A Talk With Disney’s Glen Keane About Tangled

I had the privilege of talking to Glen Keane when Beauty and the Beast was released on Blu-ray and last week I got another chance to talk to him about Tangled.  Mr. Keane is not only a legendary Disney animator, but he was also the original director of Tangled before becoming the Executive Producer and Supervising Animator for the film.  As always, he was a very gracious interviewee and I especially appreciated that he took the time to share his thoughts on one aspect of the ending of the movie which I had found ambiguous.  Just be aware that some of his answers could be viewed as spoilers!

Q – How did you reach the amazing “organic quality“ in terms of the character animation.? Did you have any special tools /techniques to improve that effect, or is it in the end just the hard work of the artists?
A – Glen Keane / : For me it was very important to find what I call “bridge people.”  These are people who understand computer and hand drawn animation.  They are translators in a sense. John Kahrs and Clay Kaytis where my partners as supervising animators.  I call us “the triumvirate.”  And they found ways to pull me in so I could do what comes naturally to me, draw.  We installed a cintiq tablet in our dailies screening room and I would watch the animators’ recent animation.  I could draw over the top of every frame if necessary and the animators would see it large on the screen and those drawings would then appear on each animator’s computer back in their offices.  That way it was a constant natural mentorship throughout the making of this film bringing the appeal of hand drawn into CG.

Q – Hair animation is still one of the most challenging parts in today’s cg animation work.  How much effort and research did you need to end up with such perfect effects?
A – Glen Keane / : We started writing software to animate the hair in 2005.  Kelly Ward, who has a PhD in animating computer hair, joined our team and was every bit as creative as I am with a pencil as she was with numbers, equations, concepts and the vision to interpret those elements into a beautiful, flowing, organic hair on the screen.

Q – Can you talk about how the casting of Zachary and Mandy influenced your drawings, if they did at all?
A – Glen Keane / : When you are about to animate a character, the voice has a huge impact on the look of that character.  For example, if you are speaking to someone on the phone who you have never met, that voice immediately conjures up images of what that person looks like.  Maybe when you meet them they don’t look like that but that voice carries the visual DNA in it.  I had been listening to a lot of different actresses and Mandy Moore has that irrepressible quality in her voice.  And that was the specific word we were using to describe Rapunzel, irrepressible.  Zac has a very carefree irreverence in his personality and voice which affected the way the character moved and also the design.  For Rapunzel that irrepressible quality came out in the large eyes that are so expressive and for Zac, this wry smile, the expression that we put into the character really came from listening to Zac’s voice.

Q – You’ve said in interviews that you modeled Ariel after you wife, Tarzan after your son and The Beast after yourself. Who was Rapunzel modeled after? Is she in anything like Ariel/Pocahontas?
A – Glen Keane / : Using my family for inspiration is really a part of my own creative DNA.  It’s what my Dad did when he created The Family Circus, the syndicated cartoon which he based on his own family.  Dad said that I was Billy in The Family Circus.  Dad always told me to draw what you know and there is nobody that I know better than my wife and children.  With Rapunzel, she has this irrepressible spirit and right away in thinking through this story I thought, how does she survive in this tower for 18 years?  This creative energy in her would have to come out I surmised in the form of artistic expression.  I figured Rapunzel would have painted on every square inch of her walls.   As I was developing this idea, I realized this was my daughter Claire. When she was 7 years old she was telling my wife that she wanted to paint her bedroom walls and ceiling.  She had all sorts of ideas of images to paint.  My wife said, “I’m not going to let a 7 year old loose with a paint brush painting the walls of the house” Jump to 13 years later, Claire was attending Academy Julian in Paris, an art school, and when it came time to hire someone to create Rapunzel’s artistic style, Claire was the perfect choice.  So she started working with me on Rapunzel.  When you see Rapunzel paint on the walls you see Claire paint and actually fulfill her dream.

