Tangled Up Together
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
The views, information, and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the individual/author involved and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy or position of any other entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. This includes any agency, organization, employer or company and their employees. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author - and, since I am a lucid, critically-thinking human being, these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. Please do not hold me accountable to them in perpetuity.
This information is not considered canon. This material, though sourced from authentic sources, is fan fiction.
Begging For Background
Unlike many other Disney fairytale films (which limit themselves to restrictive storylines and vague settings), Tangled covers an enormous amount of ground, both geographically and historically. The enormous amount of history covered by the story’s narration, the great physical distance covered by the film's characters (as evidenced by the sheer number of different locations) and the incredible detail given to the background details invites speculation about the origins and workings of the world that Rapunzel and Eugene Fitzherbert (Flynn Rider) live in. Unlike other Disney fairytales (like Cinderella) which have received sequels, spin-offs, or live-action remakes that mainly repeat the same characters and locations without expanding the world, the creators of Tangled purposely decided to create deep lore for the world of their fairytale, and showcased their very detailed world over three seasons of a TV series. In fact, they may have gone a bit too deep and detailed.
In a movie like Cinderella, the locale is clearly unimportant. The kingdom remains nameless, ordinary people are rarely depicted, and geographic distances don't matter. Because no effort is put into the background setting of Cinderella, viewers can easily tune such information out and focus on the story. However, a franchise such as Tangled answers so many questions about the world that its characters inhabit that it practically begs for other questions to be asked, as well. The very act of answering questions leaves many questions unanswered. Therefore, the intent of this blog is to answer some unanswered questions and provide some much-needed background for the feature film Tangled, the spin-off TV series, Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure, and the subsequent short film Tangled Ever After. Of course, this is fan-fiction, not actually canon.
And so, without further ado, I present to you the background of Tangled, if I directed it.
The Nature of This Blog Post
The coherence of this work relies heavily upon research conducted by others, as official statements from Disney animators, storyboard artists, and directors is limited to bonus features and the book The Art of Tangled. This is not intended to be a definitive guide (only those things explicitly stated in official books, videos, and songs can be considered "canon"; however, I will consider these conclusions to be "reasonable" until further information is forthcoming. As such, I welcome feedback and will either incorporate suggestions, or clearly explain why modifications cannot be made to this line of reasoning).
A great deal of discussion has centered upon the possible geographical location and historical period which form the setting for Tangled. Being a completely fictional place, however, the Kingdom of Corona defies a definite classification of this sort. We know from the TV series that Corona is one of seven united kingdoms (Koto, Neserdnia, Bayangor, Galcrest, Pittsford, and Ingvarr), plus we know that other kingdoms exist beyond their borders (such as The Dark Kingdom). A reasonable conclusion would place Corona's probable location on the northern coast of Germany, in the Baltic Sea, protected from harsh ocean weather by a barrier peninsula. However, as we will see later, Corona actually lies much farther south, in a warmer region. The obvious cultural influences of British, Russian, and Norwegian architecture date the kingdom at about 1918. While not perfect, these assumptions explain several pressing matters, such as the unusually large and calm body of water surrounding the capital island, the cultural appropriations, and even the monarchy.
Being such a worldly country clearly points to the source of Corona's prosperity: a thriving merchant economy. To further underscore this point, cargo ships fill the harbor during the movie, and countless vendors sell all sorts of imported goods. In fact, the very absence of raw material production indicates Corona's advanced economy. There are no fishing boats, presumably because Corona buys fresh fish from other kingdoms. The tar-factory shown in Frozen Ever After is only necessary because the transportation of such a sticky material would be difficult with the existing class of sea vessels. Even though an enormous amount of wood is used in the construction of the various buildings within the capital island, the mainland forests are clearly untouched by heavy logging. One theory proposes that Corona's industrious citizens cut down all of the evergreens, leaving only broad-leafed plants left. While certainly possible, this selectivity (and the subsequent absence of stumps or small conifers) suggests this is not so. Corona can evidently afford to import its lumber from afar, especially since the pine and cedar timber needed for building is in short supply among the deciduous trees that populate the hills. The most likely source of this lumber is from neighboring kingdoms, which have plenty of evergreen trees, as we can see in Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure. In fact, Episode 2 of Season 3 of the TV series depicts a log flume, indicating that logging has occurred in other kingdoms. However, I believe that this kind of natural resources extraction is far more likely to occur in a different and distant kingdom altogether: the Kingdom of Arendelle, from the Frozen franchise. Trust me, this makes sense.
