How did Rapunzel become 'Tangled'? Directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard set the record straight

Tangled-princessImage Credit: DisneyWhen Disney announced in February that its latest animated movie — a new spin on the Rapunzel story, featuring Mandy Moore as the long-locked princess —  would be called Tangled, fans were confused. Why not just call it Rapunzel, in the tradition of Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White? Later, when the movie’s first trailer showed a prominent male lead character — the roguish Flynn Ryder (voiced by Zachary Levi) — blogs buzzed with theories that Disney had beefed up the movie’s testosterone level as a reaction to the non-blockbuster box office performance of The Princess and the Frog, which grossed $104 million in 2009. But was that really the case? With the movie out in theaters today, we decided to give Tangled directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard to grab those rumors by the, er… hair.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your project was originally called Rapunzel. Now it has a different title, Tangled, and a strong male lead. How did that come about?
NATHAN GRENO: The original intention was to make a film more closely related to something like Cinderella, where your main character is Cinderella, and there’s also a prince that’s in the movie that shows up once in a while. So we started developing: Okay, who is the male character in the show? We started playing around with scenes with our writer, Dan Fogelman, and doing this banter thing back and forth [between Rapunzel and Flynn]. And very early on, without realizing it, we were creating this duo. That’s what eventually lead to the title change. Just as you wouldn’t call Toy StoryBuzz Lightyear,” we really needed a title that represented what the film is, and that it’s a duo, and it stars Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder.

There were rumors that the title change was a somehow a reaction to The Princess and the Frog — that Disney was trying to reposition this as a “boy movie.” Is that true?
BYRON HOWARD: We can honestly say that what you’re seeing on screen in the theaters is exactly what we had about a year ago when Nathan and I talked about changing the title for the first time. I think we really did come to the conclusion that it was about two people, and so it became stranger and stranger to us to just call it by her name. We got about 300 titles listed out. Some of them were really terrible. And the one we kept coming back to was Tangled.

Any of the rejected titles funny enough to share?
BH: Sure. The worst one was The Adventures of Flynn Ryder. [Laughs]
NG: They were mostly lame. And that question keeps coming back to haunt us. And when we see it in print, like “Oh, they changed it to get boys in the theater.” I always just think, boy, I wish we could show them our first screening. It’s been Flynn and Rapunzel, this duo, from our very first screening, which was three or four months into it. We really aren’t trying to fool anybody. We’re just trying to make a great film.

Read more:
movie review: Tangled

Alan Menken discusses ‘Tangled‘ and the past, present, and future

Disney’s ‘Tangled‘: A lush fairy tale after all?


Comments (100 total) Add your comment
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  • Dw Dunphy

    We’ll see. Disney has this terrible way of trying to be hip, and coming off like your grandfather trying to be hip.

    It also seems like an attempt at repositioning, making it less like a fairy tale film and more like Disney’s Enchanted.

    • RCB

      saw it today. it was surprisingly good.

      • Oscar

        Come ON! It was totally derivative! You could have substituted Ariel, Bell, etc. for Rapunzel and it would have been the same story. And the male leads, all rakish outsiders. definitely NOT original!

    • David

      Yeah right! who are you fooling?!

    • Flip

      I wish they had done a straight-up traditional adaptation of Rapunzel. I have no interest in seeing Tangled.

    • Thais

      Completely agree. And this whole “duo” business is bull. The combination of Tiana and Naveen in The Princess & the Frog felt very even, they worked together, grew closer together, and learned from each other. But the movie itself was a princess movie and the ads showed that. It’s obvious Disney wants to reach a wider demographic so they changed the title. Period.

      • Kel

        I didn’t feel the same connection to Tiana and Naveen as a viewer compared to my connection to Simba & Nala or Pocahontas & John Smith… [SPOILER ALERT] The most emotional/attached I got was when the firefly died.

      • Big Walt

        Well it was The Princess AND the Frog. They were both in the title.

  • Aliza

    I saw this last night, and I found it to be really enjoyable. And there were some great nods to the original Grimm fairy tale. It was cheesy but cute and fun. Good work Disney

  • Lala

    So if this movie is about BOTH characters, why was an alternative title “The Adventures of Flynn Ryder”. That doesn’t make sense. Try again, Disney.

    • Tim

      Pretty sure that was supposed to be a joke, playing off the (alleged) misconception that they had repurposed the movie to target boys. They were trying to poke fun at themselves and the controversy.

