Barbie as Rapunzel: An Experience

I remember, back in my youth, watching only one Barbie movie and watching it approximately 70,000 times––something about the music and the magical dresses were hard for me to resist. So, as I prepared to go on spring break during my sophomore year of college, I decided that it was time to revisit my pleasant past by rewatching Barbie as Rapunzel and writing down my reactions.

The movie begins with a solid low-quality animated sequence that takes you eye level through art supplies, crayons and pencil shavings alike, spelling out the names of all of the people who made this movie possible. My in-movie note was: “Intro sequence: 10/10, crazy mermaid music.” Indeed, part of this movie that gets me is this oddly haunting theme with one female voice over it. The theme recurs at especially moving moments throughout the film and I highly recommend looking it up out of context. Following this sequence, you meet Barbie and little Barbie standing at their easels. However, little Barbie finds herself stuck and she, while wearing bomb ass overalls, asks, "Barbie, what am I supposed to paint?" Then, the motif of painting being an expression of true magic and the soul, or whatever, emerges, as Barbie sits down littler Barbie to tell her the story of a girl who’s painting saved her life.

We jump into the story of Rapunzel, who is trapped in a pre-tower-edition-mansion in a magic forest guarded by the evil Gothel. Rapunzel is, shockingly, painting, with her two best friends Penelope the dragon and Hobie the rabbit. The first impression I had I directly recorded as: “Everyone is always knocking shit over.” This seems to be a large source of anxiety for the three friends trying not to provoke Gothel: incurable clumsiness. Two of my favorite quotes from the movie come from Penelope and Hobie around this time. When a secret basement room and tunnel are discovered underneath the kitchen, Penelope exclaims, "Well scratch my scales!" and when Hobie realizes that they’re all going exploring, he mutters about danger, “No one ever listens to the rabbit.” This is what you call quality writing.

Gothel has two primary minions: the creepy ferret, Otto, and Penelope’s mighty dragon father, Hugo. An interesting element of this, beyond the presence of the upsetting ferret, is that Hugo is constantly berating his daughter for not being a mighty dragon. Penelope is purple, scared of heights, and ultimately a very gentle soul. With a strange twist on the trope of masculinity, Hugo insists that his daughter become powerful, courageous, and loyal, like the dragons of legend. Eventually, Penelope shows him that you can be all those things without being mean or scary.

There are a fair amount of questionable moments in the movie, such as when Rapunzel discovers Gothel’s been keeping secrets and is baffled that this evil magic lady would lie to her. My notes read directly, “Why would she lie to you?? Because she's the worst!” Facial expressions and general affect are limited due to this being a 2002 Barbie movie, but there is definitely a pink castle and it is definitely dope. There is some marketplace foreign policy, a mysterious feud that inspires said policy, and what I documented as, “Good moon love magic.”

While I wouldn’t cite Barbie as Rapunzel as the highest of quality movie experiences, I would say that it is oddly entertaining and not a huge time commitment. Overall, I’m glad I revisited it in its entirety with a vaguely critical eye, if only because I got to witness Gothel hatching her evil plan to trap Rapunzel forever. The unforgettable line that accompanies this is a list of her goals, “Pain, anguish, and perhaps a trim.” I would not want to live my life without having heard that at least one more time.


Image Credit: 1, 2, 3