Tangled vs Princess and the Frog: The Unfortunate Disney Litmus Test

Sorry, hand drawn animation fans. Bob Iger has thrown down the gauntlet…sort of. At least for the time being, there will be no 2D animation projects undergone by the Disney company.

Gone are the days of classically animated tales such as Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. It’s all CG from here, folks. And I, personally, blame Tangled and Princess and the Frog.

Let me explain.

A few years ago, I kept getting into the same circular debate with many of my friends: which movie was better, Tangled or Princess and the Frog? It could get pretty heated.

“It’s Mandy Moore being a boring idiot for 90 minutes, who wants to see that?”

“Randy Newman’s songs all sound the same. Pick a different chord, Randy!”



Now, looking back, this strikes me as odd. I don’t recall comparing Mulan to Hercules or Aladdin to Beauty and the Beast. Just because the movies came out sequentially doesn’t mean they should be in competition with each other. So why were we so defensive of our favored film, especially those on the Frog side?

Well, because Disney fans intuitively knew that the success of these two films would decide the future of Disney animation. Had Princess and the Frog been a box office smash, we would have most likely seen the return of two-dimensional animation. However, Tangled beat the monetary pants off of Frog, and so we have the recent announcement from Disney that they are not planning on making any hand drawn films in the foreseeable future.

Basically, Disney has looked at the success of Tangled and Wreck it Ralph and the disappointing profit returns of Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh, and decided that people are more likely to pay for CG than 2D.

bye animators


I feel like we’ve been down this road before, Disney…remember when you eliminated half of your animation division back in 2004? Yeah, you were just as wrong then as you are now.

You know why Tangled was more successful than Frog? It was marketed better. They changed the original title, Rapunzel, to something that appealed to both genders and implied a fun, action packed movie (they’re repeating this strategy with their next movie, Frozen). The previews all heavily featured the male protagonist, who was snarky and swashbuckling. Princess and the Frog went a different direction. They had a beautiful ad campaign; just not a very good one. Most of the previews began with clips from 90’s renaissance films; implying that they were making a film that would fit comfortably on the shelf with these beloved films. Great idea! Except…that appeals to my generation, the 90’s kids who grew up with those films as canon, but not a lot of other people.

In fact, I did a personal poll through several outlets. Most die hard Disney fans preferred Princess and the Frog. It was more of a mature, polished movie. But Tangled had more of a mass appeal. It was a fun romp. It most likely won’t stand the test of time, but it’s a movie that everyone was happy to see a few times.

This is the real litmus test of Princess and the Frog vs Tangled. Disney has to ask itself: do we want to settle for fun, mindless entertainment or mature, perhaps more challenging films? While I personally hope for the latter, it is a legitimate debate. After all, if people want mindless entertainment, who am I to say that’s not right? If Disney wants a new renaissance, they have to redefine themselves as they did once before. It’s a difficult question that Disney must struggle with in order to come into their own again.

Unfortunately, this is not the conclusion Disney came to from their Frog/Tangled litmus test. Instead, they’ve decided that people have lost their taste for hand drawn animation, that the lack of enthusiasm for Disney’s first black princess indicated not the type of film people wanted to see, but what medium people want to see their films made in.

False. From what I’ve gathered from talking to people, audiences for the most part don’t care if the movie is in CG or 2D. They just want to see a good movie. People won’t disregard a good movie because of the medium it’s presented in, and they won’t forgive a bad one because of its medium, either.

Yeah…that happened.

Hence, I’m not suggesting that Disney should completely disregard CG as an option. I think there is merit to both methods of animation. But that’s the thing; they are two completely different art forms. CG can do things hand drawn animation can’t and visa versa. Finding Nemo wouldn’t have looked nearly as aquatic and dynamic in 2D, but Beauty and the Beast wouldn’t have had the same charm and warmth in CG. I actually think Tangled would have looked better hand drawn, as would the new Mickey Mouse cartoons. These cartoons would greatly benefit from the warmth that 2D can produce that so far CG has been unable to replicate.

My point is that there is a place for both computer and hand drawn animation in the Disney company. To disregard one entirely is to arbitrarily eliminate multiple colors from your artist’s palette. At times hand drawn techniques could serve the story and tone better, and other times CG will. Let’s use all the tools we have, Disney, to create a beautiful piece of art.

So put away that litmus strip, Disney. Take a hint from the success of Pixar, 50’s Disney, and 90’s Disney. Make the movie you want to see, not just the movie you think we want to see.



  • Italiano1346

    Tangled isn’t better because its mindless. Sure princess and frog had a good story but it had no “magic” that old Disney films had. Tangled brought back the magic. It was also touching, some of the best music Disney has had since beauty and the beast, and a perfectly crafted story/film. There is no comparison. Tangled will stand time as one of the greats. Princess and frog is already almost forgotten because its just not memorable. It was good for one watch.

