Since Zachary Levi’s show Chuck kicked off its fourth season Monday, I thought I would give you the interview I had with him for Tangled first. If you haven’t checked out my first two set visit reports, you can catch up right here: part 1 | part 2. During the interview, I only had time to cover a few topics because Levi’s astounding appreciation for Disney kept bubbling up. You will just have to read the interview to really get the full effect, so join me after the break for the highlights and the full transcript.
First, I have to say that Zach was a pleasure to talk with. He has an enthusiastic appreciation for Disney and is exactly the kind of person you want to voice one of these iconic characters. Now, onto the highlights.
How he got involved with Tangled:
- He was sold as soon as he heard it was the new Disney animated musical.
Was he sad that his character was turned into a thief?
- When he got the script he was already a thief, and he loved that; flips the stereotype.
What are some of his favorite Disney films?
- Aladdin is tops, but he has a huge appreciation for the entire catalog. Especially the shorts like Lambert the Sheepish Lion and Pecos Bill.
Appreciate any animated films more now?
- Explains that he loves re-watching them with some of his friend’s kids nowadays.
- Spontaneously remembers Alice in Wonderland and goes on a rant about how great that film is.
Is this a play to get into Haunted Mansion with Guillermo del Toro (he is a huge fan of GDT):
- He says that now he is going to hold out on all press until he gets a part.
- Goes on a tangent about how great del Toro is.
How did you get involved with Tangled?
Zachary Levi: I just got a call from my people saying they had an audition for Disney’s new animated musical and I was… sold. I’m a huge Disney nut. I have been since I was a little kid. I’ve always dreamt of doing voices for Disney animation, especially musicals because I love singing too. So the whole idea was a win, win, win, win. So I went in and auditioned and read, then sang a song. [Byron Howard and Nathan Greno] were like, “That’s great, come back and sing our song.” Which is basically the one I ended up singing in the movie with Mandy [Moore] and once I did that I got the job. So it’s been… like a year I guess. Every six weeks or whatever I will go in and do a day of voice recording and it has just been pieced together over the last year and it’s amazing to see it all come together. It’s crazy.
What was your influence for Flynn Rider?
Levi: Well, the voice was really just a slight variation of my own. I just felt like because it’s not set in modern day and even though it’s a fictitious world it’s still kind of set in a medieval renaissance world and I wanted to feel a little bit more appropriate for that. So, just cleaned up my own diction and made things a little bit more polished in that regard. Because while Flynn Rider is really Eugene Fitz Herbert of very modest and humble beginnings, he puts on Flynn Rider who is always very charming. So I felt like his diction would be clean and he’d be more that guy. But it’s still me for the most part. Then as far as the character himself, that is really in the writing and the pages a lot, and even in the level of animation (points to a picture of Flynn with a huge smirk on his face); that’s Flynn Rider. You know that. He’s got a lot of other heroic poses, but that… grin. He’s a little smug sometimes, and smug goes a long way. He’s definitely cocky and arrogant, but he also has that soft, gooey core that Rapunzel is able to percolate out of him, and he’s better off because of it.
Were you approached when your character was still a prince or had he already been changed into a thief?
Levi: Oh, God, no, he was already a thief when I had first read it. He was never a prince, he was always a thief, and I loved that because it turns that archetype on its head. It’s no longer a prince and princess, it’s a young, woman who has been stuck in a tower her whole life without any of those royal trappings, and then a guy who is the farthest thing from that. I mean, he’s only in the kingdom to steal something. So I thought that was great.
You’re a self-professed Disney freak, so what are some of your favorites and do you still go opening day?
