that one or the other directed the scene, so it's not entirely clear who really did. Knowing Hitchcock, a known perfectionist, it is very unlikely that he would have let another direct such an important part of his movie. The shower scene comes at an interesting time in the film. Leigh's character, who had embezzled money from a client and ran off with it, had finally decided to come clean and leave. Before she does, she decides to take a shower. The shower signifies the baptismal waters as she is cleansed of her sin. She is then brutally murdered after finally deciding to do the right thing. I can't help but think of a certain show called Lost. In it, each character has a ton of problems, and once those problems are solved, or once their lives come full circle, they end up dying. Redemption leads to death. Same thing for Leigh's character. She was feeling redeemed, then she was stabbed to death by a man wearing his mother's clothing. Odd and frightening. Leigh herself was afraid of showers for a very long time after filming the scene and only took them if she had to and made sure every window and door was locked tight. I don't blame her at all!

There was plenty of controversy surrounding the film. Psycho is a prime example of the type of film that came out in the 60's after the erosion of the Production Code. The Production Code, otherwise known as the Hays Code, was the system of censorship on movies. The reason the Production Code eventually faded away was the invention of the television. Television was causing people to not want to leave their houses. People didn't have to go to the theater to get entertainment. Television was under stricter censorship than movies were at the time, so in order to combat this new medium, movies gave audiences something TV wouldn't for a long time: sexuality, murder, and violence. The scenes with Marion and Sam in the same bed, and Marion in a bra was completely new to mainstream audiences. They'd never seen that sort of thing depicted on screen. Another scene that caused a mild controversy was Leigh's character flushing pieces of torn up paper down a toilet. Audiences had never heard a toilet flush, let alone seen a toilet flush on film or TV before. This may seem incredibly silly now, but at the time it was incredibly taboo. If Married...With Children had been made twenty-five years earlier I'm pretty sure there would have been riots. The censors tried their hardest to "clean-up" the film, but Hitchcock defended every last scene in his film. The only thing the censors succeeded in erasing from the film was a shot that showed the buttocks of Leigh's stand-in.

Hollywood has gone through its fair share of gimmicks, whether it's 3-D, vibrating seats that were installed for the showings of The Tingler, Smell-O-Vision for Scent of Mystery, and even Sensurround, which shook the theater itself for movies like Earthquake. All of these gimmicks have not lasted long, save for 3-D, which has grown popular yet again. Psycho employed a different gimmick. Hitchcock asked movie theaters not to let movie-goers enter the film if they were late. The movie depended on people being surprised by the fact that Leigh's character, the supposed main character, dies early in the film. Plus, Hitchcock didn't want people to miss Leigh in the movie, as she was one of the main draws. Though the movie theater owners objected at first, they realized after the first day of showings that it created even more hype for the film. Hitchcock also forbid Leigh and Perkins from doing any interviews, fearing that they may mistakenly give away plot points.

The gimmick and mystery of the film paid off, as the movie was adored by the public and became the biggest financial hit of Hitchcock's career making a little over $11 million dollars domestically (that's $82.5 million adjusted for inflation). That's pretty good considering he spent only $800,000 to make it. The movie had mixed reviews from critics, who were probably just mad that they couldn't get private screenings of the movie because of Hitchcock's refusal to ruin the movie by having critics give anything away beforehand. Some critics even went so far as to call it an ugly blot on an otherwise fantastic directing career, and a TV show padded to two hours. The great reaction from audiences caused a reevaluation by critics who have since labeled it as one of the best films ever made, horror/suspense or not. The film is often considered the first "slasher" film, as it was arguably one of the first that had a pscyho-killer that stabs people to death. This point can be argued by horror geeks, but I'm just saying that this is probably the first well-known horror movie with a stab-happy antagonist.

