TANGLED BEFORE EVER AFTER, the new Disney Channel Movie, premieres March 10th at 8:00pm ET and we have some behind-the-scenes insight to share with you straight from the series’ Supervising Director Chris Sonnenburg and Supervising Producer Ben Balistreri!
First, let’s take a look at the premise of TANGLED: THE SERIES. The entire series is set between Disney’s 50th animated film TANGLED and the short film TANGLED EVER AFTER in which Rapunzel and Eugene (Flynn) get married. Rapunzel is just getting acquainted with her parents, her kingdom and the people of Corona. But she needs to learn about the world and herself before she can assume the role of Princess of Corona. Pascal, Maximus and the Snuggly Duckling Pub Thugs are on hand throughout the series. Newcomer Cassandra (voiced by Broadway’s Eden Espinosa), a tough-as-nails lady-in-waiting, becomes Rapunzel’s good friend and confidante. Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi reprise their roles as Rapunzel and Eugene, respectively, and Alan Menken is back writing songs for the series.
Now, if you’re a huge fan of TANGLED, like me, you may have questions about TANGLED: THE SERIES. Why do a series about Rapunzel? Why is the animation style different? How can you live up to the perfect animated film? Luckily, Supervising Director Chris Sonnenburg and Supervising Producer Ben Balistreri were on hand to answer these questions and many more. Listen in at 17:52 to hear them speak passionately on the subject, or read their answers below the break.
First, we wondered why they continued the story of Rapunzel.
Chris Sonnenburg: There was this moment at the end of the movie where Rapunzel and Eugene meet and fall in love. Then there was this short where they got married. Well, what happened in between that time? There’s this great line at the end of the movie where Eugene says, “After years and years of asking and asking, I finally said yes.” He might be kind of joking, but what if there was some time between there? What do I have to say about this time in these people’s lives? About getting to know yourself, understanding your relationship with your parents. I have 2 daughters, at the time 14 and 12. If the kids who had seen the movie were 10, they might be 17 now. So they might want to know what happened to Rapunzel and how she is coping now.
What really is the driving force behind any Disney story is the truth of them. If we don’t tell that heart story, the real story behind these characters, we aren’t doing our job right.
Next, I jumped in with a question: Why is Rapunzel back to being blond? Is it more than just marketing?
Chris: If you’re telling a story about the hulk, he has to be big and green. If you’re telling a story about Rapunzel, she has to have the hair. But the big question we ask in the story room is “Why?”. We have to give the hair a reason for being long and blond.
Her hair represents her personality. It’s bigger than life. It’s bright. It’s long. It shines. It’s magical. It’s pretty much who Rapunzel is. And the added layer is that it’s unbreakable; that has it’s own reason for being that we will get into as we go along with the story.
In TANGLED BEFORE EVER AFTER Rapunzel is given a journal. Instead of writing in it, she draws. We wanted to know more about how this journal idea came to be.
Chris: I’m very much fed by my daughters. Ariana. Rapunzel’s mother is Queen Ariana. My daughter had gone on this trip to Mexico when she was 14. It was a big trip and I thought, ‘is she prepared, is she ready for this?’ She went and she came back. They had given her this journal. When she came back, the journal was completely covered in drawings of her journey. And I thought, that’s what Rapunzel would do! She would fill a journal with stories of her experiences by drawing.
The journal Rapunzel is given has an inscription: “Plus est en vous” We asked about the deeper meaning behind that phrase.
Chris: I asked Glen Keane who created the character of Rapunzel for the film to give me a drawing that’s going to encourage me during the years I work on this series. He drew a beautiful rendition of Rapunzel. On it he wrote “Plus est en vous.” I asked him what it meant. He said, “there’s more in you.” In the movie, all of her magic is gone but she squeezes out one last drop. There’s always more inside of you. There’s more in you than everybody else expects of you. Show the world what that is. The phrase means, there’s more of everybody. There’s more to Flynn, there’s more to Pascal, there’s more to Corona. Keep watching and you’ll see exactly how much more!
We’ve explored the story aspect to TANGLED: THE SERIES, now it’s time to dive into the animation. Richard asked why they chose this particular animation style which is so different from the film.
Ben Balistreri: Chris and I both come from old school traditional 2D design style. Our passion for that drove us early on. And now, just from a bigger story point, this is Rapunzel telling her story. How would she tell us her story? She’s not going to be typing 0’s and 1’s and getting mathematical equations down for a rig. There’s little dry brush strokes in the anination that should feel that she painted it. The lines that surround everything – we used a rough line quality to really gave a tactile sense of sketching. We lay off photoshoppy gradients as much as possible. It feels like a storybook come to life. We wanted it to feel like Rapunzel was telling her story.
