As a writer for MovieScribes.com, I recently was given the opportunity to participate in an online roundtable discussion with members of the media and the creators of Disney's latest animated feature, Tangled. Below are the transcripts of the two events, which include lots of interesting behind-the-scenes information about the film. The 7th question asked is from me, answered by director Nathan Greno. After enjoying these, hop on over to MovieScribes.com to read my full review of the movie and the Blu-ray, which will be available on March 29, 2011.
Virtual Roundtable Event, March 16, 2011 with Directors Nathan and Byron Howard
Moderator: Hello everyone and welcome to the Virtual Roundtable. We look forward to your questions and thank you for your interest in Tangled on Disney 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD!
Question: Did you meet each other while working on Mulan?
Byron Howard: Nathan and I knew of each other while we were working at the Florida studios, Nathan went through his training internship a year or so after me, but we really became friends during the production of Bolt. Nathan was our head of story on that project and I was one of the directors. At the end of Bolt, Lasseter hand picked Nathan to direct the Bolt short (for the DVD) and that led to him becoming a director and teaming up with me on Tangled.
Question: What was the involvement of John Lasseter in this film?
Nathan Greno: John is fantastic to work with. He approves everything we do, and he helps with brainstorming. John is an amazing mentor. I have really learned a lot from him. I can't say enough great stuff about the guy!
Question: In the trailer you used several sequences that didn't end up in the movie. Why leave them in if they weren't part of the finished product?
Byron Howard: Very observant! That's very true: in the initial teaser trailer we created an "alternate reality" version of how Flynn and Rapunzel first meet. This was because many of those scenes were experimental scenes to test the hair and animation technology that we were developing. We liked the tone of the pieces and thought they would be a great first look for the public.
Question: What was the hardest sequence to deal with in this movie and why?
Nathan Greno: I'll be honest -- EVERYTHING was a challenge in this film. Rule of thumb: If it comes easy, it could probably be better! We pushed ourselves hard to make every sequence as great as it could be.
Question: You have Bolt, which is an action movie, and Tangled which is a fairy tale. What would you like for your next movie?
Byron Howard: Nathan and I started work on our next project about six months before we finished Tangled. It's got action movie elements, definitely, but most importantly it's got a strong emotional core... that's really the first thing we go after when creating these stories. The actual subject of the film is top secret but believe me when I tell you that if you liked what you saw in Tangled, you will love our next film.
Question: What was your reaction when Tangled got a PG rating instead of the G rating most Disney princess films get?
Nathan Greno: We feel like the film sits on the shelf next to Beauty and the Beast. We aren't sure why it got the PG rating -- but we went with it. We didn't feel like there was anything to "fix".
MovieScribes.com: I haven't always appreciated the comic relief of some Disney characters, but I highly enjoyed Maximus the Horse. From what/whom did you draw inspiration to put together his dynamic personality?
Nathan Greno: We just wanted to do something different with Max. We put together a board with photos of all the different animated horses that had been done... we wanted to do something fresh and new. We wanted Max to feel unique. Glad you like the way he turned out.
Question: What does mean the line 'chameleon babies' mean in the very end of the titles?
Byron Howard: I love that people stick around until the end of the credits and see the "Chameleon Babies" credit. Pascal, our chameleon hero in Tangled, is actually based on a real, live chameleon named Pascal. The real lizard is owned and cared for by Kellie Lewis, an animation artist here at the studio. It just so happened that when we were putting together our traditional "Production Babies" credits, Pascal became a father! His chameleon life-partner laid six eggs which hatched into tiny baby chameleons. My favorite is "Nathan Jr.".
Question: Is there a sequence you're most proud of, and why?
Byron Howard: The way Nathan and I work is that initially, we will have favorite sequences and characters in the film. At that point, we say "Great, these are working, now how can we bring everything else around it up to the same level?" That way, by the end of production, the entire film is rock solid, which makes it very hard to pick a favorite. That said, the lantern sequence is a real milestone for sheer breathtaking beauty here at Disney. I'm also very, very proud of the incredibly subtle emotional acting in the final sequences of the film.
