Tangled The Series is Disney’s latest Princess series spinoff from a successful film. The art is lovely and the opening hints at the overarching secret of how the Princess’ hair came back. There’s an almost papercraft quality to the art, and the theme song sounds like it came right out of the film. For those unfamiliar, the series takes place between the end of Tangled the movie and Tangled Ever After, the short featuring Rapunzel’s wedding to Eugene. These are the princess’ adventures learning to be a princess and learning more about the world after having spent 18 years in a tower.
They give an extremely vague glimpse at the story that then only gets hinted at in the first episode.
This self-same first episode has made a point of reminding viewers which Disney movie this came from; Rapunzel, whose hair is once more long and golden, is playing hide and seek with her pet chameleon, Pascal. She’s barefoot again. She stops to hug her parents, and to kiss her boyfriend Flyn—er, that is, Eugene.
It’s a sweet reintroduction that makes it all the more jarring when Gothel shows up, delighted to see Rapunzel’s hair has come back and as such means she’ll whisk the princess off to her tower. Thankfully that turns out to be a dream—but Rapunzel’s magic golden tresses are indeed back.
Unfortunately, the rest of the episode is super boy-centric.
The event that caused Rapunzel to go from a bobbed-brunette to magic blonde again is a secret between Rapunzel and her handmaiden/bodyguard Cassandra. But leaving Eugene out makes him determined to prove he can keep a secret—but he can’t. He’s used to being such a fast talker who thinks on his feet that even when he knows he shouldn’t say it, out he blurts! They make it out like it’s supposed to be the B-Plot, but it spills out into the A-Plot of figuring out Why The Hair Came Back. They go to a wizard … no, wait, alchemist—also a boy—to do this. Rapunzel spends the second act literally tied to a mad scientist table while Eugene is the one who figures out that alchemist has a surprise he intends for his town that is about to backfire explosively.
By the end of the episode, Rapunzel does finally tell Eugene the bare bones basics of the night that brought her hair back, but the viewers still have little information on the whole situation, and Cassandra and Eugene are established as adversaries who love Rapunzel but can’t stand each other.
Episode two is no better. They used this one to establish that the format’s going to be A-Plot: Rapunzel learns something new about Corona and herself, B-Plot: Finn is still a screw up but he learns something too.
Unfortunately, it remains boycentric. Rapunzel finds one citizen in all of Corona who doesn’t adore her, and it’s the man everyone in town loves as much as they love her. She spends the entire episode trying to find out why he dislikes her, going to such extremes as to include deceit, which ruse of course gets revealed and upsets him because of said deception!
In episode three Rapunzel has to pose for her royal portrait. We see a tiny bit of her thinking about poses, and that her mom went through the same thing before we switch to—Eugene, having decided he wants to be on the royal guard. The captain of the guard doesn’t want him there, since he knows this guy was a lawbreaking, thieving troublemaker, and Eugene is determined to prove himself. But that screw up personality messes him up, even after he wins a spot on the squad.
So it’s pretty, but it is all but impossible to call it Rapunzel’s series. Rapunzel and her best female friend get in trouble they can’t explain and go to a boy scientist for help. Rapunzel finds the one person in all of her kingdom who doesn’t love her is a man, who she goes to extremes to please. Rapunzel works out her own problem off panel since she’s just supposed to pose for her male portrait artist. But the majority of the episode is about what the DUDES are doing.
Corona is diverse enough, populated with people of varying skin colors. There’s a cute aside in which people are surprised that Eugene speaks Italian. There’s quite a bit of Cassandra lamenting she’s a lady in waiting way more than she’d prefer to be. But it’s still barely the main character’s deal.
Rapunzel has all of one daring episode of hair swinging in the first four episodes. In the event that causes the hair to return, Rapunzel is in the second spot. Cassandra, her action girl sidekick, gets to be in front of the Princess, but she’s left on the dock and forced to rescue Shorty while Flynn (whose names are interchangeable, and used as an insult as plot requires) goes after the bad guy of the episode. We finally get an episode where the two girls strut their stuff as action girls, and Cassandra ends up opposed to Rapunzel homing in on “her” territory. So girl and girl turns into girl vs. girl only until something forces them to work together.
So in short, Tangled the Series is a pile of harmful tropes all wrapped up pretty. Is it watchable? Yes. Is it well written? Yes. I even can get past the odd artwork, which has some very fascinating color work. So if you’re a girl 3-9, none of this will bother you.
If you’re a feminist parent, though—it might.