Q – What was it like to work with Ollie and Eric? Did they give you any advice that you still use today?
A – Glen Keane / : It’s funny, when I started at Disney 37 years ago I was a 20 year old artist who knew nothing about animation.  I had the privilege of working with Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men.”  Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and Eric Larsen were my mentors.  The things they told me were deeply implanted in my mind and throughout the whole process of this movie I repeated those.  I felt like I was passing on the baton.  I remember Ollie saying, “Don’t draw what the character is doing, draw what the character is thinking.”  It was very important in Tangled that the animators would crawl into the skin of the characters and live in them.  You can feel it when an animator believes in what he is animating.  Eric Larsen used to say all the time, “The key to Disney animation is sincerity.”  That translates for an actor to mean take something real in your own experience and put it up on screen.   So besides the drawing and design elements, this was more of the intuitive or spiritual element I was trying to bring to the animators, the idea of living in the characters we animate.

Q – Bringing Rapunzel to life had to be a big challenge, because she moves in one way but her hair, as another character, has its own life. Could you explain to us the process to animate her? Did you animate Rapunzel first and then her hair? Which steps did you follow?
A – Glen Keane / : The first step in animating Rapunzel was to design the character with all the bells and whistles necessary to animate incredibly subtle emotion.  That meant working closely with modelers and riggers, the people that create the entire nervous system under the skin of a CG character.  Then the directors issue the scene to the animator.  Byron and Nathan would act the scene out so the animator could watch their expression and body attitude.  Sometimes I would do drawings at that moment as I would interpret Byron as Rapunzel doing that same action.  The animator then would do a rough first pass of the animation and I would do drawing corrections over the top in our dailies sessions.  The directors would then make comments about what they wanted to take out or add or push.  Once we had the basic movement down we would animate the hair.  Sometimes the animator would control the 14 tubes of hair, each with 10,000 hairs in each tube, or we would have the simulation team animate the hair based on the movement the animator had created with the body.  The simulation follows the laws of physics with some extra Pixie dust ingredients that our team of hair animators created.

Q – Which one from your many, many past projects was most defining for your career, and why?
A – Glen Keane / : I would have to say The Little Mermaid because I discovered I love characters who have this burning desire inside that they believe the impossible is possible.  Since then I have followed that path, now with Tangled.  This character of Rapunzel has brought me to a new crossroads.  How far can hand drawn affect, or be integrated into, computer animation? I now try to see animation not as CG or hand drawn but simply as filmmaking.

Q – Your background is huge. How hard is it for you to step into that digital world now and in which parts can you count on you massive experiences from the past?
A – Glen Keane / : At first I was very tentative about how I could influence CG with my pencil.  I have to say that I don’t know how to animate on the computer but I have never been afraid of the computer.  John Lasseter and I did the very first computer animation test back in the 80’s, so I have always seen computer animation wherever it crosses the path of hand drawn, forcing me to draw better and to think more sculpturally.  Drawing on the cintiq over top of computer images was very natural and fluid.  I could even animate very quickly live in front of the room full of animators and demonstrate how I felt the action could play.  Drawing is an incredibly affective tool to communicate ideas.  It really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Q – Would you call “Tangled” a feminist movie? Your female characters, regardless of who they are, good or bad, are strong and persevering.
A – Glen Keane / : I don’t think of Tangled as a feminist or non-feminist movie.  I think of Rapunzel as an example of the highest qualities of human nature, male or female.  I see her as an illustration of every human being who is born with a divine spark, a potential to become something unique.  And the walls that surround her, and hold her back, are symbolic of walls in anyone’s life, those things that hold us back from being who we really long to be.  Yes, that is feminist and masculinist and humanist.

Q – What has been your favorite film to work on for Disney?
A – Glen Keane / : It’s a little like who is your favorite child?  Every film holds some very special moments in my life.  Ariel was a character that launched a renaissance and that will always be perhaps the most special.  Tangled in a very similar way is a launching pad for what I hope will be a new renaissance and someday in retrospect I hope to say the same thing about Tangled as I said about The Little Mermaid.  I do believe the greatest moments in Disney history have been launched by fairy-tales.

