There’s an art to animated movies, a sprinkle of cartoonish mixed with a hint of realism. It’s never right if it has too much of one, or too little of another. It has to be just right. More and more Disney movies of the past decade have been getting it right. Tangled is one of them.

Released in 2010 this was a slightly more romantic and modern take on the age-old fairytale – Rapunzel. And the same way fairytales always delve into morals, animated movies delve into symbolism. Symbolism that is personified in the form of architecture in the movie.

The Architectural Narrative

Cinema has a close relationship with architecture not solely because of its temporal and spatial structure, but fundamentally because both ideate space. (Pallasmaa, 2001) We see this is Tangled in so many forms. 

An architectural review of Tangled-Sheet1
The Tower_©Disney Hotstar

The focal setting in the movie is a tall tower in the middle of the wilderness. The towering spire amidst the untamed wilderness amplifies the sense of solitude haunting the protagonist, Rapaunzel.

Rapunzel’s Tower: A Tangled Web of Captivity and Adaptation

Rapunzel’s tower is more than just a physical structure; it is a symbol of her isolation, yet resistance. Though it is her cage – she has also made it her sanctuary. 

Being kept locked up for 18 years in one location, the architecture of the location gives away a lot. It’s made to feel like it was built for this very purpose – to keep someone with Rapunzel’s hair as a part of it. Yet, despite her captivity, Rapunzel demonstrates remarkable adaptability, transforming her architectural prison into a functional ecosystem. The tower becomes not just a place of confinement, but also a canvas for her creativity and ingenuity.

Within the confines of her tower, Rapunzel ingeniously utilises every architectural feature to her advantage. 

An architectural review of Tangled-Sheet2
Rafters_©Disney Hotstar

Rafters become improvised painting platforms, 

An architectural review of Tangled-Sheet3
Pulley_©Disney Hotstar

Mezzanines serve as strategic vantage points for her makeshift pulley systems. 

It’s always interesting to see architecture becoming a tool in a living space..

The Playful Architecture Beyond the Tower

As the story unfolds beyond Rapunzel’s tangled abode, the architectural motifs evolve to reflect the broader themes of the narrative. In the bustling kingdom and the lively tavern scenes, architecture takes on a whimsical and playful quality. There’s a distinct effort to avoid straight lines and linearly in forms as much as possible.

An architectural review of Tangled-Sheet4
The Snuggly Duck_©Disney Hotstar

The architectural choices in these scenes serve to reinforce the film’s tone and atmosphere, creating a world that feels both magical and inviting. 

An architectural review of Tangled-Sheet5
Whimsical Furniture_©Disney Hotstar

Even furniture such as beds and wardrobes are as organic and free-flowing as possible., 

Tangled immerses viewers in a world where fantasy and reality seamlessly coexist.

Not just in terms of structures but even the urban spaces introduced give a sense of contentment and just rule to a kingdom. 

An architectural review of Tangled-Sheet6
Streets_©Disney Hotstar
An architectural review of Tangled-Sheet7
Plaza_©Disney Hotstar

The scenes with the open plazas, paved streets and well-kept neighbourhood give the story a sense of safety – which considering the target audience for these movies is key. 

The Tangled History of Rapunzel

The original story of Rapunzel was published by Grimm as a part of Children’s Household Tales, in 1812. Since then it has had many iterations – tangled being one of the newest. 

The original fairytale had a more morose story where a pregnant woman is craving a specific vegetable – Rapanzul – a breed of lettuce – which only grows in a witch’s garden. A loving husband takes the task upon himself to get her that no matter what. However, he is caught.

Caught by the witch of the garden itself the man begged forgiveness. The witch only agreed to spare him and allow him to take the food on the condition that he surrender his firstborn to her at birth. He agreed.(moments like these do make you wonder if there was any logic to fairytales at all)

Once the witch gets her wish, she then locks up poor Rapunzel in a tall tower with no stairs or a single window. These singular aspects help define the story to no end. The absence of doors or stairs in the tower further reinforces the sense of confinement, creating a space that is both claustrophobic and foreboding.

The story goes on as all fairytales do with a prince who finds her and tries to rescue her. For once however, it is the woman who ends up saving him. Having fallen from the tower after being tricked by the witch – he falls on thorns and blinds himself. 

They get separated after being tricked by the witch. Yet, despite the odds, their paths eventually converge once more, guided by the unbreakable bond of love. After years of wandering in the desert, they find each other once more, and Rapunzel’s tears heal his eyes – for them to live happily ever after.

Redefining Fairytales and Architecture:

Tangled represents a significant departure from traditional fairy tales, both in its narrative structure and its approach to architecture. Rather than simply serving as background scenery, architecture plays an active role in shaping the story and its characters. Each archway, window, and tower holds significance, reflecting the emotional landscape of the narrative.

Since the recent success of Studio Giblis anime, more and more significance is seen in the architecture created in cinema. There is always a slight mirroring of the characters, themes, and places constructed in the movies. After all, if you’re making a make-believe world. Might as well make a worthy one.


Pallasmaa, J., 2001. The Architecture of Image. 2nd ed. s.l.:Rakennustieto Publishing.


Aiman Ansari is an architect currently working and residing in Bombay. She completed her B.Arch 2021 and has gone on to work on projects varying from low-cost housing, to educational institutes and in the hospitality industry. She’s fascinated by the power architecture has to not only tell a story but also create them. She draws inspiration from the idea that the spaces we occupy guide a large part of our individual stories Social responsibility plays a large part in her life. Aiman co-authored the publication ‘Rising Beyond the Ceiling – Karnataka’. A book that looks to break the stereotype of Indian Muslim Women.