Nathan Greno: Casting was a long process. We went to hundreds of auditions for both Flynn and Rapunzel. When Mandy came in, we knew we had our Rapunzel. Mandy IS Rapunzel. Same with Zac. We wanted our characters to feel real... we wanted them to be relatable. I feel like Zac and Mandy provided that. They were easy and fantastic to work with.
Question: Given how hard you and Glen Keane worked on Tangled, were you disappointed when it didn't receive an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film?
Nathan Greno: The ENTIRE crew worked hard on the film. People worked seven day weeks and skipped holidays -- everyone wanted to make Tangled great. We are all so proud of the work we've done. Would we have liked an Oscar nod? Sure. But I have to say, the true reward is working on a film people love. The audience loves this film. I didn't get into animation to win awards, I wanted to entertain people. We're all very proud of the work we've done.
Question: Since John Lasseter took over as Disney Animation's creative director, all your films have been "princess" films. Why is this?
Byron Howard: Actually, there have been a few that weren't, like Meet the Robinsons and Bolt. That said, there was a period where we had three fairy tales lined up in a row, Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Snow Queen. That kind of release slate felt too crowded with those types of stories and the decision was made to postpone Snow Queen to break it up a bit. It's important that the audience know that Disney Animation is diverse. Disney should be able to release an animated action movie one year, a sci-fi film the next, and a musical fairy tale the year after that. Ultimately, the quality of the films is what matters.
Question: Given that so many studios are making CGI animated films these days, what is Disney doing to stand out in an increasingly crowded market?
Nathan Greno: Our goal is to tell great stories. Our goal is to create believable worlds and fanastic characters. We want our audience to laugh and cry. We want them to be entertained. We can't worry about all the other films out there -- we just focus on making our films work. We believe if you make a great film, the audience will show up to see it. That's our focus.
Question: When was it decided to make Tangled more about Flynn Ryder and less about Rapunzel? Did it have anything to do with the perception that the Princess and the Frog was considered "too girly"?
Byron Howard: As we were working on the film, we discovered that this story was about both characters. The film doesn't work without Rapunzel, certainly, but it also doesn't work without Flynn Rider. We worked very hard to balance our hero and heroine; sometimes Flynn would steal the show so much that we'd have to go back and re-board some of Rapunzel's scenes to make her character more dynamic. What we love is that the final film feels balanced and appeals to both the male and female sides of our audience.
Question: What are your personal Disney-favorites?
Byron Howard: The film that got me into animation in the first place was The Little Mermaid. I was in college studying live action film when I saw that film, and I just said "Wow.". This is something I have to be a part of. Ariel herself was a revelation to me because she was the first Disney heroine who felt real and alive to me, there was a soul behind those eyes. A great part of that appeal that I saw in her came from Glen Keane, who we partnered with on Tangled.
Question: Can you talk about which films have influenced you?
Nathan Greno: Well for me it's Dumbo. It's one of my favorite films of all time. It works EVERY time you watch it. It makes you laugh and cry EVERY time you watch it. I saw Dumbo when I was a kid and I knew I had to work for Disney. I was in first grade. I didn't understand how animation was made - but I knew I wanted to work for Disney.
Question: Why did you decide to shoot the movie using CG? Would it have been different if you had chosen traditional animation?
Byron Howard: Nathan and I love BIG movies. CG animation gives you this enormous box of tools to play with to enhance and expand the world and characters that you're creating to tell the story. We love traditional hand--drawn animation as well, but to realize the scope of the film Nathan and I had in our heads, CG was really the clear choice.
Question: I saw your film twice in cinema and absolutely loved it! But how could you explain your decision to leave Maximus and Pascal silent? It is pretty unusual for animal-sidekicks in Disney animation films not to talk!
Byron Howard: Great question. Nathan and I are huge fans of silent film comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton. We said to each other "What if Charlie Chaplin was in this movie?" That thinking was a massive part of the decision to keep Maximus and Pascal silent, but expressive. It really worked out, no matter where we went all over the world, people could not get enough of that horse.