Q – What´s your opinion about the Disney Animation evolution?
A – Glen Keane / : Disney animation needs to continue to evolve, embracing both its hand drawn heritage and the newest inventions of CG.  It’s funny but hand drawn animation at Disney has a look that was created out of technical limitations, i.e.  painting on cells.  CG can liberate us from this restrictive form.  It’s a future I am anxious to be a part of.

Q – Your Dad drew “The Family Circus,” a single-panel comic strip that I enjoyed growing up. I didn’t know it at the time, but you were apparently the model for Billy. What effect did seeing yourself as a comic strip character have on you or the way you approach animation?
A – Glen Keane / : When I draw, I become the character that I draw.  Perhaps I owe that to seeing myself portrayed in my dad’s comics as a child.

Q – How has your father influenced your work in animation?
A – Glen Keane / : My dad is an entertainer.  Every dinner with him was an opportunity to tell jokes and entertain the family.  I always wanted that opportunity to be on stage and to entertain.  At the same time. my dad encouraged me to approach art from a classical standpoint.  When I was 10 he gave me a book called Dynamic Anatomy, and I started to study drawing the figure from the inside out: muscles, skeleton, design.  These two aspects of entertainer and artist that my dad encouraged have found the perfect blend in animation.

Q – When did you decide to give Rapunzel brown hair in the end? Was that part of the story from day one, or something that came up later in the making of the movie?
A – Glen Keane / : The brown hair developed in the process of telling the story.  We needed to show that the hair died or lost its power.  Color is the clearest way of doing that.  It was difficult at first to imagine Rapunzel as a brunette, but ultimately it reinforced the theme that outward appearances don’t define who we really are.

Q – How do you start drawing a character? It is just a matter of inspiration or maybe it implies a long period of study?
A – Glen Keane / : The development of a character for me is a very personal journey.  I have an odd belief that the character already exists before I start to draw them.  Similar to what Michelangelo describes in setting a figure free from the marble that surrounds it.  This liberation may happen quickly or slowly but there is definitely a moment when the character rises out of the paper and I recognize them.  It’s a wonderful day when that happens.

Q – Which is your favorite Disney character hairstyle of all time?
A – Glen Keane / : The hairstyle is very important because it is like someone’s signature.  Rapunzel and Ariel vie for that special honor of having the favorite hairstyle for me.  They both have the distinctive swoop that I emphasize for the doll makers and the merchandise books to follow.  Both hairstyles have rhythm and volume.  There is a sensuality to hair that I am fascinated with, it’s movement, it’s feel and this softening effect it can have on the audience’s attraction to that character.

Q – What inspires you in you work? How much time do you need to draw a character?
A – Glen Keane / : I find great joy in experiencing the emotions and physical actions of the characters I animate.  The challenge of Tangled was to enjoy that experience through the hands of other animators.  I find that I feel like a proud papa in seeing each animator take moments of their own life and put that on the screen, whether it is Mother Gothel, Flynn , Maximus or Rapunzel.

Q – Tangled was first titled Rapunzel Unbraided. It was changed because the story focuses on Rapunzel en Flynn equally. It remained unchanged in parts of Europe however. Do you think Rapunzel isn’t just about Rapunzel? And the hair…
A – Glen Keane / : Back in the early stages of Rapunzel, there was a desire to portray the fairytale in a very modern twist, thus the title Rapunzel Unbraided.  Ultimately, I wanted to embrace the classic fairytale and set that title aside, as well as that story.

Q – If the loss of her hair symbolized the loss of her power to heal, then how did her tears heal Flynn? Is it an inherent power within her that works even without singing or her hair?
A – Glen Keane / : The healing tear was an important element in the original fairytale.  It always symbolized for me that the true nature of Rapunzel’s gift came from her heart, not her hair.  This dramatic ending allows us to revisit a similar moment from Dumbo.  When he loses his magic feather and can still fly, he can fly because that’s who he was, a flying elephant.  Rapunzel finds that the healing power never left her and is actually released by love.  Does she keep healing every time she sheds a tear?  I believe that was the last of that power.

