Monday, April 14, 2008

Unbound By Unbraided...



This is a film that has been in development almost as long as Rapunzel's hair. When Glen Keane first pitched the idea of doing this classic fairy tale he envisioned a classic telling of the beautiful girl with the endlessly long locks locked high up inside a tower by an evil Witch who one day has a handsome Prince climb her hair to save her. Actually, the Brother's Grimm version of this tale does end so quickly and the road to it is not so happily. In their version the Prince doesn't play as prominent a role. In fact, when he gets to the imprisoned girl, he's confronted by the Witch and cowardly jumps from the tower. As he runs away through a brush of thorns he becomes blinded. Years later he comes upon an older Rapunzel and she recognizes him she cries and her tears land in his eyes, restoring his vision...

And they lived happily ever after.

Not quite the Disney tale, huh? Eisner thought so as well. And being as this was the time that "Shrek" had just come out he had Keane take "Rapunzel" and turn it into a "Shrek-like" retelling where a modern girl and boy are transported back into the fairy tale. A modern edgy fantasy that became known as "Rapunzel Unbraider". Through the years of development we've seen more and more animated films with this pop-culture/edgy feel to it and the uniqueness of "Shrek" and this tale has dwindled. By the time Lasseter got there the only thing exciting about the story was the fact that Keane was directing it. The designs which he had literally spent years working on were/are amazing. It's like watching a moving painting. The Mousetro thought that it would be better to go back to the original plan that Glen had and do a classic version of the story. So off Glen Keane went to do another pass at the story. When he returned to Keane months later, Lasseter loved the version of the story Keane had brought him. He felt the first act was as good if not better than the best Disney films from the first and second Golden Age's of Mouse animation. But that was the first act... the second and third act needed work. So off the animator did again to work on the second and third acts. When he returned, what was the result? Lasseter still wasn't happy with the new middle and ending. So another pass was taking and this time it still didn't meet approvingly. Lasseter talked to Keane about possibly having another director with a fresh set of eyes co-direct this movie with him. At first, as expected, Glen Keane resisted... this was after all going to be his directorial debut. Eventually he chose Dean Wellins(The Iron Giant, Osmosis Jones), whom has worked closely with Keane on "Treasure Planet". Lasseter wanted to make sure the two could get along so he chose someone that the artist would feel comfortable with and whom Keane would not see as a threat to his vision or another example of the studio taking control of a project. After they collaborated, the resulting first showing of their story to Lasseter? He liked it... it was more in the direction he thought it should head and the finale was more focused, but it was not ready for a complete greenlight.

Thus is the case with the Pixar mode of story that is now being routinely practiced at the Hat Building. Story. Story. Story. What is the focus of the characters? Why are they doing what they are doing? Where is the narrative taking us? Those kinds of things get asked and re-asked until they are answered satisfactorily to Lasseter. The Story Trust also keeps commenting each time a film gets a showing when it goes "up on reels". Such is the case with "Rapunzel" right now. It's not totally there yet, but it's getting extremely close. Those that have seen it think it will be one of the strongest stories that Disney has put out. The first film of Lasseter's tenure at the Mouse may be "Bolt", but his stamp will be set when "The Princess and the Frog" comes out next year and the new seal of quality, style and direction will reach a pinnacle in 2010 when "Rapunzel" unfurls her blond strands of hair. By then, we will hopefully be in a Third Golden Age of Disney Animation...

By the end of the decade we'll have an answer to the question everyone was asking when Iger purchased the Lamp and brought its talent in to revive WDFA.

"Was Pixar worth the price Disney paid?"

With the new slate that was announced last week that fuzzy question is closer to having a clear answer. For the moment, it looks like they got a bargain...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually Glen chose Dean when he realized that the story just wasn't progressing. Glen is a great animator, but he has never been responsible for coming up with a story before, so he chose someone with experience in story.

Anonymous said...

On the Iron Giant DVD, Brad Bird joked that Dean Wellins storyboarded and animated about half the movie. Wellins's is an incredibly talented guy and to have him direct a Disney animated film is truly terrific.

Anonymous said...

so is glen going to be like jan, is this the end of glen keane.

these pixar guys are doing a great job with disney, bolt looks great i mean a story about a poorly designed dog good thing they fired chris sanders it would have looked unique and even been quirky good call pixar

Honor Hunter said...

Glen Keane is no worry of being fired from "Rapunzel"...

Especially from the buzz I'm hearing on the project.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't one of the reason why Chris Sanders was taken off American Dog was because he wouldn't agree to a co-director?

TP said...

I agree...I'm told that Glen wanted to have a co-director.
Such a humble and talented people.

DCHall said...

"Wasn't one of the reason why Chris Sanders was taken off American Dog was because he wouldn't agree to a co-director?"


If what I've read about this is accurate, then no. Apparently, he agreed to a co-director (a guy he worked on Lilo and Stitch with), but when they went back to Lasseter with a redo, Lasseter still didn't like it and thought it was "too quirky."

Sanders didn't like that his complete vision was getting changed, so he left.

tp said...

To know the opinion of Chris Sanders about "Cars" would be interesting.