    • Lydia

      That may be why Byron Howard said it was one of the worst rejected titles.

    • Catherine

      This would be yet another reference to Errol Flynn, who starred in The Adventures of Robin Hood. He was the inspiration for the male character in this film, and Flynn Rider is even named after him.

  • Diva

    I heard they changed the name to appeal to the boys instead of just girls.

    • p

      did you read the article? They specifically address this.

      • Corinne

        I know, right? lol

    • Ian

      and I heard it’s called “Tangled” instead of “Rapunzel”. Is that true? Did anyone else hear that, or is it specifically mentioned in the article above, therefore making me kind of dumb to point it out in the comments below the article?

      • Kel


    • Will

      No way???

  • Sweet

    My theory is Princess and the Frog wasn’t AS sucessful as the others Disney movies because the princess wasn’t really aspirational for the majority population, and black people for the most part felt the movie was pandering as most of the movie Tiana was a frog and not black or a princess…Comparing apples to oranges..

    • Chappel

      I don’t think “aspirational” means what you think it means. Perhaps you meant “inspirational”.

      • filmboymichael

        aspirational means that you aspire to be like the person you see….i think sweet is right, i don’t think anyone aspires to be a frog….

      • tteett

        I think they didn’t see it because the whole Princess and the Frog story doesn’t sound like the type of story for a full feature film. Just plain cartoon don’t do as well in the box office. The movie also looks like politically correct stuff because they made the prince not black.

      • Alan of Montreal

        And the film was in 2D

      • Ruby

        @tteett – What political correctness? The prince was black!

    • pifr

      As a Black female who adores movies (of all genres), it was painful to see TP&TF fail (if you can call over $ 100 million a “failure”), but, I digress.

      I struggled w/this film, b/c:

      1. Didn’t enjoy seeing the female lead as a “frog” most of the movie. Couldn’t we at least have a strong heroine, in human form, a la Mulan, Belle, et al?
      2. Why, oh why, did the male lead look like the black version of a Ken doll? They just painted a white male lead “slightly” black.

      To this day, it’s difficult for me to watch the movie w/out wincing.

      (But then, maybe I need to get a life and not have so much emotion investe in a Disney flick!)

      • Ladyj

        OMFG People! Why must you pick apart a good fun movie made for families and kids? Why must everything be about race or some political agenda? Push all that crap aside and enjoy it for what it was meant to be….fun! I agree with you pifr…you do need to (your words)maybe get a life and not have so much emotion invested in a Disney flick!

      • Creep E

        Well, with my daughter being 1/2 asian, then should I get all screaming like you that they didn’t pander to asians? Not every story can be about everybody and everything to pander to everybody. Idiot.

      • Ashleigh

        “Why, oh why, did the male lead look like the black version of a Ken doll? They just painted a white male lead “slightly” black.”

        A lot of black Americans (and blacks from other places) are lighter-skinned, usually owing to mixed European/Native American/etc. heritage, so I don’t see why you’re acting like his character was physically/anatomically “incorrect” or something.

      • jury’s out

        Good Lord. @pifr has a right to her feelings. Of course when you are the majority and your group is featured prominently in most things in entertainment, race isn’t an issue. It took I don’t know how long for Disney to make a movie featuring a black princess and she gets treated like a stepchild. I grew up in the seventies and I never had any princesses that I could identify with. If you are white, you don’t have a clue what that feels like or what it feels like to look at your child and know they won’t be represented. Pandering? How about deliberately excluding minorities because they don’t matter? Then when someone is sad, angry or wistful because they wish things were done better they’re called idiot. Nice.

      • Alyssa

        Well then all the Fricken fish must be pissed that they look so sexy because of Ariel. Or all the apparent Jerks with a heart underneath must be pissed that Beast gives them a bad name.

      • Aunt Jemima

        LadyJ said, “Why must everything be about race or some political agenda?” Because it is. Just the facts, Ma’am.

      • Tarc

        You did know the title was The Princess & The Frog, right? Princess. Frog. Right? And as far as Princes go, the next in the long line of Ken dolls actually had character and lines in this one, which was a lot better than the practically nameless prince in most of the various other films.

