Today we’re trying something a little different. A piece I like to call... (add dramatic voice and hardcore thrash metal music here)
PANDRAGONDAN’S DISNEY DEATHMATCH!!!
Ahem, ok... it’s not going to be QUITE as bloody as the title makes it out to be, but... I couldn’t think of a witty title! XD
This is similar to a previous idea I had called Animated Musical Showdown – which I decided to stop in favour of this. For those new to this, don’t worry, you aren’t missing anything.
As many of you guys know, I love Disney – whether old school or new school. Having purchased a bundle of Disney films with works vouchers over the last few months, it got me thinking – what do I consider the best Disney films of all time? And this is where this comes in! In this blog, I will pit two Disney films against each other to try and determine which film is better (at least in my opinion). I’ll try and pick films with similar themes and ideas to try and keep it as fair as possible.
In each battle, there will be five “rounds”, of which I will talk about what I like, don’t like, etc, then award a point accordingly. Whoever has the most points at the end wins. Simple as that! And I’m keeping it to five so that there is no chance of a tie happening.
And just so you guys are aware, elements such as animation and awards/recognition won will NOT factor into my choices – only the categories mentioned in each one will matter.
Just a warning, this blog may contain spoilers for each story, so consider yourself warned. All opinions/conclusions reached are my own.
So with that being said, for my first Deathmatch, I’m putting up one of my favourite films of all time, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, against a modern reimagining of a famous fairytale, Tangled. Both are unique twists on classic stories – but which one holds up the most? Let’s find out.
ROUND 1 – Protagonists
Here I look at the protagonists of each film – Rapunzel for Tangled and Quasimodo for Hunchback – and decide which one of them is a more sympathetic and likeable character.
In many ways, both are very much alike and have similar back stories. Both are locked away from the outside world by their respective antagonist, who in turn pretends to be a “guardian” for them. Both of them wish to be outside amongst the people, but are warned the world is cruel and will reject them. And both of them have a love interested that is “killed” by the villain. But each character has differences that sets them apart from the other.
In Rapunzel’s case, she was born with the ability to heal through her hair, granted by a magic flower was fed to her mother at birth. Kidnapped by Mother Gothel as a child, who wished to use her healing powers to stop herself from aging, Rapunzel was locked away, never knowing who her real parents were. Every year, the castle would release lights into the sky in memory of the princess (and their parents hoping it would bring Rapunzel back to them) and Rapunzel was drawn to them, never knowing their true meaning. That’s a pretty tragic back story – and quite sad as she was torn away from loving parents, without ever knowing much of where she came from or the truth behind her being held. She was a prisoner without even realising it.
Quasimodo’s story is equally as tragic. His mother was a gypsy that was murdered by Frollo when he was a baby and Frollo was going to drown him – until the Archdeacon forced Frollo to keep him in penance for his sin. Forced to hide in the belltower, Frollo locked him away from the people of the world, telling him that his visage would frightened them and he would be persecuted. In many ways he has it a little harder than Rapunzel, because even with her long hair, at least she could fit in with the people of the world. Quasimodo is deformed and, unfortunately, people tend to be afraid of anyone who are “different”. It makes him just that little more tragic in my eyes as his appearance makes him a monster to everyone.
In terms of character, Rapunzel is loveable Princess. Though slightly naive (she was locked away for years so we can forgive her for that), she is capable to an extent and can look after herself. She did knock out Flynn with a frying pan after all and she even managed to stop a whole gang of thugs from killing Flynn. Not to mention her hair is just badass! It’s so long that she can use it to lift people up, use it as a rope or a swing. It can even heal people – that is pretty cool! However, she is a little bit of a damsel in distress (which I never really liked), but to be fair to her, she DOES save Flynn’s life in the end. It would have been nice if she was a little more proactive and maybe a bit tougher, but I did grow to love her and totally bought into her story.
