Friday, April 21, 2017

Tangled: Before Ever After "DCOM" (yes those quotation marks are important) reviewed

Again it's been so long I just forgot any notable quotes, so sue me

What is it? Approx. hour-length Disney Channel Original "Flash"-animated (yeah we'll get to those quotes too even) "Movie" (these still count as the first set of quotation marks)
Where did it air? Well, it's officially labelled as a Disney Channel Original Movie so, where it aired is impossible to determine, I'm afraid.
Who stars in it? Impressively enough all the returning characters from the original movie are reprised by their original VAs -  so yeah, Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi are back. But, ummm...I'm very hard-pressed to remember if they've been doing anything else much lately, anyway.
Why are we reviewing this? Because it's on Disney Channel (oh man I just spoiled the sarcasm from above) and it's the first "DCOM" (yeah those quotes again) of the year, the first new series of the year and thus, well, it actually has a lot of firsts under its belt: the first DCOM to be based off a series since Good Luck Charlie, it's Christmas!; the first DCOM to serve as the actual successful pilot for a series since...well, if you're not counting movies made for DXD (which needs more love, I for one friggin' loved Pants on Fire) quite possibly ever; both the first DCOM to be based off an animated series and the first DCOM to be animated period since Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension (for reference, that was just the summer before Good Luck Charlie, It's Christmas!) and the first DCOM to serve as a direct sequel to a Disney Animated Canon Movie or Disney Princess Canon movie (unless there was a movie based on The Emperor's New School that I'm not aware of?)

But there are some other things we need to talk about too. Many of which are technical and nitpicky in nature and, uh, let's get those out of the way first.

The first of which is this whole "DCOM" thing in the first place. Since I kind of left the Tangled review hanging on this I might as well go over the details, even though they're probably obvious enough as it is: A Disney Channel Original Movie is a movie that aired on Disney Channel. Again, seems obvious right? And it can include live-action or animated movies; there's no medium-divide unlike the Disney Animated Canon and Disney Princess Canon that require the movies to be animated in some form. And obviously it includes movies based on Disney Channel original series. 

But it doesn't mean that any movie that premiered on Disney Channel is automatically a DCOM. Very obviously, theatrical-release movies that have their television premieres on the network like, say, Tangled or the one time when Disney Channel actually had the serious balls to premiere Little Manhattan on the network and run it over a three year period through the end of summer 2013 - seriously, it is a super excellent movie and it's one of my all-time favorites, and it's Josh Hutcherson's first movie, seriously do yourself a massive favor and go see it - don't count. And on the same token, made-for-TV movies made for foreign markets that have their American debut on Disney Channel such as My Babysitter's a Vampire don't count either, or direct-to-DVD movies that nonetheless later premiere on-network such as Another Cinderella Story (even though that was technically an ABC Family/Freeform premiere, but whatever). 

But what about movies that do premiere on the network first and nowhere else? I mean, Debby Ryan's 16 Wishes is a DCOM, right? It has a Disney Channel splash banner and it stars a major star of the network at the time! Even Disney Channel itself acknowledged it as a DCOM during the 100 DCOM celebration month on their Facebook page. But no, although it certainly looks and feels like a DCOM - it's not. It, along with Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars starring Jennifer Stone (oooh another cute redhead! ^_^) were produced by a completely separate studio (Mar Vista, even though they did produce DCOMs before and since including Debby's Radio Rebel, Zendaya's Zapped and I believe the latest live-action DCOM, The Swap, was theirs too) and then Disney actually swopped in mid-production to insert their stars and labels - so they kind of exist in a quasi-borderland between everything.

And they're not even the only ones - there are quite a few movies that carry the specific label "Disney Channel Original Movie" that are not considered part of the DCOM canon. Yeah, it makes things all sorts of confusing - but the general rule of thumb is that all movies with the DCOM label are true DCOMs after about the year 2000 or so. If you really want to learn more I highly recommend you check out the Zetus Lapodcast which is entirely dedicated to all things DCOM - and even if the technical minutiae of what qualifies as a DCOM seems to boring to you, if you're one of like the five people who read this blog who's really into this stuff it's a mandatory resource to check out. Really, I mean it, it's a terrific podcast. This very blog hopes to be a fraction as insightful as Zetus Lapodcast.