      • Victoria Rose

        pifr, I agree with you, I enjoy all Disney movies, and TP&TF was a fairly enjoyable film, but I do get what you’re saying. I think they made the Prince look like that becasue it was based in New Orleans and perhaps he was supposed to be a mixture of Creole, Black and French. But then again, some people thought he was Latin, and I’m also confused as to what he was supposed to be in the film.
        And the title was also confusing because when Disney first announced they were going to do the film, it was titled “The Frog Princess,” and then they changed it to the “Princess and the Frog.”
        The major problem I had with the film were all the vodoo scenes…it was just a little much for a kids film.
        I don’t think you’re overreacting, I mean, it is an entertainment website and that’s what we’re discussing, so all these other commenters need to back I think it’s necessary to discuss entertainment from a cultural perspective since the mass media in general has various effects on audiences than simply “entertaining” them.

      • B

        The prince was from the fictional country Maldoniam, and they didn’t say where that country was located. It didn’t matter what his “race” was, just that he was a prince.

    • Tarc

      Actually, TP&TF was a very fine movie! I think the lower box office had more to do with timing, and all of the nonsense the press generated about the movie *before* they even saw it. I didn’t see the movie until well after it was in theaters, and if I had an objection, it’s that I don’t think character death has any role in a wide-release Disney cartoon. Even when well done, it’s not fun to revisit and I’m an adult.

      • tjc

        I haven’t seen either film; however, I had to comment about the line that character deaths in a wide-release Disney cartoon. Have you WATCHED Disney cartoons?

        Almost every single one of them has a lead character that lacks a parent because he/she died. Several of them SHOW the parent dying, and that includes a terrible death through gun violence in Bambi.

    • tomm

      “Princess and Frog” as good to have finally a black princess character. But too many activists wanted her to be ‘revolutionary’ as if she should be like Angela Davis fighting ‘the white devil’?

  • Spicy`

    I would have preferred if they kept Kristin Chenoweth as Rapunzel in this film, her voice is perfect for an animated fairy tale.

  • HN

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to expand interest in movies beyond little girls, and boys certainly deserve as much attention.

    • Felicia

      Boys do deserve attention, but, Hello?! What world are you living in? Boys get plenty of attention in the world of movies.

      • Ashleigh

        Seriously. Boys have NEVER been underrepresented by Hollywood. Ever. Hollywood is controlled by 95% straight white guys. Women are a niche/minority group in the studios’ minds and are treated as such. In fact I’d argue we had more varied roles and better representation in the 30s/40s than we do now.

  • Alyssa

    I will check it out merely to check it out. But I petitioned to have it changed back a while ago. I think its a sexist title. And Quite with the Princess and the Frog cop out. Its getting old. Alot of people like the film and Disney isnt giving it the credit it deserves.

    • p

      can you elaborate as to why you think it’s a sexist title?

    • Alyssa

      Change the name to get ” Boys” to see it. Rapunzel would have been fine. There are a ton of ” Boy” Disney films. So its sexist they are catering to boys.

      • Will

        Your retarted

      • Josh

        Oh Will, there is so much irony in your comment, it’s a fairytale in itself.

      • p

        I don’t think you understand what sexism means.

      • Kris

        Do you know what sexist means? There is so much wrong with what you just said.

      • Alyssa

        sexist-” discrimination on the basis of sex/gender or oppression of women by men” according to the dictionary. Sounds right to me.

      • p

        but they chose a title that appeals to both boys AND girls. that’s the opposite of sexism. if they had changed the title to Flynn Ryder you could argue that it’s sexism. But given that they chose a title that appeals to both sexes equally and doesn’t suggest that one sex is better than the others…it’s not sexism.

    • STUPID = Alyssa

      If they changed the title to have the film appeal more to the opposite sex that is a SMART tactical move. Tangled is in fact a great romantic adventure starring a female lead (see it and I dare you to beg to differ) REGARDLESS of whether it’s called Rapunzel or the gender-neutral Tangled and if this helps more typically biased audiences check it out, that’s an encouraging thing.

  • Alyssa

    *Quit, not Quite

    • Alana

      You’re one of those annoying people who criticise everything aren’t you? you don’t like the title.. DON’T SEE THE MOVIE. it’s really quite simple

    • Alyssa

      No actually I am a very open-minded person I just cant stand how stupid people are. And yes occasionally that includes people in the movie industry. I am going to check it out because it looks good. I just think it was wrong and sad to change a Fairytale title to something so mediocre.

