Strangely, I’m not a girl, but Rapunzel is my favorite Disney Princess, and with good reason–she’s quirky, bubbly, modern, and goes after what she wants. This is interesting, because I was never into the princess line as a kid. Sure, I had my little boy crush on Cinderella and Belle, but I never thought of either of them as my favorite Disney character. Oddly enough, not only is Rapunzel my favorite princess, but she also has become my favorite Disney character. Maybe it’s the more modern approach Disney took to the Princess archetype, or maybe it’s just that luscious 70 feet of hair. In this edition of Princess Profiles, we tackle several aspects of a recent Disney Princesses: Rapunzel!
Rapunzel is the first CGI Disney Princess, and her design is quite impressive. Designed by Glen Keane, who also designed other iconic Disney characters like Aladdin and Ariel, Rapunzel takes the likeness of a 2D Disney Princess and brings it into the third dimension. This means that she has those gigantic Disney eyes that we have all grown to love and expect from Disney’s animated heroines. Although at times they are
almost too big (they look like tennis balls during some parts of the film), perhaps her large eyes can serve to represent her curiosity and wonder as she explores a brand new world.
The Disney animators also took care to implement small details onto the characters in Tangled that can easily be overlooked. For example, Rapunzel has freckles scattered on her face, only visible when a close-up occurs. Her teeth are also slightly imperfect, and her feet turn in. These little nuances accentuate the quirky character of Rapunzel, and can perhaps also give confidence to girls who aren’t Barbie-perfect like other Disney Princesses. Another defining feature of Rapunzel is, of course, her 70 feet of golden blonde hair. One reason I’m glad Tangled was done using computer animation is because her hair wouldn’t have looked nearly as realistic and beautiful if it were hand drawn and 2D. Rapunzel had over 100,000 strands of hair, and new software had to be created specifically to ensure that her hair would move naturally, flowing and acting like normal human hair would, while still allowing the animators control over its behavior. And, of course, Rapunzel’s hair isn’t just abnormally long; it’s magic, too! The reason for the length and color of Rapunzel’s hair has to do with the fact that it glows and has magical healing properties bestowed upon her by the magic of sunlight.
Rapunzel continues the trend set by Tiana in The Princess and the Frog that women are not simply damsels in distress, waiting to be rescued by their prince charming. Rather, they are just as capable as men are, and can accomplish their goals if they work for them. In Rapunzel’s case, she bribes Flynn Rider to take her to see the floating lantern festival on her birthday. If he doesn’t, she won’t let him have her tiara back. Go Rapunzel! Using your resources like a pro.
Rapunzel’s spunky, modern attitude was a change from the sophisticated manner in which most previous Disney Princesses acted. Her vocabulary is also a change from how previous princesses spoke — she uses words commonly spoken by the youth of today, such as “like,” (“Sweep again and by then it’s, like, 7:15,” “For, like, the first time ever,”) given her more of a modern vibe that helps make her more relatable with children and teenagers. This almost seems a bit odd, considering she has never had contact with the outside world. Point is, Rapunzel is a modern, new-age princess.
The voice of Rapunzel is Mandy Moore, the first time Disney has used a relatively well-known actress for one of its princesses. Mandy Moore does both the acting and singing for Rapunzel. Moore’s voice similar to that of folk rock singers, most prominently in her main song “When Will My Life Begin.” Composer Alan Menken stated that Rapunzel’s situation made him “think about folk rock and artists like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Jackson Browne.” This is an interesting fact, mostly because the 60s-style rock that Alan Menken based her song on was full of rebellious themes and ideas, fitting perfectly with Rapunzel’s wanting something more beyond her tower, wanting to break free.
Rapunzel’s modern flair and quirky personality help make her a more relatable princess for this generation. We grew up with Disney Princesses who gave little girls the message that being disobedient (ala Ariel) or doing nothing and waiting for your prince to come and kiss you (ala Aurora, Snow White) were acceptable lifestyles. However, Disney has made a turnaround in their fairy tale heroines, and they proved that with their approach to Rapunzel. Whether it’s her mannerisms, her vocabulary, how she looks, or even the way she sings, all of Rapunzel’s features combine to create a character that is likable, attractive, and a role-model girls can look up to for years to come.