Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Rest of Flynn and Rapunzel Meet, About the Development of Rapunzel's Character and Why We Needed Pascal

Some more selected bits from the scene where Rapunzel and Flynn meet.

I'm not above squishing the character's face on the floor if it works. In this case I squashed Flynn's face so he could talk in the "pinched nose" voice. It's obvious, I know, but it got a laugh in this it stayed.

These drawings are on tiny 3x5 inch story pads and I did them a long, long time ago - somehow they survived the entire run of the making of the film. Part of why I put Flynn flat on the floor and put Rapunzel up high on the fireplace mantle was because I was trying to make her seem as powerful as possible and make Flynn seem as weak and powerless as possible as she forces him to make a deal with her. Putting her in this powerful position, placing the camera low to look up at her as well as making the camera look down on Flynn and making him look as small as possible and drawing her in such strong poses all made her seem powerful and strong and made him seem weaker and no match for her.

This may seem unnecessary - after all, he's tied to a chair and can't really put up a fight - but those of us on the story team spent many, many, many hours debating how strong and determined to make Rapunzel, and whenever we would screen the film to the studio we would get a lot of notes about that topic. We talked about whether a girl trapped in a tower and isolated from the world her whole life would ever be strong, confident or capable enough to handle (and get the better of) a worldly, experienced guy like Flynn. We wanted the audience to really believe that Rapunzel had spent her whole life locked away without much experience with other people but also that she was a strong, forceful person with a strong will. It was a constant topic for the story team and we talked a lot about Rapunzel and how she would have grown up and developed and how that would have affected her character, as well as how much her personality had come from her real parents (who she'd never met).

We knew we had to strike a delicate balance with Rapunzel because she spends the first eighteen years of her life as a prisoner, locked away in a tower. That could easily have been a grim situation. There were always people who would say that they felt Rapunzel should feel more like her spirit has been broken by her years of imprisonment - that they didn't believe she would still have her strong spirit intact. But we were always conscious that we were making a comedy and we didn't want a grim opening that would make it hard to laugh at the lighter parts to come later in the film. And we didn't want her to feel like a victim. She's already been a prisoner for eighteen years....if she seemed sad or depressed about her predicament you might feel pity for her, and that's not what we wanted. We wanted the audience to like her and root for her, which you don't really feel for people you pity. But at the same time we wanted to be true to the fact that she's a prisoner and that she's trapped in a serious and potentially very dangerous situation, and that if she doesn't take action she will be trapped in a tower forever. So we worked hard and talked things over and over to make sure we were finding the right balance with her.

Which is where Pascal (her chameleon) came into play.

It makes me smile when I see criticisms of "Tangled" that the film has sidekicks thrown in because all Disney movies have them, because our original intention was to not give her a "sidekick" at all. We boarded the film for quite a while without any sidekick for her at all and back then we hoped we would never have to give her one.

On "Tangled" we never did things just because they had been done in Disney films before. We only did things if they were the right things for our movie. And so we didn't want to give her a sidekick just to arbitrarily repeat what had been done before.

Also we wanted her to feel as isolated and alone in the tower as possible. And we wondered whether giving her a sidekick could undercut that feeling and hurt the feeling of empty loneliness we wanted at the beginning.

But in the end we decided we needed him for two reasons:

Number one, because Rapunzel was totally alone in the tower, she had nobody that she could talk to about her feelings, which meant that it would be hard for the audience to know exactly what she was thinking and feeling. That would make it hard for us to get the audience to know her personality and feel for her and root for her. So in the end we realized she needed someone to talk to so we knew what was going on in her head.

There were earlier versions of the film where we considered having her paint faces on all the objects in the tower and talking to those "friends", but it seemed to us that that makes her feel crazy and like she's lost touch with reality. We felt that you would think she's damaged emotionally and that goes to a darker place that makes the film feel less fun.

And number two, Pascal was a big help because, as I mentioned, we didn't want her to feel too strong and capable. We felt that, since she's never been out of her tower or had dealings with people before, she shouldn't always be confident. We wanted her to have occasional moments where she lost her confidence and questioned her capabilities, because her Mother has been filling her head with doubts and undermining her confidence for eighteen years. So we wanted her to have flashes of doubt once in a while to be true to her history, and that's where Pascal came in handy: when her doubts creep in, Pascal is helpful for bucking her confidence back up. After all, nobody else in the film is on her side and nobody else would do it: both Flynn and Mother Gothel want her to lose confidence and return to her imprisonment in the tower.

Anyway, when people ask me why it takes so long for us to get it "right" in story, and why story takes so long when our drawings don't look like we spend much time on them, it's because we spend a lot of our time debating these types of things, arguing with each other and working out the best way to tell the story and the best way to develop the characters. And when we do draw, it's to try out these things and see how they work, and experiment and find the right way to tell the story and how to create the types of characters that people will fall in love with, root for and remember long after they've left the theater.