Knowing this little bit of info really has me excited to see more of this series. That and the fact that Alan Menken is back writing songs for the series. So let’s get into details about the music.
Chris: I am very influenced by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. Howard Ashman had given this wonderful lecture when he was making THE LITTLE MERMAID. He talked about music and it’s role in storytelling. It’s most successful when it’s telling the heart of a character or changing the heart of a character. So we really wanted to keep the music special. We knew our access to Alan Menken would be limited. I wanted the music to stay special. I wanted it to be used when the characters had something to say, when it’s going to change their perspective on the world.
And so those big moments lined up with our tentpoles – a Season Premiere, a Midseason and a Finale. Those are the places when big things happen. So we didn’t want to put a soundtrack out in the beginning because that would give away some story points. The collection really makes sense at the end of the season.
Lady Caine is the “baddy” of the movie, and she has a tattoo! The question about Lady Caine and her role turned into a great discussion on the animation of the series.
Ben: One of the cool things with this program that we’re using, it’s called Harmony, is it’s this blend between doing CG and 2D. Technically what we’re doing is building all these images in the computer by flat images that end up spinning around. In traditional 2D animation you could never, ever get away with that detailed tattoo. You’d kill somebody by having them draw it 10 billion times. But in the computer we can actually just plant it on there and have it spin around. So some of it’s just a little bit of us as designers on the show being able to actually get away with doing that.
Let’s learn more about Cassandra, Rapunzel’s lady in waiting and confidante on the show.
Chris: Cassandra came to be between me, the writers and when the voice, Eden Espinosa came. She’s very tough, she’s very vocal. She’s a real tough lady. It started to become evident as to who Cassandra was going to be when you ask the question, “Who does Rapunzel need in her life?” And I felt like she needed somebody that had access to the castle, that had an adventurous spirit much like Rapunzel, and someone that Rapunzel could look up to. Somebody who had access to Rapunzel on a daily basis. That’s why we made her a “Lady in Waiting”. We wanted to give her someone she could talk to. As we were coming up with the concept of the show, her character almost wrote herself. Rapunzel’s this free-thinking hippie, Cassandra is much more militaristic and it just makes for fun storytelling.
Ben: Storytelling is all about contrast, so when you have two really diametrically opposed viewpoints on the same issue it just becomes really fun. Plus, Mandy Moore and Eden Espinosa together, they’re such great performances. It’s a really cool relationship and I think one that evolves really naturally as well.
Now let’s get into a really important question, what are Chris and Ben most proud of continuing on TANGLED, the original story?
Chris: For me, just honoring the original. It’s always been a huge priority of mine to not only honor the work but keep true to the characters. Be true to who Rapunzel is.
Ben: Not only do we have friends that have worked on this feature, but how many fans there are of TANGLED. I mean, TANGLED is an insane property! Man, these people love these characters. We have a duty to make sure that we’re doing right by these characters for these people that live and love these characters so much.
It’s wonderful to know that the TV series is in the hands, heads and hearts of the creators. The story will unfold each week beginning March 24th with the first episode, “What The Hair?” and I can’t wait to watch!
At this point the Q&A ended and Chris wanted to take a group photo with Pascal for his @followpascal Instagram. Achievement unlocked!
After a fun photo op, Richard and I left the screening room and were hanging out outside, waiting to be dismissed. To our surprise Chris and Ben walked out of the room and directly into us! Richard mentioned the fun fact that the Disney Channel movie TANGLED BEFORE EVER AFTER premieres on my actual birthday. Ben asked if I had a pen and piece of paper and began to draw. While he was drawing I asked Chris the question I had wanted to ask during the Q&A – how did most of the original cast and crew, including Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi and Alan Menken, sign on for the show?
Chris: When I went to them to tell them about this new TV Series, all of them were actually very protective of the characters. They wanted to make sure they were being upheld correctly. So they all signed on to protect the characters and the story!
Then Ben handed me the most amazing birthday present – a signed picture of Pascal! I know it’s overused but it truly is – Best. Day. Ever!!!
Tune in Friday, March 10th because “Tangled Before Ever After” will be available on the Disney Channel app and Disney Channel VOD platforms. “Tangled: The Series” will be available beginning Friday, March 24. Following its U.S. debut, the Disney Channel Original Movie and series will roll out globally in 33 languages in 162 countries on Disney Channels worldwide.