Rapunzel May Be Cute, but She’s No Little Mermaid

I tried to put off watching “Tangled.” I really did. But when I finished watching all my regular shows on Hulu and an old suitemate implored me for the umpteenth time to see it with her, I had no choice.

What was supposed to be a lazy Saturday evening turned into a game of guess-what-happens-next-in-the-movie, and — all modesty aside — I totally owned it. As expected, the tropes of Disney fairy tales were blended together and unapologetically served up in this mush of a Rapunzel retelling.

Being disappointed in Disney isn’t surprising. “Tangled” is just another addition to my ongoing list of the Mouse House’s crappy new movies, Pixar excluded. It’s a resentment that I had managed to keep dormant since last year’s “Prince of Persia.”

There’s no good reason that Disney can’t just stick to the magic they used when we were kids. Nothing beats Renaissance Disney. From 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” up to 1999’s “Tarzan,” Disney had the blessings of fairy god-mothers everywhere on its side, bestowing the world with a charm that, from the looks of it, is never to return. Here, in short, are my explanations for Disney’s decade-long crap-a-thon.

1. The scripts aren’t jam-packed with cultural and historical allusions (or sexual undertones, either).
I picked up more know-how with my eyes glued to the television playing Disney on repeat than during all my elementary school years. On my annual standardized test in fourth grade, I discerned the definition of “reprimand” because Ariel told me that, on land, fathers don’t reprimand their daughters.

I could order beef ragout and cheese souffle? off a menu in France thanks to Beauty and the Beast’s “Be Our Guest.” Years later, in AP Euro, I already knew the motives for exploring the Americas thanks to the opening chorus of “Pocahontas:” “In 1607/ We sailed the open sea/ For glory, God and gold/ And the Virginia Company.”

And let’s not pretend that “Hercules” didn’t help me with Greek mythology in HUM 1.

You can revisit these movies years later and still find something new with each viewing. In case you weren’t in the loop, one of the golden spires in Ariel’s castle is shaped like a penis. The priest presiding over Ariel and Eric’s marriage is a little too excited for the nuptials. When Matthew Broderick-aged Simba collapses on top of a cliff, he sends a swirl of dust flying into the air that spells out the word “sex.” Aladdin tells Jasmine, right before their magic carpet ride, “Take off your clothes.” (In fact, listen to all of “A Whole New World” in the same vein, and you’ll have a whole new perspective on Disney’s family-friendly reputation.)

2. Kids! They just love commercial garbage.
Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato. Enough said.

3. Plot originality was ditched back in Neverland.
What movie has Disney not stripped of its dignity by making up its prequel, sequel or, better yet, threequel? Pixar, on the other hand, has always maintained a fidelity to original plotlines, and that explains why their films are so superior (though the company technically was acquired by Disney in 2006). Toys that spring to life when humans are absent and monsters that scare toddlers to provide energy for Monstropolis are far cries from the rote fairy tales that Disney’s new animated films hash again and again.

Granted, the plots of Renaissance Disney films aren’t exactly original either. Many are adaptations of traditional fairy or folk tales, but at least then, the films celebrated diversity by exposing children to different cul- tures (and not in that overt “Princess and the Frog” kind of way).

To be sure, Renaissance Disney did have racist undertones. (As Disney would have you believe, all Arabs — no wait, just the citizens of Agrabah — are Philistines and will cut off your ear if they don’t like your face: “It’s barbaric/But, hey, it’s home.”) But those instances were scant, and for the benefit of learning the butchered legends of Mulan, Quasimodo and Tarzan, I’d say it was a fair price for our then-spongy minds to pay.

The regurgitated tripe Disney’s been churning out lately — with a few exceptions, like “Enchanted” — have me shaking my head instead of feeling zip-a-dee-doo-dah happy, as the oldies still make me.

It’s probably a good sign that after the release of “Tangled” in late 2010, Pixar Animation Studios chief Ed Catmull nixed the two fairytale projects in gestation saying, “They may come back later because some- one has a fresh take on it… but we don’t have any other musicals or fairy tales lined up.”

Good choice. I’ll still take Renaissance Disney over “Tangled” any Saturday night.