|First appearance||Tangled (2010)|
|Last appearance||Tangled Ever After (2012)|
|Created by||Glen Keane|
|Voiced by||Mandy Moore
Delaney Rose Stein (young)
Rapunzel is a fictional character who appears in Walt Disney Animation Studios' 50th animated feature film Tangled (2010), and its short film Tangled Ever After (2012). Voiced by American actress and singer Mandy Moore, Rapunzel is a young princess kept unaware of her royal heritage by a vain old woman named Mother Gothel, who raises her in a secluded tower in order to exploit her hair's healing abilities to remain young and beautiful forever.
Created and animated by supervising animator Glen Keane, Rapunzel is loosely based on the title character who appears in the fairy tale of the same name by The Brothers Grimm. The character was adapted into a less passive heroine for the film. The writers incorporated the quirky personalities of actresses Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman and Amy Poehler into the character.
Critical reception of Rapunzel has been generally positive, with critics complimenting her spirited, lively personality and independence. Chronologically the tenth Disney Princess, Rapunzel was officially inducted into the line-up on October 2, 2011, becoming the franchise's first computer-animated member. Her physical appearance and personality have drawn much comparison between her and preceding Disney Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989), by whom she was inspired.
Conception and writing
Longtime Disney animator Glen Keane first decided to adapt the fairy tale "Rapunzel" by The Brothers Grimm into an animated feature film in 1996. Keane became interested in the idea of directing an animated film based on "Rapunzel" because he was especially intrigued by the concept of a "person that was born with this gift inside of her and it had to come out", which he felt was similar to his experience working as an animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Keane eventually resigned from his position as director after suffering a heart attack in 2008, and Nathan Greno and Byron Howard were hired to replace him. However, Keane remained closely involved with the project nonetheless, serving as both the film's executive producer and Rapunzel's supervising animator.
|"The development of a character for me is a very personal journey. For me the joy of creating a character that I believe is real is at the heart of creating a memorable character. I use people I know as inspiration. It’s a very intimate personal process and I will do hundreds, sometimes thousands, of drawings in finding that design. There is a great “aha” moment when I finally recognize the character on my paper as someone I know."|
|— Keane, on the process of creating Rapunzel.|
Walt Disney first attempted to adapt "Rapunzel" into an animated film soon after the studio released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, but the project was ultimately abandoned when the story turned out to be "a really hard nut to crack". According to Keane, this was mainly due to the fact that the majority of the fairy tale takes place within a tower. To overcome this, Tangled's writers were forced to develop a way of "bringing Rapunzel out of the tower". Originally, the film was conceived under the title Rapunzel Unbraided, which Keane described as "a Shrek-like version of the film" that revolved around an entirely different concept. Keane said of the original plot, "It was a fun, wonderful, witty version and we had a couple of great writers. But in my heart of hearts I believed there was something much more sincere and genuine to get out of the story, so we set it aside and went back to the roots of the original fairy tale."
As directors, Greno and Howard felt it essential that Rapunzel resemble a less "passive" heroine than the way she is depicted in the original fairy tale. "We knew we were making this movie for a contemporary audience and we wanted Rapunzel to be a real role model in a way. We wanted all this girl power and to really drive this story, so she doesn't wait around for anything ... she's a smart girl, she has these hopes and dreams and she's going to get what she wants out of life."
Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth was cast as the voice of Rapunzel. At one point, though briefly, the directors had cast actress Reese Witherspoon in the role, who was also to serve as the film's executive producer. However, Witherspoon eventually departed from the project, citing creative differences with the filmmakers. Broadway performer Idina Menzel had also auditioned for the role, but didn't get the part. After hundreds of auditions, the directors ultimately decided to cast recording artist and actress Mandy Moore in the role because, according to co-director Byron Howard, she "has this great soul to her voice" as well as "this down-to-earth, girl-next-door quality that makes her everything you could hope for in a Disney heroine." Child actress Delaney Rose Stein was cast as a young version Rapunzel.
Moore "grew up loving Disney films", describing the opportunity to be featured in one as "the ultimate fantasy". Initially, she had little intention of auditioning for Tangled because she was aware that there would be much competition, and feared that a failed audition would simply result in disappointment. Once she made up her mind to audition, Moore reportedly "chased after" the role of Rapunzel, auditioning for it twice. Because the film is a musical requiring its cast to provide both their characters' speaking and singing voices, it was mandatory for all auditioning to perform one song of their choice. Following the given instructions to sing a song that was in the style of a singer-songwriter, Moore, a professional singer, performed singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell's "Help Me", a song that she herself had covered on her fourth studio album, Coverage (2003).
