Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Disney deaths

I know I'm not the first one to notice this but a lot of Disney villains die by falling. I recently watched the movie "Tangled". The movie was a fun romp but I didn't like the ending...


I recently watched the movie "Tangled". The movie was a fun romp but I didn't like the ending. The end consisted of the witch falling out of the tower, Rapunzel having her hair cut, and Flynn lay dying in her arms. Of course, being a Disney movie, there is no tragic death of a lover and a deus ex machina miracle saves his life. A little background, her hair (so long as it isn't cut) has the miraculous power to heal and restore youth. This hair symbolically chained her to her 'mother' the witch. So there are three things wrong with this ending by my accounts.

1. Rapunzel's hair is cut by Flynn (male protagonist)
2. Witch falls out of tower
3. deus ex machina miracle

The problem with the first is that the movie missed a perfect opportunity to develop the character. Instead it chose to develop the relationship. The relationship that was already established throughout the whole movie. This was a chance to liberate herself. Conversely, she chooses to give up her freedom to secure the life of the man she loves. While the scene was touching, it was unnecessary.

My problem with the second is purely of overuse. Disney seems to love these kinds of deaths, appearing in a good chunk of their animated movies (go ahead, check). One could argue that this is Disney's way of shying away from violent deaths but I have to disagree. Disney does have a history of visually violent deaths. In Tarzan the villain is very violently hung (watch it... it's kind of traumitizing). In Beauty and the beast, the Beast almost dies from a stabbing. In Little Mermaid the witch is IMPALED upon a ship. In Tangled, Flynn is literally stabbed in the back. The death's overuse is slightly mitigated by the fact that the pet chameleon trips her on her way out.

The third is because it is deus ex machina. While many/most fairy tales end using this, it is hard to justify such an ending in a modern story. Really, it was like the script writers wrote a touching scene where both Flynn and Rap sacrifice their life and freedom respectively for each other and then couldn't come up with the happy ever after ending they were hoping for. Then they just wrote a miracle in to make it fit. They didn't shy away from a gallows scene earlier, why turn away a from a tragic death.

Here's how I would have written the scene. Rapunzel realizes that she's a princess and confronts her 'mother'. Seeking freedom, she tells her mother that she's leaving. They struggle. The witch falls out the window and catches Rapunzel's hair. Witch taunts her, telling her that she arranged for Flynn to be hung and that Rapunzel would always be her slave as she climbs back up using Rap's tresses. Rapunzel takes a knife and severs her hair. Flynn is hung. Rapunzel returns to the kingdom and grieves but decides to live life to the fullest as Flynn would have wanted.

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