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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Tangled

The hairy task of creating Rapunzel in 'Tangled'

November 24, 2010 |  4:05 pm

  05_6_30x157_Final_Color When long, golden tresses are your only means of escaping a prison tower, eluding an abusive mother and rescuing the handsome thief who has promised to take you on your first road trip, a bad hair day is not an option. To ensure that Rapunzel never split an end in the new film “Tangled,” Walt Disney Animation Studios unleashed a small army of digital stylists -- a team of more than 30 animators and software engineers -- that Vidal Sassoon himself would envy.

When it comes to computer generated animation, hair is, well, hairy. Computers have trouble when objects collide, and Rapunzel's hair is made up of more than 100,000 objects (i.e. strands) that bump into one another, sweep over her shoulders, slide across the ground and crash into other characters in moments of both embrace and defense. As character-generated animated characters go, Rapunzel is Mt. Everest, and "Tangled" a sign of how high the medium has climbed since shiny, hairless toy characters populated the original "Toy Story" in 1995. "This is a progression of the art form," says Jerry Beck, animation historian and editor of the site Cartoon Brew. "The difference with 'Tangled' is that the hair is a character unto itself."

Long hair is costly in terms of computing power and technicians’ time, which is why most female CG characters wear their hair in a bob or a Lara Croft-style braid. In the case of “Tangled,” a wash-and-go 'do was out of the question. Rapunzel’s famously magical hair had to remind the audience of the character’s vast, untapped potential.

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Disney hopes 'Tangled' brushes up its boy appeal

September 30, 2010 |  4:19 pm

Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross was feeling his oats.

A year into the job, Ross suggested it would be exciting to have a horse at Wednesday’s screening of the studio’s holiday film offerings, to promote to the press Disney’s “Secretariat,” which opens Oct. 8. Faster than you can say Triple Crown, a thoroughbred appeared on the grass in front of the theater, where Disney showed a trailer of the racing drama.

“I ask for a horse, I get a horse,” Ross said, as he took the stage at Disney’s main theater.

The studio then showed about 25 minutes of "Tron: Legacy" (more on that presentation here) and also screened a nearly complete version of its Nov. 24 animated movie, "Tangled."

Disney is making a big bet on "Tangled," an animated retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale that Ross labeled "a comedy adventure very much off the grid."

Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, who worked together on “Bolt” and replaced original director Glen Keane on "Tangled," oversaw a complete remake of the film (it was initially called "Rapunzel," but the studio worried the title and the original story wouldn't appeal to boys and men) that now plays up the role of the male lead, the bandit Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi from television's "Chuck").

Even with the new title and some new swashbuckling, the core story remains a tale about an 18-year-old princess (singer Mandy Moore) with magical golden hair who’s trapped in a tower by a cruel woman pretending to be her mother (character actor Donna Murphy) –- and it's a musical, at that.

Greno joked that the reason he and Howard looked so pale was that, like Rapunzel, they had been sequestered indoors for the last two years, feverishly working on the film. The computer-animated movie balances a modern playfulness with elements reminiscent of classic Disney animation, with music by  Alan Menken, composer for “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin,” and lyrics by Glenn Slater ("Home on the Range"). 

“When people hear we’re making a contemporary version of this classic tale of Rapunzel, they want to know if it would be cynical,” said Howard. “It’s not. It’s got heart."

-- Dawn C. Chmielewski, John Horn and Claudia Eller

 Photo: "Tangled." Credit: The Walt Disney Co.


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Disney restyles Rapunzel to appeal to boys

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