But there's another sticking point to the DCOM label, one that Disney Channel themselves have flagrantly ignored in Tangled: Before Ever After - and that's the idea of Feature Length. The Academy Awards itself defines a movie as being "at least 40 minutes in length" (without commercials) and more informally it's a minimum of 61 minutes long sans commercials, 70 minutes long sans commercials or 90 minutes with or without commercials (if it's a made-for-TV movie that works out to be about as little as 66 minutes to as much as 78 minutes depending on how aggressively a network is ruled by its marketing department) depending on who you ask. With a total commercial run-time of, what, an hour 5 minutes long or so?, Tangled: Before Ever After more or less juuuuuust squeaks by the Academy Award's own definition of a "movie," let alone the less forgiving, more informal definitions. It's pretty obvious it's just an extended episode as typical for a pilot, and to be really honest here I'm not even sure why they were so hung up on having it have a DCOM title.

One could guess that the DCOM label was applied to help distinguish Tangled: Before Ever After apart from the actual Tangled: The Series...but why? I mean, the whole purpose of Tangled: Before Ever After is to lead directly into Tangled: The Series. That's what pilots are for! Also, Tangled: Before Ever After (as annoying as it is to type out, even for a speed touch-typer like me) is a far better title than Name of the Original Movie the Series is Based On: The Series.

But like I said, that's extremely nitpicky. What about the DCOM/pilot itself? It's...super meh-tastic. In fact I even dare to say more meh-tastic than the source material.

It...just feels like a very average cartoon adaptation. Not unlike what I grew up with all the way back in the early-mid and even late 2000s (man I feel old). It's hard to describe without resorting to empty platitude descriptors like "it fails to feel special and elevate itself up to the renounced Disney Channel animated canon of the likes of Kim Possible, The Proud Family, Phineas and Ferb or Gravity Falls" or "it just feels bland, man." I mean, really, it ain't no Kim Possible or Proud Family, that's for sure, even though its storytelling and narrative structure feels rather old-school (unlike KP or Proud Family, not in a good way). In fact the biggest thing I felt after watching Tangled: BEA...ok, quick aside here first:

There's a certain theory that all works of fiction, no matter what they are or what medium they take, make you feel something. Certainly good works of fiction make you feel something. I know this is yet another obvious, duh thing I'm bringing up in this review but I really want to emphasize it. I really liked KP, Proud Family and P+F because it made me feel something, usually laughter or just a general feeling of awesomeness. I really liked Gravity Falls because it made me feel in awe when it was working at its peak. Hell I really like say Geek Charming or the book it's based off of or all the other stupid young adult books I read or even Jessie (the best episodes at least) because they usually make me feel something, and that "something" is usually something I can innately define as positive in some way at least.

Tangled: BEA made me feel like I wish I was watching KP or Proud Family instead. Those series were awesome. T: BEA...feels like yet another paint-by-numbers franchise cartoon, of the type I thought the industry as a whole more or less grew out of now almost two Presidents ago.

"DCOM" Grade: C.
"DCOM" MVP: Maximus duh.
Will I be bothering to watch the rest of the series? Nope. Although the recent episode with Rapunzel and Eugene/Flynn (from what little I've seen of the series consequence he goes by both names now depending on what he simply feels is more beneficial) and What's Her Face...Cynthia? that arena fighting thingie looks interesting.

Extra Thoughts:

 - I did promise you the Tangled movie review would come after Barbie, and this would come after that, so there, I am a man of my word.

 - This "DCOM" also gets a demerit for making the redhead the bad guy(gal). Yeah, I'm still going there and I always will.

 - Not that I really feel like it's in C+ territory to begin with #SorryNotSorry

 - Oh and this "DCOM" also gets a demerit for giving said badgal redhead incredibly stupid motivations, or rather forcing extremely stupid circumstances to give her the motivations to be a badgal, to be exact.