Q – How much video reference was done for “Tangled”? I was really impressed at how believably the characters moved in a lot of scenes.
A – Glen Keane / : The animators had the habit of filming themselves.  Sometimes in dailies we would critique the live action that they showed of themselves acting out the scenes.  You could select key frames and build a very simplified version of their acting suitable for animation and then build on those poses, exaggerating.  We would do that by drawing and pushing the curves of the CG figure, enhancing expressions.  But the final effect still held its roots in that original performance that the animator filmed in his or her office.  Some of the most amazing animators on the film were a team of female animators who really poured themselves into the character of Rapunzel.

Q – This might be a tough question for you to answer, given not just Disney’s push but all the studios’ collective push for 3D, but if there were no outside pressures or preferences, would your preference have been to make a 2D or 3D film? Can you explain?
A – Glen Keane / : On John Lasseter’s first day at Disney Animation as president, he came down to my office and gave me the choice to animate Rapunzel in 2D or CG.  I told John if he had asked me three years ago I would have said 2D for sure but for the last three years I had been building a team around me with the idea that there was a better synthesis of the best of 2D and the best of CG possible.  We had a new vision of what animation could be and I really wanted to pursue that goal. So I told John, let’s do it in CG.

Q – A chicken and egg question. How developed were the main characters of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider before you went looking for the right voice talents? Or did the talents come first, with the characters scarcely developed?
A – Glen Keane / : We had the characters very clearly defined before we found the voices.  So Mandy and Zac were the perfect match for what we envisioned.


Q – Was it strange — after being a pencil & notebook guy for all those years — to suddenly be drawing on a tablet?
A – Glen Keane: The cintiq tablet at first was very slippery with the stylus pen on glass and it took a couple of weeks to get used to that but I quickly found that there were benefits to it.  I could animate very quickly moving from one frame to the next and have my drawings projected up onto the screen in our dailies screening room.  All the animators would watch my drawings form and I could talk and actually give animation lessons to the young animators on our crew.  I saw this as an opportunity to pass on the baton that had been given to me by Walt’s “Nine Old Men.”

Q – Is there a sequence you’re most proud of, and why?
A – Glen Keane: The sequence where Flynn is dying in Rapunzel’s arms.  It was the most difficult and the most rewarding because the acting was so extremely subtle.  The expressions of someone crying are inherently ugly.  All the muscles in the face fight each other.  No one wants a camera in their face at that moment.  But we challenged the animators to go for the ugly face and as Rapunzel fights and holds back tears, the emotions are so real and so true.  And it’s so effective because when that tear comes from Rapunzel’s eye and heals Flynn, you believe there is enormous pain in Rapunzel’s heart.  If you don’t believe that tear comes from a heart of love the movie doesn’t work. It was successful and emotionally gripping.  I was never more proud of our animators then at that moment.

Q – Why was it decided to make Tangled a musical? It seems every Disney animated theatrical release is a musical; why is this?
A – Glen Keane: Music brings an enormous amount of freedom in storytelling.  You can advance a story in fun ways and also in extremely emotional, dramatic ways.  Howard Ashman used to say, when you have tried to say something through acting, through dialogue, in every way you possibly can and there is nothing left to do to communicate those feelings, your character has to sing.  And there is something about music in fairy-tales that go together like peanut butter and jelly.  It just seems to taste better.

Q – You go to work closely with your daughter Claire on this animated feature. To the point that your granddaughter Matisse was the model for baby Rapunzel. What was it like to work on such a family-based project?
A – Glen Keane: I guess the idea of using your family in your work comes from my dad.  He created a comic called The Family Circus based on his own family, I was the character Billy in Dad’s comic.  So when it came time for me to animate I have always used my own family as models.  Ariel was my wife, Tarzan was my son, I was Beast and my daughter Claire was very much the inspiration for Rapunzel.  I remember when Claire was 7 years old she wanted to paint her bedroom walls and ceiling.   My wife said no, but when Claire was 21 as an art student, I realized she was the perfect choice to create the look and style of Rapunzel’s paintings.  So when you see Rapunzel paint you are seeing my daughter Claire’s paintings.  During the making of the film she gave birth to our first grandchild, a little girl named Matisse.  I used Matisse as an inspiration for designing little baby Rapunzel.  It all goes back to taking what you know and using that as a source for inspiration.  I believe the audience connects to the sincerity that inspired those characters.

