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Exclusive Interview with Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi from 'Tangled'

By

Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore Tangled Premiere Photo

Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore pose on the red carpet at the world premiere of 'Tangled.'

© Richard Chavez
Zachary Levi (Chuck) was sick with a cold on the PR tour for Walt Disney Pictures' animated family film Tangled, but that didn't seem to affect his enthusiasm for talking about the project. And Mandy Moore, who voices Rapunzel in this new take on the classic story, easily matched Levi's level of enthusiasm for being a part of the 50th animated film from Disney. The twosome never worked together while contributing their voices to Tangled characters, but it's obvious they've developed a friendship while on their nationwide publicity tour.

Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi Exclusive Tangled Interview

How's the experience of talking about voicing an animated film compare to doing interviews for a live-action movie?

Mandy Moore: "No different. I mean the types of questions I guess are just a little bit more maybe angled on your experience making the movie. But really it's not that different at all."

Zachary Levi: "You would talk about it the same way. You still have to embody your character but the questions arise on how do you do that or what's the difference from doing a live action to animated. But we're still having to bring the character to life."

Is it more difficult to do an animated film than a live-action feature?

Zachary Levi: "I don't know if it's harder. I feel like it's just different. You just have a different set of pros and cons. We didn't get to record any of our dialogue together, which was very different than what we thought we were walking into. You don't have your body to express any of your emotions or what have you, but you also have this very unique and cool experience to explore your voice in a way to bring that character to life. And also, you know, kind of be silly and act a fool a little bit in front of no one other than the directors and the producers and a room full of technicians. But, no, it's very freeing and very cool. You get to walk in and not have to go through hair and make-up which, especially for girls... For guys, we have it a little bit easier normally. We have shorter hair and whatever..."

Mandy Moore: "I've met a few guys who were in the hair and make-up trailer longer."

Zachary Levi: "But all that wardrobe and blah, blah, blah. I could show up unshowered, if I wanted to."

With bunny slippers on.

Zachary Levi: "Yes!"

You really expected to record together?

Mandy Moore: "I thought we would at least some of the time."

Zachary Levi: "Yeah."

Mandy Moore: "We thought we'd have like maybe a few sessions where we would get to read some of the bigger scenes together and play off of the energy that the other brings to the scene. But no, we never got to do that. But I guess it was a good exercise in employing your imagination. Like really having to kind of dig deep to paint this picture of who these characters were and what this world was around them, because obviously doing an animated film there's no real point of reference. You can look at storyboards and sketches all you want and the directors were really, really incredible at giving us very thorough explanations of the scenes and where the character's coming from and where they're going. But at the end of the day you have just yourself to fall back on."

So you were not even looking at storyboards as you were doing the voice?

Mandy Moore: "No. There's nothing there for you for reference. Just a big blank room. But believe me, it's not that bad. We live a very charmed life. We get to do what we love and it's a fantastic job. But it was interesting for me never really having done something like this before. I kind of was like, 'Oh wow.' I would leave feeling emotionally drained at the end of the day because you're just like you're giving every possible interpretation of the line. You're really just sort of living it in almost a slightly heightened sense because it is just your voice. But, yeah, I'd leave and be like, 'I just want to sit in a room now completely by myself in silence.'"

Did you find yourself at times having to hold back because you don't want to overact when it's just your voice? How do you balance that?

Zachary Levi: [Laughing] "Oh, I overact."

How do you voice an animated character without acting like a cartoon character?

Zachary Levi: "I think it depends on your philosophy. They would always...the directors were always there, so as long as you trust them... Even in live action it's always about trusting your director."

Mandy Moore: "And going with your instincts."

Zachary Levi: "Yes, going with your instincts. But I don't know. Look, my philosophy on cartoons is, yes, you're trying to make it real and whatnot, but it's also not real. And not just because it's animated, but because you'll have a character..."

Mandy Moore: "With 70 feet of hair."

Zachary Levi: "Yes. Or Flynn and Maximus fighting... First of all it's a horse that fights with a sword."

It's a dog horse.

Zachary Levi: "It's a dog horse. It's a dorse. But us falling down after being on the branch of the tree. It's hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of feet and we're falling down and we're fine. The facial expressions and different things, that's part of the reason why I love cartoons so much because they are a little more emotive than normal. You go watch an incredibly intense dramatic film and they have expressions [barely moving his face]. Everything is played in like a tiny little eye movement, as opposed to big bug eyes. You watch an episode of Chuck and you'll see that I am a cartoon. It's what I grew up with and it's what I like. I like being able to kind of employ that a little bit."

How do you get up your level of energy for when your character's doing an action scene and you're not. You're in a booth. How do you take yourself there?

Mandy Moore: "I really just sort of try and place myself there, especially if there has to be like running and you're a little bit out of breath. I just jog a little bit in place. I mean, you want it to sound as realistic as possible. And like Zach said, you just sort of trust that the powers that be - the directors and whatnot - will bring you back if you're too over the top, will tell you to sort of amp it up a little bit if you're a little bit too realistic or whatnot. It's about finding that balance in anything, really."

On average how many times do you think you had to say each line?

Zachary Levi: "I think it depended on the line. But I mean at least twice, sometimes half a dozen because they're finding it as the movie's going too. There's so many different departments. They're all working on all the animation and the voices, and they're always going back to John Lasseter and all the other head guys. They're all having to sign off and say, 'You know what? We have to change this beat now.'"

