If you are like many Tangled fans out there, you may wonder what the world of Rapunzel and Eugene is like in between the first and second film. Tangled: Before and After will answer those questions.
Rapunzel is destined to one day assume the role of Princess of Corona, but she’s not ready for that yet. She realizes that there is so much more she needs to learn about both herself and the world before she can take on the responsibility associated with being the princess. So she goes on a journey to ready herself for eventually ascending to the throne and is joined along the way by partner-in-life Eugene, no-nonsense and dutiful horse Maximus, and tough-as-nails friend and confidante Cassandra.
“Tangled: The Series” is a follow-up to 2010’s “Tangled” with Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi reprising their roles from the film, Rapunzel, and Eugene (formerly Flynn Rider), respectively. The animated series features music by Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken and Oscar-nominated lyricist Glenn Slater, who both worked on the movie.
Tangled: Before and After
Executive Producer/Supervising Director Chris Sonnenburg and Supervising Producer Ben Balistreri Interview
What made you decide to continue with Rapunzel and her story?
Chris: For me, it came down to, I have two daughters, and at the time they were 14 and 12 are now 15 and 17. And there just seem to be this idea, that there was this moment at the end of the movie where they meet, right, and they fall in love and then there’s the short, Tangled: Ever After, where they get married.
And just looking at the two of those moments I was wondering like well, what happened? Did they get to know each other a little bit more? Like what happened in between that time. And then there’s this great line at the end of the movie where Eugene Fitzherbert, says after years of asking and asking I finally said yes. There’s a kind of fun line that he says there which you might be kind of joking about but I also think maybe there was some time in between there.
It started to become like what do I have to say about this time in these people’s lives, and young people’s lives about getting to know yourself, getting to know the people in your lives, getting to understand your relationship with your parents? If the kids that had seen the movie in 2010 were maybe ten at the time or eight then they’re probably getting to be about 17 years old, and they might want to know like how this character that I love so much as a kid coming to grips with this part of her life is? And that was kind of for me the in of why to tell the story and how to tell the story.
Those teen years are kind of tough. Where are you getting your inspiration?
Chris: You mean when I go home at night at 7 o’clock, and I hear the drama that is coming from my two daughters? You know, in any story hopefully, especially, you know, telling stories the way Disney always tells stories, there’s such a wonderful truth to the stories, and there’s always magic and excitement and kind of like the fairytale aspect of our stories. But what is the driving force between any Disney, hopefully, the best Disney stories is the truth of them, right.
So, when we’re telling these stories, of course, we’re going to have the long hair and the mythology and the magic and what’s going to be happening, you know, in the fun part of it. But if we don’t tell that heart story and that real story about these real characters, then that’s, we’re missing our opportunity. So, whenever I go home, and my daughters are telling me about their friends and boys they’re dealing. They’re arguing with me about something and my wife, and I are talking, disagreeing about how to do something with them. Those are the things that hopefully we’re pouring into the stories that the kids are going to have fun watching the magic but the parents are going to, and hopefully the older kids and even all the kids will have a better view into, into the stories, the emotional sides of it.
I love that Rapunzel is back to blonde. Why was that decision made?
Chris: Well, I mean, ultimately her name’s Rapunzel, right, long blonde hair. You know, if you’re going to tell a story about the Hulk you’re not going to tell like about a dog, right. You know, he’s got to be big and green. And I think Rapunzel has to be long blonde hair for it to just read as the character. But really for me, the trick about it and what ultimately was the trick for the filmmakers in the original movie was to give the hair a reason for being blonde and for being long and in our case, being uncuttable.
So, the big question that we always ask in the story was always why. Why do these things exist? Why are we telling the story? And, you know, her hair represents her personality. It’s bigger than life and bright. It’s long. It shines. It’s magical. It is pretty much who Rapunzel is. And so, and then the added layer of it, which is being unbreakable has its reason for being that we’re going to get into as we go along in the story. But it always should always go back to serving the purpose of why does it exist this way.
