How did Rapunzel become 'Tangled'? Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard set the record straight
Image Credit: DisneyWhen Disney announced in February that its latest animated movie — a new spin on the Rapunzel story, featuring Mandy Moore as the long-locked princess — would be called Tangled, fans were confused. Why not just call it Rapunzel, in the tradition of Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White? Later, when the movie’s first trailer showed a prominent male lead character — the roguish Flynn Ryder (voiced by Zachary Levi) — blogs buzzed with theories that Disney had beefed up the movie’s testosterone level as a reaction to the non-blockbuster box office performance of The Princess and the Frog, which grossed $104 million in 2009. But was that really the case? With the movie out in theaters today, we decided to give Tangled directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard to grab those rumors by the, er… hair.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your project was originally called Rapunzel. Now it has a different title, Tangled, and a strong male lead. How did that come about?
NATHAN GRENO: The original intention was to make a film more closely related to something like Cinderella, where your main character is Cinderella, and there’s also a prince that’s in the movie that shows up once in a while. So we started developing: Okay, who is the male character in the show? We started playing around with scenes with our writer, Dan Fogelman, and doing this banter thing back and forth [between Rapunzel and Flynn]. And very early on, without realizing it, we were creating this duo. That’s what eventually lead to the title change. Just as you wouldn’t call Toy Story “Buzz Lightyear,” we really needed a title that represented what the film is, and that it’s a duo, and it stars Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder.
There were rumors that the title change was a somehow a reaction to The Princess and the Frog — that Disney was trying to reposition this as a “boy movie.” Is that true?
BYRON HOWARD: We can honestly say that what you’re seeing on screen in the theaters is exactly what we had about a year ago when Nathan and I talked about changing the title for the first time. I think we really did come to the conclusion that it was about two people, and so it became stranger and stranger to us to just call it by her name. We got about 300 titles listed out. Some of them were really terrible. And the one we kept coming back to was Tangled.
Any of the rejected titles funny enough to share?
BH: Sure. The worst one was The Adventures of Flynn Ryder. [Laughs]
NG: They were mostly lame. And that question keeps coming back to haunt us. And when we see it in print, like “Oh, they changed it to get boys in the theater.” I always just think, boy, I wish we could show them our first screening. It’s been Flynn and Rapunzel, this duo, from our very first screening, which was three or four months into it. We really aren’t trying to fool anybody. We’re just trying to make a great film.