Blog Post #11: The Tangled History of Disney’s “Tangled”

Disney originally planned on naming their new CGI animated movie Rapunzel instead of Tangled. Their shift in name change came shortly after The Princess and the Frog unfortunately flopped in theaters worldwide. Disney wanted to steer away from the Princess storyline. The creator Glen Keane, who is the son of Family Circus creator Bil Keane, was the major push behind making the story of Rapunzel into a major Disney film. This post will talk about the troubles Disney has had with the making of the Rapunzel-inspired movie.

Disney wanted to turn Rapunzel into another Disney princess movie following in the line of classics such as Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid. They thought this would be a hit in the movie theaters but since The Princess and the Frog did poorly in theaters, Disney felt the need to revamp the name and story line. Even though the Disney Princesses merchandise line earned $3.4 billion dollars in 2006 alone, Disney thought that they needed the change away from the Princess theme. Glen Keane “struggled for many years to bring Rapunzel to the big screen.” The story will be more like Tarzan or Aladdin where the boy is just as important or even more important than the Princess. Glen Keane has worked on both Aladdin and Tarzan so it may not be a a bad change shifting the story line away from Princess based.

Glen Keane is named, “animation’s version of a rock star,” so no matter what the changes are, I am sure the film will be animated well and the story line will hopefully be better than The Princess and the Frog.

When Keane proposed the retelling of Rapunzel to Walt Disney Feature Animation head David Stainton and Disney CEO Michael Eisner. They had two conditions that needed to be met before they allowed the animation to go forward. They said the story had to be a “fractured fairy tale” similar to DreamWorks’ Shrek. This would mean modernizing the story and making it into a spin on a classic fairytale. This first condition obviously prevents the Rapunzel-inspired story from being a classic damsel in distress princess story where the brave man comes to save the day. The second condition was that it needed to be CGI animated since cel animation was not doing well anymore and they saw how Pixar and DreamWorks were succeeding with their CGI films. Also at this point in the process the name of the film was “Rapunzel Unbraided,” a very fitting name for the remix of a classic story.

Glen Keane was upset over the order to make the film, CGI instead of hand drawn. He noted in 2005, “After all, I was the guy who kept saying ‘I’ll kill any person that tries to take a pencil out of my hand.’ Now I have to eat those words.” Keane was a big proponent for keeping with cel animation but was forced to get into the CGI animation in order to survive at Disney. In 2006 John Lasseter from Pixar, who inspired Glen Keane, became his boss. Lasseter wanted to change the Rapunzel story into a classic fairytale much like Disney classic Princess stories.

Lasseter and Keane compromised and decided to lose “Unbraided” from the title and make the story a more modern heroine story. Rapunzel is voiced by Mandy Moore and her costar male figure is Flynn Ryder voiced by Zachary Levi. At this point Dean Wellins, who worked on Iron Giant signed on as co-director.

Now, Rapunzel seemed to be on set for production but problems arose again in 2008 when Glen Keane had to give up his director status because of health issues. “Bolt co-director Byron Howard replaced him, and supplanted Wellins with Nathan Greno. Keane stayed on as executive producer and animation director for Rapunzel.” This was another stepback in the process of making Rapunzel. It went through so many hands that changes were bound to occur again which they did.

This change came about from the change in hands of directors but more so because of the cel animated film The Princess and the Frog not being successful in theaters. Disney thought that the audience the film was geared to was too small. They wanted to include a wider audience like Shrek had attracted. A film that both male and female adults and children could enjoy. Because of this Rapunzel was renamed Tangled in order to advertise the film to both boys and girls. A simple Disney Princess story would not do anymore. Either way the plot of the film turns out to be, it will be beautifully animated through CGI animation.

I will leave you with a synopsis of the film (and some pictures) in order for you to get an idea of what the film will be like. What do you think the Rapunzel-inspired story should be like? Would you rather a classic damsel in distress story or more of a mainstream adventure story?

“When the kingdom’s most wanted (and most charming) bandit is forced to make a deal with the golden-haired, tower-bound teen, the unlikely duo sets off on a hilarious, hair-raising escapade complete with a super-cop horse, an over-protective chameleon, and a gruff gang of pub thugs. The handsome prince Flynn Ryder has sailed through life by looking good, talking fast and being lucky – but when he picks a mysterious and secluded tower as his hideout, it looks like his luck may have run out.

“Flynn is knocked out, tied up and taken hostage by the beautiful and feisty Rapunzel, whose 70 feet of magical, golden hair, which she can use like powerful tentacles, isn’t even the strangest thing about her. Locked-away and lonely, Rapunzel sees this smooth-talking bandit as her ticket out of the tower. One comical kidnapping and a bit of blackmail later, Flynn and his curious captor are off on one of the most tangled tales ever told.” Source.

I responded to James Davis and David Dinnison.

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11 thoughts on “Blog Post #11: The Tangled History of Disney’s “Tangled”

  1. It seems like the new storyline is just as fractured and far-from-the-original as the “Rapunzel Unbraided” version of the Eisner days. At least “Rapunzel Unbraided” kept the name of the main character in the title!

    I think John and Ed are just paranoid to see a film with a strong female lead, as clearly shown by the (lack of) strong female leads in their own studio’s films.