The filmmakers fought against hiring top-billed celebrities to voice the film's characters. When she joined the cast of Tangled, Moore was initially unaware that the film would become Walt Disney Animation Studios' 50th animated feature film. Since that time, she has received her ignorance with gratitude, explaining, "I feel lucky because I would've probably felt a bit more pressure had I known going into the recording process." Moore was also surprised to learn that the majority of her dialogue would not be recorded in the presence of co-stars Zachary Levi and Donna Murphy, who provided the voices of Flynn Rider and Mother Gothel respectively. She claims to have only met with Levi once to record the song "I See the Light", a duet between her character Rapunzel and Levi's character, Flynn. Moore described the recording process as challenging because she was provided with little visual aid, explaining, "All I had to work off were a few sketches ... but it was also fun because it allows you to go into the depths of your imagination." She also revealed that creating Rapunzel's voice was simply a process of "let[ting] go". Moore was often required to re-record a single line a total of four times before the directors finally heard a version with which they were satisfied. After watching the completed film for the first time, Moore was disappointed with her own performance because she felt that her voice sounded "shrill".
Characterization and design
|"With Rapunzel I did an enormous amount of drawings and I wanted to keep a sense of asymmetry in her. I read a book about feminine beauty and it said the key to beauty is strangeness in a woman's face. There needs to be something slightly off, some element; it might be her nose, her lip, her tooth, or one eye higher than the other, but something. Even in Rapunzel's teeth, the way she talks, there's something a little bit wonky in the placement of her teeth, and things like that were designed so that she was more real, true and appealing."|
|— Keane, on designing Rapunzel and the concept of "feminine beauty".|
Executive producer John Lasseter explained that "The challenge is that you want to make Rapunzel feel like a smart, clever, educated, healthy, fun human being" despite the fact that the character has not ventured outside of her tower in 18 years. To avoid creating a "princessy and aloof" heroine, the writers decided to base Rapunzel's personality on those of real-life celebrities such as actresses Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman, as well as comedian Amy Poehler, which ultimately resulted in the character having a variety of "quirky qualities" that were used to "shake up expectations of what a princess should be." According to The New York Times, Rapunzel's personality made her a significant departure from traditional Disney heroines. Mandy Moore believes that Rapunzel is an atypical Disney princess because she is an independent character who "can take care of herself", in addition to being largely oblivious to the fact that she is a princess.
Supervising animator Glen Keane designed Rapunzel under the tutelage of veteran animator Ollie Johnston, one of Disney's original Nine Old Men. Johnston advised Keane to attempt to capture what Rapunzel is thinking as opposed to simply animating what the character is doing after reviewing one of his early pencil tests. Keane compared receiving this advice to receiving a "slap that I never forgot, so when I was drawing over people's work, I really tried to get into the head of the thinking of the character". Co-director Byron Howard was inspired by the appearance of Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989), a character who was also animated by Keane. Howard elaborated that "Ariel was the first character that I ever thought there was a soul behind her eyes ... We hoped to do that with Rapunzel to find some sort of soul and depth that people could relate to". Meanwhile, Keane observed that Ariel and Rapunzel also share "irrepressible" spirits while encountering barriers that prevent them from pursuing their dreams. Keane was inspired by a book about the idea of feminine beauty; the book cited "strangeness" as "the key to beauty ... in a woman's face." Taking this into consideration, Keane maintained a sense of asymmetry while drawing Rapunzel, incorporating into her face several subtle imperfections, specifically her bucked teeth that are bucked teeth. The character was also drawn with freckles, making her the first Disney princess to have this feature. Keane designed Rapunzel with large eyes in order to convey her "irrepressible quality", a trait her also discovered in Mandy Moore's voice. The animators created nine different versions of Rapunzel before finally settling on a design with which they were satisfied.
