Wild Things 1983
I find this article especially poignant as I have just yesterday revisited Glen Keane's baby Rapunzel (now called Tangled, to make it more appealing to a male audience) in 3-D, which has a trailer for John Lasseter's Cars 2 in front of it (also Smurfs and Mars Needs Moms - Oh, boy, I'm countin' the days - NOT!). Whereas Cars 2 seems to be all about car racing (and thus selling toys to boys), Rapunzel was without a doubt the most beautiful, poetic and luscious CG movie I have ever seen, with amazingly controlled acting and animation, believable characters that never move like puppets. MoCap should turn around in its grave after this one!
My favorite scene? It's a tough call, but I really enjoyed the last scene of the reprise of the Mother Knows Best number. The controlled, scary poses capture the evil Mother Gothel's villainy while at the same time being subdued enough to not scare Rapunzel witless. But I also truly enjoyed the fun spirit of Rapunzel herself, and Maximus' dog-like behavior is hilarious, and very well received by the youngest audience members. For the first time I see acting as controlled as live-action can be, and with a simple twitch of a cheek or so, we understand the inner emotions, mostly of our main character--a huge step forward from Image Movers' stop motion of virtual corpses.
That said, I do feel the film has some inherent story problems that result in my not getting "hit in the gut" by it, as in Dumbo ("Baby Mine") or as Pixar has been able to do in films like Toy Story 2. First, the film takes a long time to get started, and could well have begun, after some explanatory narration and quick shots, with Flynn entering the tower. The "I Want" song could have followed it somewhere, preferably less a High School Musical number, and the film would have jump-started. Worse, Flynn Ryder does not ever get to show REAL authentic feelings, so Rapunzel's love for him, and the climax, seem rather postulated. Flynn's attempts to show these feelings are always either sidetracked or made fun off, as if the directors themselves were afraid of showing emotions. His one full attempt sounds so hollow it needed repeating "no, really, thank you!" and is immediately deflected. In the boat, he would rather do something obscure (to us) than kiss the girl. In the end, noone seems to care about him, so neither will we. Rapunzel herself is a fun girl, full of life and emotions, a great character, beautifully animated, but when, during the climax, we are asked to root for someone whose looks have changed radically, we disassociate ourselves and just look at the film with our eyes, not "with our heart." With her hair, it seems her free spirit is cut down, too, and she ends the film as a show-n-tell doll. I feel that all this could have been fixed with some cutting and pasting in the script - in my mind it is what will turn out to make all the difference at the box-office...
Still, with its lush Fragonard color scheme, its great use of 3-D, and especially its wonderful acting, it is a beautiful film that shows great promise for the future of CG animation. As a gentleman behind me in the theater said, beaming, as the credits had ended: "I didn't think they could make films like this anymore!" Yet with the rumored demise of the fairytale, the Disney Marketing Dept. may well have cut down the promising future in its prime. Let's hope not.
I hear the original story reel had beautiful hand-drawn animation and story sketches by Glen Keane. This I hope to see on an upcoming Blu-Ray, dear folks at Walt Disney Home Entertainment!
(Note: the scans are full 300 dpi, 2550 x 3300 px!)