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There she is, all alone in the room high above the trees … Andrew L. Urban meets Rapunzel alias Mandy Moore.

There is an eerie moment as I walk into the swish, bed-less hotel room overlooking the trees and shrubs of Sydney’s Hyde Park below and catch sight of Mandy Moore, the voice of Rapunzel, as she sits all alone in the room on a small lounge. She could be in her tower, high above the trees and shrubs of the valley where Mother Gothel has kept her as a valued prisoner for almost 18 years.

But the image is quickly dispelled as Moore stands up and instead of the long … verrrrrry long, blonde hair, she boasts a thick mane of dark brown hair. Not quite so loooong. 

"fresh and lively and unaffected"

She smiles warmly and extends a hand, as if this was her first media interview, fresh and lively and unaffected as she speaks enthusiastically about the film. “It’s so much easier when you do something like this to talk about it a lot – because you love it.”

I am surprised to learn that Moore and her Tangled voice co-star Zach Levi recorded all the dialogue for Walt Disney’s 50th animated movie separately, without even sharing studio time. “The first time we actually met was half way through the production, when we rehearsed the duet we sing (I See The Light),” says Moore, cuddling a cushion as she talks about the vast differences between recording her albums and recording dialogue for animation.

It took many days spread over 18 months to complete the voice work, an unusually long time. “That was because it was complex and there were hundreds of people involved in it,” says Moore. Nor did she meet Donna Murphy, who voices Mother Gothel, until they were thrown together for the media junket to launch the film.

"a strange but rewarding process"

It was a strange but rewarding process, Moore says, because she would be able to try each line in a variety of ways. “But at the end of a day’s work, I’d be really drained.”

“Some people have asked how I found the voice for Rapunzel,” she says with an incredulous look on her face. “It’s my voice,” she says with a smile. But she admits it was a challenge to work entirely alone, with no-one responding to her lines. “It’s a fine balance … to not do too much and overdo it, but enough to give the animators some expression to work with.” Indeed, though she was alone in the recording booth, cameras often captured her delivery so the animators had a visual reference when animating her character.

The story of Rapunzel is one of the most loved of fairy tales, but the Disney team was keen to marry tradition with a fresh, contemporary edge, both in terms of the story and state of the art animation. The highly revered Glen Keane, a 35 year Disney veteran, drove the process that included the breathtaking animation of Rapunzel’s magnificent, 21 metres of hair. 

The story is the same, though: a young woman with magical long hair has been kept locked in a tower by Mother Gothel, the woman she thinks is her mother – whose youth and beauty is thanks entirely to Rapunzel’s hair. When the adventurous (read thieving) Flynn Rider turns up, Repunzel has a chance to leave the tower and seek out the wider world. Of course, it isn’t quite that easy or simple …

Nor was it easy or simple to land the role. “I had to audition for it,” she explains, “and then I got a call back. I really clambered to be a part of it because it was like coming full circle for me: I started singing as a kid because of The Little Mermaid … I always wanted to be Ariel.”

"I actually jumped up and down with joy"

Moore was in New York for some work related meetings when casting director Jamie Roberts rang her to tell her she had the role. “I actually jumped up and down with joy,” she recalls with a giggle.

When fabled Pixar producer/director/writer John Lasseter took over the creative reigns at Disney in 2006, the question on everyone’s minds was whether to make Tangled in the hand-drawn or CG medium. 

Says Keane, “I thought about the hair, the lighting on the hair, the fabric, the textures on the skin. So I continued down that path, bringing as much of Ollie (Johnston) and Frank’s (Thomas) principles of character and sincerity to the process. That’s really the foundation.”

"the human animation on this movie is like nothing anyone’s ever seen"

Adds director Byron Howard, “The human animation on this movie is like nothing anyone’s ever seen. And I’m not blowing our own horn, because I think we’re both really proud of what the animators have accomplished. We looked at films like Ratatouille and The Incredibles — the level of subtlety that they’ve got — those films set the bar and raised it. We needed to continue to raise the bar. And the animators really rose to the task — little micro-animations on the lower lids of the eyes, tiny eye shifts that have all this great subtext to the film but are so important to the story.”

Improved technology allowed the directors and animators to work on the look of the film together like never before. Using a digital tablet, Keane could actually draw right over a frame of computer animation during dailies. “Byron and (co-director) Nathan Greno) are phenomenal actors,” says Keane. “They would perform for the animators, getting up there, acting together. Byron would play Flynn, and Nathan would be Rapunzel, or vice versa. I could fast-forward, freeze, and then I’d draw over the top.”

“We love Glen,” says Howard. “You couldn’t ask for a nicer, more genial and more talented person to have with you on this trip. With Glen going over the animators’ drawings in dailies, you get the benefit of his great staging and drawing talent. He’s like an instant camera. He would take a fun pose by Nathan or one of the animators, stare at it for a second, and then do some incredible drawing that would inspire whoever was working on that scene to go back to their desk and make their animation quality go up 100 percent.”

And over in the recording studio, there was the voice cast ….

"I would love to do a Broadway show…"

A highly successful singer with several albums to her name and an increasingly long list of movie credits, Moore has it all. Well, nearly: “I wish I could dance really well,” she says wistfully. “I would love to do a Broadway show…”

Given her progress to date, that may yet happen; Moore is afraid of only one thing (apart from spiders): “I don’t want to be pigeon holed,” she says. 

Published December 23, 2010

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Mandy Moore


Mandy Moore - the voice of Rapunzel in Tangled

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