Keane is known for basing his characters on members of his family; Rapunzel's passion for art and painting was inspired by the interests of his daughter, Claire. Several of Claire's original drawings and paintings are used to decorate Rapunzel's tower. While Keane working on Tangled, Claire gave birth to his first grandchild, Matisse, whose appearance served as the animator's inspiration for the infant Rapunzel.
|"The hair ... proved to be one of the film's biggest challenges. Because Rapunzel's mane is her ticket (it heals wounds, serves as transportation and makes the girl a prize to her captor), it had to look real on screen. To create it, the director says, animators created a series of tubes that looked like spaghetti. 'It's about 1,000 tubes or 100,000 actual hairs. The artists were able to get a general movement from those tubes.'"|
|— The Sioux City Journal, interviewing Howard and Greno.|
Rapunzel was the first blonde-haired Disney animated heroine since Aurora in Sleeping Beauty (1959). Animating Rapunzel's hair using computer-generated imagery has been regarded as the most challenging aspect in the development process of Tangled. According to the Los Angeles Times, supervising animator Glen Keane has become well known for animating some of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "greatest hair hits" since 1989, including Ariel from The Little Mermaid, the Beast from Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Pocahontas from Pocahontas (1995). Both Keane and Howard have expressed similar opinions on Rapunzel's hair, with Keane describing it as "this constant reminder that she has this gift", and Howard describing it as its own character. As directors, Howard and Greno provided the animators with much live-action material and reference to use as inspiration for the appearance of Rapunzel's hair, such as attaching long strands of string to a baseball cap that they would take turns wearing in the studio and moving around it. Additionally, they recruited women who had not cut their hair in several years to serve as live models.
Senior Software Engineer Dr. Kelly Ward, a hair simulation major and graduate from the University of North Carolina, was placed in charge of developing special software meant to assist the animators in animating 70 feet of hair. Ward revealed that, in real life, the character's hair would weigh roughly 60 pounds, "more weight than a real person would be able to move around as effortlessly as we allow Rapunzel to do in the movie". For simplicity sake, the animators reduced the realistic total of 100,000 individual strands of hair found on a typical human head to a more manageable 100 for Rapunzel. Acquiring the unique but realistic shade of golden blonde for Rapunzel's hair also proved challenging animators.
Film and television
In order to remain young and beautiful, a vain old woman named Mother Gothel hoards the healing properties of a magical golden flower. When the pregnant Queen falls ill, the flower is harvested and fed to her as medicine, thus preventing Gothel's from using it. Once healthy, the Queen gives birth to Rapunzel, whose long golden hair has inherited the flower's powerful healing magic. Hoping to regain full control over the flower, Gothel kidnaps the princess and incarcerates her in an isolated tower simply for the purpose of exploiting her magic hair in order to remain youthful. Every year on Rapunzel's birthday, the kingdom of Corona releases thousands of floating lanterns into the sky in her memory.
Eighteen years later, Rapunzel, ignorant to the fact that she is a princess, is growing eager to leave the tower and see the "floating lights," which she believes bear some significance to her. However, she is forbidden by Gothel, by whom she has been led to believe is her mother. When a wanted thief named Flynn Rider, in search of a place to hide, stumbles upon Rapunzel's tower, Rapunzel, who has tricked Gothel into leaving her unattended, blackmails Flynn into taking her to see the lanterns in return for the crown that he has stolen from the palace. Accompanied by Rapunzel's chameleon friend Pascal, they embark, but Gothel is soon in close pursuit.
Rapunzel and Flynn eventually arrive at the kingdom in time for the lantern ceremony. Soon afterwards, Flynn is ambushed and vengefully turned into the police by his former partners-in-crime the Stabbington Brothers, who he abandoned in an attempt to outrun the King's soldiers, and sentenced to death. However, before the Brothers can harm Rapunzel, Gothel knocks them unconscious and takes a heartbroken Rapunzel back to the tower.
Back in her bedroom, Rapunzel is suddenly flooded by memories from her past. Realizing Gothel is a fraud, she finally finds the courage to rebel against her. However, Gothel, unwilling to lose Rapunzel, chains her up and gags her with a white handkerchief. When Flynn, having managed to escape from the castle, arrives at the tower, Gothel stabs him. Desperate to save him, Rapunzel promises to do whatever Gothel pleases in return. Gothel complies, but just as Rapunzel is about to heal him, Flynn cuts her hair short, causing it to turn brown and lose all of its magical powers and might never be long again, resulting in Gothel's death. Flynn dies in Rapunzel's arms and she cries bitterly. However, the flower's magic manifests itself through Rapunzel's tears and returns Flynn to life. Flynn returns Rapunzel to the palace, where she is finally reunited with her parents.