Mickey Quinn said...

I haven't seen Tangled yet, but I think after reading this I might. You guys obviously put a lot of thought into the story & characters!

ScotlandBarnes said...

I never understand why people are so anti-sidekick. Half of the reason I love classic/B&W Hollywood films is for all the great character actors in supporting roles. Peter Lorre, Walter Brennan, etc - these guys make films great.

Cool boards Mark!

Carrie Liao said...

Wow, thank you so much for such a detailed explanation! It's wonderful to get this kind of behind-the-scenes info and insight on the film.

I was wondering if the boards you posted were a first pass, or a later draft. It's pretty awesome that they made it all the way through.

I read a lot of reviews criticizing Pascal, wondering if he was necessary at it's nice to get a direct explanation about his inclusion. It reminds me of the gargoyles in Hunchback--I didn't particularly like them but thought they effectively emphasized Quasi's loneliness/isolation.

Rodney Baker said...

I think just that little addition alone (giving Rapunzel a good friend like Pascal) more or less saved the film. Not that it would have been a bad movie but as you say... it'd have been grim. Disney has a great track record of memorable films with side-kicks and there is good reason for this success. I'm just glad his presence didn't feel forced. You made Pascal a perfect fit.

Avner Geller said...

Thank you so much for this insightful article! I absoulutely loved tangled! I had really high hopes for the film and was so happy to find that magic spark in it that made all of us fall in love in Disney fims many years ago as kids.

As for Pascal - he is adorable, and as rodney mentioned, Disney has so many great supporting characters, and wethere it's a "forumula" or not, they are relatable characters we remember, and are great to watch, espcially when they help move the story forward and helps us learn more about the lead characters.

Russell Wilkins said...

A great look into the process! Thanks very much!

markjens said...

Mark, this is the kind of work that we rarely have access to, and the process is such a beautiful thing in the animation film or in any creative endeavor. Thank you for giving us a peek inside your 'tower' and allowing us to admire your work from somewhere other than the box office. I hadn't planned on rushing out to see this (my sons are all older now and more apt to see 'action' stuff) but I will now. Thank you for allowing us an front row seat to the making of a great movie!

Anonymous said...

(Um, watch out for spoilers if you're someone reading this who hasn't seen the movie...)

I loved Tangled and definitely understand the need for Pascal, but I was wondering what the thought process behind having him kill off Mother Gothel was.

striker said...

Very nice point! I wish this detailed of an explanation was in the Art of Tangled book.

I have no problems with sidekicks. I actually feel that they are needed in every film. Of course, usually in live action movies they are not called "sidekicks", but they serve the same purpose as classic Disney sidekicks like Jiminy Cricket, Thumper, and Lumiere do. These characters all have very little ark as individuals, but are used to an extreme to help the ark of the main characters. Tangled is no exception. Maximus helped develop Flynn's character and Pascale helped develop Rapunzel's character.

You need both, characters with arks and characters that are constant, in order to make a good movie. I am fine with sidekicks as long as they are unique in their own way and can capture my attention and push the main characters forward. Tangled, for the most part, had those types of sidekicks.

Katya Zoe said...

I love Tangled and Pascal was one of my favorites! I'm going to show everyone your explanation for keeping him there because people have told me that they felt he was unnecessary. I don't know what they are talking about because I love him! your work and your blog is so inspirational. Thank you so much for the work you have done and your willingness to share your insight with the world :)

dancing platypuss said...

Hey there..first of all congrats for the movie, to me it has great storytelling, i think you guys who storyboarded it did a great job...
Buuut... i have to disagree a little about the sideckick thing....From the beguining of the film its pretty clear waht rapunzel thinks about being there locked for her whole life, so im not sure she needed someone 2 talk to... If pascal is a supporting character.. he doestn supports at all.I mean for example the enchanted objests on beauty and the beast , or sebastian on little mermaid do carry an important part of the story since the first ones do want the spell to be broken and the second one helps ariel to fall in love w the prince. But do u think removing pascal out of the movie would have resulted in a worse story? i dont think so.

Anonymous said...

this is some of the most interesting stuff I've read anywhere. too often, instructional sites focus on film theory rather than film fact. reading your behind-the-scenes account has cracked my brain open. please don't hesitate to write dozens more posts like this one.

Trishala said...

sO wait I thoght that Flynn WAS on her side? "Both Mother Gothel and Flynn wanted her to be imprisoned in the tower"

WHAT?! Flynn?!

Betty said...

Oh man oh man, this peep into the thought process is definitely a treat. I thought Rapunzel showcased the qualities of "strong will but inexperienced" perfectly. One of my favorite scenes was when she first leaves the tower and you literally watch her fight with herself. It's great; really related as a daughter of a protective mom, even if I don't have CG-licious magic hair!

