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Chris Sonnenburg

The Story Behind Rapunzel’s Journal: Part 2 of the Chris Sonnenburg Series

Chris Sonnenberg, Executive Producer of Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventure, has just finished telling me about his incredible early career at Disney Animation. As we relax on his couch in his office, I can tell Chris is eagerly waiting for my next question. “So,” I ask, “what inspired the pitch for the television series?”  Chris smiles and beckons me over to an old desk on the opposite side of the room.

Chris explains it was Gary Marsh at Disney Channel who really put things into motion. “It was Gary’s idea that there could be a show based off of Tangled and was open to a pitch. Eric Coleman from Disney Television Animation reached out to me and asked if we could come up with a solid idea. Without both Gary and Eric, there wouldn’t be a show today.”

We get over to the other side of the room to the desk. This was Chris’s original animation desk from his time in Feature Animation. Adorned on top in a glass case is a beautiful painted leather-bound journal. Chris reaches for something on one of the lower shelves. He shows me a small paper journal with a ton of penciled illustrations on the front.

Rapunzel's Journal

“When we were developing the show, my oldest daughter, Arianna, went on a trip to Mexico to build houses for families. There, they were given these blank little journals. By the time she got back from trip, she had drawn things she had seen and done during that time on the cover.” That’s when it hit Chris. “It struck me Rapunzel would do the same thing! In her castle, she had murals she would paint about things she saw outside of her tower window. It would only make sense that since she didn’t have her mural walls to paint, Rapunzel would have a journal she could write and draw in while she went on all these new adventures.”

Chris reaches for that leather bound journal in the glass case. That’s when I realize that the “pitch” for the show isn’t just an idea; it’s a physical guide. Chris brings the journal close so we can look at it. The journal has some beautiful painted forest creatures and branches on the front. “So right from my daughter’s journal, we created Rapunzel’s. We had Glen Keane’s daughter, Claire Keane, who painted the murals in Tangled create all the art for our journal. We wanted Rapunzel’s style to be half informational and half illustrative.” Chris explains the entire series is mapped out in the journal. There was a clear goal from start to finish on how this story was going to flow.

Not only does the journal hold plot points for the show, but also observations from Rapunzel herself. We turn a page and there are tons of sketches of faces. There are some people from Corona, her best friend Cassandra, and one of when Eugene tried to propose to Rapunzel.

Chris explains all of this was used to pitch the show. “Finally, we wanted the show’s animation to feel like one of Rapunzel’s paintings. We tried to find a style that was just as colorful and just as beautiful. When you watch the show we start with her journal opening to a page and jump right into an episode.”

Get ready to learn more about the cast and music in Chris’s Tangled Adventure part three, coming soon!

Formerly authored by Iain C. at Partners