Q – Given that you worked on the Disney Princess movie that helped kick start Disney’s Second Golden Age of Animation (i.e. “The Little Mermaid”), how does it feel to have been so involved in the creation of “Tangled,” the Disney Princess movie that proved that WDAS can make truly great films in the CG format?
A – Glen Keane: It seems that a fairytale launches every important era of Disney animation.   Snow White launched the golden age, Little Mermaid a renaissance, and now it’s my hope that Tangled can launch this third golden age of Disney animation.  I think the key is finding the synthesis between a new technology, CG and the roots of our heritage, hand drawn.

Q – What is some memorable advice you received from Ollie Johnston?
A – Glen Keane: My mentor was Ollie Johnston.  When I was 20 years old he taught me things like the key to Disney animation is sincerity or don’t draw what the character is doing, draw what the character is thinking.  These ideas I repeated again and again to our crew during the making of Tangled.  For me it was really an occasion to pass on the baton to this new generation.

Q – What advice would you give to people who want to break into the entertainment industry?
A – Glen Keane: I would say be yourself.  The temptation is to give the audience what you think they want instead of opening up and being vulnerable and sharing who you are with them.  It seems that every time someone takes that step of vulnerability they discover an audience ready to embrace them.

Q – What was it like working with Nathan & Byron on this feature?
A – Glen Keane: Nathan and Byron are great actors.  They would issue the scenes to the animators by relating moments in their own lives to what they were asking the animators to do.  They would act and express very deep emotions, sometimes even with tears.  The animators would watch and take notes, I would do drawings on the cintiq tablet, all in an effort to capture Nathan and Byron’s performance.  They were an engine for driving the subtlety, humor and drama in this film.

Q – I’m told that you took a run at developing an animated version in the mid-1990s, before you started work on “Tarzan.” What was it about this Grimm’s fairy tale that grabbed and then held your attention?
A – Glen Keane: While I was working on Tarzan I was simultaneously developing Rapunzel.  This story captured my desire to animate characters that have this burning desire inside of them to do what seems impossible.  I was attracted to the story because of what I imagined to be Rapunzel’s irrepressible nature.  And so I developed it with that idea and I believed with all my heart that Disney had to make this fairytale.  It went through many changes of management and often times great doubts and efforts to change the story into something other then what I believed.  Ultimately it was a joy to work with John Lasseter and Nathan and Byron who caught the original vision and allowed me to focus my efforts into bringing hand drawn into CG.

Q – What do you believe is the most important part of creating a character?
A – Glen Keane: I have an odd belief that the character exists before they are designed, similar to Michelangelo seeing a figure encased in marble.  His task was to set it free.  So for me the joy of creating a character that I believe is real is at the heart of creating a memorable character.  I use people I know as inspiration.  It’s a very intimate personal process and I will do hundreds, sometimes thousands, of drawings in finding that design.  There is a great “aha” moment when I finally recognize the character on my paper as someone I know.  And that happened with Rapunzel.  I look at her and I can say with confidence that’s her.

Q – Rapunzel is such a “real” teenage girl, especially when it comes to that sequence in the film where her emotions whipsaw back and forth (i.e. where she’s thrilled to be out of the tower one moment and then deeply depressed that she’s betrayed her mother’s trust the next). Given that Disney Princesses tend to be so optimistic and upbeat, was it hard to convince the Studio that a Disney Princess whose emotions were kind of all over the place would play better with today’s audiences?
A – Glen Keane: There was a time when Disney princesses were neatly packaged and always pristine and pretty.  Ariel was the first to break from that box.  I remember my mentors Frank (Thomas) and Ollie (Johnson) said after the opening of The Little Mermaid that they would never have animated Ariel that way.   I said, ‘why?’ “Because you drew her face with ugly expressions at times when we were very careful to only draw our princesses with prettiest of expressions.”   And at that time I realized that this was a new generation of acting.   Anytime we had a choice to choose pretty or real we would always chose real.  The authentic emotion is our goal.