I love the journal aspect. Is there any special meaning behind that quote at the beginning? “Plus est en vous.” (“There’s more in you.” )
Chris: Sure, yeah, it’s two things. Number one, again, I’m very much fed by my daughters. My older daughter, Arianna, Queen Arianna I mean, I named the Queen after her. And the reason we named her after my daughter is because right when we were breaking the story and figuring out what everything was going to be, she had gone on this trip to Mexico with a huge group of people to build houses for people, kids in Mexico.
And again, she was 14 and had just turned 14, and she was going on this big trip. I didn’t know if she was ready for it. I didn’t know if I was ready for it. My wife and I would like she old enough to do, like go by herself and everything. And there seem to be this kind of like the questioning of, you know, is she prepared for this. She’s our baby. She ready for this life of traveling beyond the borders and all this kind of huge life excitement. And she went, and she had come back, and they had given her these journals to kind of take notes and get to know people and stuff.
And when she had come back the little journal was completely covered in drawings of the little girls that she met and how she learned how to put a hinge on a door and she learned how to do all this fun stuff. She kept all these drawings of her journey. And I was like that’s what Rapunzel would do. She would keep a like she’s very creative. She’s very much a storyteller, and that’s how she would do it. So, we immediately said well, let’s give Rapunzel a journal that she can keep a record, she’s going to want to paint on the road.
So, we gave her this journal, and then the added element of the inscription came very much from the movie, Glenn Keane who created the character of Rapunzel for the film, had come and I was talking to him about what we wanted to do with the show, and he had done this quick drawing for me. I said give me a drawing that’s going to encourage me for years as we go into the show. And he had done this picture, this beautiful drawing of Rapunzel and on it he wrote, ‘Plus est en vous,’ and I was like what is that?
We had this phrase that we were using just in the story rooms of like you know, at the end of the movie all of her magic is gone, but she squeezes out one last drop of magic out of her. And he said the reason behind that, the meaning behind that is that we all have more in us that we can push through it and he was telling me like when you feel like you’re at the end of your ropes, if you can’t give any more, push through and there’s always more inside of you. And I thought that was such a beautiful sentiment and I thought that the mother would give it to Rapunzel as like listen, everybody has these expectations of you of a princess, of a daughter, of a girlfriend.
But there’s more to you than everybody else has expected of you and show the world what that is and keep a record of that in this journal. So, the phrase means there’s more in everybody. There’s more inside of Eugene and more inside of Pascal. There’s more inside of Corona than everybody just sees on the surface.
The design style is much different than it is in the movie. What was the inspiration for the design for the series?
Ben: So, one of the things that Chris and I both come from old-school traditional, 2-D Disney background. We both started a little over 20 years ago, and so just our passion for that feeling of like a good Disney traditional animated film I think drove us early on to be like hey man, we got an opportunity to push the side of it. And just from a bigger story point, we sat down, and we were like if this is Rapunzel telling her story, by the time this whole series is over, this should feel like Rapunzel told us her story. So, we really embraced the whole ideological side of doing a 2-D series
What are you most proud of about continuing Rapunzel’s story?
Chris: Oh, man, for me, just honoring the original. It’s always been a huge priority of mine to not only honor the work that was laid out by Nathan and Byron on their original film and Glen Keane who created the character, not only honor that but keep true to the characters. That was always my marching orders from Glen Keane who created the character. It was always, just be true to who she is. And I think we’ve done a really good job of that.
Ben: I mean that goes hand-in-hand with I think both of us are on the exact same mission statement that way. Not only do we have friends that have worked on these features we’ve also been in situations where we worked on features that have been translated. You just have such a passion for not only for the filmmakers but how many hands there are in Tangled. I mean Tangled is an insane property. I go on Tumblr and even on Facebook and see comments. Or on YouTube and see comments and you’re just like “man, these people love these characters”.
We have like a duty to make sure that we’re doing right by these characters. These people that love these characters so much that it’s an awesome responsibility.
I’m one of those. I’m like don’t mess this up. Don’t screw this up.
Chris: We are right there with you. We are right there with you.
TANGLED: BEFORE EVER AFTER (premieres Friday, March 10th at 8/7c)
TANGLED: THE SERIES (debuting Friday, March 24th at 7:30/6:30c)
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*I attended a special screening and Q & A session for Tangled: Before and After to share my experience with my readers. All opinions are my own.