LOS ANGELES - There's no other way to say it: Pascal was just a party pooper.
After a few early test screenings, Disney animators knew things weren't working with the chameleon character in the new animated musical "Tangled," which opened Wednesday.
"We weren't getting enough entertainment out of Pascal," says supervising animator Lino DiSalvo. "Animation-wise, originally, he was very realistic. He moved like a real chameleon, his eyes would move independently." And although that's fine for fans of the bug-eyed reptiles, this particular creature just wasn't giving off the right vibe for a princess movie. "He came off as very cold, and there was no fun in it."
Pascal needed to be funny and memorable. In "Tangled," a comedic adaptation of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Rapunzel," Pascal acts as Greek chorus to the princess with the magical long hair locked away in a tower.
"He is almost Rapunzel's older brother," says DiSalvo. "He would die for Rapunzel."
So the little guy had to get, well, more animated. "We kind of amped it up," DiSalvo says. "He's very expressive; we pushed his shape and his face. Once we found the character, we were off and running."
At the other end of the cuddly scale is Maximus, the handsome white horse with a certain dog-like appeal. He belongs to one of the kingdom's guards who is chasing after Flynn Rider, a charming scamp of a thief who breaks into Rapunzel's tower to hide.
When Maximus and his master are separated, the horse makes it his mission to find Flynn, and soon the horse is a combination of steed, blood hound and maybe a dash of Inspector Javert from "Les Miserables."
When he meets Rapunzel, Maximus goes full pooch, wagging his tail and sitting down.
Although the animators stretched the boundaries of realism with both characters, they tried to make their movements true to their species.
But when the horse gets a little canine, well, they broke certain rules. "We had to make Maximus as cute as possible," DiSalvo says. "If you break the rules sparingly, it's fine. The audience buys it. If he didn't look like a dog, it wouldn't have worked."