January 9, 2011


Bruno Bettelheim remarks in his classic analysis of the fairy tale, The Uses of Enchantment, that “Rapunzel” is “the story of a pubertal girl, and of a jealous mother who tries to prevent her from gaining independence — a typical adolescent problem.” But it can also be seen as a story about the adoption of a poor and beautiful young girl by a prosperous but overpossessive older woman, who later takes drastic but eventually unsuccessful measures to isolate her daughter from the world and especially from men. Sometimes the child is literally imprisoned in a tower; in other cases, the captivity is more symbolic.
More the first than the second in Disney's Rapunzel reboot, Tangled. And in fact, there is a whole other motive that seems like a pretty inspired addition to the story. Sometimes (The Princess and the Frog, Shrek Forever) being a parent at these movies feels like penance; but not here. And we only saw it in 2D.

The Alison Lurie essay on Rapunzel was written before Tangled, but anticipated it:
There will surely be more versions of “Rapunzel.” Already a full-length animated Disney film is in production and scheduled to be released in 2009. The director, Glen Keane, has declared that it will be “a story of the need for each person to become who they are supposed to be and for a parent to set them free so they can become that.” Clearly, there are parallels here to recent young-adult versions. But Keane has also said that the movie’s visual style will be based on the painting The Swing, by the French Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Since the point of this painting, also known as Les hasards heureux de l’escarpolette, is that the young man standing below the swinging girl (though not the viewer) can see up her foaming skirts, Disney’s new “Rapunzel” may turn out to have an unexpectedly erotic undertone.
Not sure any erotic undertone made it in, really. Or none I detected. Here's The Swing:

Given that more or less every one of Disney's fairy tale movies has been about the passage through adolescence and into independence, it's remarkable that it took MouseCorp more than 70 years to do this story. But if it is, as rumoured, the last Disney fairy tale movie, it's a good way to go out.