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Phil Willmott

Review: TANGLED. Disney Cruise ships and YouTube

Tangled - Disney Musical Having had a massive hit with the on demand release of Broadway musical HAMILTON on their subscription channel, Disney weirdly followed it up last week by promoting a free, HD, film of their 2015 stage musical based on the RAPUNZEL story, TANGLED. You can see it on YouTube.

Poor Princess Rapunzel has been imprisoned high in a tower by her wicked step mother who stole her from her crib in the palace 18 years ago, for reasons I can never quite fathom. It’s something to do with controlling the magic in Rapunzel’s uncut hair which is now so long it acts as rope, the only means of accessing the chamber at the very top of the building.

Unfortunately for mother, one day a handsome young man, Flynn Ryder, climbs up to evade pursuers. He helps the lonely girl to escape imprisonment and realise her ambition to watch the palace’s annual lantern display. The beautiful floating lights lead Rapunzle to be reunited with her royal parents and, of course, a happy ever after with Flynn.

The feature length cartoon has been truncated into a 1 act stage musical that’s performed on Disney's cruise ships. I rather enjoyed it and I was sceptical because I love the cartoon so much and the fabulous sound track with wonderful songs by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken and Grammy Award-winning lyricist Glenn Slater. But it’s sumptuous to look at, fast moving (they edit out the scene changes) expertly filmed and I suspect it would hold the attention of most under 10s. It’s not a sophisticated reimagining like Julie Taymor’s legendary stage version of THE LION KING, indeed it looks like a high budget pantomime, but that’s fun too.

This stage version includes 2 new songs. "Flower of Gold," and "When the Princess Returns." which serviceably get us from a to b in the plot, but a 3rd, "Wanted Man" could become a bit of a classic and gives our hero Flynn Ryder a big musical number.

We need to talk about Flynn. The live action version of him is witty and tuneful enough but he can’t compete in the looks department with the animated original. I speak as one of the many people, amazed to find that they could develop a crush on a cartoon character. The actress playing 18 year old Rapunzel has gorgeous Disney Princess looks and vocal chords but is not quite young enough to be a convincing teen.

As to who these performers are, it’s a mystery. There’s not a cast list to be found anywhere so Disney obviously has a policy to ensure no artist eclipses the star power of their characters. Which seems a bit tough on the performers. You’d think the powerful US actors union would sort that out.

As for the puppet animals, Maximus the horse is beautifully designed and operated but the movie’s fans may be disappointed to find Rapunzel’s pet chameleon, Pascal, has been cut.

What really fascinates me is the question of why Disney have promoted this video right now. There’s been films of this stage show, illegal and official, on YouTube for some years without anyone paying too much attention.

Could it be that Disney want to reawaken our TANGLED enthusiasm for a re-release of the cartoon… or the announcement of a forthcoming Broadway musical? Conversely the exact opposite might be the case, they could be so sure they’re not going to do either that they might as well spread the word about this sweet little production.

I suspect the real reason is that cruise ships are now associated in the public’s mind with the early out breaks of Corona virus, when sickness swept through the passengers and imprisoned them in an on board quarantine.

Far better that we think of Disney cruise ships in terms of these lavish shows rather than the recent news footage. It’s a multi-billion pound industry. Mickey Mouse wants you back on those ships, folks.