Q – How did you get your start in the entertainment industry? Was animation always you passion?
A – Glen Keane: I sent my portfolio when I was 18 to CalArts to the school of painting.  I wanted to be a fine artist.  My portfolio was sent by accident to the school of film graphics, an artsy way of saying animation.  I was very disappointed but ultimately discovered animation as the ultimate art form.  I liked to think that if Da Vinci or Rodin was alive today they would chose animation as their metier.

Q – Which do you prefer, the 2D traditionally hand drawn animation or 3D computer generated animation?
A – Glen Keane: I love to live in the skin of the characters I animate.  I find the pencil the most intimate connection to my heart in terms of communicating what is inside.  There are artists today who don’t draw with the traditional pencil.  Instead they express themselves with a much more expensive pencil, a computer.  One of our top animators on Tangled used to be a plumber and discovered that animation was his true calling. So I have to say I have enormous respect for the pencil and the computer.  Personally I prefer to draw with the pencil, but I chose to stand in the middle of the computer world and use everything in my power to make the computer more artist-friendly.  Tangled is a result of those efforts.

Q – Which character has been your favorite to animate?
A – Glen Keane: Every character has touched on some real part of my life.  I suppose Ariel really was that character that opened up my heart, that connection in me to animate characters who believe that the impossible is possible.  I am a guy who sees life as a glass half full and I relate to a character’s optimism.

Q – Do you plan to do more computer animation, or do you see yourself returning to traditional hand-drawn?
A – Glen Keane: I see myself continuing on the path of bringing more of hand drawn influence into CG.  However, this project has been a long, long journey.  I can’t wait to get back into animating in 2D.  So I suppose I will be running down both paths at the same time.

Q – “Tangled” is a film that often surprises (EX: The fairy tale version of “Rapunzel” is mostly about this girl locked away in a tower. Whereas “Tangled” spends much of its time outside of that tower, as Rapunzel goes out into the world to discover herself; The clichéd movie bad guys — the thugs at the Snuggly Duckling — actually turn out to be the good guys, helping Flynn & Rapunzel escape from the guards and then again helping Flynn escape from prison). Was this a deliberate choice while you guys were working on “Tangled” ? That you’d take the audience’s expectations and then flip them?
A – Glen Keane: Have you ever been on a dark ride at Disneyland?  The goal is to make the audience think they are heading one direction and then surprising them with a 90 degree turn in a new direction.  Suddenly a black wall opens and what once seemed to be a lovely forest turns into a scary witch and you are delighted and scared at the same time.  Tangled is like a dark ride in that sense.  We are constantly surprising the audience with a twist by playing with their expectations on stereotypes.  Really underneath it all is the theme of following your dreams.  Even the toughest thugs have dreams.

Q – Can you talk about the difficulties in drawing Rapunzel’s hair and how you overcome these?
A – Glen Keane: Rapunzel’s hair was 70 ft. long. 140,000 individual hairs animating and controlling thousands of hairs was at times like herding a thousand cats.  The hair would often explode into a chaotic mess of strong willed pixels bouncing against one another and heading off in their own direction.  The real miracle in this movie was Kelly Ward a software engineer who had a PhD in computer generated hair.  She wrote software for 6 years on how to control this gigantic beast.  We really thought of the hair as another character.  I did many drawings to describe the aesthetic look of the hair, the rhythm, twist, volume, etc. that needed to be incorporated into the animating of the hair.  Drawing once again became the best tool for communicating ideas.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  But I discovered that creativity is not limited to pencils.  Kelly proved that the domain of numbers and equations can be just as creative.

Q – How are Ariel and Rapunzel alike and different?
A – Glen Keane: Ariel and Rapunzel both are being kept from living their dreams by a barrier.  For Rapunzel it’s a tower wall and for Ariel it’s the ocean surface.  They both share this irrepressible spirit .  The joy in these characters is to watch them overcome impossible odds in attaining their dream.