Levi: Occasionally, occasionally. Some of my past favorites… Aladdin is probably, if I had to pick one movie that was my favorite Disney movie, it would be Aladdin. But that’s just because of where I was as a kid at that time. Aladdin was around 1993, so I was still young and still really with it. The animation was great and Robin Williams was just unbelievable as the Genie, and the music, Alan Menken, was so good. It was just an amazing adventure you get to go on and it was finally a hero for the guys. It wasn’t a princess or a girl who beats the odds, it was this street-rat, I don’t buy that… I loved it. But look, I have two sisters so I saw Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, I’ve seen almost all of them and I have a lot of love for all of them. But Aladdin was definitely my favorite. And after that, you can go Robin Hood and Jungle Book… Peter Pan… The Rescuers. I mean, so many movies. Disney has been a part of making so many incredible movies, and so many that were a part of shaping who I am as a person, and even beyond that, there are a slew of Disney shorts that were incredibly well made. Pecos Bill and Paul Bunion, and Johnny Appleseed… stuff like Ferdinand the Bull and Lambert the Sheepish Lion… Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, and great scores, great composition, great animation. You watch them and you get a life high out of it. Even now, like I’ll go on YouTube and watch them, although the quality isn’t great. I mean, I own a lot of them. You can buy these really cool collector’s sets from the Disney vault. They have a multitude of them, and I could go through them over and over. I just think they are so well done and I liked Warner Bros. cartoons as well, but I always felt like Disney’s animation was more excellent. WB had more of an adult spin on their stuff, whereas Disney had more heart. As a kid, that’s what you are looking for and that’s what you want. So, yea, I’m definitely a Disney fan.
Speaking of that difference, are there any animated films you are a bigger fan of now that you grew to appreciate?
Levi: I think all of them continue to hold up. I actually enjoy the process of re-watching them with my friend’s kids who will come over and I’ll watch from time to time. We’ll show them all the… oh, Alice in Wonderland! Dude, Alice in Wonderland… just the animated film is epic. It’s so good and it’s almost like one of those things where you kind of feel like it’s meant to be an animated film. I thought Disney did a good job with the live-action Alice in Wonderland, but there’s something about animation that, especially with a movie like that, that’s so kind of out of the box. You know, she’s down the rabbit hole and you have all these really random characters like the dodos…
Levi: Yea! The Cheshire cat and all that stuff. Instead of seeing live action with CG, with animation it’s all the same kind of weird, fluid painting that you’re just going with. *slaps table* Amazing… amazing, and great score, again. Great animation, great score… I can watch any of them and, like any great film, no matter what point you watch it in life, you’ll get something out of it that’s a little bit different and you appreciate. Even though they were made outside of the overall Disney umbrella or entity, or, like Pixar, and now they are back together again, thank God for that. I mean, John Lasseter and the collective geniuses at Pixar continue to make some of the best movies, I think, maybe we’ll ever see, honestly. Because they continue to write incredible stories, and if you don’t start with story, then you have nothing after that.
Ok, so last question here. Is this a power play to get on Disney’s good side to get into Haunted Mansion with Guillermo del Toro (he is still deciding on whether to direct or not, but he is writing and producing it)?
Levi: Oh, he is doing that, huh? Oh gosh… No, I hadn’t even thought about that but now that you’ve put the idea in my head, now I’m just going to hold out on any more press until they put me in the movie. [laughs] Oh, I’d love to do that. That would be amazing. I think Guillermo del Toro is one of the most talented dudes… and, and, he’s one of the sweetest guys. He’s unbelievably kind and unbelievable nice…
Levi: Oh, and super funny. Super smart and just grounded. When you get to meet somebody like that, and see somebody like that, you appreciate… everything more. Because you get to see someone who has been given that kind of gift and they don’t lord it over anyone. They know that what they have is a gift, and it doesn’t change them as a person and they’re still willing to share a conversation. Ah, that would be amazing.
That ended our conversation, but if there was any curiosity if Levi is a fan of Disney, I think it is definitely an emphatic yes. The man really knows his stuff and was extremely excited to talk about his love of Disney (if you couldn’t tell). Zach basically wasted most of my interview time talking about other Disney films, but who can blame him? There is a lot to praise this company for, and I think Tangled adds to the list. Make sure you stick around as I will be posting the other three interviews throughout the week.