Monday, April 9, 2012

Tangled vs The Princess & the Frog: work-in-progress

Both of these movies are better than I expected.  They have some of the magic of Disney that had been missing.  They also came out one after the other, so it seems fair to compare them.  I like them both; but I'm having an extremely hard time figuring out which one I like more, and why.  So here are some of my thoughts (Some were from immediately after seeing it).

I saw The Princess & The Frog just yesterday evening!  And I like it quite a bit, too.  I'm really not much of a Randy Newman fan, and the whole score is by him.  (I think that may be my real problem with Toy Story--for some reason, I've just never been fond of it--not enough music.  "You got a friend in me" is not a song I really enjoy much, I find it a little boring, though the sentiment is nice.)  However, I have to admit, if he's NOT the one singing the song...I generally like his music.  He doesn't have a very big vocal range, so all his songs sound the same--not much you can do with a melody if you only have about an octave to work with, you know?  I kinda think he should give up singing and be a composer since then he can make more varied melodies.

I was not a huge fan of Ray, the lightning bug voiced by Jim Cummings though it's nice to see him getting a bigger role.  Dr. Facilier despite being obviously evil, has a bit of that con-man thing going for him, like James Woods's Hades in Hercules, and his villian song is both funny and scary, it has everything a good villain song should have, and a great voice to go with it.  BUT Dr. Facilier's plan seems a little silly (gotta get somebody to impersonate the prince, marry the...mayor's daughter?  and then...somehow get to be (elected?) mayor and take over the town somehow?  He could have just urged the prince to marry Charlotte or something...and even then, it's still a little silly...after all, it's a MAYOR...somehow he can urge the town to do things if his toady marries Charlotte?)  Still, some neat songs...I'd have to say my least favorites are both of the Jim Cummings ones--he gets 2 whole songs, oddly enough...and an actual major (sort of peripheral but still major) character role (instead of filling in for Christopher Lloyd's singing, or doing a few singing lines for Jeremy Irons, or doing random voices...admitttedly he's been Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, but he wasn't the original for either...and Rasoul, the chief guard in Aladdin, but that's a really minor role...)  However, I just didn't like him that much, and although his songs were fine (and had nice melodies/beats), they weren't the best ones, IMO.

I'm not sure if I like this more than Tangled or not.  I lean a bit toward the music in Princess and the Frog...but like The Nostalgia Critic said, the story in Tangled is better.  Hunchback has jumped to #2 on my list because of the excellent music (since about a year or two ago), though, so maybe in a few years, Princess will outlast Tangled for me.  I'm not sure, though, since I liked the Tangled story a lot--and Hunchback still has a story that I think makes sense (generally).  And the music in Tangled is a tad more generic in general...then again, Randy Newman...can be a little generic as well--his music hangs together well though, and he did the score, too, so the music has a nice overall cohesiveness.

I thought Doug was a little unfair to Tangled, too, since Mandy Moore wasn't TOO distracting as a voice actor (okay, it was a BIT distracting sometimes--especially with the hair change at the end--isn't that one of Mandy Moore's actual hairstyles, that they gave her?), and I liked the guy (haven't seen Chuck or whatever he's in).  And that horse was funny.  I wasn't too impressed with the big gang of tough guys (kinda saw that one coming) but it's more about our leads.  It actually bugged me a bit that the parents didn't have any LINES (other than sighs) but he did make a good point, they did a nice job with the animation, so that they didn't HAVE to say anything...but it was a minorly distracting point, that they didn't say anything, when they finally find their daughter after over a decade!  I was going, "What, you couldn't pay a couple of extra voice actors for Mom and Dad?"  Then again, maybe it's better that way...I dunno.

In any case, the side characters in Tangled don't get as much screen time, which I kinda liked (although, I did kinda like the alligator in Princess and the Frog--though James complains that they can't talk to him anymore when they change back to!).  I thought Jim Cummings bug had a little too much screen time; and the Shadow Man doesn't get enough.

In any case...Doug is right, somewhere in those two movies there is a REALLY GOOD movie, one that could be a Top 5 kind of movie...but neither is quite there.

I think I'm going to have to revisit them every so often and see if they move up or down on my list.  It's much too soon to tell if they're going to be lasting favorites for me or not. :)  Wow...why do I waste so much time analyzing this?  Well...okay I do know why...Disney movies are still some of my ALL-TIME favorites... :-p

Somehow the Princess and the Frog plot didn't bug me that much.  I guess because it had fairy tale logic going on, where you need the prince to become a frog, so the bad guy turns him into a frog.  I think I actually missed that Dr Facilier had more of a plan than just strewing chaos, ala the Joker.  I watched the movie with the commentary, and they actually talked about Randy Newman and his score and how they wanted a classic American sound.  I enjoyed the music, and the first time I watched I didn't even realize Randy Newman did the music, since he didn't sing.  Classic Family Guy did a joke about Randy Newman which pretty well sums up his personal music for me, just his limited voice and piano.  You've Got a Friend wasn't bad at first, but it gets kind of old.