    • LeahIsMagical

      Disagree. I will do a future post defending my disregard for Tangled, but I definitely think Princess and the Frog had more ‘magic:’ from the ambience and style of the animation to the jazzy new orleans sound to the emotional resonance of the characters. Tiana kicked Punzy’s blonde butt. And, most surprisingly, Nemman kicked Menken’s…

    • FlareKnight

      Certainly Tangled has done a better job standing the test of time than the Princess and the Frog. I practically forgot there was a movie based on that story. And it certainly wasn’t because Tangled was ‘mindless’. Yeah, it was a fun movie, but is there a problem with having some fun in a film? Did people hate Aladdin because the Genie was a ton of fun? Of course not.

      Tangled had a good story with characters you could care about. Both Rapunzel and Flynn were the protagonists and both had their chances to help each other out and shine.

      I think insulting a film in order to make a stronger point is just silly. Makes it look more like mindless hate than a well constructed argument.

    • The Angry Turtle

      Having the benefit of a few years for perspective they were both really good movies. However looking at them critically I’d be lying if I didn’t’ say that Princess and the Frog was the better film. Tangled was more of an adventure, it was bigger, and was funnier. However Princess and the Frog had a better story, better music, a more positive message for women, and beautiful 2D animation. And sadly the last we’ll ever see from Disney.

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  • vanessa p

    I saw princess and the frog as a kid and it bored me too tears only because I was at school but I also just also didn’t find the magic. I found the magic with Mulan because unlike the past Disney it held up with more modern narratives rather than the typical boy saves girl task. And yes people are going to pay more for better animation; the world evolves and when it does people take interest like how everyone is all into their iPods rather than their old record player. Also I had to look up The princess and the frog movie because I forgot the name of the title so I guess it never stood the test if time. Funny thing is I saw the movie but I never saw tangled but I already know the title of that movie by heart probably from their great ad campaign or maybe because it was more positively talked about. Maybe Disney knew that princess and the frog wasn’t that great of a movie and didn’t want to spend a lot on a movie that didn’t look like it would sell well. In the words of Barney Stinson, ” New is always better,” and its true. If you understand why they spent so much on the Tangled movie ads is because they had faith in the new animation of Disney princess movies, which by the way looked awesome in CG but if you think they would look better hand drawn then go hand draw it yourself. Besides the princess and the frog animation didn’t even look that great and I doubt it would look better in CG, i got more warmth just from watching Tangled sneak peaks and ads then I did watching the entire princess and the frog movie. Those are my thoughts.

    • Master50007887

      Really? I’m sure you saw a movie that’s only 5 years old as a “kid”… wonder what that makes you now. Still I think the saying CGI is “better” animation is just ridiculous. Both formats have their strengths and weaknesses, but overall I still prefer hand-drawn. I adore Pixar’s work, but I feel like it would be great if Disney still did traditional animation. That way we’d have more variety, especially considering the dearth of hand-drawn features right now. Also, Princess & the Frog was filled with so much more style, color, and life in its animation. I liked Tangled a lot, but Princess and the Frog wowed me. It’s a much more beautiful film and the songs are both more plentiful and better. To me it feels like a return to form for Disney. I also loved Frozen, but it saddens me that Disney at least for now is sticking witch CGI. So far I haven’t seen many truly beautiful CGI films (although not conventionally “beautiful” Rango looked amazing as did the How to Train Your Dragon films) but hand-drawn films have and continue to look amazing. Just look at Cartoon Saloon’s work on The Secret of Kells & Song of the Sea. Hand drawn animation just has so much potential. Still I hope that you’re either a troll (based on your extremely over the top statements) or just exaggerating. Either way try to take a second look at hand-drawn films. They really are incredible.

      • sandwyrm

        2D animation has its place, but that place is on TV, where the amount of 2D animated work has exploded (and been largely off-shored). 2D is everywhere, just not in movies.

        3D is much more expensive to produce, and you’ll see fewer risks taken because of that. But it’s the increased visual quality (shadows, reflected colors, textures, cinematic camera motions…) that sets 3D films apart from what you see on TV, and gives audiences a reason to pay attention to them. They stand out.

        There are dozens of places in Tangled where I’m awed by the sheer beauty of the rendering and character designs, and many of the sequences in it could only be realized properly in 3D. In 2D, the entire story would have to be re-written (and re-storyboarded) in order to work within the confines of what you can do in 2D, even with the bits of inserted 3D that Disney has used as far back as Beauty & The Beast.