Rapunzel will also appear in the upcoming television series.
|"Rapunzel spends most of her life in a tower with her chameleon friend, Pascal, imagining the world outside. When she meets Flynn Rider, the two of them go on an adventure so she can finally live her dream."|
|— Blurb extracted from Rapunzel section of official Disney Princess website, summarizing her role in Tangled.|
Rapunzel is the tenth member of the Disney Princess line-up, a marketing franchise aimed primarily at young girls that manufactures and releases products such as toys, video and audio recordings, clothing, and video games. The Walt Disney Company introduces characters into its Disney Princess line-up through coronation. Rapunzel's was held on October 2, 2011, at the Kensington Palace in London, England; the character became the franchise's first princess to have been computer-animated. However, the franchise uses a traditionally animated rendering of Rapunzel in most of its merchandise. Following her coronation, Rapunzel was recognized with her own page on the official Disney Princess website.
Disney Consumer Products has released several merchandise based on Tangled that features Rapunzel. Rapunzel appears as a playable character in an interactive adventure-themed video game based on the film, entitled Tangled: The Video Game. The game was released by Disney Interactive Studios on November 23, 2010, one day before the film's November 24 theatrical release, specifically for the Nintendo video game platforms Wii and DS, and follows the plot of the original film. Voice actress Mandy Moore reprises her role as Rapunzel in the video game. The character's likeness has also been adapted into a variety of doll products. Rapunzel was the first character created and released as part of the Disney Animator's Collection, a series of dolls depicting each of the eleven Disney Princesses as toddler. She was designed Glen Keane, who served as her supervising animator on the original film.
Rapunzel currently makes regular appearances at various Walt Disney Parks and Resorts sites, locations and attractions. In anticipation of the film's theatrical release, several Tangled-based attractions were constructed at various Disney Parks locations in both California and Florida, USA. These include a life-sized replica of Rapunzel's tower, located in Fantasyland.
As part of photographer Annie Leibovitz's Disney Dream Portrait Series that she has been commissioning for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts since 2007, The Walt Disney Company hired American country singer-songwriter Taylor Swift to be featured as the model for Rapunzel. In a detailed description of the piece, Us Weekly wrote, "The stunning image — captioned 'Where a world of adventure awaits' — shows the 23-year-old Grammy winner perched on the window ledge of a moss-covered stone tower. A pink petticoat peeks out from under her purple gown as she stares wistfully into the distance, her long golden tresses flowing regally in the wind." Swift told On The Red Carpet that she was honored to have been selected for the piece.
Critics were generally positive in their opinions of Rapunzel. The St. Paul Pioneer Press' Chris Hewitt described the character as "no damsel in distress", while Sara Vizcarrondo of Boxoffice described the character as "a spunky heroine who could infiltrate the heavily guarded princess canon." Stephen Whitty of The Star-Ledger dubbed Rapunzel "a fairly capable young woman". Bruce Diones of The New Yorker wrote that Rapunzel has "a sharp wit and intelligent concerns", while Claudia Puig of USA Today opined, "Rapunzel is ... believable in her teenage histrionics". Calling the character a "delight", The Austin Chronicle's Marjorie Baumgarten wrote, "Rapunzel is a spunky gal, capable of defending herself". Sandie Angulo Chen of Common Sense Media wrote that Rapunzel is a "guileless, strong, and beautiful" character who is "so breathtakingly good that you can't help but weep with her when she thinks all hope is lost." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Cathy Jakicic described Rapunzel as a "scrappy, self-reliant" heroine who "can rescue herself". The Scotsman commented, "the film doesn't ... turn [Rapunzel] into a simpering damsel in distress." Describing the character as "innocent but (inevitably) feisty", Empire's Helen O'Hara enjoyed the fact that both Rapunzel and Flynn are given "decent character development" while "bas[ing] their growing love story on more than a single longing glance." Similarly, the Mountain Xpress praised Rapunzel and Flynn's relationship, writing, "what works best is the interplay between the two leads ... these animated characters are frankly more believable and charismatic than the human ones in ... Love and Other Drugs." Todd Hertz of Christianity Today called Rapunzel "fun, dynamic, and wondrous".