  2. I would not mind keeping the original Rapunzel story in a feature length film but the idea of re-vamping the story intrigues me. Maybe Disney could get a bit better by being more creative with their stolen story lines instead of just ruining original material.

  3. I think Disney’s struggles with Rapunzel demonstrate a threat to all forms of expression – artistic differences. It seems to me that animation, as well as music, film, etc, is a very personal thing. To work successfully a single, prevailing vision is necessary. There are many ways for opinions to differ, from the minute to the major. Inevitably, this means that compromises must be made and a lot of people don’t get what they want. During our animation projects, we had total control over what we did, but a lot of professional animators have to answer to someone who has more authority over what happens than they do, and feel resentful and alienated. Your post helped make me realize one of the other challenges of creating an animation outside of what we experienced during our projects.

  4. I have to admit, I’m intrigued. Firstly, that this will be the first non-Pixar Disney CGI movie. If they’re trying to go in a “shrek” direction, that might be funny too. I’m slightly worried that Disney won’t be able to pull that off, but we’ll see. But what really interests me at this point is the art style. According to the wiki page, they’re going with CGI that is fully modeled, but will be colored like an oil painting (as opposed to the Pixar/Dreamworks standard? I can’t get that into words, but when comparing them visually it should be obvious). It reminds me of the Zelda video game from a few years back that was cel-shaded, and made to look like a hand-drawn cartoon. That gave the game a unique style that really drew the player into the experience. This new oil painting style might be a really interesting thing to watch.

    Or it might flop! Haha, we’ll see. But I think I’ll check the film out when it comes out. =)

  5. This is a huge spin in the typical Disney plots. I am indecisive on if this is going to take a turn for the good or the worst. Having a movie that is intended for a larger audience with comical reliefs is different for disney. They typically show this through a use of an animal. Like in Pocahontas, I wonder if Disney will accomplish this without the animal as the main character. Having comical and relate able characters like Shrek and Fiona are hard to come by and Disney has not shown this creative process yet.
    As for the story line, I am impressed by the way they are looking at it. I would think they would shoot for another disney princess that was more relate-able. I think giving the female and male characters a stronger personality is exactly what we need and want as movie goers. The damsel in distressed is for a different generation. The generation today will highly appreciate this, if it is done correctly. Good job really enjoyed your post.

  6. First of all, both Bolt and Meet the Robinsons were both non-Pixar Disney cgi movies. Second, The Princess and the Frog made more than twice its budget in gross revenue – it was not a flop. Third, the original Grim Fairy Tale of Rapunzel is a very short story (only six or seven pages) and would need additions to fit a feature length. I am a huge fan of Disney and Pixar animation and I trust that the company that brought us Beauty and the Beast knows what they’re doing. If you read any of the original fairy tales comparatively, then you would see almost every Disney Classic is a departure from the original.

  7. Well I keep hearing so many different things about this movie. I am very curious though. I have to say the titles all stink. Rapunzel Unbraided sounds like an uncensored seeing tits kinda movie.

    Where as Rapunzel sounds boring been there done that. Tangled is strange and I don’t see how it attracts boys and girls. It just makes me think, “Get a brush” my gosh! LOL

    But I have to say I LOVE the trailer and am already pumping out a pic of Rapunzel and Flynn.

    Michelle

  8. I am so incredibly, insanely disappointed that they changed this from cel-shading to CGI. I understand why they felt they had to do this, but I really hope they’re going to try one last cel-shaded film before scrapping the idea altogether. Hopefully I’m not one of the only ones who misses this style of animation enough to support it like crazy in theaters. I saw Princess and the Frog 3 times; I don’t know, *I* liked it.

  9. I was pleasantly surprised by Princess and the Frog–I liked it.
    I was excited by Rapunzel before I saw the trailer with Rock music, and in-your-face Shrek attitude. I didn’t like Shrek very much–it was ok, but I didn’t love it. Call me old-fashioned if you want to, but I don’t like encouraging and celebrating rudeness and having innuendos in children’s movies.
    I loved Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc. and I think especially Aladdin did a good job of including both boys and girls and did it all without going overboard with the attitude. If they went that route I’ll be ok.
    I’ll probably still see the movie as I have four kids under ten, and the girls at least want to see it. (Sorry but my boy still doesn’t want to see it–although he liked Princess and the Frog lol)

  10. It’s not just about changes made due to the whole Princess and fairy tale stuff.

    It’s also about this generation being more and more scatterbrained. Most 3D movies even the good ones are more scatterbrained in terms of the story.

    That doesn’t mean the quality of the movie is bad. Quite a few of them are good and entertaining.

    However, the more classy and mature animations which are more focussed don’t work as well.

    Princess and the Frog disappointed in terms of box office. Can you imagine if Hunchback of Notre Dame came out nowadays? That is a great movie but it would sadly flop with this generation.

    Little Mermaid did spectacularly in the box office back in 1989. I wonder if it would succeed nowadays if it came out for the first time. I’m guessing it wouldn’t and that is very SAD.

    I miss cel and hand drawn animation. I also miss classy and slightly more mature animated films. Too many of the 3D animations are overly hyper, immature and with silly super-deformed characters.

    I wonder if fairy tales are just too classic and historical for people nowadays.

  11. i love the movie tangled …this is comiping from a 16 year old girl form laredo tx…i love all disney movies but for some
    reason i tend to like this one more than lion king or lion king 1/2 lol 🙂

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