Let’s be honest here–Disney does not have a great track record with spinoffs or sequels for its various animated properties. The company’s tendency to turn every successful property into a bloated multimedia franchise has frequently served to cheapen some of its best work. The various cartoon series based on Disney films (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, etc.) are prime examples of this. Not terrible in every respect, perhaps, but definitely not up to the standard of the movies they were based on. (Granted, I haven’t actually seen these shows; I’m just going by what I’ve read. Feel free to disagree.)
So, when Disney announced that they were going to make an animated series based on Tangled, I did cringe a little. The return of the original voice cast intrigued me, but wasn’t enough to ease my concerns. Tangled is, in my opinion, the best animated film that Disney has produced, so I didn’t want to see it get run into the ground.
I’m happy to report that this was not the case. Not remotely.
I’m not saying that Tangled: The Series (a.k.a. Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure) is another Avatar: The Last Airbender. But given the extremely high bar set by Avatar, the fact that the Tangled series matches it in quality during its best moments is saying a lot. The only real criticism I can level at this show is that not every episode feels like a new Tangled movie–however, that’s really not a flaw. This is still a half-hour cartoon show, so a number of the episodes don’t contribute heavily to the main story arc and are pretty much just light-hearted little stories featuring the Tangled characters. Which, obviously, is nothing to complain about.
Throughout the series, the writing remains intelligent and entertaining for adults regardless of the stakes involved, each episode tries to subvert expectations in some way to impart a deeper message, and even the less-vital stories tend to sprinkle in some plot points that end up becoming far more important later on. Plus, the characters grow and change as the series progresses, which is not something you often find in a show like this. Add Alan Menken’s legendary songwriting skills to the mix, and you’ve got something very special indeed.
I’m not going to spoil any of the big twists of the show in this post. (Because yes, there are some VERY big twists, and you don’t want them spoiled for you.) I’m just going to share five reasons why Tangled: The Series should be on your watchlist–especially since the first two seasons are now on Disney Plus.
#1: The writing is excellent.
As I mentioned earlier, the quality of the writing doesn’t fluctuate regardless of whether the episode is funnier or more intense. Plus, there is a fascinating series arc and excellent world-building. I wasn’t too thrilled when I learned that Rapunzel’s long hair would come back for this show, since it seemed like a gimmick. However, there’s actually a captivating mystery behind why it grows back, which the show does a great job of unpacking over the course of multiple story arcs. Fans of the original movie will love how the series cleverly and respectfully builds on the story and the world which the film introduced. But don’t worry–even the surprising reveals about characters you’re familiar with don’t retcon the movie in any way.
#2: Both the original cast and the new characters shine.
One of the best elements of the Tangled film is the balanced dynamic between Eugene and Rapunzel as the male and female leads. They both have strengths and weaknesses, and by the end of the movie, each one sacrifices everything to save the other. And yes, there’s a romance at the core of their story, but hey–the best Disney films are built on romance. There. I said it.
The series doesn’t deviate from this element of the movie in any way. Rapunzel does learn and become more capable as the series progresses, but she’s still the same person you remember from the film–optimistic and caring even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Likewise, Eugene adapts to the changes the movie brought to his life while still remaining the wisecracking, sometimes-goofy swashbuckler he was at the beginning. He doesn’t become a tough-guy stereotype or a complete buffoon. And while he and Rapunzel have understandable moments of doubt about their future, their love for each other is never truly brought into question.
The new characters could easily have weighed down the story, but thankfully, they only enhance the show’s quality. In essence, rather than making Rapunzel “tougher” (which wouldn’t really have worked) the series introduces Cassandra (voiced by Eden Espinosa), Rapunzel’s lady-in-waiting who fulfills a role that wouldn’t fit Rapunzel. Cass is always ready for a fight, has a more snarky demeanor, and tends to mistrust people, so she’s pretty much the antithesis of Rapunzel. This makes for a highly entertaining relationship between them. Their unlikely friendship/sisterhood forms an additional pillar of the show alongside Rapunzel’s romantic connection with Eugene. There’s also Varian (Jeremy Jordan), a young alchemist who plays into the series arcs in a surprising way, and Lance Strongbow (James Monroe Igleheart), Flynn’s old thieving partner who provides some hilarious comic relief.
Oh, and the voice acting is phenomenal. I appreciate the fact that Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi were not only willing to reprise their roles, but to bring so much passion to this project. Plus, both the acting and singing skills of the voice actors for the new characters are incredible.
#3: The animation is superb.
The series doesn’t use the same 3D animation from the movie–probably a good thing, since this form of animation on a TV budget would have fallen far short of the film’s exceptional level of quality. Instead, the show essentially uses the same “painterly” style of Rapunzel’s chalk drawings in the original movie. It’s as if the series is her art come to life. This is a clever choice which causes the show to feel contiguous with the movie’s visuals despite the big shift from 3D to 2D animation.
One of the best things about the movie was the level of detail in the animation, and the show doesn’t neglect this element. The characters are highly expressive, and the backgrounds are rich. Nothing about the show feels stilted or cheap. Kudos to the showrunners for not cutting any corners in this area despite not having a movie-level budget to work with.
#4: The songs are written by Alan Menken (with lyrics by Glenn Slater).
Which is synonymous with saying “The songs are amazing.” Menken has contributed some of the most beloved pieces of music in Disney canon, and he doesn’t slack off in his work for this show. The same can be said for Slater's lyrics. All the songs are on par with the familiar tunes you love from both Tangled and other Disney movies. I’m going to drop one of Cassandra’s songs below so you can hear what I mean–don’t worry, no spoilers in this scene.
#5: The series arc is exceptionally well-crafted.
This isn’t a show that features shocking twists every week…but when they come, they are worth waiting for. And yet, they’re handled carefully, and they feel earned. This is a series with very high stakes, despite the fact that it’s set before a short film which confirms that Rapunzel and Eugene survive and get married. It’s hard to say too much about this element without divulging spoilers, but in short, if you watch this show and pay close attention to the development of the season arcs, you will not be disappointed.
Have you watched Tangled: The Series yet? If so, let me know your thoughts in the comments, but be sure to include spoiler warnings for those who aren’t caught up. If you haven’t watched the show, now is the perfect time to start. The third and current season isn’t on Disney Plus yet, but I’m sure it will land there sometime next year–and trust me, it’s a doozy.