There’s probably nothing Disney does better than spinning animated versions of fairy tales. And this holiday season, the Mouse House has outdone itself with the wildly entertaining (and only mildly sappy) new 3-D musical Tangled. While it’s based on the classic tale of Rapunzel, about a girl whose gorgeous blonde hair’s powers lead to her being kept in a tower away from other regular people, Tangled expands that threadbare storyline into an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones, with several action sequences that will cause dropped jaws in adults—even those who aren’t bringing kids—and children alike.
A big part in any animated feature’s success rests on the voice talent involved, and here is where the makers of Tangled have succeeded wildly. Pop singer/actress Mandy Moore (who’s portrayed vastly different Christian characters in A Walk to Remember and Saved but avoided the topic of religion in her interviews) plays the golden-haired girl, bringing the talents she’s developed over the course of six albums to life.
But it’s Zac Levi who’s the even bigger surprise, as TV’s Chuck handles the humorously adventurous role of Flynn Rider—who rescues Rapunzel from her tower and takes her on her first action-packed journey into the outside world. One might expect him to give voice to a hero, but when he opens his mouth to sing, it’s stunning to hear the appealingly geeky guy we all know and love burst out with a full-throated, Broadway-worthy vocal that more than holds its own against the veteran singer Moore.
Together, they help make Tangled a must-see musical adventure that anyone with a kid or younger niece or nephew should use as an excuse to pop on some 3-D shades and feel like a kid again themselves. Zac and Mandy each sat down recently to answer questions at a special press day at Disneyland, and RELEVANT was there to bring you the highlights.
Mandy, tell us what you managed to find in Rapunzel to make her seem real and relatable for your performance.
Moore: She’s sort of a young woman who’s coming of age, about to turn 18. She’s lived an idle life, lived in a tower her entire life, doesn’t know what the outside world is like, and she’s a young woman who’s eager to discover what’s out there. I think every young woman goes through that as they find their own identity and start exploring life beyond their home and parents, so they’ve made it very relatable.
So how does Zac’s character team up with yours?
Moore: When she meets Flynn, she concocts a plan to give back his satchel [which has a valuable stolen jewel in it] as collateral. If Flynn helps her escape the tower and her mother’s grasp and investigate what the lights that fill the sky above the distant kingdom on her birthday are about, she’ll return his satchel to him.
Flynn is a charming, over-confident thief who finds himself in a precarious situation. He’s stolen something and is being chased by the kingdom when he maneuvers his way into her tower. She’s terrified because she’s never seen another person close up before. She decides to capture him, tie him up and interrogate him further and see why he’s in her home.
Was it difficult adjusting to animation-style acting with your voice, as opposed to a full-bodied, live-action performance?
Moore: The directors were excellent, just the loveliest guys, and I immediately was so taken by them in my first audition. Both of them come at it from the same place. They’re really passionate and thorough in their explanations. They have to cover so much ground, and I have the utmost respect for directors of animation now than before I ventured into this particular movie.
This also really gave you the chance to combine your dual careers as a singer and actress, didn’t it?
Moore: I love music and I love singing, so being involved in a project like this was unbelievably exciting because you get the combination of both things. When I ventured into the first music rehearsal with Zac, the minute he opened his mouth my jaw hit the floor, like: “Whoa! He really can sing!” He has a beautiful voice, and he’s just a charming, funny guy. And his Flynn stuff is excellent as well.
So Zach, what was it like playing the guy hero in a fairy tale centered on a girl?
Levi: Flynn Rider is a dashing bandit. With every Disney movie based on a fairy tale, you have your hero and heroine and clearly Rapunzel is the heroine of the story. In the most traditional sense, Flynn would be more prince or knight, the good guy archetype. But I like how they turned it on its head a little bit. This guy’s a thief.
What was it like working with Mandy on the movie?
Levi: For Disney to get Mandy for this job is awesome, and we’ve gotten to work together a couple times in recording sessions. She’s cute and sweet and especially with just a mic in front of you, you’re creating this whole world, so it’s very important to have someone in on it with you in creating this whole world. Watching her work in the isolation booth, and how much movement and emotion she’s able to put into each song, it’s like already watching the animation done, she’s that spot on.
How did you learn how to sing so well? I never would have expected that.
Levi: I had a long background in theater before getting Chuck, so I’ve done a lot of stage musicals, and this just came naturally to me. It was really exciting to go back to those roots and let people hear what I can do.
Were you daunted by singing against an established recording star like Mandy?
Levi: Mandy and I do a duet together called “I See the Light,” at which Flynn and Rapunzel are finally seeing that life the way they’ve lived before is limited, and [they finally] let their guard down and are vulnerable and are real with one another, and realize, "Oh my gosh, I love this person!”
It’s a real story infused with comedy, adventure and drama. I think the little kid in all of us is always looking for that, and I think we deliver.