May the best movie win!*
*Nine categories have been carefully picked to decisively crown the deserving winner
Why are these movies facing off?
Once the character design for Anna came out, people instantly complained about Frozen’s alleged similarity to Tangled. Much of that controversy has led people to compare the two movies, sparking debates as to which movie is the superior Disney computer-animated princess musical. I’ve linked one such debate down below. Keep reading to see me debate with myself?
Category One: Animation/Backgrounds/Effects
Both Tangled and Frozen are strong in this category, but the winner is obvious for me. Tangled looks better than Frozen, even being 3 years older. I actually think the troubled production of Tangled helped the film out in this regard, since legendary animator Glen Keane was director for then-called Rapunzel until health issues got in the way. Glen Keane wanted to infuse the unique artistic style of traditional animation into computer animation, using non-photorealistic rendering to try to make every frame look like a painting. The texture of Tangled is the best we’ve seen from any computer animated film so far, reminding me of the visible brush strokes often associated with paintings. This isn’t anything against Frozen, which did a remarkable job with every snow/ice effect, but the backgrounds felt lazy, the textures were only really noticeable on stuff like clothing, and the animation amazed in moments, not consistently.
Winner: Tangled (1-0)
Category Two: Soundtrack/Songs
Uhh… some of the deleted Frozen songs are better than Tangled’s (Mother Knows Best). To be fair, Frozen Heart was a crappy way to open the movie, and Tangled has a real gem in I See the Light.
Winner: Frozen (1-1)
Category Three: The Princess
This is a little difficult since Frozen has double the dosage of princesses, but even when excluding the complicated Elsa, Anna is more interesting and relatable than Rapunzel. Both are energetic and optimistic, making Anna and Rapunzel extremely likeable protagonists. And while both add humor into the story, Rapunzel knowing nothing about the outside world and Anna being a hopelessly romantic, stuttering clutz, I think Rapunzel’s persistent dream of seeing “the lights” (as poetic as it is) will be far less understandable than Anna’s dream of falling in love, hanging out with people, and building a snowman with her sister. Plus, Rapunzel doesn’t seem to struggle with bad hair days like the rest of us.
Winner: Frozen (2-1)
Category Four: The Love Interest
Once again, Frozen kind of has two, but I’m going to boil this down to Kristoff vs. Flynn Rider. While neither are particular stand-outs (I mean, the Disney princes tend to be rather boring) I think Rider is at least better developed. Sure, screen time helps, but Rider has a legitimate character arc. All he cares about is his reputation and money at the beginning, but he never comes off as a total jerk. Just someone who is hiding behind a facade. Now that’s intriguing. And the fact Rapunzel accepts him for who he is underneath, Eugene, makes the love story all the more believable and meaningful. I like how Frozen paired up the two underdogs/outcasts of the story, but Kristoff is just not too compelling. He didn’t even realize the little girl who he saw healed was Anna.
Winner: Tangled (2-2)
Category Five: Comic Relief Characters
Both Tangled and Frozen primarily utilizes a pair of side characters for most of their humor, Pascal + Maximus and Sven + Olaf. In this new, so called “revival” era of Disney’s, they have definitely benefited from working with silent side characters, and while I still love Olaf, I just think Pascal and Maximus fits into the story/movie better. I complained early on about Olaf’s cartoonish design clashing with the rest of the character designs shown in the Frozen trailers/teasers, and I still stand by that statement even if he did warm my heart with his child-like naivety and knack for great comedic timing. Sven is definitely the weak link in this otherwise pretty hilarious group of four.
Winner: Tangled (3-2)
Category Six: The Villain
Gotta pick the lesser of the evils here (more evil?) since Mother Gothel and Hans can’t compete with the Queen from Snow White, Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, Ursula, Scar, and Frollo. I’m going to have to pick Mother Gothel here. She’s manipulative, she’s conniving, she’s just despicable. Hans’ reveal kind of comes out of nowhere, but perhaps I’m not giving him enough credit for almost stealing both Anna’s heart and her kingdom.
Winner: Tangled (4-2)
Category Seven: Story/Substance
For as good as Tangled was, I’ve always wondered what was the idea inspiring the movie. I mean, sure, you have influential Disney veterans trying to translate the Disney princess brand into computer animation, but what type of a message did they want little kids to learn from Tangled? I think Tangled is about things, but the central theme of dreams running through the story just didn’t have closure by the end. Frozen, on the other hand, saves their best surprises for last, where they subversively tell children to think about their sister instead of prince charming. Now that’s a message I can get behind.
Winner: Frozen (3-4)
Category Eight: Storytelling/Execution
I’ve heard people complain about Tangled trying to be too modern and what not, but I think it worked. Tangled maintained the fairytale feeling of Disney’s earlier works while embracing its modernity through obviously animation medium, but also through song, humor, characterizations, pacing, and dialogue. For as catchy as the entire Frozen soundtrack is, I actually couldn’t enjoy the music quite as much on my first viewing. Love is an Open Door and Fixer Upper felt too hip for a setting where there are still legitimate kings, queens, castles, balls, and wooden ships. Add robot dancing and a running gag about being married in one day, and I think I’ve provided enough reasons why Frozen is the one that was trying to be too modern/satirical.
Winner: Tangled (5-3)
Category Nine: Innovation/Novelty
As unique and likeable as many Disney protagonists are, Disney’s stories typically revolve around making their dream come true, leaving little room for dynamic character growth. There are a few exceptions in which their plight also involves overcoming personal insecurities frequently essential for character growth, like Beast, Mulan, and Elsa. In the end, I think that’s why people wanted to see more of Elsa. She’s conflicted, and while her heart is in the right place, her mind-set was simply self-destructive. People connected with Elsa, and when she finally liberated herself by singing Let it Go, her anthem was bound to become viral. Coupled with Elsa’s younger sister who dealt with problems of normality/rejection, and you have one of Disney’s most character-driven story. Tangled was more about atmosphere and introducing classic Disney to a new generation of children. Needless to say, Frozen deviated further from the usual Disney path.
Winner: Frozen (4-5)
Final Verdict: Tangled (5-4)
In a close battle, Tangled edges out Frozen, winning in important categories like animation and storytelling, while getting destroyed in other categories like soundtrack. Did the right movie win? Which movies do you wanna see face-off next? Let me know in the comments below and come revisit this site to catch the next Taestful Face-Off.