So you may have noticed that I didn't give a summary of the film. I really don't find this necessary, as most people have seen this movie just because of its notoriety. If you want a summary, read it on IMDB or Wikipedia, but I suggest watching the movie. Anyway, here are a few scenes that have always stuck with me. The whole first meeting between Norman and Marion is pretty unsettling. I don't know if it's just Norman or if its all the stuffed birds, but that whole scene just sets off all these warning bells in my head. Too bad Marion didn't hear the same warning bells. The peeping tom scene where Norman spies on Marion is just plain creepy. He literally created a peek-hole into one of the motel rooms. The shower scene goes without saying. The first time I saw Martin Balsam's Detective Arbogast get slashed across the face and fall down the stairs, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or pee my pants. It just looked like he was tap dancing down the stairs. I guess they didn't want to do a stunt double falling down the stairs so they just filmed him flailing around and made the background move. It still works, and it's pretty terrifying, but the tap dancing look makes me smile a little every time. The build up is what makes this scene work. He slowly walks up the stairs, and then you see the door at the top open ever so slightly. That's when you know. This guy is totally hosed. Then the strings music comes back and you just know that this guy is getting stabbed. The big reveal is another obvious one. The whole movie you think that Norman's mother is killing all these people, when in actuality it is Norman himself. Lila Crane has the misfortune of hiding in the same room that the mother is in, and then it's that slow reveal. The mother is long dead and looks surprisingly well. That being said, she still looks like a mummy and scared the hell out of me. The last scene I like in this film is in fact the last scene. It's so unsettling. It's just perfect. It's one of my favorite endings of all time. You'll just have to watch it to see for yourself. I'll just say that Anthony Perkins is a very good actor. Not just in this scene, but in the whole movie. I really should watch more movies he's in.

The movie has spawned many pretenders, as well as many sequels, mostly junk, and even a literal shot for shot remake in 1998 directed by Gus Van Sant and Norman Bates. Why Vince Vaughn? Why would you even think that's a good idea?! Vaughn is fine in comedies, but not trying to fill in the shoes of Anthony Perkins. Needless to say, Van Sant's movie was universally panned and proof Alfred Hitchcock was a genius. Anthony Perkins was the victim of type-casting from that point on, even reprising his role as Norman Bates for all three sequels. Janet Leigh was married to actor Tony Curtis for a time, and during that marriage gave birth to Jamie Lee Curtis. Jamie Lee Curtis would go on to star in the slasher film series Halloween, and even shared the screen with her mother in Halloween H20: 20 years later. Psycho was nominated for Best Director (Hitchcock), Best Supporting Actress (Leigh), Best Cinematography, and Best Art-Direction. It lost for all of them, but Leigh did win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Psycho is one of those films that you almost have to watch every Halloween. It's just too much of a classic. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Disney's Winnie the Pooh

Disney went from spending over $250 million on Tangled and taking a huge risk, to spending $30 million on a movie they've basically made before based on a tried and true character. Disney's gamble may have paid off for Tangled, but it's obvious that they decided to go for a safe and cheap bet for their next film, Winnie the Pooh. Yes, one of the few sequels in the Disney canon and also one of the few package films. I say package film because it is a collection of stories instead of one linear tale. Production began on Winnie the Pooh way back in 2009 with John Lasseter announcing that they wanted to make a movie that would "transcend generations." Honestly, unless they made a movie with Mickey and the gang in it, Winnie the Pooh is probably the only character that they could use to technically do that. Winnie the Pooh has been around since the late twenties and Disney started making movies about the honey obsessed bear in 1966. Winnie the Pooh has also had TV shows on during the 80's like Welcome to Pooh Corner, and The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I personally grew up watching the latter. They've even had Winnie the Pooh movies and TV shows in the 2000's. For being such an old character, Pooh bear is heavily ingrained in our culture. He may not be as popular as some other cartoon characters, Disney or not, but you can't go to a kid's store without seeing some sort of Winnie the Pooh merchandise. There's just something about that bear.   My point is that Lasseter knew what he was talking about when he wanted a movie that could transcend generations. Every generation that is alive has had a connection with this bear. This movie could easily be seen by anyone, no matter what age they are, which is what makes this movie such a safe bet.

My sister already went through the history of Winnie the Pooh in her post about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, so I won't go into that again. So, unfortunately there is not much to say about this movie. It consists of the stories, "In Which Eeyore loses a tail, and Pooh finds one,""In which Piglet meets a Heffalump," and "In which Rabbit has a busy day and we learn what Christopher Robin does in the mornings." Hmmmm...don't know about that last one. All the stories are taken from A.A. Milne's books, so don't think these are some new-fangled stories Disney pulled out of nowhere. What's also nice is that they brought Burny Mattinson on board, a veteran Disney animator who played a big role in the 1974 film, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too.

