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Not your average Disney princess

Courtesy of Disney
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BY EMILY BOUDREAU
Daily Arts Writer
Published November 29, 2010

Once upon a time, there was a movie about a princess named Snow White and seven dwarfs. Then there was another about Cinderella and a glass slipper. Following that were “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.” And perhaps the final installment in Disney’s fairytale canon is the story of the princess Rapunzel: “Tangled.”

The story starts out traditionally enough — Rapunzel (Mandy Moore, “A Walk to Remember”) is a beautiful princess kidnapped as a little girl by an old hag who wants to use the princess’s magic hair to restore her youth. She locks Rapunzel away in a tower and forbids her to leave. However, the story diverges from the traditional princess plotline. Rather than wait around for a handsome prince to rescue her, she uses a frying pan to knock out a handsome thief named Eugene Fitzherbert, a.k.a. Flynn Ryder (Zachary Levi, TV’s “Chuck”). The two embark on an adventure complete with tough thugs who aspire to be Broadway stars and many mediocre songs, none as catchy as those in older Disney movies.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that “Tangled,” depending on how much money it brings in, could potentially be the last Disney fairytale movie ever. Saddening for those who remember them fondly, but it has to be said that the old storylines of movies like “Cinderella” and “Snow White” might need a little more magic than a fairy godmother can provide if they are to survive in the modern world.

Perhaps part of the problem is that, while the old-style Disney fairytale was geared toward a female audience, the female characters never provided any action. It was always the wisecracking animal sidekicks, the feisty fairy godmother or the evil sorceress who drove the plot.

Fortunately, that's not the case with “Tangled.” For once, the heroine dreams of something that doesn’t involve a handsome prince stepping in to save the day and, armed with her trusty frying pan and long locks, Rapunzel certainly isn’t helpless. The dashing prince isn’t just someone who rides in at the last minute with a kiss that will save the day. But while Fitzherbert is quite funny, in some ways, he detracts from Rapunzel’s role. Still, it is a fairy tale — and it couldn't be without handsome men and happily-ever-after.

The Pixar-inspired animation also helps the film's case. In a world where children are used to movies in the style of “Cars” and “Toy Story,” it’s nice to see that same charm brought to a storyline generally restricted to the two-dimensional animation style of previous decades.

If this is indeed the last Disney princess to appear on the big screen, then it sure seems as though the magic ingredients of Disney princess stories haven’t been working. And if little girls don’t want to be princesses anymore, what exactly do they want to be?


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