I didn't care for Mandy Moore, not so much because she was a celeb, but she wasn't much of a voice actor.  She was just a basic voice, not a character to me.  I liked Rapunzel, but I didn't love her.

Yeah, I've seen that Family Guy bit, and they do have a point.  They actually get to use band/orchestra instruments for Princess and the Frog though, not just piano, which certainly helps with the whole "Randy Newman sound" problem.  (Probably has a bit more of a blues/jazz feel and more brass instruments in it than usual for Disney).
Maybe my standards are too low (doubtful since I looooove to be snarky...) but I really liked both movies quite a bit.  I am feeling a leaning toward Tangled overall but the Princess music seemed better...I kinda want to watch them both again.  As :-p  But I should study for my STAT quiz.

I guess I do appreciate that they tried to make Rapunzel and Tiana have more realistic personalities and such (though they're still Disney, so it's not REALLY realistic). They seem more like real people than most of the other Disney ladies.  I'm glad they didn't go with what's-her-face from that Film Brain video and 27 Dresses, whose method of trying to make a realistic character is to be painfully awkward and fake-quirky.

New Notes (4/7/13):
Prince Naveen is pretty awesome.  You can really see that he's maybe a little selfish but quite charming...and FUNNY!  He's got a personality and it's an engaging one.  Lack of personality has plagued Disney Princes for ages.  I liked Prince Philip but its because of his singing voice; and Prince Eric well...what personality does he have?  He's "awesome" because he stabs Ursula WITH A SHIP but that's not really a personality.

Flynn Rider (or whatever his real name is...Eugene Fitzherbert?) is, well...a tad lame.  Maybe trying a little too hard.  I'm not sure if the character is supposed to BE smooth or just THINK he's smooth.  And then suddenly turns out to be a really sweet guy?   In a comparison between them, I think Naveen wins.

Villains in both are great.  Mother Gothel is manipulative but in such a way that you can see why Rapunzel (having no other comparison) actually believes that she cares about her.  Even pulls the old guilt-trip masterfully.  Dr. Facilier, as previously mentioned, has that smooth-talking con man thing going for him.  You understand why Naveen, being a bit silly and looking for fun, decides "heck, why not, I'll follow this guy into his obviously evil-looking lair.  I mean, he can't possibly be serious, this creepy stuff is just for atmosphere, there aren't any real evil demons in there..."

Minor characters:
--The horse in Tangled is great.  The chameleon is well, just cute but not really anything else.  The gang of thugs...are not really there much.  They're fine but nothing special--just mildly funny.
-- Princess:  Well, there's Jim Cummings bug, who I didn't care for, and the alligator who is fine but didn't really strike me as particularly great, and only mildly funny.  Mama Odie was good, though her song was maybe a little too generic lyrically.

Tangled had one good minor character, the horse, who is pretty darn funny actually, but really, it's just 3 characters:  Rapunzel, Flynn, and Mother Sorceress/Gothel.  There really aren't any side characters.  The surly thief brothers are barely even characters at all.  The gang of thugs had potential but...I'm not sure what's missing.  Maybe they could have focused on one or two and given them just a tad more screen time? 

Princess:  Charlotte Le Bouff "Lottie" (Tiana's friend) was a great character (so nicely done!  Obviously cares for Tiana while still being somewhat silly and spoiled.--and she's very funny.  Too much of ONE minor character, Jim Cummings bug.  He's got so much screen time I'm tempted to call him a main character.  I guess I'm just not big on a cajun hillbillies.  Sorry.  Just doesn't work for me.

So we have, maybe not enough minor characters vs too much minor character?

Compared to my top ones...
Beauty and the Beast--could not imagine this movie being as good without Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts...even Chip.  All the furniture that doesn't talk but still have personalities. 

Hunchback--Ok, I just love the way they did Phoebus. Not sure it's fair to call him a minor character.  Love Paul Kandel's Clopin though.  Djali, the goat, was, eh, ok.  I actually rather liked the gargoyles, even though I know some people hate them.  I thought they were okay comic relief, even if it's weird that they really do come to life but only when Quasimodo's alone...and are actually physically helping Quasimodo fight off the guards at the end...which I acknowledge is a little weird...

Aladdin:  Abu--ok, Iago--ok...and what would this movie BE without the Genie?  Nothing.  

Hercules: Danny deVito's Phil is funny, Pegasus is..well, eh.  Pain and Panic are...well, y'know, I do think they've somewhat funny.  Even some of the gods and random townspeople are fun.

Jungle Book--okay, this movie is just FULL of great minor characters.  I mean, Baloo and Bagheera are great, and I suppose are maybe also main characters, but I also love the vultures, the elephants, the monkeys...honestly the "villain" is trebled (King Louie maybe the 3rd) or at least doubled (Kaa) & the main villain Shere Khan.

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