Question: What, in your opinion, makes Rapunzel different than all the other Disney heroines?
Nathan Greno: Rapunzel is a princess that doesn't know she's a princess. That makes her different. She's not a girl who sits around waiting to be rescued. She's a tough, smart person -- we wanted this film to be full of 'girl power'. Even those this film takes place in the past, we wanted the characters to feel modern and relatable. We wanted Rapunzel to be a role model for people of our generation.
Question: Can you tell us about the upcoming Blu-ray? What's your favorite aspect of the Blu-ray?
Byron Howard: Blu-Ray allows you to see Tangled as Nathan and I saw it during it's creation. The colors are perfect, the resolution is unbelievable, and the sound is as rich and full as when we mixed it on our recording stage. I love digital media because it preserves the beauty of these films so accurately. Not to mention extensive extras that take you behind the scenes of Tangled.
Question: Almost every Disney story has a second message. What do you think is the underlying message in this film?
Nathan Greno: There are a number of messages in this film. "Live your Dream" is one of the messages we hope will really hit home with people. I grew up in a factory town in Wisconsin. I remember some people from my hometown thought my dream of working for Disney was nuts. I believed in my dream. I worked hard to make it happen. Our studio is filled with people who have stories like mine. Rapunzel believes in her dream. She won't let anything stand in her way to achieve it. We hope the Tangled inspires our audience to live out their dreams too!
Question: What makes a perfect fairytale for you guys?
Byron Howard: Ingredients like emotion, action, adventure, and comedy. Nathan and I want all of these things in every story we tell, whether it's a classic tale or a modern action movie.
Question: Have you expected that Tangled would be that successful?
Byron Howard: It's the best feeling in the world when audiences really love your work. We make these films to entertain, and to move people emotionally, so when your film becomes a hit, you know that you've done your job right. Tangled's massive success was very welcome news, and we know that Disney Animation's future will be full of strong films like this.
Question: How long did it take to make this project?
Nathan Greno: Usually you have 4 to 5 years to create and finish an animated film at Disney. We did it in about 2 years. The film had been in development and it had a release date -- and we were brought on to direct, the studio asked us to hit the release date. Now if we couldn't do it, they would have moved the date... but Byron and I thought it was possible. We work with an amazingly talented crew. A VERY devoted crew. The schedule was hard on us. We worked though most of our weekends and skipped holidays. It was a crazy time. We had a story we wanted to tell and we wanted the film to be great. We made a film in 2 years that looks like it took 5 years to make. That's pretty incredible. I thank the crew for that. We made a film we are all very proud of.
Question: One of John Hughes’ characters said the famous words that when you grow up, your heart dies. I consider Tangled a proof that it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. How did You manage to create such a magical tale, combining both Disney’s and Pixar’s best features?
Byron Howard: I love this question because I love John Hughes. His writing was a great blend of pure entertainment with deep, truthful emotion. As we become adults, I think it's very easy to become numb and distracted by the thousands of details that we have to process each day to live our lives and make ends meet. Films like Tangled are so wonderful because they sweep away all of that for a few hours and remind you of what's really important: love, compassion, trust and hope. That's why Nathan and I focus so much on the emotional core of our movies, if we entertain you but don't move you emotionally, we haven't fully done our job.
Question: What were the biggest challenges in the development of this film?
Nathan Greno: The hair was the biggest challenge. WIthout a doubt. Long realisitic hair had never been done in a CG animated film before. Never. CG hair is usually in a ponytail, or cuts off at the shoulder because anything longer than that is a tech nightmare. Lucky for us, we work with some incredibly smart people! Byron and I were in the story room coming up with this wild stuff, "The hair is going to be used a bullwhip! She's going to tie people up with it! It's going to glow! It's going to get wet!" --all this stuff that hasn't been done before. Our crew got a little pale when they heard our pitch... but they figured it out. They believed in our story. They wanted to bring that story to the big screen. I can't thank our crew enough. They made the impossible work.
