How would you describe your character in Tangled?
I voice a character called Flynn Rider in the animation. Flynn is the male lead of the film and he’s the archetypal prince character, but he’s not a prince. Instead, he is a charming and an arrogant bandit. Deep down, Flynn has a good core. However, you don’t see that at the beginning of the movie. You discover this about Flynn as the story unfolds because this characteristic is brought out of him through the purity, love and naiveté of Rapunzel.
What can you tell us about Flynn’s past?
During the movie, we discover that Flynn had a crap childhood. He changed his name and he was driven towards a very selfish life because he didn’t have much fun as a child. However, he starts to change when he discovers Rapunzel. Here is a girl who has been cooped up in a tower for 18 years. She has never seen the outside world and yet she is still very loving. She’s not jaded at all.
How similar are Rapunzel and Flynn?
These are two very different characters that end up learning a lot from each other on a rather crazy adventure. In fact, I like to think of Tangled as an animated, family-friendly Romancing The Stone. In my eyes, that’s exactly what the movie is like to watch.
How did you get involved with the movie?
I got a call inviting me to audition for Disney’s new animated musical – and I was immediately sold. I am a huge fan of Disney. I have been a fan ever since I was a little kid. In fact, I’ve always dreamed of being a voice in a Disney animation and I’ve always wanted to sing for Disney, so this opportunity was a dream come true.
Did you have to sing for your Tangled audition?
I was told to prepare a singer-songwriter song for the audition and the first thing that came to my mind was a James Taylor track called Sweet Baby James. If somebody says ‘pop’ to me, I think of Michael Jackson or Justin Timberlake. If somebody says ‘singer-songwriter’, the first person I think of is James Taylor. There are plenty of modern singer-songwriters, but there is something about James Taylor that has always resonated with me.
How worried were you about the singing aspect of the audition?
I’ve sung my whole life, so I wasn’t too worried. My singing has mostly been for fun but I’ve also done a lot of musical theater, so I have booked jobs based on my voice before. It wasn’t like I was walking into the room and talking to Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson about a potential musical career.
You sound pretty confident about your singing voice…
Well, I know what I sound like when I sing. It wasn’t like I have parents that have told me my whole life, “Honey, you sing amazingly.” And then I get into sing for an audition and people scream, “Boo! You’re rubbish. Find another vocation.” I certainly felt comfortable enough in the audition room.
If you enjoy singing, does this mean you enjoy karaoke, too?
Karaoke is interesting because I think there is a method to the madness. I believe in choosing songs that have audience participation where everyone claps or sings along with the chorus. You’ve got to get everybody on your side and it’s easy to do that if you choose something with a great deal of audience participation.
Can you give us some examples?
Songs like Sweet Caroline feature a good amount of audience participation. It’s cheesy, but if it hasn’t been done all night, somebody has got to do it. I also love singing Journey, but it’s out of my key. Unless they have some kind of a key changer, I can’t really do it.
What about a classic like Ice Ice Baby?
This is the problem… You don’t want to be too ironic. If you get too ironic and everyone thinks you’re trying too hard, then you fail at karaoke. Nobody does Ice Ice Baby right now. Leave it two more years and Ice Ice Baby will be back on top. Not yet, though. Leave it for now.
You mentioned earlier than Flynn changed his name as a child. Did you ever consider changing your name when you were younger?
No, not really. I don’t think things like that ever crossed my mind.
You never wanted to call yourself Han Solo or anything like that?
Oh, I wish I had. Can you imagine how amazing that would’ve been? I want to be the coolest parent ever and name my son Han Solo. At first, my son would think, ‘I have the most stupid name in the world.’ And then he would slowly realize over time, ‘No, I was wrong… Han Solo is the coolest name ever. I could have been Chewbacca!’
Is Zachary Levi your real name?
My last name is Pugh. My middle name is Levi. The only name change I’ve gone through is dropping the Pugh and sticking with the Levi – but that’s it. It was very subtle.
Flynn Ryder is a bandit in the movie. What is your most roguish quality?
Wow, that’s a tough question to answer. Well, I guess I’m a wicked video game player. When it comes to video games, I show no mercy! I can also wear the same clothes for a week straight. That’s probably the most offensive thing that I do.
Did you enjoy working in the sound booth for Tangled?
It was a great experience. However, I found it a little strange because I was alone in the sound booth. I thought I might record some of the dialogue with Mandy Moore (who voices Rapunzel), but that didn’t happen. Everyone records the dialogue separately.
How did you come up with the voice of Flynn?
I wanted Flynn to be different to my normal voice. I think that was appropriate given that it’s a fantasy world set in a medieval, renaissance-style era. If the movie was set in modern times, I’d use my regular voice – but I wanted him to sound different to my regular cadence.
Were you excited to discover that your character in Tangled provides much of the comedy of the movie?
I was incredibly happy, but I have to admit that the animals steal the show. When it comes to the comedy of Tangled, the gecko and the horse are outstanding. W.C. Fields said never work with kids or animals, but the gecko and the horse end up stealing my thunder.
What makes you laugh?
Every Pixar movie makes me laugh uncontrollably. My friends are all starting to have little kids, so we all end up watching Pixar movies a lot. I can sit and watch Pixar movies over and over again. They never get boring.
What’s your favorite Pixar movie?
I’ve seen all of the Pixar movies – Cars, Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Toy Story – and they all make me laugh, but Nemo is definitely the best in my book. Ellen DeGeneres is hysterical as Dory, although I think Tangled is certainly up there with the comedy, too. It certainly made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions!
TANGLED is Available on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD & Movie Download March 29th.