LOS ANGELES — The classic tale of Rapunzel gets reincarnated once again in Tangled, Disney’s 50th animated feature. Renamed because the studio felt last year’s The Princess and the Frog would have fared better had it not had the word princess in the title (to alienate male ticket buyers), Tangled gives the classic story a strong feminist streak, with former pop star Mandy Moore taking on the lead role.
“You can’t get more classic than being part of a Disney animated film,” Moore says. “For me, that’s something I’ll have in my back pocket for the rest of my life and I feel so honoured, so lucky, to think this film will be around long after I’m gone.”
And it wasn’t just career bragging rights that drew Moore to the project. “I loved having the opportunity to portray a young woman who is so fearless,” she says. “She’s not a victim, she’s not naïve; she’s open and warm, engaged and spirited and ready to embrace the unknown, whatever comes her way. What I knew about Rapunzel was the sort of damsel in distress who lets down her hair so the prince can save her, and our story kind of flips that on its head.”
That’s putting it lightly, as the film takes a classic tale and infuses it with distinctly modern elements, including hulking brutes with a soft side, mugging animals, evident pop culture references and a hapless thief (Zachary Levi) in place of the usual dashing prince. It’s all wrapped up in a 3-D computer animation style Disney usually leaves to its studio-mates at Pixar. But at the center of it all is still a girl singing her heart out.
“I love musical theatre and I’m a huge fan of [music composer] Alan Menken,” Moore says, “To be a Disney princess in a Disney film, it has been a total dream come true, but it wasn’t until I got until the studio that I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I gonna do this? How am I going to get through this?’”
Luckily she had the guidance of co-directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, who’ve worked with Disney since 1998’s Mulan.
“They balance each other out and finish each other’s sentences,” Moore says of working with two directors. “Bryon was really good at picking up where Nathan left off. They’re really good partners because they worked in tandem. And they were just as excited to be there as we were.”