Question: What is with the name change from Rapunzel to Tangled?
Byron Howard: During the first year of creating the film, it became clear to Nathan and I that the film was about both characters. It felt weird to us to keep the name of the film as Rapunzel. For example, you wouldn't rename Toy Story as Buzz Lightyear, because Woody is as much a part of that story as Buzz. Knowing that, we started looking for alternate titles. Tangled really appealed to us as a title because it felt smart, and sophisticated but still made it clear that the film was going to be a fun ride.
Question: This movie is sure to be a Disney classic...now, Walt always said 'for every laugh there should be a tear' do you believe this movie Tangled captured that essence?
Byron Howard: We love that quote from Walt Disney. It's a guide for every film this studio makes. We definitely want those tears, every time. We're in the story room trying to make ourselves laugh, and cry, to feel something genuine and real. It's the highest priority for us, and we LOVE when people come up to us and say "I cried three times." That's a great reward.
Question: Which movie are you the most proud of?
Byron Howard: Tangled!
Question: If you could develop an already existing fairytale, which would it be, and why?
Nathan Greno: I think Rapunzel was it! Byron and I love these classic stories -- and Disney brings them to life better than anyone else. Being asked to direct Tangled was a real honor. When people hear Snow White, they think of the Disney version. When people hear Beauty and the Beast, they think of the Disney version. We hope that Disney's Rapunzel will now be the version of the character that stands the test of time.
Question: What are your personal Disney-favorites?
Nathan Greno: Dumbo. It's one of the best movies ever. Animated or live action! I love that film.
Question: Every animation movie today has a 3D version. Is this something that changes the way of imagining and directing a cartoon?
Byron Howard: You have to be very carfeul with 3D. It's very easy to distract from the story by throwing too many eye-popping effects at the audience. The trick is to balance the amazing depth that 3D gives you with the emotion and clarity of the story. Every 3D effect you produce should help the story, not hurt it.
Question: Can you talk about the decision to make this a CGI movie versus doing it in traditional animation?
Nathan Greno: I don't think the hair would have worked in 2D animation. It just would have been a big yellow shape... the texture of the CG hair really helps to sell the character of Rapunzel. We also had a number of BIG action sequences we wanted to do in this film. The CG "camera" is great for that. It's a lot like a live action camera -- but even more flexible. You can move your camera around sets and get any shot you want. 2D and CD animation are both storytelling tools. We very much believe CG was the best choice to bring our story to life.
Question: Tangled is after the excellent Bolt is the second time that you worked as director. In a direct compare with Bolt in what kind of way was the work on Tangled different?
Byron Howard: The scope and complexity of Tangled is huge. Bolt was a simpler story to tell in many ways. The unfortunate thing about both films is that they were both made on extremely short, two year schedules (we normally get four years). I'm immensely proud of both movies but I am staggered by how much our studio has grown and matured between these two movies. You'll see us tackling bigger and bigger films in the future, I promise.
Question: I know you have been working in Disney Studios for many years but I guess you felt a lot of responsibility and pressure in accepting to direct the 50th Walt Disney movie, didn’t you?
Nathan Greno: Yeah it was a TON of pressure. We wanted to make a great film and that is a giant challenge. On top of that, we are working with John Lasseter. Lasseter only accpets the best. On top of that, we found out that this was going to be the 50th animated film from the Walt Disney Animation Studios! Ok! Enough! Are you trying to kill us?? It was a ton of pressure and a ton of work... and we couldn't be happier with the results!
Question: How much was Glen Keane involved in Tangled's production after you took over as directors?
Byron Howard: Glen Keane has been the heart and soul of Disney Animation for the last three decades. Nathan and I were always hoping that we would get to work on a project with him one day. After Nathan and I stepped in as directors Glen worked with our animation staff to create the most extraordinary human animation ever made. The great thing is that we have these young, energetic animators fresh out of school and Glen knows how to guide and channel that energy into amazing performances, pushing them to top themselves scene after scene. It's a great mix of youthful energy and experience.