OK, I'm going to tackle the voices now, and it's going to be a little more in depth than usual. Winnie the Pooh's characters have gone through many voice actors throughout the years, but there aren't even that many left from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which disappoints me. Jim Cummings has been the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger since 1988, though he shared voicing Tigger with Paul Winchell until 1999. These are the only characters that are voiced by the same person as the TV series I grew up with. Piglet is voiced by Travis Oates. Oates took over for John Fiedler when he died in 2005. Fiedler had done all of Piglet's voice work before that point. That makes me very sad. Oates doesn't do a bad job, he actually sounds a lot like Fielder. Tom Kenny, AKA the voice of Spongebob Squarepants voices Rabbit. The last voice of Rabbit, Ken Samson isn't dead or anything, Disney just decided not to have him do the voice. Which is terrible. I'm sorry, I love Tom Kenny and all, he's an excellent voice talent, but he isn't rabbit. Rabbit is far too goofy in this movie. Rabbit is supposed to be uptight and the "straight man" in the comic duo that he and Pooh encompass. Kenny gets his voice somewhat close to Samson's, but not enough for me, or anyone from my generation to know that it's someone completely different.

Along the same vein is Craig Ferguson as the voice of Owl. Andre Stojka has been Owl's voice since the eighties, but apparently Disney wanted someone fresher. Ferguson, like Oates, actually pulls off the voice very well, so it's not as noticeable that it's a different voice actor. Bud Luckey, who has mostly done voices for Pixar films, voices Eeyore, another substitute for a voice actor from the eighties series. Am I missing something? Was there some dispute between all the original cast members and Disney? Kanga and Christopher Robin have been voiced by a ton of people throughout the past three decades, so I don't care as much about the changes. Plus, Christopher Robin's voice sort of has to keep getting new voice actors. And nobody cares about Roo, so there. Acting as narrator to the stories is none other than John Cleese. This is awesome, and I don't need to say anything more about it. I'm sorry if it seems like I was a little nitpicky with the voice actor thing, but I loved The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh as a child, and to see most of the cast still around but not asked to voice their characters seems like blasphemy to me personally. I know it's stupid, but I like voice actors to stay the same if possible. I stopped watching Dexter's Lab because they changed the voice actor for Dexter. Couldn't stand it. Anyway, that's my rant, and I'm sticking to it. Hey...wait a minute...where the heck is Gopher!?

Winnie the Pooh opened on July 15th 2011 and went on to gross a total of $33 million, only a little more than they spent to make the movie. It probably would have done better had it not been competing with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. Oh well. I'm sure Disney didn't expect it to be a blockbuster hit. I'm sure they were happy it at least made them a little money. How did they make the movie so cheap in the first place? The fact that it's only an hour long helps. It was originally going to have five stories, but it was shortened to three. The length, incidentally, was about the only thing critics had a problem with. Critics praised the animation, the voicing, and the script. Critics also pointed out the ability for children and adults to enjoy the movie, which is a rare feat nowadays. I'm telling you, the generation gap is getting further and further apart. Critics likened it to a love letter to the old days of Disney animation and storytelling, and I have to agree with them. It's hand-drawn, animated by a veteran of past Winnie the Pooh films, and involves original stories from A.A. Milne. It's the complete antithesis to the current way of doing things. No original materials, all CGI, and all gimmicks like 3D. All this movie is is good storytelling, great characters, and great animation. And if that's not old fashioned Disney, then I don't know what is.

Well, that wraps up our look at the Disney Animated Canon. It took us a little bit longer than we thought, but we finally made it. Don't worry, we'll revisit Disney plenty of times and make a new post about new canon movies. Otherwise, it's on to other topics in the world of cinema. If there is something you want my sister or I to write about, drop us a comment or e-mail us. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Disney's Tangled

Tangled happens to be the first Disney animated film that I saw in theaters since The Emperor's New Groove, so I was kind of out of the game for awhile. Is it weird that out of all the films that were made between these movies that I chose a princess movie? Not at all. While some of the other films may be considered more manly, they sucked, and I knew it just by watching previews. I had a good feeling about Tangled ever since I watched the trailer for it, and I wasn't disappointed.  I'd like to think that I have a pretty good taste in movies, though that may be my conceited side coming out. Anyway, I think what also contributed to the long absence of Disney movie watching was the fact that I was in high school and the early years of college when most of the movies came out. Once I was in high school it wasn't cool to like Disney movies anymore, or like Pokemon, or a bunch of other things I was so used to at that point. So I stopped going. I remember being interested in seeing The Princess and the Frog, but for one reason or another I just didn't get around to it. I think that Tangled truly took Disney back to its 90's roots; having a princess movie based on a fairy tale, but also extremely funny. I have become nostalgic in my old age and seeing something more like the movies of my childhood really spoke to me. Like I said, I really liked the movie and consider it one of my favorites, not just because of the good story, but because it is probably one of the funniest Disney movies ever. Hercules, Aladdin, and The Emperor's New Groove are some of my favorite Disney movies, and the reason is because they are hilarious. I identify with comedic movies, give me a break! Was I a little surprised that Tangled was so funny? Yes, but I had an inkling that it would be much more than movies like Brother Bear or Home on the Range. Blech. I'm hoping that Disney is turning over a new leaf and this is what we can now expect from them.