Mandy Moore: "Often times I know I would do sequences three or four times. You're like, 'Oh, wow, we're back doing this one again.'"

Zachary Levi: "'We're back to sequence 14,' or whatever."

Mandy Moore: "But you have to take it that it doesn't really have anything to do with your performance as much as they want to tweak a couple lines, or maybe the animation's already underway and it sort of forces us to do something a little bit differently with the dialogue."

Did they ever show you scenes or did you not see anything before you were totally finished?

Mandy Moore: "Well, along the way we would see bits and pieces as it was all starting to come together. But it doesn't really do anything but just excite you. It doesn't inform you, like, 'Oh, okay, I understand now what I'm supposed to do in this scene.' It was just more of like, 'Okay, this is what we've been working towards. I get it. it's nice to see it starting to flesh out a bit.'"

What was your reaction the first time you heard your voice coming out of that character?

Mandy Moore: "I was disappointed because I was like, 'Oh gosh, my voice is really shrill.'"

Your voice isn't shrill.

Mandy Moore: "You're really sweet. But you know how you listen to yourself on an answering machine or something and you're like, 'Oh god, I sound like that?!'"

I don't think we ever sound like what we think we sound.

Mandy Moore: "Let's hope not because I was really bummed out. I was like, 'I ruined the movie,' because Zach, he sounded so much like this leading man, like the quintessential Disney hero. I was like, 'Oh god, I'm just squeaking it up.' I was really disappointed. But once I got past that and actually saw the movie on the big screen, I was very happy because I didn't have to focus on my voice."

And when you heard your voice, Zach?

Zachary Levi: "We keep going back and forth on this. I felt like I sounded incredibly nasally and I was plugged up. But I loved her. I loved her performance and I loved the way that I basically now have a crush on an 18 year old cartoon character. And a lot of that has to do with the awesome performance that Mandy brought to that - the heart and the life and the beauty. Absolutely. But it is that answering machine phenomenon. It's that thing. I don't know. I'm always incredibly critical of myself anyways. But all that being said, I kept trying to be as unbiased as I could to take a step back and go, 'Wow, this is really awesome. This is really, really cool to watch coming to life.' Any doubts that you might have along the way, like, 'How is this all going to fit tighter because we didn't get to record together?' I watched it and I go, 'I know because I was in the session that Mandy was not there with me,' and yet it is seamless. It's totally as though we were all together. It all was there. I'm so proud of it. I'm so proud of her. I'm so proud of the crew that put the movie together. And now it's done and people are saying they love it, so it's cool."

When you're in the booth are you doing Flynn's exaggerated facial expressions?

Zachary Levi: "Oh yeah, totally."

Were they filming you while you were doing that?

Zachary Levi: "Yeah."

So we'll see it on the behind the scenes features on the DVD?

Zachary Levi: "Maybe. Probably."

Mandy Moore: "We did interviews and that sort of stuff. They did record us throughout the recording process. They filmed us, but mainly for the animators use. Did you see bits of yourself in the character? Did you see your facial expressions?"

Zachary Levi: "Yes and no. All I'm thinking about is all the things that I'm probably emulating. Like I might see a facial expression, right, but that facial expression could just be something that they do normally in animation. I don't know because I'm only emulating what I know the animation is. Does that make any sense?"

Yes.

Zachary Levi: "Like, when you watch it and Flynn's mouth drops open like that, if I did that I don't know if that's them taking that from me or that's Glen Keane being a genius at doing what he does."

Did you see much of yourself?

Mandy Moore: "Every now and then I did. It was really jarring. 'That's me!' I'm very animated and gesture-y in life, so I'm sure they had plenty to choose from in recording us in the booth."

How does it feel to be part of the Disney legacy? Little kids are going to be looking up to you and calling you Rapunzel.

Mandy Moore: "It's so cool. I don't want to crush children's dreams though because it's really hard to discern between a voice and a character. For all intents and purposes, to kids - understandably - Rapunzel's at Disneyland or Disney World walking around. I think it would be confusing if I'm like, 'I'm Rapunzel. Hi!' And they're like, 'No you're not.' So, I'm going to be careful. I'm happy to take the backseat. But it's so cool, you know, from here on out to be able to have this in my back pocket. Like, 'Yeah, we voiced an animated Disney film - the 50th.' It's really, really cool."

Voiced and sang. You don't normally sing though, Zach.

Zachary Levi: "No. I grew up singing a lot. I grew up doing a lot of musical theatre. But you know it's just one of those things where acting hit first and you've got to go with where God's taking you in that. I always wanted for singing to be something I was able to do on a more professional level, but I was always open to the fact that maybe it would never happen. And just recently with stuff like this, it's kind of becoming more of a reality. And maybe I'll never do it again - I don't know."

Mandy Moore: "That's not true."

Zachary Levi: "Well... You never know. I mean, I never know. I'd like to. I hope I get to keep doing it because I think that God gives you your talents to share. But whether you're getting paid for it or not... I mean, I'll always do theatre or hopefully go back to theatre and do that. But to record an album? That would be kind of fun. I don't know what it would look like or sound like, or if it will ever happen. I just want to make stuff that people will actually like. I don't ever want to force myself on anybody. Like, 'Hey, you should check it out. I sing too!'"

* * * * * * * * *

Tangled hits theaters on November 24, 2010 and is rated PG for brief mild violence.

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