Question: From Snow White to Rapunzel - why do you think, the Grimms are still popular?
Byron Howard: These classic tales are full of deep, human themes that everyone can relate to. Every great story has that quality at it's core.
Question: How did it come about that Rapunzel was the basis for this film?
Nathan Greno: The idea of turning Rapunzel into an animated film has been around the Disney Studios since the 1930's! We saw a list Walt had made and Rapunzel was listed along with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. It's a great feeling to know Walt Disney wanted to do this film!
Question: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pursue a career in the industry?
Byron Howard: Do what you love, and do it with passion. Passion and dedication will carry you far in any occupation, and especially in the creative arts. When John Lasseter chooses you as a director, it's because he's seen that you have a fire in your belly, so to speak, a burning need to tell these stories and tell them well. Also, write to your heros. I wrote to Chuck Jones years ago, and he wrote me back! Amazing.
Question: How much of Grimm's tale did you use - not mean the story itself, but more in terms of thinking about the characters?
Byron Howard: What we loved about the original tale of Rapunzel was that it had the potential to be a great coming of age story. Tangled is really about these two characters figuring out where they belong in the world. Again; deep, relatable, human themes are the key to any great story.
Question: Tangled is Disney's 50th Animated Feature, did that put any pressure on the both of you?
Byron Howard: Yes! But we love pressure.
Question: When selecting the type of music for this movie, were you inspired by other Disney films? Because there are some songs that sound very much a like in style to some of the ones in Enchanted or The Little Mermaid.
Nathan Greno: We wanted the film to relate to the classic films of the Disney legacy, but we wanted to also do something fresh, new and different. Alan Menken was a perfect choice for the music. He has written some of the best Disney music of all time and he was on board for doing something fresh and different. We love that our songs have the same great feeling of The Little Mermaid or Aladdin... but are very different than anything you have heard before. It's exactly the mix we were going for!
Question: Vladimir is spoken (voice acted) by Richard Kiel. So let`s be honest, which of you two is the James Bond Fan that the legendary Jaws gets a voice part in your movie?
Byron Howard: I confess. It's me. We needed someone with a naturally low voice to do Vladimir, and so we asked our casting director to see if Richard Kiel would do it. I'm a HUGE Bond fan and working with Richard was a dream come true. I giggled through the whole recording session.
Question: What's the secret of Pascal's success?
Byron Howard: He's adorable. Just like Nathan and myself.
Question: When Toy Story was released, did you think that this new animation technology will be a blast ?
Nathan Greno: I was very excited to see the original Toy Story. I'm a big fan of that film. I think I was still in college at the time. Little did I know, one day I would be directing a CG animated film! I'm glad animation has continued to grow and change over the years. It makes the industry more exciting to work in -- and the films more exciting to watch.
Question: What's the one thing that the other person does that drives you crazy, and what's the one thing they do that you really admire or wish you could improve on yourself?
Byron Howard: Nathan keeps telling me how handsome I am, which drives me crazy. Although I really admire what a good judge of handsomeness he is.
Question: Any final thoughts on Tangled as we close out this virtual roundtable?
Nathan Greno: I just wanted to say thanks for all the great questions! I just wish I could type faster. This has been a lot of fun for me. Also: a BIG thanks to all who support the film -- Tangled has been a true labor of love for us!
Byron Howard: We're delighted that Tangled has made such a big splash in the world. Wait till you see what we have in store next! Thanks everyone.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011 Roundtable with Glen Keane
Question: How did you reach the amazing organic quality in terms of the character animation? Did you had any special tools/techniques to improve that effect, or is it in the end just the hard work of the artists?
Glen Keane: For me it was very important to find what I call "bridge people." These are people who understand computer and hand drawn animation. They are translators in a sense. John Kahrs and Clay Kaytis where my partners as supervising animators. I call us "the triumvirate." And they found ways to pull me in so I could do what comes naturally to me, draw. We installed a cintiq tablet in our dailies screening room and I would watch the animators recent animation. I could draw over the top of every frame if necessary and the animators would see it large on the screen and those drawings would then appear on each animators computer back in their offices. That way it was a constant natural mentorship throughout the making of this film bringing the appeal of handdrawn into CG.