        • Master50007887

          While I do concede that Disney’s current output looks good aesthetically, I don’t agree at all with your assertion that 3D films have inherently increased visual quality. Considering how completely different 2D animation looks from 3D, I think there is no metric for comparing a work done in either style, apart from subjective taste on a case-by-case basis. Honestly, 2D animation from nearly a century ago holds up, whereas most 3D from over 15 years ago (unless it’s Pixar) looks laughably bad, and even some more recent works too.

          I do love 3D, and think it definitely has just as much potential as 2D, but many films done in 3D just can’t compare to the beauty of many hand-drawn animations, imo of course. To me, it’s a tremendous shame how 2D has been swallowed up by 3D in the world of Western Animated cinema. Decades of development and refinement of the medium all thrown out, due to cost and perceived return. (Unlike your claims, hand-drawn animation is much more expensive – it requires many more skilled animators working from scratch & more raw materials – not to say 3D doesn’t require skill – all great art needs skill – but with 3D once you have the base engine & programs and have the models ready, it’s really not as expensive, especially now)

          You claim that there are confines of what you can do within 2D, to which I staunchly disagree. The world of experimental hand-drawn animation, and different styles in general prove that. Look with a more global perspective, such as the works of the Soviet Animators, the long development of anime in Japan, modern French & Irish cartoons, and of course the decades of prominence in America. The sheer variety and versatility of hand-drawn animation shows how few boundaries there are, and how the rules are constantly being changed and shattered.

          Like I said a while back, I still like what Disney’s been doing these past few years. (In fact, while they’ve seemingly gotten better, Pixar seems to be declining) In spite of that, I think it’s a massive shame that the animation studio with the most resources in the world chose to turn their back on 2D. America has had a long and impressive history of hand-drawn animation, and if anyone could bring about a return to form, it would have been Disney. Really, its sadly comical how Disney should theoretically be able to take the most risks because of its success, when in reality it will never take risks because of that success. The Princess and the Frog was a gorgeous film, and I think the corporation heads were scared to promote a hand-drawn film, dooming it to comparative failure.

          The film was great on its own, but showed just how much life and potential Disney’s animators still had. The film felt alive and excited in a way I haven’t really felt from Tangled or Frozen. Don’t get me wrong, I like both those films quite a lot and both are quite beautiful at times. That said, looking at the concept art for both films, I can unhesitatingly say I would have preferred them to be in 2D. I find it odd that you think they did things that only 3D could do, when they follow the same beats as pretty much any other Disney Princess film. (still well executed though) Sure, some of the sequences would have to be reconfigured, but all the script, scenes, and story would not have to have been changed at all. I mean the concept art for the film was handrawn, lol.

          Maybe one day 2D film will make a comeback in the West. Until then I’ve still got the amazing works of Cartoon Saloon and countless Japanese Studios (such as Trigger, MAPPA, Madhouse, Production I.G., and many other studios directors and others) to occupy my attention &love.

          • sandwyrm

            Pixar is declining because it’s best talent went over to run Disney Animation after the merger.

            Like I said, 2D isn’t dying, far from it. It’s booming on TV. But in terms of the visual freedom/quality (not always realized) that will reliably put butts in expensive movie seats, it’s going to be 99% 3D.

            The only “2D” films that can even compete are 80% produced by Miyazaki in Japan, and they include plenty of added 3D elements. Hell, even South Park is produced using 3D software to mimic 2D cutouts. So it’s a really fuzzy line sometimes between the 2 and the 3 in D. If a computer is coloring and compositing your 2D drawings, then isn’t it still “computer graphics” in the end?

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  • Not2Old

    I think I agree with what you say about the marketing of the two making a huge difference in their success. However I do also think that Disney had to advertise Frog as a classic, girly, princess movie because people everywhere were greatly excited by an African-American princess. I think they really wanted Tiana to fit in with Belle, Ariel, Mulan and the rest. And in order to do that I think they had to advertise it that way. So I personally don’t think that was a bad decision.

    I agree though that deciding to end hand-drawn animation is a huge diaspointment and overall maybe nit a great decision.

  • Alias Darker

    both tangled and princess and the frog suck , frozen too.

    • Lila Paige

      So do you. 🙂

      • Alias Darker

        yeah ok, if that’s what you think , i respect your opinion , hope you respect mine as well even if you don’t like it .

  • Josiane Tremblay

    I truly like both movies. However, I simply feel The princess and the frog was less “fairy tale ish” ; A fairy tale which really feel like a fairy tale to me must not be set in a “modern” setting and setting it in the 1920s/1930s removed that charm for me. BUT the movie does have plenty of charms for itself, it’s just not the same as the one from the Disney Renaissance ones.