Rapunzel Unbraided (later titled Rapunzel) was the former version of Tangled before it was halted and drastically overhauled. The film would have originally been directed by Glen Keane with the intent to make a film that mirrored the classic Disney animated fairy tales, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Two radically different versions exist: a semi-modern farce akin to Shrek and dark and gothic fairy tale closer to the final film.
An evil witch named Lucretia despised fairy tale happy endings and plotted to change all that. Meanwhile in modern day San Francisco, Claire and Vince are two vastly opposite teenagers who cannot stand one another. Claire is a short haired, fashion obsessed teen who was concerned with her looks. Vince is a stocky and crude pizza delivery boy on hard times. The two of them get on each other's nerves which gets the attention of Lucretia in the fairy tale realm. Lucretia takes Rapunzel and her prince Beau and transforms them into a squirrel and dog, respectively, while Claire and Vince find themselves filling their roles. Claire and Vince eventually team up with Rapunzel and Beau to defeat Lucretia and return to their respective places in time.
Not much is known about the plot except that it was closer to the final film and that it would have been darker in the vein of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Rapunzel was back to being the lead, but was now a mostly quiet character with limited speech. Mother Gothel was a much more subtle villain with a sinister edge to her. Beau the dog became the sidekick to Bastion an orphaned young man who is forced into a life of thievery. He worked for a man named Griffol who has been keeping the kingdom of Corona in a state of war since Rapunzel's kidnapping. Bastion finds the tower that Rapunzel has been kept in and form a bond together. Rapunzel would have spent the majority of the film in the tower; only coming down about the last quarter of the film. Gothel's fate would have been the same as in the final film.
In March 1996, the concept of an animated film based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Rapunzel" originated from Disney supervising animator Glen Keane. In July 2001, Keane pitched the idea to then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner who approved it, but requested the film to be computer-animated. However, Keane was hesitant as he felt computer animation was not quite as fluid or organic as traditional animation was.
In October 2003, the film was announced as Rapunzel Unbraided, as a computer animated feature scheduled for a 2007 release, which Keane described as "a Shrek-like version of the film" that revolved around an entirely different concept. Keane said of the original plot, "It was a fun, wonderful, witty version and we had a couple of great writers. But in my heart of hearts, I believed there was something much more sincere and genuine to get out of the story, so we set it aside and went back to the roots of the original fairy tale." In November 2005, Unbraided was pushed back to a summer 2009 release in order to give Keane "more time to work on the story." In January 2006, the film was shut down about a week before Catmull and John Lasseter were placed in charge of the studio, and one of their first decisions was to restart the project and ask Keane to keep going with the film.
In April 2007, it had been announced that Annie-nominated animator and story artist Dean Wellins would be co-directing the film alongside Glen Keane. On October 9, 2008, it was reported that Keane and Wellins had stepped down as directors due to other commitments, and were replaced by the team of Byron Howard and Nathan Greno, director and storyboard director, respectively, of Disney's 2008 animated feature Bolt. Keane stayed on as an executive producer and animation supervisor, while Wellins moved on to developing other short and feature films. In November 2010, after the film's release, Keane revealed that he had "stepped back" from the role of director because of a heart attack in 2008.
In July 2014, Ed Catmull revealed at one point, Eisner himself had proposed using modern-day San Francisco as the initial setting at the start of the film and then somehow transporting the heroine into a fairy tale world, but Keane could not make that idea work.
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