At one point I denounced Disney.
It was, simply, everywhere, which is far too many places to be at one time. Anything that challenges breathing room becomes an eyesore. The orgiastic merchandising prevented me from taking a step back and considering Disney in parts rather than as a whole.
However, seeing Tangled has enabled me to do that. Did I feel it was the best animated film ever? No. Not even the best Disney animated film. (My favorites are Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan.)
But it has an ample supply of charm and is (as usual) divine to look at. The script was not too hectic and when the action scenes hit, they were rollicking. More to the point, the script was clever. Most live action adventure films don’t have the same zip. Despite Disney’s sometime reputation for being squeaky clean, the subject matter here is not too sanitized. The songs are weak, but given the rest, that gets a pass from me here.
Yet what stands out most of all is that the film’s humor derives from character, not culture. I didn’t pick up on a single pop culture crutch—I mean reference. Many (all?) other contemporary animated films rely heavily on the trends of the day to create “humor.” (One of the worst offenders is Shrek.) Which means in just a few short years, if not months, the humor will be painfully dated. Tangled does have a bit of anachronistic sass, but given the rest, that, too, gets a pass.
Disney’s high-quality animated films don’t completely excuse the company for the glut of kitschy product they smother kids with. But at least the source material is, on some level, good for them.
And while it's something of a tangent, Disney's Hyperion does publish some handsome (non-licensed) picture books.