Tangled is of course based off of the famous Brother's Grimm tale of Rapunzel. Grimm's tale coincidentally is somewhat based off of the French story Persinette, and the 10th century Persian story of Rudaba. In the story of Rapunzel, a couple live next to an enchantress, whose house and garden are walled off from the outside world. The wife feels that she is becoming pregnant, and at the same time begins to pine for a rapunzel plant that is growing in the enchantress' garden. Her husband decides to get her some of the plant and successfully breaks into the enchantress garden two nights in a row. On the third night, however, the enchantress catches the husband and accuses him of theft. He begs for mercy and the enchantress, named Dame Gothel, decides to be lenient. She will let him go, but all he has to do is give her the couple's child once it is born. Out of desperation the husband agrees and scampers back to his house. Once the baby is born, she is given to Dame Gothel and lives a solitary life there. Ironically, Dame Gothel names the baby Rapunzel, who eventually grows up to be the most beautiful child in the world, with long golden hair. Once Rapunzel reached her twelfth birthday, Dame Gothel locked her up in a solitary tower, with no door or stairs. All it had was one window and one room. When Dame Gothel wanted to visit Rapunzel, she would call out her name and ask her to let down her extremely long golden hair. Don't worry, she tied it around a hook first so she wasn't literally having some old hag's complete weight on her hair.

A prince is riding through the forest one day and hears Rapunzel's lovely singing, so he goes over to her tower to investigate. He quickly realizes that he won't be able to gain easy access to the tower so he comes back everyday to find out if there is a secret. He eventually sees the enchantress approach the the tower, thus finding out how to enter. Once the enchantress leaves, he calls out for Rapunzel to let down her hair. Apparently Rapunzel doesn't check to see who is climbing up, and is not at all concerned with the fact that whoever is calling her has a much deeper voice than the enchantress. The prince climbs up and surprises Rapunzel, quickly asking her to marry him. She agrees and they hatch a plan to help her escape. He will come back every night when the enchantress is not around and give her some silk so that she may make a ladder. Fool proof! Their plan doesn't work out, however, as she accidentally reveals that she is pregnant by saying absentmindedly that her dress is feeling tighter. Dame Gothel goes bananas and cuts off Rapunzel's hair. She then forces Rapunzel to climb down her detached hair and live in the woods. Geez, and you thought you'd be in trouble if you got pregnant at a young age. The prince comes back that night, not knowing of what transpired and calls out for Rapunzel to let down her hair. He climbs the hair like usual and lo and behold, it's not Rapunzel but some shriveled hag. After what I can only assume was a bunch of cackling and a few corny one-liners, she pushes the prince out the window, who falls onto some thorns, causing him to lose his eyesight (In some versions he falls out of surprise, and in others, when he falls, the detached hair falls with him, thus stranding the old woman in the tower). He wanders the forest, blind I might add, and I'm sure ran into his fair share of trees. Then he hears the most wonderful thing in the world, the sound of Rapunzel's singing. He follows the singing to her and her twins whom she had apparently given birth to recently. Wait a long was she in the woods? How long was he wondering blindly? Months? Oh man, this is weird! They embrace and her tears magically heal his eyes. They run off to his kingdom and live happily ever after. So...happy ending, right? What's the moral supposed to be? Don't steal plants? Always ask your realtor if an enchantress lives close by? Be good at hiding your pregnancy? Tangled doesn't exactly follow the same story line  Sure there's the enchantress that steals Rapunzel, and the man that saves her, but this is not a prince, but a thief. And, in this version, her hair is magic. It heals people and makes them young, which is why the enchantress is so interested in her.

