Imperial Command of the Raccoon General

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ascendency of the Frying Pan

The frying pan has been used to bash people in the head for as long as I have been watching cartoons. I don't know if there is a cultural reference or significance to it, or mere coincidence that it is the choice kitchen utensil for gags, but the fact is there: many heads have met the frying pan up close and personal. But for all that, it was a gag, a one-use prop item.

Not so in Disney's latest epic, Rapunzel.

In that movie the frying rose to prominence, and even acknowledged by the characters as good tool for fighting. It was used by the honor guards at the end parade even. So much glory to the frying pan.

But really, there's more to Disney's Rapunzel than frying pans.

For one, I really love the quartet of characters in this epic adventure. Flynn Rider, the chameleon Pascal, the warhorse/soldier-like/sometimes-dog-like Maximus and of course Rapunzel herself. That the animal companions themselves did not talk yet are so moving should serve as an example to those who think animal-like creatures needed a vocal language to convey themselves as blatantly misguided.

Most important for me however was that the characters were strong. I know sometimes there is a tendency to have one or more members of an adventure party the weak one that needs protection and such, but I feel the line up in Rapunzel is strong. The animal companions can hold their own and each exhibit a kind of confidence rare among critters dat accompany most heroes. In fact I can argue that in personality (and physical ability for Maximus) they can match that of Flynn Rider, the main male protagonist.

Flynn is cocky, and despite being what people would say... roguishly handsome, his looks fails him a lot of the times. It's like a variant of Johnny Bravo, but as we could see in the movie, he is not some helpless weakling; more to the point he probably can take the lead of the gang as much as the main character herself. He is quite self centered, but then I think we all love a self centered comic who fails in in horribly funny ways.

My case in point of Rapunzel however illustrates a near perfect level of what my preference for strong female characters. People always thought what I meant by that are Amazons, strong physically, deadly in combat, sexy figures with skimpy armor outfits. Rapunzel is a case that illustrates going another way from that conception yet still meeting the criteria. I absolutely adore her. She is not a damsel in distress; a genre of female character I believe we can make do without today, but one capable of taking care of herself despite her naivety towards the world. She can fight, but not through skilled swordplay or gun battles. She is feminine and rather girly at times yet not lacking in confidence. She doesnt really needs rescuing; in fact she becomes the rescuer at times. She dresses not skimpily; it is Disney after all, but she is pretty. In short, this is the sort of balance in attributes I look for. We need female leads like this, me thinks.

I love the art of the film. I know it's 3D, my brain registers consciously it's 3D, but somehow I felt like watching one of those 2D Disney classics. It's really gorgeous. I love the style. The truth is probably related to the two executive producers of the film. John Lasseter was involed in works like Rattatouile, Wall E, Bolt and UP. Glen Keane worked on projects like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and my favourite, Tarzan. It's like their fusion produced a 3D animation with a very strong flavour of the old 2D disney classics. Note to self: Must find the Art of Tangled book.

The story is what you can expect of a Disney story, fun for the family adventure and happily ever afters. That I did not feel it was stale is probably a good sign of the manner of their storytelling, though I did feel the antagonist to be a little... vanilla. That said, it feels negligible enough because of the main focus on the interactions of the protagonists. It still felt fun over all.

I feel like watching it again! :P


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