Question: Hair animation is still one of the most challenging parts in todays cg animation work. How much effort and research did you need end up with such perfect effects?
Glen: We started writing software to animate the hair in 2005. Kelly Ward, who has a PhD in animating computer hair, joined our team and was every bit as creative as I am with a pencil as she was with numbers, equations, concepts and the vision to interpret those elements into a beautiful, flowing, organic hair on the screen.
Question: Can you talk about how the casting of Zachary and Mandy influenced your drawings, if they did at all?
Glen: When you are about to animate a character, the voice has a huge impact on the look of that character. For example, if you are speaking to someone on the phone who you have never met, that voice immediately conjures up images of what that person looks like. Maybe when you meet them they don't look like that but that voice carries the visual DNA in it. I had been listening to a lot of different actresses and Mandy Moore has that irrepresible quality in her voice. And that was the specific word we were using to describe Rapunzel, irrepresisble. Zac has a very carefree irreverance in his personality and voice which affected the way the character moved and also the design. For Rapunzel that irrepresible quality came out in the large eyes that are so expressive and for Zac, this wry smile, the expression that we put into the character really came from listening to Zac's voice.
Question: You’ve said in interviews that you modeled Ariel after you wife, Tarzan after your son and The Beast after yourself. Who was Rapunzel modeled after? Is she in anything like Ariel/Pocahontas?
Glen: Using my family for inspiration is really a part of my own creative DNA. It's what my Dad did when he created The Family Circus, the syndicated cartoon which he based on his own family. Dad said that I was Billy in The Family Circus. Dad always told me to draw what you know and there is nobody that I know better then my wife and children. With Rapunzel she has this irrepresible spirit and right away in thinking through this story I thought, how does she surive in this tower for 18 years? This creative energy in her would have to come out I surmised in the form of artisic expression and I figured Rapunzel would have painted on every square inch of her walls. As I was developing this idea idea, I realized this was my daughter Claire. When she was 7 years old she was telling my wife that she wanted to paint her bedroom walls and ceiling. She had all sorts of ideas of images to paint. My wife said, "I'm not going to let a 7 yearold loose with a paint brush painting the walls of the house" Jump to 13 years later, Claire was attending Academy Julian in Paris, an art school, and when it came time to hire someone to create Rapunzel's artisic style, Claire was the perfect choice. So she started working with me on Rapunzel. When you see Rapunzel paint on the walls you see Claire paint and actually fulfill her dream.
Question: What was it like to work with Ollie and Eric? Did they give you any advice that you still use today?
Glen: It's funny, when I started at Disney 37 years ago I was a 20 year old artist who knew nothing about animation. I had the priviledge of working with Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men." Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Eric Larsen were my mentors. The things they told me were deeply implanted in my mind and throughout the whole process of this movie I repeated those. I felt like i was passing on the baton. I remember Ollie saying, "Don't draw what the character is doing, draw what the character is thinking." It was very important in Tangled that the animators would crawl into the skin of the characters and live in them. You can feel it when an animator believes in what he is animating. Eric Larsen used to say all the time, "The key to Disney animation is sincerity." That translates for an actor to mean take something real in your own experience and put it up on screen. So besides the drawing and design elements, this was more of the intuitive or spiritual element I was trying to bring to the animators, the idea of living in the characters we animate.
Question: Bringing Rapunzel to life had to be a big challenge, because she moves in one way but her hair, as another character, has its own life. Could you explain to us the process to animate her? Did you animate Rapunzel first and then her hair? Which steps did you follow?