 - And as for the quotes around "Flash" animation, ok: a few years (decades?) ago this thing called Adobe Flash came out, it was a 2D animation program that virtually any computer can use and in its first generation it completely sucked and was responsible for a whole ton of incredibly crappy animation on Newgrounds and, let's face it, pretty much Newgrounds itself. But in successive generations the program became more refined - so refined, in fact, that it got to the point where animation on Newgrounds and especially this then-brand new thing called YouTube became less and less distinguishable from animated cartoons found on the big networks - and then the big networks themselves started using them. It offered incredible advantages - the most revolutionary of which is that it allowed ever-shrinking animation teams to come up with very high-quality animation at high-def resolution on the absolute cheap. So cheap, in fact, that the animation-vs. live-action pendulum swung back in animation's favor, finally beating the corner-cutting multi-cam filming procedure pioneered by Disney Channel itself for cost-effectiveness (though as it stands right now they're practically at a dead-heat). Pretty much every cartoon since at least the last dozen years is actually animated on Flash or at least some type of 2D animation program - if you've got a really good eye it's easy to tell (the stiffness of character movements, especially early on, or just "gut-feeling" giveaways like the geometry of character designs or character movements or overall physics being too good at continuity, etc) although especially now most animators are skilled enough to make the tells either invisible or at least academic. Phineas and Ferb, Gravity Falls, Wander Over Yonder, Star vs. the Forces of Evil and yes even Tangled: BEA were all animated with a Flash-like program, quite possibly even going back to KP and Proud Family. Even the Watch Disney Channel app itself was powered by Flash - yes, as in, when you loaded up the Watch Disney Channel browser app and watched live-action multi-cams and movies through said browser app, you were actually watching those shows through Flash! I say "Flash-like" because Adobe themselves rather infamously stopped supporting Flash around 2014-2015 or so as Flash had become so old it was impossible to properly patch to latest security standards - the Watch Disney Channel browser app for example switched to different software sometime in 2015 I believe (if you've been using it long enough to remember, it's when the format/interface change happened - and now you know why). I'm sure Gravity Falls and series that are newer probably used a different software too (possibly Phineas and Ferb, at least at some point) but I'm willing to bet the software is nonetheless commercially available and if you're willing to plonk down a few hundred you can install it on your laptop or desktop and get to that Phineas and Ferb Enroll at Regal Academy crossover everyone's been dying to see.

 - Oh, and another quick Puppy Dog Pals update: Now they've not only resorted to ripping off PAW Patrol's Apollo the Super-Pup, but the first Despicable Me movie too. But I still have to give them props to casting Patrick Freakin' Warburton for the Apollo ripoff role.

 - The tunneling effect they use in same said episode is...incredibly cheesy-looking (it looks like the pups are actually floating in mid-air as they did)'s incredibly adorable all the same.

 - Just in case it wasn't clear, Regal Academy really, really sucks.


  1. I've posted my basic opinions before so once again i can't say too much. I did enjoy it as an extension of a film i liked. It's nothing like amazing but it doesn't need to be, it does it's job and was cute. I say it made me feel something, at least when it had a really nice moment, or funny moment. Nothing huge but that's fine.

    I've seen the series itself so far (minus tonight's ep, haven't found the time and i thought Andi Mack was more important) and it has improved and thankfully only one ep focused on the "finding out the secrets of the hair" thing, and has started developing characters to more, especially Eugene in the 3rd proper episode. I think it's becoming pretty good. It's no say, Steven Universe, but it's certainly no Teen Titans go either. (Easy punching bag i know but whatever).

    The DCOM thing is odd, they didn't make say Lion Guard pilot a DCOM (Not to mention the few they made before that, Sitch the movie etc, so why this? As I said before, could be because this is the true Disney Channel Cartoon in ages, since Disney Xd has been their animation home as of late, so they figured if it's starting with a pilot movie, they may as well slap it on there.

    As far as i know, if it the words a "Disney Channel Movie" pop up, or the Disney Channel logo appears at the end, it is a DCOM, at least according to Disney.

