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Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Tangled

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: Tangled

Year: 2010

Source materials : Rapunzel by the Brothers Grimm 1

Budget: $260 million 2

Box office: $591.8 million

Plot: Long ago, a drop of sunlight became a flower capable of healing illness, decay, and injury. For hundreds of years, the flower is used by Mother Gothel to retain her youth. Soldiers from a nearby kingdom, Corona, take the flower to heal their ailing queen. Shortly afterwards, the Queen gives birth to Princess Rapunzel.

While attempting to recover the flower, Gothel discovers Rapunzel’s golden hair contains the flower’s healing properties, and that cutting her hair destroys its power. Gothel abducts the baby and raises her as her own daughter in an isolated tower. Once a year, the King and Queen release sky lanterns on Rapunzel’s birthday.

On the eve of her 18th birthday, Rapunzel requests to leave the tower and discover the source of the lanterns, but Gothel refuses, claiming that the outside world is a dangerous place. Rapunzel then asks for a special paint that will take Gothel three days’ round trip to obtain and return, and Gothel accepts.


Meanwhile, a thief called Flynn Rider steals Rapunzel’s crown from the palace and inadvertently discovers the tower after ditching his allies, the Stabbington brothers, during a chase between them and palace guards. Rapunzel captures Flynn then finds and hides the crown, but is unaware of its significance. She convinces a reluctant Flynn to escort her to see the lanterns in exchange for the return of the crown.

Flynn takes Rapunzel to the Snuggly Duckling, a pub filled with frightening thugs, but who instead are charmed by Rapunzel’s innocence, with each of them relating in one way or another to her dream. Royal soldiers led by one of the royal army’s horses, Maximus, arrive in search of Flynn.

Rapunzel and Flynn escape but are then trapped in a flooding cave. Resigned to his fate, Flynn reveals his real name: Eugene Fitzherbert. Rapunzel starts to realize that her hair glows when she sings, and they escape. Eugene and Rapunzel take refuge in a forest where Gothel, now in league with the Stabbingtons, gives the crown to Rapunzel and suggests using it to challenge Eugene’s interest in her.



Maximus finds the pair and tries to arrest Flynn, but Rapunzel arranges a truce in honor of her birthday. The group reaches the kingdom and enjoys the festivities, culminating in an evening cruise as the lanterns are released.


Rapunzel gives Eugene the crown and after fulfilling her dream of seeing the lanterns in person, Rapunzel and Eugene realize they have fallen in love with each other and attempt to kiss until he sees the Stabbingtons on the shore.

Eugene leaves Rapunzel and intends to hand the brothers the crown. Instead, the brothers tie Eugene onto a boat and attempt to capture Rapunzel, saying that Eugene escaped with the crown. Gothel betrays the brothers appearing to rescue Rapunzel and returns with Rapunzel as Eugene and the Stabbingtons are arrested.

Back at the tower, Rapunzel recognizes the symbol of the kingdom, which she had subconsciously incorporated into her paintings over the years. Realizing that she is the long-lost princess, she confronts Gothel, refusing to ever help her again. As Eugene is sentenced to death, the Duckling thugs help him escape. He is then carried back to Gothel’s tower on Maximus.


Eugene climbs Rapunzel’s hair, only to find her bound and gagged. Gothel stabs Eugene forcing Rapunzel to agree to lifelong captivity if she is allowed to heal Eugene. Dying, Eugene slices off Rapunzel’s hair, destroying its magic and causing Gothel’s age to catch up with her. She then trips and falls out of the window of the tower, turning into dust in the process.


Rapunzel’s tear, which still contains a bit of the sun’s power, lands on Eugene’s cheek and restores him. The two return to the kingdom and Rapunzel reunites with her parents. The kingdom breaks out in celebration, and Eugene is pardoned for his crimes. Rapunzel and Eugene eventually marry.

Background: Glen Keane, first began working on the story for what became Tangled about 14 years prior to its release. In October 2003, the film was announced as Rapunzel Unbraided. According to Ed Catmull, at one point Michael Eisner himself had proposed using modern-day San Francisco as the initial setting at the start of the film and then somehow transporting the heroine into a fairy tale world, but Keane could not make that idea work.


When Catmull and John Lasseter were placed in charge of the studio in January 2006, and one of their first decisions was to restart the project and ask Keane to keep going with the film. In 2008, Byron Howard and Nathan Greno, director and storyboard director, respectively, of Bolt. Keane stayed on as an executive producer and animation supervisor. 3

According to Greno, one of the most difficult problems during the development of the film’s plot was how to get Rapunzel out of the tower without immediately ending the movie, in that she had thereby escaped Mother Gothel and did not have any other specific objectives to pursue. At a meeting one day, animator John Ripa floated an idea which turned out to be the solution they had been looking for: the mysterious floating lanterns.