Glen: The first step in animating Rapunzel was to design the character with all the bells and whistles necessary to animate incredibly subtle emotion. That meant working closely with modelers and riggers, the people that create the entire nervous system under the skin of a CG character. Then the directors issue the scene to the animator. Byron and Nathan would act the scene out so the animator could watch their expression and body attitude. Sometimes I would do drawings at that moment as I would interpret Byron as Rapunzel doing that same action. The animator then would do a rough first pass of the animation and I would do drawing corrections over the top in our dailies sessions. The directors would then make comments about what they wanted to take out or add or push. Once we had the basic movement down we would animate the hair. Sometimes the animator would control the 14 tubes of hair, each with 10,000 hairs in each tube, or we would have the simulation team animate the hair based on the movement the animator had created with the body. The simulation follows the laws of physics with some extra Pixie dust ingredients that our team of hair animators created.
Question: Which one from your many, many past projects was most defining for your career, and why?
Glen: I would have to say The Little Mermaid because I discovered I love characters who have this burning desire inside that they believe the impossible is possible. Since then I have followed that path, now with Tangled. This charcter of Rapunzel has brought me to a new crossroads. How far can hand drawn affect, or be integrated into, computer animation? I now try to see animation not as CG or hand drawn but simply as filmmaking.
Question: Your background is huge. How hard is it for you to step into that digital world now and in which parts can you count on you massive experiences from the past?
Glen: At first I was very tentative about how I could influence CG with my pencil. I have to say that I don't know how to animate on the computer but I have never been afraid of the computer. John Lasseter and I did the very first computer animation test back in the 80's so I have always seen computer animation wherever it crosses the path of hand drawn, forcing me to draw better and to think more sculpturally. Drawing on the cintiq over top of computer images was very natural and fluid. I could even animate very quickly live in front of the room full of animators and demonstrate how I felt the action could play. Drawing is an incredibly affective tool to communicate ideas. It really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Question: Would you call Tangled a feminist movie? Your female characters, regardless of who they are, good or bad, are strong and persevering.
Glen: I don't think of Tangled as a feminist or non feminist movie. I think of Rapunzel as an example of the hightest qualities of human nature, male or female. I see her as a illustration of every human being who is born with a devine spark, a potential to become something unique. And the walls that surround her and hold her back are symbolic of walls in anyone's life, those things that hold us back from being who we really long to be. Yes that is feminist and masculinist and humanist.
Question: What has been your favorite film to work on for Disney?
Glen: It's a little like who is your favorite child? Every film holds some very special moments in my life. Arial was a character that launched a renaissance and that will always be perhaps the most special. Tangled in a very similar way is a launching pad for what I hope will be a new renaissance and someday in retrospect I hope to say the same thing about Tangled as I said about The Little Mermaid. I do believe the greatest moments in Disney history have been launched by fairytales.
Question: What´s your opinion about the Disney Animation evolution?
Glen: Disney animation needs to continue to evolve, embracing both it's hand drawn heritage and the newest inventions of CG. It's funny but hand drawn animation at Disney has a look that was created out of technical limitations, i.e painting on cells. CG can liberate us from this restrictive form. It's a future I am anxious to be a part of.
Question: Your Dad drew The Family Circus, a single-panel comic strip that I enjoyed growing up. I didn’t know it at the time, but you were apparently the model for Billy. What effect did seeing yourself as a comic strip character have on you or the way you approach animation?
Glen: When I draw, I become the character that I draw. Perhaps I owe that to seeing myself portrayed in my dad's comics as a child.
Question: How has your father influenced your work in animation?
Glen: My dad is an entertainer. Every dinner with him was an opportunity to tell jokes and entertain the family. I always wanted that opportunity to be on stage and to entertain. At the same time. my dad encouraged me to approach art from a classical standpoint. When I was 10 he gave me a book called Dynamic Anatomy, and I started to study drawing the figure from the inside out: muscles, skeleton, design. These two aspects of entertainer and artist that my dad encouraged have found the perfect blend in animation.
Question: When did you decide to give Rapunzel brown hair in the end? Was that part of the story from day one, or something that came up later in the making of the movie?