      • p

        before calling people stupid, you might want to do some research. Fairy tales come from tales told orally. the tales didn’t have titles. it’s not until they were written down that titles were given, and even then there are many versions of the fairy tales and different titles (including this particular fairy tale). titles are irrelevant for fairy tales.

  • Nicole

    I am tired of the whipping Princess and the Frog keeps getting from Disney and EW. My family loves it. Disney complains about its performance, but it didn’t give it a plum Thanksgiving opening. It opened in select cities that weekend then nationwide in December. They also alienated some African American viewers by making Naveen some vague beige nationality instead of giving Tiana a Black prince and Tiana being a frog for over 50% of the film. I am Black and my kids didn’t care about any of these issues. It is a staple at my home and a damn fine picture. So Disney, stop dogging it out and admit that you screwed your own movie.

    • jury’s out

      Also, it was left on the shelf for years before they finally decided to release it. Furthermore, it was traditional animation instead of the 3D look which is favored these days.

      • Frank

        Shelf? It was never left anywhere.

      • jury’s out

        Then why did it take them years to release it after it was finished? They probably thought people would accept a black princess since a black president was elected.

    • Jdsp8

      My kids love(!)Princess and the Frog. Who cares what my their skin color is- we’re often all on the couch on a Friday night eating popcorn singing along to “Almost There…”

    • Dani

      I agree about being sick of people going on about how Princess & the frog didn’t do well. My kids loved it. My daughter AND my son. I personally don’t see any problem with the color of the characters. My family is white and Tiana is one of my daughters favorite Princesses. As for the comments about her not being someone to aspire to I hope that’s not true. She is one of the strongest female characters Disney has ever produced. She aspires to be a successful restaurantuer on her own. That is something I would love for my little girl to look up to! When we were at Disney we could not meet her and Naveen because the line for them was always to long, someone must like them!

    • Jane

      I wanted SO BADLY to like Princess and the Frog as I LOVE anything having to do with New Orleans. It was a beautiful film to look at but two things bothered me. First, the songs didn’t cut it for a top disney film. There are other disney films that failed (imho) because of a mediocre soundtrack. Second, I found the way they portrayed Tiana’s friend and that girls father to be patronizing – typical stereotype of the “Old Southern Plantation Owners”. Tiana and her family were portrayed nicely as strong characters that worked hard and succeeded. It didn’t fail completely but I won’t buy it for my disney movie collection.

  • Jdsp8

    Oh, and we’re going to see “Tangled” tomorrow and we’re going to have a blast just spending time together!

  • Joe

    Well, my son is 3 and can’t wait to see the movie, and it’s not because of Flynn. He thinks Rapunzel is “pretty” and finds it fascinating that her hair can do all that stuff. By the way, he refers to the movie as “Rapunzel” and not “Tangled”.

    • Mikayla

      Aw! He sounds adorable.

      But all of my guy friends call it “Rapunzel” too because that’s the fairy tale it’s based on, so if boys and girls alike are just going to recognize it by her name anyway, then why did Disney bother to change it?

  • Evie

    I’ve always loved Disney and have lots of faith in Disney…even if the movie isn’t 2D like I had hoped. I’m still very excited that’s it’s a musical and really look forward to seeing it!

  • e11even

    Great flick. This current explanation of the movie’s name change is plausible (even though the “so boys will see it”/marketing rationale seems a bit more realistic) ‘Bad boy’ Flynn Rider still ends up the mold of a “sweep her off her feet” white-knight Disney prince, which is not exactly boy-friendly material. However, mostly through the movie I kept wondering if Chris Evans gets residuals for Disney ripping off his Fantastic Four/Human Torch character (from the quipping womanizing front to the “smolder” to the goatee)…well, maybe not since Disney owns Marvel (yeah, yeah, FF was a Fox film).

  • Cleetus

    A movie doesn’t have to be named after the lead character. Star Wars wasn’t called “LUKE” was it?

    • Alyssa

      ” Star Wars” as we all know was about much more than Luke Skywalker anyway. Darth Vader and the Emperors rule to keep the Sith alive. Obi-wan and Yoda’s exile. Leia leading a rebellion with Han and Luke. Luke finding himself along with finding out his true heritage. Battles, hiding, love,…it goes on. BUT the title ” A New Hope” is obviously referring to him and his sister and friends.

      • krick

        The film was simply called “Star Wars” when it was released in 1977.
        “Episode IV: A New Hope” wasn’t added to the title until it was re-released in 1981.

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