I first saw Frozen with my sister over the Christmas holiday and instantly fell in love with. The moment I left the theater I started raving to everyone who would listen that they should run and see it immediately. Now, a lot of people that I recommended it to loved it (my coworker likes to break the tension during stressful work days by blasting “Let It Go” at random times), but I’ve also heard from multiple people (five and counting) this exact sentence: “It was fine, but I liked Tangled better.”
Okay what? At first I couldn’t understand why you would compare the two. Tangled came out in 2010, almost four years ago, why would they be in direct competition with each other? But then, after the third time I heard that reaction, it started making a bit more sense. They’re both the only two Disney princess movies created using CG characters, and both went through title changes to distance themselves from their original fairy tales and become more “boy-friendly” flicks. After last night, when yet another friend compared Frozen to Tangled, I thought it could make a fun blog post to argue my thoughts on the matter. Thus, here is why I prefer Frozen over Tangled. Please be sure to leave me a comment and tell me what you think! I love to debate these things (obviously).
(I should note, lots of spoilers below if you haven’t seen both films–and if so, seriously what are you waiting for?!)
Both movies quickly set themselves apart from their source material. Tangled is not just the story of a princess needing to be rescued from her tower by a handsome prince; instead, Rapunzel’s story is more about her quest for self-realization than just fleeing a witch. Frozen has almost nothing in common with “The Snow Queen” fable that I grew up with. Basically there’s magic and snow… and that’s about all that overlaps. For those of you who haven’t read the original Hans Christian Anderson story, it is about a young girl who goes on a long quest to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen. Frozen is about sisters, secrets and love. This one’s really a toss up, based on your own preferences. For me personally, Tangled is a fun adaptation of a classic story we all know but not much more than that, whereas Frozen is completely unique and really speaks to me, as both a modern feminist (I use that term more in the “women can do anything!” meaning and less in the bra-burning sense, by the way) and sister.
Frozen is already ahead of Tangled here just by the 1-2 punch of having two kickass princess leads, whereas Tangled just as Rapunzel. All three princess have spent their lives locked up away from other people, and that definitely influences their characters and their choices. Rapunzel is naive, enthusiastic and energetic, and my favorite part of the movie is the scene where she flip flops from being thrilled to terrified after having finally left her tower. Anna actually shares a lot of traits with Rapunzel, now that I look at it this way. Both are a little awkward and funny, and both prove to be quite adept at handling the outside world, having never been out there before. I guess the biggest difference between the two are the stakes at hand. Rapunzel’s whole purpose of leaving her tower is to go see the floating lights without her mother knowing; Anna needs to salvage her relationship with her sister and bring back summer before her entire kingdom freezes to death (a direct consequence of her publicly pushing Elsa past her breaking point). When Rapunzel’s stakes finally do get high (given the choice between her freedom or saving Flynn/Eugene), she doesn’t actually get to make the choice. Eugene chops off her hair himself, sacrificing his life for hers. Anna also has to decide between saving herself or saving her sister, and she instinctively chooses to sacrifice herself for her sister (not knowing, of course, that doing so will break the spell).
Anna is definitely the heroine of Frozen, but it would be wrong to leave Elsa out. Her journey is an internal one, as she goes from letting her powers control and define her while locking herself away from the world in fear, to finally accepting her powers, learning to control them and letting herself be loved. It’s still a heroic journey, in my mind, although not the traditional one.
I won’t fight it: Flynn Rider (or Eugene, whichever) is awesome. He’s a bit arrogant at first, definitely in the category of Reluctant Hero, but he shows himself to be charming and sensitive, and he really seems to love Rapunzel, enough to sacrifice his life to keep her from remaining Mother Gothel’s prisoner. That said… dude’s still a thief. I mean, I know he allegedly gave up thieving after falling for Rapunzel but, unlike Aladdin, he didn’t steal because he needed to eat, he stole to get rich and because he really liked stealing. And then he’s rewarded by… marrying the princess and getting rich. It’s just a little weird to me. Plus, The Princess and the Frog had done a similar arc with Naveen just a year earlier. He too just wanted to be rich and have an easy going life, but he falls in love with Tiana and lives happily ever after… working really hard to make he dreams come true for the rest of his life.