J, Liberatore said...

Wonderfully boarded! The scene was expertly choreographed and had a wonderful humor all throughout. And thank you for the article and peak into "backstage" Disney. Pascal is a perfect sidekick! Thank you for sharing your talents!

Robert said...

Thanks for posting these. The element that surprises me on seeing them is how many drawings there are for a short span of screen time.

Most discussions of storyboarding I've run into imply (probably by ommission) that far fewer drawings suffice.

Or do you distinguish between a "story board" drawing and a drawing that's done for a "reel"?

mark kennedy said...

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Mickey - Yes, we always put a ton of thought into the story and characters! You should go see it...

ScotlandBarnes - good point! And glad you liked the boards, thanks for the comment!

Carrie - these are the final ones that were in the film. There's never much time to clean up the rough ones so I try to make them clean enough on the first pass to work because I know I won't have time later to clean them up...there's always a lot of other areas that need work instead.
I've read a lot of criticism of Pascal too. I'd be curious to hear how those critics would solve the problems I've mentioned that he helped to solve.

Rodney - thanks, glad you think so!

Avner - thanks, glad you enjoyed the film!

Russell - Sure, you're welcome!

Mark - glad I talked you into seeing it! Hope you like it!

Anon - well, that was an important idea to someone else.

Striker - good point, thanks for the comment.

Katya - good point, thank for the kind words and I'm glad you liked the film!

platypuss - well, you've addressed one of the reasons I mentioned, but not the other. Also I think you're saying that the audience would just naturally assume that she wants to leave the tower. That's a lot different from hearing how she actually feels about it. I think he allowed her to express - out loud - emotionally how she feels about her situation, as opposed to just intellectually. So I disagree.

Anon - great, thanks for taking the time to comment! Glad you enjoy the posts!

Trishala - well, I mean for the first half of the first he's trying to get her back into the tower and get his satchel back.

Betty - yes, that's a great scene and I really think it strikes a good balance between emotion and humor.

J - great, thanks for the kind words! Glad you liked the film!

Robert - on "Tangled", we tried to get as much information into the boards as possible to help the layout and animation departments. We knew those departments were incredibly pressed for time and we wanted to give them as much of a head start as we could. Obviously they added a lot of layers and did an awesome job, but we really tried to board as close as possible to what we thought the final film should look like. All our drawings are done for the reels, we go right to reels as soon as we start. Other studios may work differently though.

Anonymous said...

But why are there so many drawings for this sequence of boards, when it could have been portrayed with nearly half the amount of drawings!?? They'te nice for animation breakdowns, which seems a waste at the storyboarding phase.

I've got no problem with sidekicks--aside from the annoying and lamely voiced midget sidekick to Gaston in B&Beast. And loved Tangled.

abasss said...

Hey Mark! I just saw the movie and saw your name in the credits, it's been a while since the last time I visited your blog so I rushed here to see if there was some inside scoop =)
I LOVED Tangled, it's brilliant, the story is great and the visuals are to die for.
I thought this scene was perfect, great timing, Pascal narrowing his eyes remembered me of Clint Eastwood and Batman (If I was Flynn, I'd fear for my life!) really funny. The way Rapunzel handled the pan was hilarious (that would be my last weapon of choice!) and I thought Mandy Moore did a magnificent job with her lines in this bit.
Most of the time I have no problems with sidekicks (only when they're dumb and stall the movie), and Pascal is completly necessary, Rapunzel would have gone mad without someone to talk to, and besides, he is adorable!

As for the rest of the movie I cried like a baby in the lantern scene and the cupid guy killed me, he was awesome. Mother Gothel was a great villain, I'm still trying to decide if she was pure evil and vanity or if she loved Rapunzel in some twisted way.
Overall, I think Tangled is a classic Disney tale, one of the best in my opinion (my new personal favourite!) and it's a shame that it wasn't nominated for an Oscar, a shame.

Dapoon said...

Great movie Mark! I was really blown away by the characterization of Rapunzel.

Especially in this sequence, I like how Rapunzel tries to convince Flynn by saying "When I promise something, I never EVER break that promise". To him, it sounds trivial and immature, but to her, it's like her strongest quality. Just shows how naive she really is as far as dealing with the world is concerned. A typical 18 year old indeed! Great way of expressing her character.

And oh yes, her facial expression at that point just magnifies that personality! :)

I wanted to ask you though. I've noticed that Rapunzel most of the time has her feet pointing to each other when she's standing. I even noticed the same in Linguini (of Ratatouille). Is there a reason for this? Is it to signify naivety?

Also was it a deliberate choice to have Rapunzel barefooted through out the movie? If so, is there a reason behind this? I'd love it if you could give us a few insights on these.

Once again, amazing work on the movie. It's really a yet another Disney milestone! Congrats! :)