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The Emotional Structure of Tangled: Part One

As some of you know, Laura Pauling loves to analyze novels and movies using the screenwriting book, Save the Cat, by Blake Synder. And as you might also know, in addition to being a fan of STC, I love the screenwriting book, Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot by Peter Dunne. So we decided to analyze the movie Tangled using our fav screenwriting books so you can see the difference and similarities between them, as well as see ways to improve your own stories.


1. The breakdown is based on the typical script length of 110 pages. For novels, you have to adjust the numbers based on the length of your manuscript. We have more flexibility than screenwriters do.

2. The points are from the charts in Emotional Structure.


Act One: “Life as it was” (pages 1-25)

Page 1:

• Meet the protagonist: Rapunzel

• Establish point of view: Even though the movie is predominantly from Rapunzel’s point of view, and it’s mostly her story, the co-protagonist, Flynn Ryder, introduces Rapunzel’s backstory in the prologue.

• Establish emotional state and theme

• Great, gripping opening (no, duh!)

Pages 1-10: State problem. Life is boring with the same daily routine. Rapunzel wonders when life will begin.

Page 10: 1st problem: Rapunzel asks “Mother” if she can go see the floating lights that are released every year on Rapunzel’s birthday. She wants to know what they are. The answer is ‘no’. Mother reminds her that the world is a dangerous and scary place.

Between pages 10-20: Clash with co-protagonist. Thief Flynn Ryder escapes the “bad” guys by climbing into Rapunzel’s tower. She bashes him on the head and he passes out.

He wakes up. Rapunzel panics and knocks him unconscious again.

She wants to show him to Mother, to demonstrate that she’s strong enough to go outside without getting hurt (Apparent solution to 1st problem (page 20)).

Mother gets mad at Rapunzel for suggesting that she wants to go outside. Rapunzel decides not to show Mother unconscious man in closet (Solution disappears).

New Solution: Rapunzel asks Flynn to take her to see the lanterns and then return her home safely. If he does this, then she’ll give him back the satchel with the crown in it (she doesn’t know the crown is stolen).

Pages 20-25: Problem worsens and Major crisis. I was stuck on this one. Maybe it’s when he initially says no.

Goal must be set by mentor: Again, I was stuck on this one. I believe it was when Pasquel, her pet chameleon, wants her to leave the tower (he makes this clear at the very beginning of the movie).

Page 25: Moral Dilemma: As Rapunzel walks away from the tower, she’s tore as to whether she’s doing the right thing or not. Should she go back to the safety of the tower, or should she go against her mother’s wishes and continue her journey.

Act Two: “Life torn apart” (pages 25 to 85)

• Physical action helps create risks and danger

• Emotional resistance

• Fears are revealed and challenged: Flynn takes Rapunzel to a tavern—The Cuddly Duckling—which is filled with a bunch of scary ruffians. Of course after they break out into song and dance about having dreams (’cause this is Disney, you know), Rapunzel realizes not everyone is dangerous. This goes against what Flynn is after. He wants Rapunzel to give up on her dream so that he can get the crown and leave (co-protagonist feud)

• Suffer loss

• Route altered: Palace guards (who are after Flynn because he stole the crown) chase Flynn and Rapunzel. The two bad guys, who were chasing Flynn at the beginning, join forces with Rapunzel’s “mother”.

Page 55: Tent pole Scene. Flynn and Rapunzel escape the guards and ‘bad’ guys, but are trapped and almost drown. (Middle of movie)

Part two of the post (i.e. the second half of the movie) will continue on Wednesday.

Question: do you have any favorite books on story structure, or is this something you haven’t thought about much (like me until a few weeks ago)?

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The Emotional Structure of Tangled: Part One + writerly books