Changes from the Source Material: In the original story, a man steals rapunzel 4 from a garden belonging to a witch (also called Gothel). Gothel catches him and accuses him of theft. He begs for mercy, and she agrees to be lenient, and allows him to take all the rapunzel he wants, on condition that the baby be given to her when it’s born.

The prince in the story visits Rapunzel over several nights and slips pieces of silk to her to weave into a ladder. Grimm says that Gothel funds out when Rapunzel becomes pregnant. She casts Rapunzel out after cutting her hair. When the prince comes and visits, he is cast into thorns and blinded. When he finds Rapunzel, her tears immediately restore his sight. So no magical hair. She is not a princess, he is not a thief, and she is not reunited with her true parents

Animation: Glen Keane wanted the film to be animated using a traditional hand drawn animation. However, Disney executives David Stainton and Dick Cook announced that they would only approve the film for production if it were created using the 3D computer graphics. Keane held a seminar called “The Best of Both Worlds”, where he, with 50 Disney CGI artists and traditional artists, focused on the pros and cons of each style. After the meeting, it was decided that the film would be made in 3D CG animation, but with the traditional aesthetic.

They used a new technique called multi-rigging, which is made up of multiple pairs of virtual cameras. Each pair is used individually on each separate element that adds depth to a scene, then sandwiched together later in production.

The Rococo paintings of French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard, particularly The Swing, were used as references for the film’s artistic style. For Flynn Rider, they held a large “Hot Man Meeting” where they gathered about 30 women from the studio and asked them what they considered attractive in a man.

As late as January 2010, the directors were still not sure if the Rapunzel character’s length of hair was going to work. An improved version of a hair simulation program named Dynamic Wires, originally developed for Bolt, was used.

Music: The original score for the film was composed by Alan Menken with lyrics written by Glenn Slater. Several songs were written, but eventually cut from the final film; “When Will My Life Begin?” replaced an earlier version called “What More Could I Ever Need?” There was originally a love song called “You Are My Forever” that Mother Gothel sang to Rapunzel in a motherly way, but was reprised later in the film by Flynn Rider in a romantic way. “Something That I Want” was written and composed by Grace Potter.


  • “When Will My Life Begin?”
  • “Healing Incantation”
  • “Mother Knows Best”
  • “I’ve Got a Dream”
  • “I See the Light” 5
  • “Something That I Want” 6

Voice Cast:

Mandy Moore as Rapunzel. In 1999, she signed with Epic Records. Her debut single “Candy” peaked at number 41 on the Billboard Hot 100. She voiced a role in Dr. Dolittle 2, before co-starring in The Princess Diaries. Her first starring role was as Jamie Sullivan in the romantic drama A Walk to Remember. She has appeared in Saved!, License to Wed, and Southland Tales. Moore has been starring as Rebecca Pearson ina This Is Us since 2016, and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role. 7 Zachary Levi as Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert. He became known for playing Chuck Bartowski in the series Chuck and appeared as Fandral in Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok. He starred in the lead role of Georg Nowack in the 2016 Broadway revival of She Loves Me for which he received a Tony Award nomination. Next year he will appear as the titular character in Shazam!

Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel. She is a five-time Tony Award nominee, she has twice won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical: for her role as Fosca in Passion and as Anna Leonowens in The King and I. She was also nominated for her roles as Ruth Sherwood in Wonderful Town, Lotte Lenya in LoveMusik and Bubbie/Raisel in The People in the Picture. She won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Special for her role in Someone Had to be Benny, an episode of the HBO series Lifestories: Families in Crisis. Her film roles include Anij in Star Trek: Insurrection, Rosalie Octavius in Spider-Man 2, and one of the government secretaries in The Bourne Legacy. Ron Perlman as the Stabbington brother with sideburns. 8 Her first became known for playing the role of Vincent on the television series Beauty and the Beast. 9 He played Hellboy in both Hellboy and its sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Clay Morrow on Sons of Anarchy. and Pacific Rim (2013). His voice-over work includes Clayface on Batman: The Animated Series, Slade on Teen Titans, and The Lich on Adventure Time. Films include The Name of the Rose, Romeo is Bleeding, The Adventures of Huck Finn, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, The Last Supper, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Alien Resurrection, Enemy at the Gates, Blade II, Star Trek: Nemesis, Sleepwalkers, Desperation, and Pacific Rim.