Quasimodo is also a loveable character and equally as naive as Rapunzel (if not more so), but I have a bit of a soft side for the guy. He’s deformed and looks like a monster, however he is anything but. He’s artistic, has a beautiful singing voice and also very trusting – maybe a little too trusting. He was fooled by Frollo for many years and, when Esmerelda shows him kindness, he mistakes it for love – then becomes heartbroken when she goes for Captain Phoebus. Though easily frightened and manipulated, Quasimodo does possess superhuman strength (he was shown ripping off chains that were holding him, albeit with some effort) so he can fight for himself, but due to his shyness and low self-esteem he rarely fights back. But in the end, the people do come to accept him after they see he is not such a monster after all – after Frollo tries to burn down Paris.
It’s hard to choose between the two of them, as they both have tragic back stories and both are loveable. But, I’ll give the point to Quasimodo purely on the basis that his tragedy was based on his deformity, whereas Rapunzel was held capture for her magic hair. So, as much as I love Rapunzel, the point goes to Hunchback.
ROUND 2 – Antagonists
A hero is only as good as their villain – and both Tangled and Hunchback have some pretty nasty villains to boot. For Tangled we have Mother Gothel and for Hunchback we have Judge Claude Frollo. But which of them do I love to hate the most?
Firstly, I’d like to say that both these characters are somewhat unique amongst your typical Disney villains like Maleficent, Jafa and Ursula (to name a few) in that they don’t rely on magic to perform their deeds, which I think makes them more believable. Also, both these villains lock the main character away from the rest of the world and both of them also die by falling.
Mother Gothel is an aging hag of a woman that found a magic flower that she used every now and then to stop herself aging – the film hints at her being well over 400 years old. But when this flower was taken to use on the sick Queen, Rapunzel was born and the magic was held in her hair. Mother Gothel stole Rapunzel (in fairness to her, she did only intend to take just a lock of her hair – but realised that when her hair was cut, the magic was lost) and kept her locked in a tower, where she periodically visited her to use her magic to keep her young, keeping her locked away from the outside world. Geez, what a bitch!
Judge Claude Frollo is a fundamentalist xenophobe that seeks to have all the gypsies (who he considered sinful) cleansed from Paris. A devout man that sees himself doing the Lord’s work, he is willing to torture and murder people to achieve his goals. In his case, he never WANTED to keep Quasimodo alive – in fact he murdered Quasimodo’s mother and tried to drown him as a baby, but the archdeacon forced him to stop. Since then he’s kept Quasimodo away from the world, pretending that he is doing it for his own good.
In terms of character, Mother Gothel is the more “lighthearted” of the two, to an extent anyway. Most of the time she is sarcastic to Rapunzel, often putting her down and making fun of her like the mean girl she is. She talks down to Rapunzel with a condescending “mother knows best” tone – but man can she turn nasty when she wants to! She was even prepared to murder Rapunzel’s love interest and lock her away in darkness to keep her away from the rest of the world. Mother of the year she is not! But despite her wicked nature, she does occasionally get a few funny lines in now and then.
Frollo, by contrast, is much darker and takes himself a bit more seriously. In fact, one could argue that he is the darkest of all Disney villains. He murders and tortures, lusts over Esmerelda and even burns Paris in his search for the gypsies. And yet, in his own mind, he believes that he is doing God’s work. He sees himself as a holy avenger, sent to cleanse the world of sin. Ironically, whilst Quasimodo is viewed as a monster because of how he looks, Frollo actually is a monster because of the evil deeds he does. And yet he justifies his actions by claiming to be a good Christian – although whether he believes this and whether he is just using this as an excuse is open for debate. As Clopin states in the film "who is the monster, and who is the man". All these factors make Frollo much more interesting as a villain as unlike Mother Gothel (who was motivated by her own vanity and desire to cheat death), Frollo is motivated by his religion and his desire to see sin cleansed.
All these factors (plus the fact that Frollo was voiced by the incredible Tony Jay, who’s baritone voice adds a sinister threatening tone to the character) make Frollo a much more rounded villain. So, not surprisingly, I’m giving the point to Hunchback for this one.
