Who Is Princess Rapunzel: A Disney Princess Profile

by | Feb 1, 2022 | Disney Cruise Line, Disney Movies, Disney Wish, Disney+

Learn more about Rapunzel, Disney Princess and hair icon, as we celebrate all things arts and animation at Disney.

Welcome back to our deep-dive Princess Profile series. In honor of the Ultimate Princess Celebration, we’ve been taking a closer look at all of our favorite Disney Princess heroines to see who they really are.

We’ve covered Princess Tiana, Belle, and Cinderella thus far. This month, in preparation for our March print issue on Arts and Animation, we’re taking a look at the beloved lost princess who paints, runs barefoot, and wields one heck of a frying pan. We’re talking about Rapunzel from the hit Disney film Tangled.

There are so many reasons I adore this free-spirited dreamer who is the literal definition of #hairgoals.

The History of Rapunzel and Tangled 

The story of Rapunzel originated from an old Neapolitan fairy tale known as Petrosinella, written by Italian poet, Giambattista Basile. The story was published in 1634.

In it, a pregnant woman is desperately craving parsley (side note—parsley? Pretty sure I’d be craving endless Dole Whip floats, but hey, maybe parsley in that time was the primo choice to snack on).

The woman gets caught stealing parsley from an ogress’ garden and, as penance, must give her child to the ogress once it is born.

The ogress names the child Petrosinella (the southern Italian term for ‘parsley’) and locks her in a tall stone tower, isolated from everyone… until a handsome prince climbs the maiden’s long hair, the pair falls in love, they escape the ogress, and, naturally, live happily ever after.

Different versions of the tale started popping up in other countries, and by the time the popular German folklorists, the Brothers Grimm, penned their version in 1698, they named the maiden in the tower… you guessed it, Rapunzel.

In their version, the name was after a salad green that her mother so desperately craved.

Disney first considered adapting the hair-raising tale into an animated film after the smashing success of their first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937.

In the late 1990s, animator Glen Keane started to breathe life into the project. In some of the earliest versions, the project was called Rapunzel Unbraided.

Disney’s reported first few drafts of the story included a much more satirical narrative and another whose plot began in San Francisco and eventually transported the characters to a fairy-tale land.

In 2010, the film we now know and love as Tangled was released, marking Disney’s 50th animated feature film. Tangled was also Disney’s first princess film using computer animation.

All Disney Princess stories have since followed this style of animation, so Tangled really paved the way for some of our newest princesses and heroines in the last 12 years. 

Rapunzel: Disney Princess Strengths

The most obvious strength of Rapunzel is something we now all relate to … she’s got 16 years up on us in isolation (and to add insult to injury, the name of the kingdom in Tangled is Corona!).

Having no one to socialize with (aside from her clever chameleon sidekick, Pascal), Rapunzel uses her strength of resourcefulness to keep herself busy with many different activities, likely all self-taught, while being cooped up at home. 

You and me both, Punzie. I feel you.

Rapunzel’s biggest strength lies in her open-heartedness. She has been force-fed a one-sided belief her entire life by Gothel that the outside world is bad and that the people in it are all selfish and cruel.

She initially believes that people intend to harm her and want to claim the healing powers of her magical hair for themselves.

She has had zero exposure to the outside world and literally has never heard any other opinion for 18 years straight, so why wouldn’t she believe Gothel keeps her hidden for her protection?

And yet, when she meets Flynn Rider, she learns to trust him. When she meets the ruffians at the Snuggly Duckling, she connects with them by sharing her dreams.

And when she encounters animals (that she’s never seen before and would likely be an intimidating sight for her) like Maximus, she cajoles him and even gets him to help her into the kingdom.

She realizes after leaving the tower that there is good in the world, and she allows herself to be open to new experiences, possibilities, and relationships.

Rapunzel watches the lanterns launch

Screenshot courtesy of Disney

Her openness is what helps her grow immensely. At the beginning of the movie, we see Rapunzel taking a submissive role in the relationship between herself and Gothel: eyes downcast, shoulders tensed, and often trying to please her. 

However, by the end of the film, she no longer accepts her “mother’s” gaslighting and manipulative tactics.

When Gothel goes to touch her hair, Rapunzel firmly stands up for herself, looks her directly in the eye, and says “no,” warning that Gothel was wrong about the world and wrong about Rapunzel.

She becomes empowered. She speaks with conviction and even throws Gothel’s insults about Rapunzel’s mumbling right back to her.

She’s not the same person she was, and she is bold enough to confront her captor, whom she’s only realized mere moments ago has been lying to her for her whole life.

Rapunzel: Disney Princess Motivations

Throughout the rest of the movie, we see many other wonderful qualities about Rapunzel. She’s quirky, uninhibited, whimsical, artistic, loyal, daring, and passionate.

But what is it that drives her to leave her tower and finally feel the grass beneath her feet? She’s got a dream.

She believes with all her heart that the floating lanterns she sees every year only on her birthday are meant for her, and she has to see them in person, not just through her tower window.

