“Tangled” Weaves A Tale With Rapunzel’s Hair

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When it comes to CG animation there’s one big rule: Never touch the hair. You can create all kinds of characters and settings, but as long as you avoid those locks, you’re golden. Computer imagery of hair is just a beast of its own nature; each strand has to retain realistic body and strength. So most animators keep the coif short or styled in one ‘do the entire movie and dare not touch it, lest the limitations of computer animation shine through.

Co-directors Nathan Greno and Howard had none of those luxuries. Not only were they working with powerhouses of animation Pixar and Disney, in the story they were attempting to adapt hair was a pivotal part.

“When you talk about  blowing up helicopters, it’s challenging in it’s own right,” Howard said. “Hair is really a bizarre thing. It has to be completely natural, any time it becomes too much, it looks bizarre and fake. There are 100,000 individual strands against static electricity involved, and it has to go into this beautiful lush looking polished look.”

Following in the Disney tradition of animating classic fairy tales, Tangled takes the classic Rapunzel tale and gives it a modern look while keeping the old feel of the story. Ten years after playing around with the technology and learning new tricks, Tangled takes hair to a new level, showcasing the scope of computer animation and highlighting possibilities for the future. “At the beginning of this year, we weren’t sure we could do this movie,” Howard admitted.

(More on TIME.com: New Epic Mickey Trailer Revisits Lost Disney History)

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