    But wait, 16 Wishes was in the OFFICIAL DCOM INTRO at one point! So I'm just confused. Disney seems to want to back to the the X: The Series thing they used to it, before they ran out of movies good enough to do a series out of.

    I was frankly more hyped for Big Hero 6 the series coming this fall, and i still thinking it'll be better.

    1. I'm definitely agreeing with you that it's no Steven Universe, but it isn't Teen Titans Go either. This blog has stated that it's not going to give F-awards to "so bad it's good" episodes and movies, but neither is it considering a C or even a C- a bad grade, unlike a *lot* of other blogs. C-range is average. You can do a lot worse than average. You can spend your time much less wisely than watching something that's a C. Not everything can be KP or Gravity Falls or Korra Season 3 (including Korra, as it turns out)

      As for the DCOM thing...yeah. It's extremely arbitrary like the Princess canon, but unlike the Princess canon they're not even introducing any real transparency in it. The Disney Channel logo appears at the end of both 16 Wishes (which is on tonight!) and Harriet the Spy, but neither is a DCOM. And yeah, 16 Wishes was in the DCOM intro. People forget what kind of impact that made on the network. There's a reason why they're replaying it tonight 7 years after it premiered and a over a year and a half after its lead actress last graced the network on anything. It's considered a big reason why Jessie even ever became a thing.

      Anyway, like I said Zetus Lapodcast knows more. I thought you were talking to him on Twitter? Maybe I can invite him here to talk about the DCOM thing.

      As for Big Hero 6, yeah, I forgot to mention I'm very excited about it.I had a feeling going into Tangled: BEA that my enthusiasm for the series was going to match my enthusiasm for the movie. As I mentioned in my review of it, I thought Tangled was disappointingly bland and more over-hyped than even Frozen. As I briefly mention in this review, I think Big Hero 6 is legitimately one of the most amazing films I've ever seen in my life, so I have high hopes.

    2. Got nothing to add to most of this, so i'll add to the last bit.

      I thought Big Hero 6 was honestly just "pretty good", (loved certain parts, but most was just was fun with expected beats and underdeveloped characters. Also, another stupid villain twist) and i think a series could actually fix some of my issues, most notably lack of development for the supporting cast).

      The Big Hero 6 series is from the creators of Kim Possible so yeah, it's gonna be good.

      I know of Zetus Lapodcast, listened to it on and off, pretty cool stuff. (Despite the bias against Modern DCOM's even though those are just as Guilty Pleasure/So Bad It's Good worth as the old ones (More so, with emphasis on the guilty/bad).

    3. Actually going through a bunch of DCOMs recorded on my DVR during the 100 DCOM celebration...I'm finding myself having a massive preference for the newer ones and finding the older ones way overrated. The biggest issue is pacing, and the newer ones (HSM really was a watershed moment for this) tend to blow the older ones away. That's not to say all the older ones have awful pacing - the entire Zenon and Halloween series are very good (I'd hesitate to say perfect only because, well...let's just say there's a reason why I think no franchise should run over its course). But I'm finding a lot of older DCOMs to be as slow as molasses.

      That said, Zetus Lapodcast is almost exactly what this blog aspires to be and its value as a resource almost elevates it to being a treasure. And the enthusiasm he puts into his work alone makes it worthwhile and something for this very blog to aspire to. Incidentally (and I didn't know this until literally minutes ago) this very review was posted on the very day of the 2 year anniversary of Zetus Lapodcast launching.

    4. I'm inclined to agree. For better or worse worse, the newer ones tend to be more interesting, including the bad ones. These are less bad older ones but the middle or the road ones tend to be less interesting than the middle of the road newer ones.

      And the worst DCOM I've seen so far is You Lucky Dog, an older one.

    5. You Lucky Dog is so bland I forgot it existed despite having seen it at least twice in the past year or so. It plays much more like the family movies ABC was putting out in the mid and even late 90s...but then again, those are the spiritual ancestors of the DCOM anyway.

    6. Bland? More like bat shit insanity that makes Nine Lines like a competent coherent masterpiece.


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