When Flynn takes refuge in a mysterious tower, he encounters Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore), a feisty but sheltered teenage princess with 70 feet of hair who wants nothing more than to be liberated from the place where she’s been locked away for years. Rapunzel realizes Flynn is her ticket out of her predicament and strikes a deal with the dashing rogue. Together, the unlikely duo embarks on a hair-raising adventure during which both discover their true destiny.
MoviesOnline sat down recently at a roundtable interview with Zachary to talk about his new film. Zachary, who directs episodes and stars in the NBC hit show “Chuck,” told us what attracted him to the project, why his character is so unique, and what it was like working with directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno. He also explained why “I See the Light,” his duet with Mandy Moore, is one of his favorite songs in the movie.
Q. What drew you to “Tangled”?
Zachary: First of all, Flynn is the dashing bandit—art imitating life—he’s a good looking, kind of swashbuckling dude, you know, who gets the ladies, so I’ve used some of my own personal life in that—not so much. It’s all adventure. Everyone wants to go discover something, they want to go on a journey, and Flynn and Rapunzel go on this great journey together. It’s a fun story that is infused with comedy and drama and romance and adventure. And the little kid in all of us, I think, is always yearning for that—I think we deliver that in a big way.
Q. What makes Flynn Rider so unique?
Zachary: It’s nice not having completely polished individuals, and Flynn is certainly not one. Usually, the Prince Charming character is just that—he’s a Prince Charming—a stand-up guy, a hero. He’s there to save and love the princess and defeat evil. Flynn is not exactly that. He’s a bandit, he’s a thief, he’s self-absorbed, although devastatingly handsome and charming and intelligent. He’s not royalty, he’s not an upstanding citizen of the kingdom, so to speak. But he does have goodness within him that throughout the adventure and journey that he shares with Rapunzel, she brings out of him, I think. And you get to be part of that experience, which is a lot of fun.
Q. How do Flynn Rider and Rapunzel meet?
Zachary: We meet Flynn in the beginning of the movie as he’s chased by the palace guard and Max the horse—it’s really mano-a-mano with the horse for this satchel that holds a crown. Finally Flynn grabs it and takes off. He sees this incredible tower standing before him; it’s very hidden away, and he knows two things: one, he needs to hide for a little while, and two, there’s probably some stuff to steal in that tower. So he makes his way up only to have the back of his head meet a frying pan wielded by Rapunzel herself. Then, as he comes to, he realizes that he’s in the presence of this gorgeous young woman with 70-odd feet of hair. And the deal is this: Rapunzel needs to go and see these floating lights, whatever they are, and Flynn wants his satchel back because this is maybe the biggest score he’s ever had, as far as thievery is concerned. And that starts the whole adventure.
Q. How does Disney turn this well-known story upside down?
Zachary: It’s a really cool—I hate using words like “hip” and “modern”—I’ll say relevant take on an old classic. I like how they turned it on its head a little bit. I don’t believe that Flynn was a part of the original story, but that’s one of the improvements, I think. And Flynn helps get Rapunzel out of that tower so they can go on this really dynamic journey together. It’s exciting for me to be a part of the 50th animated feature that Disney has made—it’s a huge landmark.
Q. Why does “Tangled” have broad appeal?
Zachary: It’s not about a damsel in distress who needs to be saved. It’s about a young woman who has dreams and aspirations and needs a partner in crime to help facilitate that throughout the course of the film. So you get all kinds of adventure with someone who’s as unrefined as Flynn is; he’s a thief. They get into a lot of trouble. There’s a lot of people chasing them for different reasons. Flynn can’t help but put his foot in his mouth over and over and over again. And yet, because of Rapunzel’s goodness, she can see past all that and still see the good guy that’s there, and that helps him change a lot too. Plus, there are near-death escapes at least every ten minutes, great animal characters that bring so much life and comedy to the film, swash-buckling, and swinging from either hair or ropes or vines or what have you. There are great chases, great fights and battles. And it’s in 3D. So all of your thugs and ruffians are just jumping off the screen at you.
Q. How did you like working with directors Byron Howard and Nathan Greno?
Zachary: Well, Byron and Nathan from day one were just incredibly nice dudes and very collaborative too. You know, as they have been rising up in the ranks of animation and being a part of tremendous projects before this, I can only imagine that they’ve seen the process and know that everyone’s got a piece to bring. And it’s a matter of encouraging each other to bring the best piece and then polish that piece. It’s also important for a director to have vision, to know what he wants. They have a very, very definitive tone and style while allowing people to bring their flavor to it. And Flynn was a great character to be able to do that with. Dan Fogelman, who wrote the script, wrote great dialog and great jokes and moments. But Byron and Nathan and Roy and everyone, they encouraged me to bring Flynn to life. And that’s huge, you know, especially for comedy, to be able to just move it around a little bit and keep it alive.
Q. What is the smolder?
Zachary: Yeah, the smolder. I had never heard the term “smolder” before doing the smolder and immediately started laughing when I was reading over the lines that I was going to do that day. The smolder is—some might call it the magnum, the blue steel—Flynn calls it the smolder. It is that kind of pouty-lipped “you-know-you-want-me” look that’s supposed to just sizzle the synapses of any female that’s in proximity of it. Unfortunately, Rapunzel is far too good and pure to be affected by such a smolder, so it doesn’t really have an effect on her. But I’m sure somewhere in the kingdom there are some damsels who just melt.
Q. Why do you think Maximus is so popular?
Zachary: In the very beginning of the movie, Max and Flynn are wrestling with a satchel, and then Flynn’s upside down, hanging onto the tree trunk for dear life, and Maximus is bearing down on him, sniffing the ground like a bloodhound; he sees a ‘Flynn Wanted’ poster and just chews it up like a paper shredder. It’s the little things just lend themselves to comedy gold in my opinion.
I think with non-human, animal characters, what makes them brilliant is just a great combination of the writing and the animation. There are no words, but for the director—or directors in this case—to be able to work with the animators and the writers and bring these characters to life in a way that is human-like and still not at the same time— that’s just fascinating. It’s genius. Maximus was done to a T, as well was Pascal. You don’t have to hear words out their mouth. You know what they mean, you know what their intentions are, what their emotions are. And they found great ways to weave them through the story and interact with their human counterparts. That’s what makes them great.
Q. What was your favorite song?
Zachary: “I See the Light” is my duet with Mandy and pretty much the only song I sing. It’s like the moment in the movie. We’re on a boat, we’re seeing these lanterns—it’s the culmination of their journey together.
Mother Gothel’s “Mother Knows Best” that Donna Murphy sings is just a great song. And Donna kills it. I happened to be there when she was recording the reprise of it and I was watching Donna do her thing, and she is just a wicked talent. She gives so much in the booth, all you’ve got to do is just put a camera on her and capture it, because all of the hand gestures and everything are there. After I saw it, the first thing I thought was, ‘Wow, you’re amazing,’ and then immediately I thought, ‘I’m not amazing.’ I feel like when you really give your whole body to it in that way, it adds that little extra.
“Tangled” opens in theaters on November 24, 2010.