Jim Schembri of The Age gave the character a very detailed, positive review, writing:
And, of course, the heart of the story is Rapunzel, a freshly minted heroine who morphs from prisoner to strong-willed seeker of her own destiny. Blondes have not had a good rap of late, thanks chiefly to the stream of formulaic rom-coms that have played them up as the ditzes and airheads of cliche. Rapunzel's no-nonsense attitude and proactive air, however, reminds us that the blondes of yore were not to be trifled with. As reimagined in Tangled, Rapunzel defies authority, shuts down male ego and charts her own course. She's not only a great role model for kids, she's the type of gutsy, independently minded, value-added blonde Mae West would have been proud of.
The character was not void of criticism. Although Richard Corliss of Time thoroughly enjoyed the film, he felt that too much emphasis was placed on Flynn Rider and not enough on Rapunzel. Corliss questioned the future of Disney's animated heroines, writing, "For 60 years ... girls were the focal characters who could be expected to come of age, triumph over adversity and, in general, man up," and accused various film studios of "abolish[ing] female-centered stories." Variety's Justin Chang described Rapunzel as a "bland, plastic" heroine, likening her to a Barbie doll. Similarly, Tom Huddleston of Time Out described Rapunzel as "bland". James Berardinelli of ReelViews was fairly mixed in his review, writing, "although likeable and energetic, [Rapunzel] is not as memorable as Snow White, Ariel, or Belle." Keith Uhlich of Time Out described the character as "synthetic". He wrote, "you never feel like you're watching a girl on the empowering cusp of adulthood so much as a selection of attitudes compiled through demographic study." The Independent's Anthony Quinn panned the character, describing her as "bland and Valley Girlish". Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined, "when the big-eyed heroine tries to tug at our heartstrings and Flynn turns into Prince Charming, the too-familiar hero-and-damsel motif feels like a fashion faux-pas." Similarly, the SouthtownStar's Jake Coyle wrote, "Both Rapunzel and Flynn too much resemble Barbie and Ken, lacking both superficial and emotional individuality." Jen Yamato of Movies.com criticized Disney for "failing to give Rapunzel a backbone and retreading ground so familiar you can fall asleep for ten minutes and still know exactly what happened".
As the tenth Disney Princess, several critics have drawn comparisons between Rapunzel and preceding Disney Princesses and animated heroines, the most frequent and prominent of whom remains Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989). The Daily News' Joe Neumaier likened Rapunzel's independence to that of Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991), writing, "thoroughly modern Rapunzel does most of the saving". Jonathan Crocker of Total Film noted similarities between Rapunzel and Ariel, describing Rapunzel as "A strong-willed heroine longing to see outside." Mike Scott of The Times-Picayune commented on Rapunzel's innocence, describing it as "reminiscent of Amy Adams' flighty Giselle from ... Enchanted." LoveFilm's Tom Charity commented on the character's independence, likening Rapunzel's spirited personality to those of both Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989) and Mulan from Mulan (1998). Charity also labeled Rapunzel "another addition to the more recent Disney tradition of emancipated heroines".
Accolades and recognition
CNN's Stephanie Goldberg included Rapunzel in her article "Brave's Merida and other animated heroines", a list that recognized some of Disney's most heroic and independent heroines who have appeared in animated films. Goldberg jokingly wrote, "So what if ... Rapunzel defends herself with a frying pan and holds prisoners captive with her long, magical hair?" Sonia Saraiya of Nerve ranked Rapunzel fourth in her article "Ranked: Disney Princesses From Least To Most Feminist". Comparing the character's spirited personality to that of preceding Disney Princesses Ariel and Jasmine from Aladdin (1992), Saraiya described Rapunzel as "badass," despite the fact that "her naivete sometimes gets in the way of her progressivism." Saraiya continued, "[Rapunzel] also recognizes the unfairness of her plight and finds a way out of it, outwitting her 'mother,' who is in fact her kidnapper, to venture to the outside world." Tala Dayrit of Female Network included Rapunzel in her article "30 Fierce and Fun Female Cartoon Characters", writing that, unlike her original fairy tale counterpart, "She’s not the helpless damsel locked in a tower awaiting an unknown fate, but a strong woman capable of defending herself in a fight."
In the film, Rapunzel performs the song "I See the Light" as a duet with Flynn Rider. The song received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song at the 83rd Academy Awards in 2011. Voice actress Mandy Moore performed the song live at the ceremony with co-star Zachary Levi, who provided the voice Flynn in the film. The song did, however, garner the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 54th ceremony in 2012.
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