She is motivated by her curiosity to understand others and to share adventures with them—once she realizes that people actually aren’t all selfish and cruel, as Mother Gothel had repeatedly told her. 

At the kingdom’s festival, there are over 3,000 attendees (and yes, Disney did actually animate over 3,000 people for this scene), and Rapunzel is the first one to start dancing. One by one, she encourages people to join her, inviting them to share in her joy and fun, and soon enough, she’s got the whole kingdom dancing with her.

She inspires people, emboldening them to believe in their dreams, regardless of their status or their past actions; we see this with Flynn Rider, who is a thief at the start of the film, as well as the ruffians at the Snuggly Duckling.

And of course, she is motivated by love. She risks her own freedom to save Flynn, telling Gothel that she will go with her, so long as she can use her hair to heal Flynn first, because he was her new dream.

Rapunzel in Walt Disney World and at Sea

You can find Rapunzel at Walt Disney World in multiple locations.

You can have the best day ever with Rapunzel by interacting with her directly at Princess Fairytale Hall in Fantasyland, one of the spots offering distanced character meets.

On Main Street, U.S.A., you will see Rapunzel throughout the day in the Royal Princess Processional, one of the Magic Kingdom Cavalcades.

And, just recently announced, we now have dates for the return of castle stage show Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire and the Festival of Fantasy Parade! You can find Rapunzel in both of these fan-favorite offerings.

A hop, skip, and a boat ride away at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, you can enjoy the scrumptious Bon Voyage Character Breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno, complete with visitations from Blondie herself, as well as Flynn Rider (Note: At the time of publication, this character dining experience is not being offered. We hope to see it come back soon.)

For artists, and for folks who seek that perfect princess shot for the ‘gram, head on over to Disney’s Riviera Resort, where you’ll find the most stunning mosaic of Tangled’s floating lantern scene.

But if you want your own floating lantern shot, holding the real deal, be sure to stop by the Tangled restrooms area in Fantasyland back in Disney’s Magic Kingdom after the sun has set.

On Disney Cruise Line, the strongest Tangled presence can be found on the Disney Magic, where the musical, full-length stage production of Tangled performs. You can also dine at Rapunzel’s Royal Table, with exquisite details sure to delight any fan of the film.

Rapunzel is also set to be heavily featured on the all-new Disney Wish, setting sail this year. From the Untangled Salon to the Tangled-inspired staterooms to Rapunzel herself with a paintbrush on the ship’s stern, you’ll be sure to see the light if you’re lucky enough to be one of the first few guests to embark on this new ship.

Disney Princess Rapunzel: 8 Hair-Raising Facts

1. The lantern scene is arguably one of the most beautiful moments in any Disney movie ever, and I will defend that statement until I’m purple in the face.

Did you know that Disney created over 45,000 lanterns for this part of the film? (Also, fun fact, I walked down the aisle at my wedding to “I See the Light,” the song that accompanies this scene.)

2. While we don’t have a sequel or live-action remake of Tangled (yet), we do have the short Tangled Ever After (set during Rapunzel’s wedding), the short Tangled Before Ever After, and Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure (formerly known as Tangled: The Series), which is a three-season series consisting of 25-minute episodes, each complete with musical numbers and a whole array of hair-splitting adventures.

I’ve watched the entire series, and I can honestly say it’s fantastic (I’m constantly singing songs from the show, written by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater).

3. Pay close attention to Mother Gothel the next time you watch the movie and notice how she mostly only touches, kisses, and shows affection to Rapunzel’s hair, not to Rapunzel herself.

Flynn, on the other hand, is always brushing the hair out of her face, as though to fully see her better.

4. The kingdom of Corona’s beautiful castle took its inspiration from tidal island Mont Saint-Michel, which is just off the coast of Normandy, France. This UNESCO World Heritage Site can be visited as a Port Adventure on select DCL sailings.

5. Rapunzel’s hair is 70 feet long.

6. The runtime of Tangled is 100 minutes. The film features songs such as “When Will My Life Begin,” “Mother Knows Best,” and “I See the Light.”

7. Back to Rapunzel’s hair for just a hair! Kelly Ward is the incredible visionary and software engineer who literally has a PhD in animating hair.

She was hired to bring Rapunzel’s locks to life on screen and make them look realistic. She spent six years writing different programs to perfect Rapunzel’s hair until the team behind Tangled was satisfied with the result!

8. The film reportedly cost $260 million to make.

Also in the Disney Princess profile series:

Posts by Esther Vallins

Esther Vallins is a pretzel adoring childless millennial who loves ALL things Disney food, Disney fashion, and Disney Princesses! She is a Disney cosplayer who never misses a D23 Expo, a DVC member, and aspires to hold the world record for most Dole Whips ever eaten (with tajín!) by a single human. Chat with Esther on Instagram!

Authored by
Esther Vallins

Esther Vallins is a pretzel adoring childless millennial who loves ALL things Disney food, Disney fashion, and Disney Princesses! She is a Disney cosplayer who never misses a D23 Expo, a DVC member, and aspires to hold the world record for most Dole Whips ever eaten (with tajín!) by a single human. Chat with Esther on Instagram!
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