Glen: The brown hair developed in the process of telling the story. We needed to show that the hair died or lost it's power. Color is the clearest way of doing that. It was difficult at first to imagine Rapunzel as a brunette, but ultimately it reinforced the theme that outward appearances don't define who we really are.
Question: How do you start drawing a character? It is just a matter of inspiration or maybe it implies a long period of study?
Glen: The development of a character for me is a very personal journey. I have an odd belief that the character already exists before I start to draw them. Similar to what Michelangelo describes in setting a figure free from the marble that surrounds it. This liberation may happen quickly or slowley but there is definitly a moment when the character rises out of the paper and I recognize them. It's a wonderful day when that happens.
Question: Which is your favourite Disney character hairstyle of all time?
Glen: The hairstyle is very important because it is like someones signature. Rapunzel and Ariel vie for that special honor of having the favorite hairsytle for me. They both have the distincitive swoop that I emphasize for the doll makers and the merchandise books to follow. Both hairstyles have rythm and volume. There is a sensuality to hair that I am fascinated with, it's movement, it's feel and this softening effect it can have on the audience's attraction to that character.
Question: What inspires you in you work? How much time do you need to draw a character?
Glen: I find great joy in experiencing the emotions and physical actions of the characters I animate. The challenge of Tangled was to enjoy that experience through the hands of other animators. I find that I feel like a proud papa in seeing each animator take moments of their own life and put that on the screen, whether it is Mother Gothel, Flynn, Maximus or Rapunzel.
Question: Tangled was first titled Rapunzel Unbraided. It was changed because the story focuses on Rapunzel and Flynn equally. It remained unchanged in parts of Europe however. Do you think Rapunzel isn’t just about Rapunzel? And the hair…
Glen: Back in the early stages of Rapunzel, there was a desire to portray the fairytale in a very modern twist, thus the title Rapunzel Unbreaided. Ultimately, I wanted to embrace the classic fairytale and set that title aside, as well as that story.
Question: If the loss of her hair symbolized the loss of her power to heal, then how did her tears heal Flynn? Is it an inherent power within her that works even without singing or her hair?
Glen: The healing tear was an important element in the original fairytale. It always symbolized for me that the true nature of Rapunzel's gift came from her heart, not her hair. This dramatic ending allows us to revisit a similar moment from Dumbo. When he loses his magic feather and can still fly, he can fly because that's who he was, a flying elephant. Rapunzel finds that the healing power never left her and is actually released by love. Does she keep healing every time she sheds a tear? I believe that was the last of that power.
Question: How much video reference was done for Tangled? I was really impressed at how believably the characters moved in a lot of scenes.
Glen: The animators had the habit of filming themselves. Sometimes in dailies we would critique the live action that they showed of themselves acting out the scenes. You could select key frames and build a very simplified verison of their acting suitable for animation and then build on those poses, exagerating. We would do that by drawing and pushing the curves of the CG figure, enhancing expressions. But the final effect still held its roots in that original performance that the animator filmed in his or her office. Some of the most amazing animators on the film were a team of female animators who really poured themselves into the character of Rapunzel.
Question: This might be a tough question for you to answer, given not just Disney’s push but all the studios’ collective push for 3D, but if there were no outside pressures or preferences, would your preference have been to make a 2D or 3D film? Can you explain?
Glen: On John Lasseter's first day at Disney Animation as president, he came down to my office and gave me the choice to animate Rapunzel in 2D or CG. I told John if he had asked me three years ago I would have said 2D for sure but for the last three years I had been building a team around me with the idea that there was a better synthesis of the best of 2D and the best of CG possible. We had a new vision of what animation could be and I really wanted to persue that goal. So I told John, lets do it in CG.
Question: A chicken and egg question. How developed were the main characters of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider before you went looking for the right voice talents? Or did the talents come first, with the characters scarcely developed?
Glen: We had the characters very clearly defined before we found the voices. So Mandy and Zac were the perfect match for what we envisioned.
Moderator: Thank you Glen and thank you all for joining us today for this virtual roundtable! Thank you for your interest in Tangled on Disney 3D, Blu-ray and DVD!