When Disney comes calling, most people jump. That’s exactly what I did Thursday afternoon when I nabbed an offer to cover the Walt Disney Character Creation panel. On hand were Glen Keane (animation supervisor), Jin Kim (character creator), Mark Kennedy (head of story), and co-directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno. During the panel, they discussed Disney’s upcoming Tangled, which is the 50th animated film in the illustrious history of Walt Disney Animation Studios.
After the break, check out the highlights from the panel; if you are anticipating Tangled, you will want to stay tuned next week for my exclusive one-on-one interview with Byron Howard and Nathan Greno.
First off, the unfortunate nature of these panels is they show off goodies that just the audience gets to experience. Meaning, no pictures or video were allowed of what was shown on screen. However, that doesn’t mean what was said during the hour-long panel wasn’t interesting. As promised, the highlights:
Keane described that he first began developing the story in 1996. Rapunzel is naïve and held back, but intelligent. She has the power to transform others.
Co-directors Howard and Greno pointed to Ariel from The Little Mermaid as their “ah-ha” moment with a female lead in a Disney film. Ariel was the first “real” female Disney character, and Keane happens to be behind that character as well.
Howard and Greno fell in love with Rapunzel’s hair because it was so unique. They wanted to do something with this incredibly long hair. So they started thinking that she could use it as a whip, like Indiana Jones.
Howard and Greno said that Rapunzel’s character needed a foil, someone who knows his way around and can show her the world. That is where Flynn Rider comes in. But they didn’t want a prince; it has been done so many times! So they said, “let’s turn it on its head” and made him a thief.
While developing Flynn Rider’s character, they really wanted to nail the look. That was when they had the “hot man meeting” with the female crew. They posted pictures of famous handsome men and worked carefully to craft the image of Flynn, even at the expense of themselves. Howard and Greno were a bit worried that it would turn out like Frankenstein with all of these pieces, but they truly feel they created a great character.
Finally, Keane discussed how he started developing Rapunzel in 2001 and presented it to former Disney president Michael Eisner. Despite Eisner telling him that he loved the idea, he wanted it done in CG. Keane was hesitant because CG wasn’t quite as fluid or organic as hand-drawn pictures. That was when Eisner asked why it couldn’t be, and so Keane saw it as a challenge and got to work.
They showcased the storyboard of Rapunzel and Flynn’s first meeting when he sneaks up the tower to hide and also showed the evolution of the look of Flynn Rider. Additionally, they discussed and showcased the difficulties with working with animation versus hand-drawn, and how they really wanted to push the boundaries of CG animation.
Tangled isn’t quite finished yet, as they still have a lot of little touches to complete before the November 24th release date. As I mentioned before, stay tuned next week for my exclusive one-on-one interview with Tangled co-directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno. I ask them everything from the influences on the film, why the heck they chose a chameleon as Rapunzel’s pet, and what they feel about the name change and the supposed marketing towards boys.
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