Frozen doesn’t really have a hero in the traditional sense of the word. In saving her sister, Anna saves herself. But there are two love interests. First, there’s Prince Hans, whom Anna meets literally seconds after she steps outside the castle for the first time since she was a child. That night after about an hour and a half/two hours of conversation and one rousing song complete with the robot dance (hard not to love a man who can robot), they’re engaged, and about 20 minutes after that (give or take) she’s leaving him in charge of the entire kingdom in her absence. Yeah… Anna’s been reading way too many books from Giselle’s library. But then in an awesome twist I seriously didn’t see coming (although my sister did, or at least she said she did), dude’s evil! His entire reason for being in Arrendale for the coronation is to claim the throne by getting either sister to fall in love with him.
Frozen also has Kristoff, who falls into the same Reluctant Hero trope that Flynn does, and although he slowly realizes that he is falling for Anna, his story ends up with only a kiss, not a declaration of love or marriage proposal in sight. Tangled follows the more traditional structure of love interest, whereas Frozen subverts it making the bolder, and more modern view, in my opinion, of having the final moral be about familial love as the love that saves, not romantic.
Here’s a funny comparison: both Rapunzel and Anna fall in love with the first person they meet outside of their tower/castle. Rapunzel ends up married to the guy; Anna ends up getting engaged but then learning that he’s a douchebag in a nice outfit, and that it’s silly to marry the first person that sweeps you off your feet. Love it!
Mother Gothel is a great villain, manipulative in a sense that reminds one of Scar or Ursula. She knows exactly what to say to control Rapunzel, and she utilizes it to her advantage almost every day. That said, the one thing I really didn’t like about her role within Tangled is that Rapunzel 100% believes her to be her mother (until the end of the story) and loves her as one for 18 years, and then as soon as she finds out she’s not really her mother, she flat out despises her and doesn’t blink when she dies. That’s a little weird for someone you believed was your mom for your entire life.
Frozen doesn’t have a stereotypical villain, but I don’t think it suffers from this. Elsa can almost qualify as one, although she really only uses her powers against people out of fear, in self-defense or, as in the confrontation with Anna, to protect her sister. The Duke of Weselton is a minor villain, ordering the death of Elsa to protect his interest in trades with Arrendale, but aside from a terrifyingly accurate version of Lindsay Bluth’s Chicken Dance, he’s of little consequence. Prince Hans is the truest villain in this form, although we aren’t aware of his nature until the last quarter of the film. Up until that point, he proves himself to be a very capable leader and in tune with the suffering of the kingdom, which I don’t think could all be an act. When he admits his plan to rule Arrendale to Anna, and then later tries to kill Elsa himself, he claims the role of the primary antagonist and is rightfully brought down… but I can’t help but think he wouldn’t have been a half-bad king if his plan had worked out. I’m glad it didn’t, but it was an interesting choice for Disney to make him ambitious without eliminating all of his compassion. Okay I’m rambling.
Hands down I think Frozen has better music, and “Let It Go” in particular has skyrocketed quickly into the kind of universal popularity that a Disney movie hasn’t seen since “Colors of the Wind.” I was at a drive through ATM the other day and this song was playing and the teenage boys in the car behind me called out without a hint of sarcasm, “Turn it up, I love this song!” I could see in my rear view mirror that they knew every word. That’s pretty unique for a song from an animated movie. “Let It Go” trumps the entire soundtrack of Tangled by itself, but let’s take a closer look and examine the other songs we’re working with.
For “I Wish” songs, we have “When Will My Life Begin” from Tangled and “For the First Time in Forever” from Frozen. Now, I’ve always been a big fan of “When Will My Life Begin,” but when you compare the two directly, you immediately notice that it’s basically just a list of activities sung to a fun melody. Comparatively, “For the First Time in Forever” is chock-full of personality. I’d have to give the edge to Frozen on this one as well.
As far as love songs go, Tangled has that contest in the bag. “I See the Light” is a traditional Disney love ballad, and nothing really compares to it in Frozen. “Love is an Open Door” is much poppy-er and can’t really fit in the canon of songs that include “A Whole New World,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Kiss the Girl.” However, it’s much more suitable for those characters in this particular story (especially with the twist that happens) that they don’t have the traditional ballad.
“When Will My Life Begin” (which gets reprised twice, ugh!) and “I See the Light” are really the only two songs from Tangled that stick out after watching it. Donna Murphy does an amazing job with what she’s given on “Mother Knows Best,” but its Broadway style panache doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the pop-infused score, and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever listened to “I’ve Got a Dream” outside of watching the actual movie. Why do we give an entire song to secondary characters we’ll never see again? Obviously Frozen has “Fixer Upper,” but the purpose of that song is to let Anna and the audience know more about Kristoff than it is about the people who are singing it.
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