A New Twist
Disney TV Animations finds an opening for an ambitious and complete story about Rapunzel, Eugene and the rest of the gang in By Tom McLean.
When approached with the idea of coming up with a series based on Disney’s hit 2010 CG feature Tangled, executive producer Chris Sonnenburg says it’s all been defined by a moment in the finale where Eugene says that after years of asking, he finally agreed to marry Rapunzel.
“I know he was joking, but let’s say for instance that there is a few years in between when they meet and when they get married,” says Sonnenburg. “That was the first time where we were like, that’s an interesting story.”
The result is an ambitious 2D series that kicked off March 10 with a 55-minute Disney Channel movie titled Tangled: Before Ever After. The movie sets up a new status quo for Rapunzel and Eugene: Reunited with her royal parents, Rapunzel yearns to explore the world with Eugene, but when the forces behind her original abduction resurface — restoring her magical hair in the process — her father tries to protect her by forbidding her from leaving the castle. The half-hour series picks up the story starting March 24.
Inspired by watching his own teenage daughters become increasingly independent of him, Sonnenburg teamed up with Shane Prigmore to develop a new look for Tangled and to plan out a story structure unusual to animation.
“It’s about how does this mythology really af- fect who Rapunzel is and who she’s going to become, and how do we best illustrate those things through the story,” says Sonnenburg.
The first season will feature a mid-season double episode and a double-length finale — both episodes will feature major turning points in Rapunzel’s arc as well as music from Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater.
Sonnenburg, who has a background in both feature animation and in TV production, says Disney Television Animation was looking for someone who had experience in both mediums and could keep the performances on the same level as in the feature.
One of the biggest challenges was finding a look that evoked the CG work in the feature but also would work for a television production budget and schedule, says Ben Balistreri, supervisi ng producer and lead character designer, who came on board the production after Prigmore took over as VP of creative affairs at Disney Television Animation.
Prigmore and Sonnenburg came up with the idea of basing the look on the murals Rapunzel drew on her tower walls in the feature.
“The idea in theory is that our show in some way is actually the hand of Rapunzel drawing these characters,” says Balistreri. “We try to make it like her hand is touching every little bit of the whole visual element.”
As for translating the CG characters into 2D, the process was about emphasizing the iconic details in each one. Restoring Rapunzel’s hair was important, but other elements were essential in translating those looks. “You’ve got bigger eyes than normal princesses (on Rapunzel) and that specifically is because she’s out there constantly wide eyed looking at the world,” says Balistreri.
Art director Alan Bodner says the ambition in the stories is what drew him to the series, a quality he’s contributing to by creating a color script for each and every episode.
“It’s like we’re entering the world of a fairy tale Golden Book,” he says. “We’re looking at a lot of Mary Blair work, and that was being done by the feature itself. I’ve always loved to work in high style and design, so I think this one really pushes the shapes and style and a lot more.”
That style veered to dropping the outlines on the characters, which posed some problems for the animation, which is being done by Ottawabased Mercury Filmworks.
Sonnenburg says he knows how the show will unfold and what its final shot will be. “We know they get married,” he says. “So this is basically about taking this time and really telling a complete story.” [
Tperform as expected at the 89th annual Academy Awards, even as the ceremony defied all conventions with a raucous finale.
he finale of the 89th annual Academy Awards was the wildest in the venerable org’s history, capping an otherwise solid and predictable ceremony that saw Zootopia win the Oscar for animated feature.
The Disney movie about a bunny cop and a con-man fox teaming up to solve a series of crimes in a diverse urban animal community surprised no one by taking the top prize. Zootopia, released March 4, 2016, had earned high critical praise, box office success and numerous accolades, including the top honor at the Annie Awards.
“This is an incredible honor,” says director Byron Howard backstage after accepting the award with director Rich Moore and producer Clark Spencer.
“We are so grateful to the audiences all over the world who embraced this film with this story of tolerance being more powerful than fear of the other,” says Moore.
Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios won its first Oscar in the animated short film category since 2001 for Piper, a heart-warming short film about a young sandpiper who overcomes its fear of water in learning to find food. The last Pixar short to win this category was For the Birds. As with Zootopia, the win for Piper — directed by Alan Barillaro and produced by Marc Sondheimer — surprised no one after it, too, won its category at the Annies.
“The art form was just the pencil,” says Barillaro backstago. “We ignored the word realism and just went for the artistic choices.”
The Jungle Book won the visual effects Oscar for its elaborate and convincing all-digital natural environments and realistic talking animals. Also a Disney film, The Jungle Book beat out the fully animated Kubo and the Two Strings for the honor; both films won their respective categories at the VES Awards.
The animated contenders in the Best Original Song category, from Trolls and Moana, lost out to “City of Stars” from La La Land. Both movies offered performance highlights as Justin Timberlake kicked off the ceremony performing Trolls’ nominated tune “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” “How Far I’ll Go,” from Disney’s Moana, was performed by Auli’i Cravalho with an original intro rap by composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. (Poor Cravalho had a flag brush through her hair during the performance, but kept on singing without missing a beat.)
The ceremony was capped with the strangest ending in Oscars history, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read from the wrong envelope and declared La La Land winner of best picture. After the speeches had begun, a mistake was discovered and it was revealed that Moonlight was the Best Picture winner. The animation and effects category winners are: Animated Feature Film: Zootopia. Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Clark Spencer Visual Effects:
Piper – Pixar Anima-