The Rest of Flynn and Rapunzel Meet, About the Development of Rapunzel's Character and Why We Needed Pascal

Some more selected bits from the scene where Rapunzel and Flynn meet.

I'm not above squishing the character's face on the floor if it works. In this case I squashed Flynn's face so he could talk in the "pinched nose" voice. It's obvious, I know, but it got a laugh in this it stayed.

These drawings are on tiny 3x5 inch story pads and I did them a long, long time ago - somehow they survived the entire run of the making of the film. Part of why I put Flynn flat on the floor and put Rapunzel up high on the fireplace mantle was because I was trying to make her seem as powerful as possible and make Flynn seem as weak and powerless as possible as she forces him to make a deal with her. Putting her in this powerful position, placing the camera low to look up at her as well as making the camera look down on Flynn and making him look as small as possible and drawing her in such strong poses all made her seem powerful and strong and made him seem weaker and no match for her.

This may seem unnecessary - after all, he's tied to a chair and can't really put up a fight - but those of us on the story team spent many, many, many hours debating how strong and determined to make Rapunzel, and whenever we would screen the film to the studio we would get a lot of notes about that topic. We talked about whether a girl trapped in a tower and isolated from the world her whole life would ever be strong, confident or capable enough to handle (and get the better of) a worldly, experienced guy like Flynn. We wanted the audience to really believe that Rapunzel had spent her whole life locked away without much experience with other people but also that she was a strong, forceful person with a strong will. It was a constant topic for the story team and we talked a lot about Rapunzel and how she would have grown up and developed and how that would have affected her character, as well as how much her personality had come from her real parents (who she'd never met).

We knew we had to strike a delicate balance with Rapunzel because she spends the first eighteen years of her life as a prisoner, locked away in a tower. That could easily have been a grim situation. There were always people who would say that they felt Rapunzel should feel more like her spirit has been broken by her years of imprisonment - that they didn't believe she would still have her strong spirit intact. But we were always conscious that we were making a comedy and we didn't want a grim opening that would make it hard to laugh at the lighter parts to come later in the film. And we didn't want her to feel like a victim. She's already been a prisoner for eighteen years....if she seemed sad or depressed about her predicament you might feel pity for her, and that's not what we wanted. We wanted the audience to like her and root for her, which you don't really feel for people you pity. But at the same time we wanted to be true to the fact that she's a prisoner and that she's trapped in a serious and potentially very dangerous situation, and that if she doesn't take action she will be trapped in a tower forever. So we worked hard and talked things over and over to make sure we were finding the right balance with her.

Which is where Pascal (her chameleon) came into play.

It makes me smile when I see criticisms of "Tangled" that the film has sidekicks thrown in because all Disney movies have them, because our original intention was to not give her a "sidekick" at all. We boarded the film for quite a while without any sidekick for her at all and back then we hoped we would never have to give her one.

On "Tangled" we never did things just because they had been done in Disney films before. We only did things if they were the right things for our movie. And so we didn't want to give her a sidekick just to arbitrarily repeat what had been done before.

Also we wanted her to feel as isolated and alone in the tower as possible. And we wondered whether giving her a sidekick could undercut that feeling and hurt the feeling of empty loneliness we wanted at the beginning.

But in the end we decided we needed him for two reasons:

Number one, because Rapunzel was totally alone in the tower, she had nobody that she could talk to about her feelings, which meant that it would be hard for the audience to know exactly what she was thinking and feeling. That would make it hard for us to get the audience to know her personality and feel for her and root for her. So in the end we realized she needed someone to talk to so we knew what was going on in her head.

There were earlier versions of the film where we considered having her paint faces on all the objects in the tower and talking to those "friends", but it seemed to us that that makes her feel crazy and like she's lost touch with reality. We felt that you would think she's damaged emotionally and that goes to a darker place that makes the film feel less fun.

And number two, Pascal was a big help because, as I mentioned, we didn't want her to feel too strong and capable. We felt that, since she's never been out of her tower or had dealings with people before, she shouldn't always be confident. We wanted her to have occasional moments where she lost her confidence and questioned her capabilities, because her Mother has been filling her head with doubts and undermining her confidence for eighteen years. So we wanted her to have flashes of doubt once in a while to be true to her history, and that's where Pascal came in handy: when her doubts creep in, Pascal is helpful for bucking her confidence back up. After all, nobody else in the film is on her side and nobody else would do it: both Flynn and Mother Gothel want her to lose confidence and return to her imprisonment in the tower.

Anyway, when people ask me why it takes so long for us to get it "right" in story, and why story takes so long when our drawings don't look like we spend much time on them, it's because we spend a lot of our time debating these types of things, arguing with each other and working out the best way to tell the story and the best way to develop the characters. And when we do draw, it's to try out these things and see how they work, and experiment and find the right way to tell the story and how to create the types of characters that people will fall in love with, root for and remember long after they've left the theater.