Even though Mandy Moore has long been a fan of the Disney Princesses (“When I was a little girl growing up in Orlando, I remember that – after I first saw ‘The Little Mermaid’ – I would walk around the house singing ‘Part of Your World,’ “Ms. Moore recalled during a recent phone call. “I’d then pester my parents, asking them ‘Who sings that song better? Me or Ariel?”), she was still initially reluctant to reprise Rapunzel for a new series that Disney Television Animation wanted to produce.
“I mean, as ‘Tangled’ the movie came to a close, Rapunzel was happily reuniting with her parents. And then with Disney’s ‘Tangled Ever After’ short a year or so later, we saw her getting married to Eugene,” Moore explained. “So it originally seemed ― to me, anyway ― that there just wasn’t a whole lot of story left to tell.”
But that’s where Mandy was mistaken. As Chris Sonnenburg, (i.e., the executive producer of both “Tangled Before Ever After” -- the Disney Channel Original Movie which premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET – and “Tangled: The Series” – which debuts on the Disney Channel on March 24th) pitched the premise of this proposed animated series to Ms. Moore & Zachary Levi (i.e., the “Chuck” veteran who voiced Flynn Rider AKA Eugene Fitzherbert in that 2010 Walt Disney Animation Studios production) back in early 2015, it quickly became clear that there was still lots left to learn about these two characters.
“Chris put together a very compelling argument that – as “Tangled” the movie was ending – Rapunzel & Eugene were actually in a pretty precarious position. As a couple, they were really just getting to know one another. Plus Rapunzel – after all those years of being trapped in that tower – had not only just learned that Mother Gothel wasn’t really her mother, but that her real parents are royalty. Which makes her a Princess. Which means that – someday soon – she’s going to have to rule over this entire kingdom,” Moore stated.
“Which – given that, just a few days earlier, Rapunzel was this artistic kid who longed for a little adventure – this was a whole lot of change for a person to have to process all at once,” Mandy continued. “Never mind that Eugene was now having to transition from being the notorious Flynn Rider, a guy who constantly cut corners to get what he wanted, to becoming the boyfriend of the lost princess. Which meant that not only was Eugene now being forced to always play it straight, always be on his best behavior, but that he also had to figure out where he fit in at the castle,” Mandy continued.
“And when Chris put it like that, it really did become clear to myself & Zach that there was a whole lot more story to tell here. A whole lot more to learn about Rapunzel & Eugene,” Moore said. “Which is why we both decided to sign on to do ‘Tangled: The Series.’ “
Of course, what really helped Mandy & Zach to commit to this Disney Television animation production was that so many of the folks they’d previously worked with on “Tangled” the movie and Disney’s “Tangled Ever After” short had agreed to rejoin Team Rapunzel. Take – for example – Academy Award-winner Alan Menken and Grammy Award-winner Glenn Slater.
“Alan and Glenn did such an amazing job with the score for ‘Tangled’ the movie, I was thrilled that they agreed to write some brand-new songs for ‘Tangled: The Series,’ “ Moore enthused. “The one that’s featured in ‘Tangled : Before Ever After,’ ‘The Wind in My Hair,’ I particularly enjoyed performing. Largely because it does such a great job of capturing Rapunzel’s current state of mind. In that, while she loves being out of her tower and being reunited with her parents, what with all of her new duties & responsibilities as princess, that castle can feel kind of confining. Which is why Rapunzel longs for a little freedom and sings about wanting to feel the wind in her hair.”
Mind you, one of the main reasons that Rapunzel feels cooped up in Corona is her new-found father, King Frederic (voiced authoritatively by Clancy Brown). Frederic still feels awful that he allowed his daughter to be stolen away in the night by Mother Gothel. Which is why – now that Rapunzel has finally been reunited with her family – the king is really reluctant to let her wander too far afield.
Thankfully, Queen Arianna (voiced by Julie Bowen of “Modern Family” fame) was rather adventurous when she was younger. Which is why she’s a bit more willing than her husband to let Rapunzel roam beyond Corona’s borders.
Of course, adventure comes with a cost. As Rapunzel find out during an after-hours excursion with her tough-as-nails Lady in Waiting, Cassandra (voiced by Broadway belter and Disney theme park vet Eden Espinosa). These two somehow make their way to the exact spot where that magical golden flower once grew. Only now – in place of that flower – there are all these sharp black spikes growing up out of the ground.
So what happens to Rapunzel when she returns to the spot where that magic golden flower once stood? It would be hair-acy on my part to reveal much more of “Tangled: Before Ever After” ‘s plot. But let’s just say that this Disney Channel Original Movie does a very clever job of setting the scene / establishing the world that this new animated series will then go on to explore.
Speaking of which: Even though “Tangled: The Series” doesn’t officially debut ‘til March 24th in its usual weekly timeslot (i.e., Friday nights at 7:30 p.m. ET / PT), the Disney Channel clearly has great confidence in this Disney Television Animation production. Otherwise why would they have – before a single episode of this show has actually aired on the Disney Channel -- already renewed “Tangled: The Series” for a second season?
“And what’s really wild about that is that NBC just renewed the live-action TV series that I do, ‘This is Us,’ for Seasons Two and Three. Which is why I now have something that I’ve never had before as actress: job security,” Mandy laughed. “We just wrapped production of this season of ‘This is Us’ two weeks ago. I now have four-and-a-half months. Which is why I was thinking that I might begin working on some songs for a new album.”
FYI: There’s actually some connective tissue between “Tangled” the movie and “This is Us.” Dan Fogelman – the creator of this acclaimed television series (which – even though it’s only been on the air for six months now – has already been honored with a People’s Choice & a Critics Choice Television Award) – wrote the screenplay for that 2010 Walt Disney Animation Studios production.
“So thanks to Dan, I wound up with two great characters to play. Both of which allow me to sing,” Moore remarked. “Which really brings things full circle. Back to when I was a little girl singing those ‘Little Mermaid’ songs for my parents. That’s how my career in entertainment really got started.”
And speaking of Disney Princesses … Does Mandy ever let her younger fans in on the secret that she’s the performer who voices Rapunzel. Surprisingly no.
“I learned the hard way that – when you tell kids that you’re the voice of Rapunzel – it just confuses them. They first look at you and then kind of cock their heads to the side, as if they’re wondering where that 70 feet of blonde hair is,” Moore explained. “The follow-up question that they then typically ask is ‘What? You know Rapunzel?’ And then when I answer ‘No, I AM her’ … Well, it just leads to further confusion.”
“That’s why – though I’m obviously honored to be part of the Disney family and flattered that the Company keeps coming back to me and asking me to voice Rapunzel – I’ve learned to get satisfaction out of other aspects of this role. That’s why – when I go to a Disney theme park and see Rapunzel’s tower or watch that character go by in a parade – I have this odd sense of entitlement.” Mandy concluded. “By that I mean: I was part of the team that originally helped bring that character to life. Which is why it’s kind of weird now to see that Rapunzel has a life of her own. That she’s starring in Disney On Ice. Or that her likeness is on backpacks & trapper keepers or in video games. It’s just endless. But also cool. And kind of an honor.”