Jeffrey Tambor 10 as Big Nose Thug. He is known for his television roles on The Larry Sanders Show, Arrested Development, and Transparent. His film roles include …And Justice for All, Mr. Mom, There’s Something About Mary, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, The Hangover trilogy, The Accountant, and The Death of Stalin. Richard Kiel 11 as Vladamir. He best known for his role as Jaws in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. He appeared in Happy Gilmore, The Longest Yard (1974), Silver Streak, Force 10 from Navarone, and Pale Rider. He was a frequent actor on television on shows such as Laramie, I Dream of Jeannie, Honey West, Gilligan’s Island, The Monkees, Daniel Boone, Emergency!, Starsky & Hutch, Land of the Lost, The Fall Guy, Simon & Simon, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 recognize him as the title character in Eegah.

M. C. Gainey as Captain of the Guard. He made his big-screen debut in Pennies from Heaven. Film roles include Two Idiots in Hollywood, The Mighty Ducks, The Fan, Breakdown, Con Air, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Sideways, Are We There Yet?, The Dukes of Hazzard, Wild Hogs, Mr. Woodcock, and Django Unchained. He played Tom Friendly on the series Lost and Bo Crowder on Justified. He has guest starred on over 40 television shows, including The Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, Designing Women, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Walker, Texas Ranger, Criminal Minds, CSI, Cheers, Days of Our Lives, The X-Files, Desperate Housewives, Burn Notice, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Paul F. Tompkins as the Short Thug. He is known for his work in television on such programs as Mr. Show with Bob and David, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Best Week Ever. He is the voice for Mr. Peanutbutter on BoJack Horseman. He has also appeared in There Will Be Blood and The Informant!. He is known for his numerous appearances on podcasts, including his 200-plus appearances on Comedy Bang! Bang!

Brad Garrett returns as the Hook-Hand Thug.

Critical Reception: A. O. Scott of The New York Times positively reviewed the film as “the 50th animated feature from Disney, and its look and spirit convey a modified, updated but nonetheless sincere and unmistakable quality of old-fashioned Disneyness.” Todd McCarthy, film reviewer for The Hollywood Reporter opened his review with, “It would have been nice if Disney’s self-touted 50th animated feature were one of its best, a film that could stand with the studio’s classics, but the world will have to make do with Tangled, a passably entertaining hodgepodge of old and new animation techniques, mixed sensibilities and hedged commercial calculations.”

Name change: The film received criticism for changing the name as a marketing strategy. Justin Chang of Variety compared it to changing the title of The Little Mermaid to Beached. Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle’s blog, Margot Magowan accused Disney of sexism, writing,

“Can you imagine if Disney…switched a movie title so it wouldn’t risk highlighting a male star? It’s awful that this kind of radical gender discrimination exists for our smallest people—little kids who come into this world with huge imaginations and aspirations, big dreams that get squashed by a bunch of billionaire guys who run massive entertainment franchises.”

Conflicting statements come frl fromm the Disney camp. Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard disputed reports that the title change was a marketing decision. They said they changed the title from Rapunzel to Tangled because Rapunzel is not the only main character in the film. They went on to say that you cannot call Toy Story “Buzz Lightyear,” and they really needed a title that represented what the film is, and that it’s a duo, and it stars Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.

However, Ed Catmull would later admit in Creativity, Inc. that Disney Animation’s faith that The Princess and the Frog’s excellent quality would bring in all audiences notwithstanding the word “princess” in the title was their version of “a stupid pill.”

“There was an audience perception that these movies were just for little girls, but when boys, men, whatever actually see these movies, they like them. So on Rapunzel … we changed the name and we called it Tangled. We did marketing that made the people who would not normally show up say, ‘Hey, this looks pretty good.'” -John Lasseter

Legacy: There’s no ride at Walt Disney World, but there is… a bathroom. Located in Fantasyland, it features a replica of the tower, and the area is designed to resemble downtown Corona.

Rapunzel appears for character greeting, and the characters appear in the parades.

A short was released in 2012, Tangled Ever After. The plot revolves around the wedding of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider. Pascal and Maximus lose the wedding rings and chase after them, causing massive collateral damage along the way. Tangled: Before Ever After is a television series set between the feature film and the short film, later renamed Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure. Much of the cast including Moore and Levi reprise their parts.

"Tangled: The Musical" Aboard the Disney Magic

An abridged stage adaptation entitled Tangled: The Musical premiered on board the Disney Magic of the Disney Cruise Line in November 2015, featuring three new songs written by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater.

Video Games: A video game based on the film was released on November 23, 2010, for Nintendo DS, Wii, and PC platforms by Disney Interactive Studios.

My take: So I have to start by saying that the “I Have a Dream” number is probably my favorite Disney song written in the last ten years.

I think of all the “princes” in the Disney canon, I think Flynn is is most interesting. Mother Gothel is a very interesting villian, in that her tactics are passive aggressive, which is something we haven’t seen before.

Next Week: We head back to Radiator Springs