How Rapunzel changes everything for the Disney princess film

Princesses have been good business for Disney. They've turned classic fairy-tale characters such as Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty into the stuff of little girls' dreams. They also look good on bed sheets, greeting cards and adorable Halloween costumes.

Disney is in the middle of revamping another literary princess for the holiday season of 2010: Rapunzel will join the Disney pantheon in a computer-animated film starring the voices of Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, from Bolt co-director Byron Howard and Super Rhino short director Nathan Greno.

Walt Disney Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter showed clips and sketches of Rapunzel during his presentation at the D23 Fan Expo earlier this month and revealed three ways Rapunzel leads the pack in feminist Disney princesses such as Jasmine, Mulan and Belle, and three more ways she honors the old traditions of Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty).

New developments

1) This princess doesn't wait. The tale of Rapunzel is that she sat in her tower waiting for some hunk to climb her hair and save her. That doesn't fly in the new millennium. This Rapunzel (Moore) takes care of herself and goes on a swashbuckling adventure with a bandit named Flynn (Levi). "There's a lot of girl power in this movie," Lasseter said.

2) Her hair is a tool and a weapon. Computer artists have given Rapunzel 70 feet of fully articulated hair that she can use as a lasso, as a whip like Indiana Jones, and in more surprising innovations, Lasseter promised. It flows through her entire house, and when she's out in the forest, she has to wrap it around trees to keep it contained.

3) She's been there, done that. Men still climb Rapunzel's hair and say that famous line, but Rapunzel's ready for them. Now they barely get to "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your ... " before she drops her pile of locks with a bored thud.

Classic traditions

1) This Rapunzel sings. All of Disney's famous princesses sing in their animated musicals. This Rapunzel has the music of Alan Menken and the lyrics of Glenn Slater, the duo behind Home on the Range and Sister Act: The Musical. Individually, Menken's credits range from Little Shop of Horrors to Aladdin and Enchanted. Slater is working with Andrew Lloyd Webber on a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.

2) She completes Disney's collection. Lasseter pointed out that Disney had made films out of five of the six fairy tales named after their princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid and Beauty (half the title of Beauty and the Beast). Rapunzel is the feather in their cap. "The sixth one finally comes to life," Lasseter said. "Take a closer look at the girl behind the golden hair."

3) It's a Disney milestone. As if completing its princess collection wasn't enough, Rapunzel just happens to be Disney's 50th feature-length animated film, in case you were counting. It is their first computer-animated fairy tale, so take that, 2-D princesses!

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