ROUND 3 – Supporting Characters
Here I look at the supporting characters in the film. For Tangled I’ll be looking at Flynn Rider (aka Eugene Fitzherbert), Maximus the Horse, Pascal the chameleon and the thugs. For Hunchback it’s Esmerelda, Captain Phoebus, the gargoyles and Clopin.
Let me just start off by saying that the characters in Tangled are some of the best I’ve seen in a Disney film. Flynn Rider is actually my favourite Disney hero out of all of them – he’s a dashing rogue that seeks nothing but fame and fortune and comes across as quite arrogant and full of himself. But then when he meets Rapunzel, that kinda changes for him and he finds something else worth fighting for. Learning that his real name was Eugene and that he got his name from a character in a book was a nice twist as well and actually makes him a lot more believable as a character. Maximus, the horse, was just funny as hell to watch. The scenes between him and Flynn as they try to outdo each other are just entertaining and crack me up every time. Pascal... I gotta be honest, he didn’t do much for me. But the thugs were also very funny. They look like some of the toughest people you will ever meet, but they are just so overly camp and silly that you can’t help but smile, despite their frightening looks.
Now onto Hunchback – and yes, I am just going to say this now. Esmerelda is the sexiest Disney heroine ever in my opinion! Whether it’s just that she looks beautiful, the outfits she wears, or maybe it’s the fact that she’s voiced by Demi Moore, Esmerelda is a great character. She is tough and streetwise, but also gentle and sincere, especially to Quasimodo, who in many ways she shares his plight as she’s an outcast because of who she is. Oh, and her goat Djali is also entertaining to watch, that little goat kicks ass! (pardon the pun). In fact, Esmerelda can also fight when needed, making her tougher than most Disney Princesses. Can’t blame Frollo for wanting a piece of her. Captain Phoebus, whilst on the antagonistic side, is more heroic than Frollo is. He is a soldier that tries to do the right thing and eventually sees through Frollo’s wicked action, becoming ally to Quasimodo and lover to Esmerelda. Nice guy, but pretty much your standard hero. The gargoyles are a source of a lot of the humour in Hunchback and are a lighthearted touch in an otherwise dark movie, which I think helped balance the story. Clopin, the leader of the gypsies as he acts as a kind of narrator for the film, explaining through performance Quasimodo’s backstory. He is entertaining to watch, but is willing to do some pretty dark things to protect his people.
Whilst I like the characters in Hunchback, I have to say that the scenes with Flynn and Maximus are entertaining as hell to watch. So this time, Tangled gets the point.
ROUND 4 – Music
Now let’s look at the music in each film. I’m quite lucky here because both films are scored by Alan Menken – who is a god amongst film composers in my eyes!
The music in Tangled is a little more modern than Hunchback, incorporating a lot of modern day pop elements and folk. Not surprising seeing as Rapunzel was voiced by pop singer Mandy Moore. Now some reviews say that the songs in Tangled aren’t that good, but I disagree. When Will My Life Begin is a catchy, upbeat number where Rapunzel wonders when she will leave the tower and begin her life. Mother Knows Best is a jazzy number by Mother Gothel with dark undertones and becomes really dark later on. I See The Light is a beautiful ballad to listen to and actually brought me to tears – not to mention the scene itself (with Flynn and Rapunzel on the boat at the lights are raised up) is just amazing to watch with all the flying lights. I would actually go so far to say that it has more heart and is more entertaining than Let It Go from Frozen (sorry guys). My favourite one though is I Got a Dream, sung by the thugs. It was a fun musical number and seeing all kinds of barbarians singing and dancing (including a scene where a thug with a hooked hand played piano) made me crack up no end. Overall, the music is brilliant, has a lot of heart and is pretty upbeat for the most part, but dark when it wants to be.