Tangled was in production for about six years and went through a few changes along the way, the most notorious being the name of the film. When the idea first came up to do a Rapunzel story, Disney called it "Rapunzel Unbraided." Not bad, but not exactly good. It was quickly changed to just Rapunzel. It would have probably stayed with that title had The Princess and the Frog did better in the box office. Apparently $270 million worldwide was not good enough for Disney and they considered The Princess and the Frog to be a little bit of a letdown. Who was the culprit? Girls. Disney had spent all the money on a princess movie and all that saw it were a bunch of girls! Or so they believed. Guys apparently didn't go to see The Princess and the Frog, so Disney decided to change the focus of their next movie. Instead of calling it Rapunzel, they would call it...oh I don't know, I'm just spit-balling here....Tangled! Yeah, that's the ticket! Disney announced that they were changing the name to Tangled and people started to call shenanigans on them. Justin Chang of Variety claimed it was about the same as The Little Mermaid changing its name to "Beached." Disney was also  accused of sexism, among other things. To put it plainly, people weren't too happy about the change. What's the name of the movie now? That's right, it's still Tangled, which means Disney didn't give a crap about what people thought about them. The directors of the film, Nathan Greno and Byron Howard,  defended the name change by saying it was a marketing decision. The film was about Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, therefore it should be given a title that didn't put one character above the other. They likened it to calling Toy Story, "Buzz Lightyear."

The film has a very unique animation style due to the fact that it incorporates the best parts of both CGI and traditional hand-drawn animation. Yes, It is a CGI film, but the look of it is modeled after the look of oil paintings on canvas. The Rococo paintings of French artist Jean-Honore Fragonard, particularly The Swing, were used as reference for the film's artistic style, a style described as lush and romantic. To create the impression of a painting, non-photorealistic rendering was used. Think of cel-shaded animation, like what they used in Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. On top of the stellar animation, the movie also had some pretty good music. I'm glad Disney is trying to keep this new trend going. The score of the film was done by who else by Alan Menken, and the lyrics done by Glenn Slater. Menken decided to have a mix of medieval music and 1960's folk rock to give the movie a broad appeal. So there are a few songs that stand out in the movie, like "I See the Light," "When Will My Life Begin," and "I've Got a Dream." Since Mandy Moore does the voice of Rapunzel, and Zachary Levi does Rider, they sang their own songs. Not too often that the voice actors are able to pull off the singing too, but they deliver. I knew Levi could sing, but I didn't know he could sing that well. While the songs are by no means on the level as any in Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, they are still excellent and sure to please.

This movie doesn't really have a large cast of characters, and the ones it does have aren't voiced by famous people for the most part. Like I mentioned before, you have the very talented Mandy Moore (A Walk To Remember) as Rapunzel, and Zachary Levi (Chuck) as Flynn Rider. They are beyond perfect for their roles.  Maybe even more so for Zachery Levi. I may just love him from his role on Chuck, but I think he was most of the reason the movie was so funny (him, Pascal, and Maximus the horse. Note to Disney: Horses are funny. I don't know why, but they are. That includes winged ones.) Donna Murphy (The King and I) voices Mother Gothel, the villianness of the story. She's also great in the movie, with her highlight being her song "Mother Knows Best." These three were not the original choices for the roles, however. At the very beginning, it was planned that Kristen Chenoweth would voice Rapunzel, Dan Fogler voice Rider, and Grey DeLisle voice Mother Gothel. For whatever reason, Disney decided to go a little bit younger, and hipper, and went with the current cast. Other well known actors in the movie include Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), Ron Perlman (Hellboy) and Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development), all of whom play thugs at the Snuggly Duckling Inn.

Tangled was released on my birthday, November 24th in 2010 and earned a whopping $11.9 million on that Wednesday, breaking the record for a pre-Thanksgiving release. It went on to gross $590 million worldwide, against a $260 million budget. Tangled still stands as the most expensive animated movie ever made, and the second most expensive movie ever. Disney really put themselves on the line with this one, and thank God it paid off. With its gross, it is the second highest grossing Disney movie, only behind The Lion King. Critics loved the film, saying that though it may not be the best Disney film ever, it is still visually stunning, and a thoroughly entertaining edition to Disney's canon. Most criticism was leveled at the unmemorable songs and the perceived marketing ploy of the name change.

Tangled is a worthy addition to the Disney canon in my opinion, and I believe on of the modern classics. It may not be Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, but that's not really what people want these days. They want humor, and action in their movies. Tangled has tons of it, and I think that boys and girls can like the movie. Sure, the name change thing was probably done to get boys interested, but you can hardly blame Disney. If a name change was all that stood in the way of an extra $300 million, you bet they would do it. So we are very close to the end of my history of the Disney canon. All there is left is Winnie the Pooh, which I can guarantee will be a short one, then Wreck-It-Ralph, which has yet to come out.  After that I will move on to other movie topics, so I hope my Disney readers are not too disappointed.