Q – How has your impression of computer animation changed over the years?
A – Glen Keane: In the early 80’s John Lasseter and I animated the first blend of hand drawn and CG in the Wild Things test.  John eventually left Disney and started that obscure little company, Pixar.  I continued down the path of hand drawn but anytime the computer crossed my path I embraced it.  Tarzan surfing down the branches, thanks to deep Canvas, created a wonderful synthesis between 2D and CG.  In Treasure Planet, Long John Silver was a combo of hand drawn and CG in the same character thanks to his cyborg body parts.  So it was not a big stretch to move towards computer animation for Tangled.  The upward path of computer animation continues to approach the beauty and intuitive feel of hand drawn.  Eventually there will be a seamless marriage between the two.

Q – Who are your inspirations as far as family, friends, or even other artists go?
A – Glen Keane: Frederic Back is my favorite animator – a French-Canadian artist, in his 80’s now, who created The Man Who Planted Trees.  It is a tour de force of personal expression.  I dream of doing something so beautiful someday.

Q – How do you keep the creative ideas flowing? How do you fight back against creative blocks?
A – Glen Keane: I find that when I hit a creative block I see it differently now than I did when I was younger.  I used to think of a creative block as proof that my creative journey had come to an end.  That I just never really had it.  Then I discovered it was not the end but a wall to climb, that really I had come to an end of a plateau and there were new ideas to discover and eventually another creative block to confront.  So the way out of a block is to open yourself up to something new.  The way I do that is escape from Disney, go to a library and randomly search through books of artists or writers and find some new wind of inspiration.  Sometimes I head down the street not far from Disney to the Norton Simon Museum and I always am reminded that this is my time to be an artist and to make the most of the opportunity like these artists before me did i.e. Degas, Renoir, Rodin.

Q – What was the hardest sequence to deal with in this movie and why?
A – Glen Keane: The difficulty of animating crowds is monumental.  When Rapunzel enters the kingdom and sees a world filled with people it put the fear of God into all of us at the studio.  How in the world could we animate this crowd and maintain the integrity of everything we wanted in Rapunzel herself?  The heroes of that sequence were John Kahrs and Clay Kaytis, my fellow animation supervisors.  Typically animation supervisors give the task of animating crowds to the newest animators as quote, “dirty work”.  Instead John and Clay took it upon themselves to organize, oversee and animate those crowds.  Those guys are awesome.

Q – What was your favorite part of working on the masterpiece that is “Tangled”?
A – Glen Keane: The very best moments for me were working with the animators in helping them dig down deep and find something real inside their own hearts to put into their characters they were animating.  It was so rewarding to see people genuinely respond with laughter and tears and to know I had a small part in encouraging this new generation of animators to enjoy what i have enjoyed over my own career.  Amen!

Q – What castle inspired you when drawing this one in TANGLED?
A – Glen Keane: Mont St. Michel in Normandy, France inspired our castle in Tangled.  It sits out in the bay surrounded by water and feels so very fairytale like.  When I visited it I knew this has to be the kingdom that Rapunzel will someday be Queen of.

Q – Any final thoughts on TANGLED?
A – Glen Keane: Disney animation has been a home for me for 37 years and I have learned an enormous amount from the artists who I have worked with and the creative challenges in the characters I have animated.  I have told the animators many times on this film that they are artists and had they been born five hundred years before, we would be talking about building a cathedral or painting on wet plaster and creating frescoes.  But we are born at this time and our cathedral is animated filmmaking.  This is their time on the planet to be artists and to be make it count.  Open up what is inside of them and put all of their heart into moving this art form forward.  That is the future for this art form of animation and Disney studios.

TANGLED will be released on Disney 3D, Blu-ray & DVD on March 29, 2001. Pre-order your copy now!


3 Responses to “A Talk With Disney’s Glen Keane About Tangled”

  1. Gregg

    I didn’t know Bill Keane was his dad! Wow, talk about keeping success in the family genes.

  2. Big BOys Oven


  3. Sean Ferguson