But no matter how dark the songs in Tangled they are nowhere near as dark as the songs on Hunchback. Incorporating a lot of themes from religion to xenophobia, the music in Hunchback is often foreboding, but also full of pathos. It has a couple of typically upbeat Disney showtunes such as A Guy Like You and Topsy Turvey, but the real power comes from songs like Out There, where Quasimodo laments his desire to be amongst the real people – and God Help The Outcasts, which is a heart moving song about Esmerelda praying for her people’s salvation, interjected with people praying to God for rather mundane and material means. These songs don’t hesitate to get the emotions riled and the tears flowing. And if that doesn’t do it for you, the end credits song Someday, sung by Eternal, will most definitely hit you in the feels.
However, there is ONE song in this film that I think, without question is the greatest Disney song ever made. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about – Hellfire! Man I can’t get enough of this song – it’s powerful, dark, twisted and has a lot of mature themes in it. I love how the song perfectly captures the many sides of Frollo, his zealous belief in his faith, his secret lust for Esmerelda, his growing insanity as he believes he is turning to sin – and then his final dark wish that he will burn everyone and everything to get what he desires (you know, for kids XD). It kinda foreshadows Frollo’s eventual fate in many ways as when he dies, there is fire like imagery, symbolising his fall to hell. Not to mention that Tony’s Jay’s vocals are just chilling to listen to. No matter how many times I listen to this song, I still get goosebumps! As I’ve said before on previous blogs, this song isn’t just better than Let It Go in my opinion – it eats it for breakfast! Menzel, take a hike!
Awww... why you gotta be so mean?
I’m sorry, Elsa. Do you want to build a snowman? That cheer you up?
Just promise me the snowman won’t be as annoying as Olaf.
Anyway. Moving on...
So with all that that being said, it should come as no surprise that I’m giving this point to Hunchback. Even though I love the songs in Tangled, I just can’t get over how powerful they are in Hunchback.
ROUND 5 – Story and overall theme
In this last section, I look at the story and overall themes of the film. What I think works and what doesn’t work.
Tangled is a really enjoyable fantasy romp, with colourful landscapes, vibrant characters and entertaining songs. It has plenty of heart with some really moving scenes – the love story between Rapunzel and Flynn I actually would say is the best of any Disney film. The idea of Rapunzel being held back by Mother Gothel is a symbol of breaking free and discovering your true potential, and not being bullied by abusive parents. I just wish that Rapunzel wasn’t so much of a damsel in distress and had a bit more strength to her, like Esmerelda. Sure, Esmerelda got captured as well, but at least she could fight and look after herself a lot better. But overall, I say Tangled had a strong plot and is easily accessible.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame may be a little harder to take for some people. It’s much darker than other Disney films with a lot of mature themes, but does have the usual Disney humour that makes it entertaining for younger audiences. For me though, I think Hunchback has a much stronger message. It’s a story about acceptance and finding your way in the world, regardless of race or appearance. It also highlights racism and the dangers of fundamentalism, but doesn’t completely say that religion is the enemy. It’s heart warming as much as it is heart wrenching and carried across by some brilliant characters and performances. It’s a story that I personally can relate to, often I feel isolated as I don’t seem to fit in with any particular trend or sub-culture.
So even though I do love Tangled, I have to go with what I think has the more meaningful story. And The Hunchback of Notre Dame just has more emotion and a stronger message for me. So therefore, the point goes to Hunchback.
And at the end of this battle, with 4-1, the outright winner is The Hunchback of Notre Dame!
So does this mean I don't like Tangled? Not at all. In fact, as I said in the blog, I love Tangled and think it's one of the best Disney films of all time. I just feel that The Hunchback of Notre Dame has more emotional appeal and a stronger moral. Both films are amazing in their own way - but there can only be one winner.
Agree with this? Disagree? Please comment below to let me know what you think. And please suggest any ideas for Disney films you’d like seen put together.
Next time on Pandragon Disney Deathmatch – the King of the Jungle goes up against the Queen of the Box Office.
Be prepared – to let it go.
All images use are owned by Disney. No copyright infringement is intended.