When I looked through the talent available to interview during my Tangled press day at Disney, Mandy Moore immediately caught my attention. Mandy was a star at the same time of Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Jessica Simpson, yet she managed to avoid the fall from grace of her peers and has avoided the overexposure that the 24 hour news cycle generally favors. So, when she puts her name on a high-profile project like Disney’s 50th animated film, you don’t pass up the opportunity to sit down and talk with her. Join me after the break for the highlights and full transcript of the interview as we discuss hair, working with Alan Menken, her favorite Disney films, and more.
Yes, Mandy is as lovely in person as she is on TV and any other medium you might view her. However, what was really refreshing was how genuine she was. Yes, she is peppy and full of youthful excitement, but it’s not a front. Everyone I spoke with from Disney seemed to have the same description of Mandy: sweet. Before the interview really began, she remarked about how long the day must have been for me (pshh, I’m at Disney!) and we ogled the incredible artwork all around the walls. The room was actually where she first came in to work on Tangled a year and a half ago or so. “Where it all started,” she dreamily opined and then laughed. Mandy added that it was covered from ground to ceiling in storyboard and concept art at the time.
As promised, here are the brief highlights and then our great chat.
Does she still watch Disney films?
- She wishes she could watch more.
- She feels odd if she doesn’t have a small child with her at the theater for the animated films.
What was it like to work with Alan Menken?
- She was a huge fan before.
- She had a blast because he knew exactly what he wanted and showed her that you can add emphasis to the lyrics within the style.
What does she love about this film?
- She felt it married the classic styling of the best Disney films with new technology and a contemporary feel.
Collider: So, let’s just jump in. How did you get involved with Tangled?
Mandy Moore: I auditioned several times and then lucked out and got to be a part of it. But I remember getting word about the fact that this film was happening and kind of being the quintessential girly fan of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast. Those were like seminal movies of my childhood so the idea, the prospect of joining that kind of…
Moore: Yea, that legacy! That lineage of these Disney icons was… kind of overwhelming and really an honor. I never really could have imagined something like this happening. Cuz it’s fun! I get to sort of forever… for the rest of time it will live on. [laughs] There will always be little Rapunzel Barbies out there and dolls, and toys.
And Halloween costumes
Moore: Exactly! So it is sort of this really crazy adventure to be a part of.
What was it like to work with Alan Menken?
Moore: *Whispers* Oh, my God, so cool. *Whispers* Again, and like being a huge fan of all of those movies and all of that music, it was… surreal being in the studio with him. And he’s such a character.
He’s a really nice guy.
Moore: And he’s brilliant and he’s so hands on, and so involved. Not only in the composition of the music, but actually… line for line, or word for word, saying, “I want this word to punch” or “I want the emphasis to come at the end of the line.” He was really good at being a great guide for what he sort of specifically wanted out of each song. It was really helpful to me, not ever having done music for a character before. It’s so different going in the studio and singing your own music and you don’t really think about making sure that the message of the song or the idea behind the song comes across to people. Because it’s in your head, it’s in your heart, whatever, but it’s… different when you’re playing a character and you’re singing as the character. There’s just a lot more involved in that, I guess.
So, did you have a collaborative effort with him?
Moore: No, no no. [Laughs]. That all sort of came from him. But it was great to have the opportunity to work with somebody who had such a clear-cut idea of what he wanted. That’s kind of the ultimate… because you can, for days, come up with new little things to do or try, but when someone really knows how to give you that kind of guidance to guide you into exactly what they are looking for for the character, it’s… perfect. It was fun.
Obviously you get a chance to play a princess in Tangled, but you also get to sing, so both of your talents (she laughs at that) are utilized. How was that experience?
Moore: It was a lot of fun. I never had the opportunity to do something quite like this. I felt like it really… engaged that side of me that is a huge fan of musicals and dream about doing a musical one day. This was sort of like crossing over into that side. I would say the only challenging part was employing that bit of acting in the music and the singing that I didn’t really think about until I was there in the moment, in the studio, going, “Oh, OK, right,” I’m not just suddenly being Mandy and singing. You know, I have to be Rapunzel and so there is a sense of maintaining this character that was really interesting to me. I never would have expected that. I thought it would sort of be the easiest part of the job, but it was more challenging than doing the dialog, I would say.
You are obviously a Disney fan, but are you still a big animation fan? Do you go opening weekend?
Moore: Ahhh, I would say that I don’t get around to seeing as many animated films as I would want to nowadays. I always feel a little funny, like I have to have a small child with me [laughs] as an excuse. But I still manage to find a way of seeing them.
Renting or buying them…
Moore: Yea, whether it’s watching it on DVD or on a plane. But there is something about indulging in the fantasy of these worlds and these stories that never gets old. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, there’s something… I think as you get older there’s something so sentimental about…
Moore: Yea, bringing yourself back in a way. To something I love. And what I loved so much about the movie when I finally saw it was that it had the combination of the best of everything you loved about those classic Disney animated films kind of really met with the perfect amount of contemporary edge with the CGI…
And the action…
Moore: Yea, exactly! But it was funny without trying to go for the adult audience and that kind of sense of humor. It just was what it was; it was funny because it was funny, and it’s like, adults will find it funny and kids will find it funny. But there was something I really appreciated about that, instead of completely playing to one side or the other. I felt like they found a really good middle ground.
So, obviously your character, Rapunzel, has 70 feet of hair. How long would you ever grow out your hair?
Moore: [Laughs] I don’t know if I would grow it out past the middle of my back. Because any woman with long hair will tell you it’s a lot of responsibility; it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot to maintain. All of that hair…
That’s why I keep mine short…
I’ve actually had hair down to my shoulders in the past…
Moore: It’s a lot of work, right?
Moore: I mean, the blow drying, the shampoo, all the products… There’s a whole lot more that goes into it.
So, as my final question I want to know if this role hit a nerve with you? Obviously you were a bit of a super star singer at a young age
Moore: I dunno about that… [giggles]
Oh, come on. [Laughs]. Did you have kind of a sheltered life?
Moore: I did, I did. I’m happy about my life, but yea… I definitely could relate to that sense of… I mean I wasn’t sequestered in a tower or anything. But I think I lead a much more sheltered life than my friends even. [Pause] So I could relate to maybe the naiveté and that sense of wonder of, “Wow… everyone is good”. [Laughs] You know, I think she definitely has a really positive outlook on the world and maybe that sense of curiosity and embracing the unknown. I think I still have a bit of that. I kind of feel in a way all of us will forever be asking those questions of ourselves. Who am I and how do I fit in in the world and what is all this about? Because those aren’t really… there are no answers to those questions in a sense. The most pressing thing for her was that there was something missing, “I feel like I’m meant to do something more.” And clearly it was because there was this whole other part of her that she didn’t know about; she wasn’t aware of. But I think some of those more universal themes are something that we can all relate to and we’ll always sort of question.
As you can clearly tell, Mandy has a great respect for the past Disney films and I can’t wait for everyone to see the finished product (myself included). I have one final interview with directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno to post, but you can catch up on part 1 and part 2 of my set visit and my interviews with Zachary Levi and Alan Menken while you wait. Tangled hits theaters on November 24th in stereoscopic 3D and regular 2D.