Tangled Up Together
I propose (as have many others) that Tangled and Frozen share the same world, though inhabiting different parts of it. While I have written an entire blog post describing the changes I would make to the Frozen franchise, my purpose here is to focus on the connections that the filmmakers should have made between these two film universes. It is true that there are contradictions if you look too deeply into the possible connections between these film franchises. However, the depth and detail that is given to these very similarly-animated films provides a surprising number of strong correlations.
To begin with, the first Frozen film clearly shows that the Kingdom of Arendelle has plenty of evergreen trees and is also close allies with Corona, as evidenced by Eugene and Rapunzel's appearance at the coronation-day festivities. We also have confirmation that Rapunzel is a "close personal friend" of Olaf the snowman, as explained in the Disney+ series of shorts "Olaf Presents." From the second Frozen film, we also know that there are massive forests of deciduous trees nearby, as well. Since we are assuming that Frozen exists in the same world as that of Tangled, we can use information from Frozen to date Tangled. Although Frozen 2 tells us that the King and Queen from Frozen were not sailing south to Corona when they died in a storm, we are clearly shown that "north" is cold and sparsely populated, while "south" is a warmer, safer direction. This clearly indicates that the Kingdom of Corona must be south of the Kingdom of Arendelle. A year after Eugene and Rapunzel (now married) attend Elsa’s coronation in the first Frozen film, the map of Arendelle and the Southern Isles in the short film Frozen Fever reads 1840, which places the events of Tangled around five years prior, about 1835.
An Industrious Past
As I stated earlier, the purpose of this writing is to provide a brief history of the more puzzling aspects of Corona's history. More specifically, how did Corona grow into the kingdom it is today? In the film’s opening narration, Eugene says that “a hop, skip, and a boat ride away, there grew a kingdom.” This implies that Corona’s appearance and subsequent ascendancy to power was swift. There are very few industries that could have supported this kind of growth. While it is possible that fishing may have been a previous industry, the films do not seem to show any decaying fishing infrastructure. There are no glimpses of open-pit mines for stone quarries and little to no deforestation. When we do see open swaths of farmland in the TV series, it appears to be fairly small-scale and not nearly enough to feed an entire kingdom.
It has been wisely pointed out that just because these things have not been explicitly (or implicitly) shown on screen does not mean they fail to exist altogether. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, however, we can once again assume that this implies Corona is not a subsistence economy, upon which the people depend solely upon the exploitation of natural resources. Such economies, though rich in natural resources, often remain destitute, due to the high labor costs of such activities. The prosperous and happy citizens of Corona indicate that this is a service-oriented country, which buys and sells goods from other seafaring kingdoms--such as the other Seven Kingdoms and ones even more distant, such as Arendelle, The Southern Isles, Weselton, and other kingdoms. What industries does Corona actually have evidence of?
In Search of Grapes
One clue to a type of cottage industry in Corona is the wine caskets we see scattered throughout the franchise. Each wine barrel is clearly marked with the "Snuggly Duckling" trademark, implying that the local economy has a strong craft-winery sector. Remember, however, that we haven't seen any fields of grape vines. In fact, the Frozen film indicated that the entire mainland seems devoid of habitation, except for Rapunzel's hidden tower and the Snuggly Duckling pub. While the subsequent episodes of the TV series show that, in fact, there are scattered settlements on Corona's mainland, the very fact that Rapunzel's tower has never been discovered before the events of the film reveals that citizens rarely foot on the mainland, except when absolutely necessary (such as the desperate search for the healing flower, or the desperate search for Flynn Rider). This may be due to the fact that the mainland is swarming with criminals and outcasts, such as those who frequent the Snuggly Duckling. These rough men seem entirely unfazed by the royal guards, likely because the royal guards seem to lose every fight they engage in, whether on the mainland land or on the capital city island. The large bridge connecting the island to the mainland, then, appears to be more ceremonial than functional, as the prologue shows most people searching for the fire flower via boats, not by bridge. As Flynn escapes from the castle in the movie, the bridge and the road beyond it are clearly empty. Where do they lead? Not to an important trading partner, or the path would be bustling with carts and travelers. Perhaps to something which used to be important?
The Sneaky Duckling
The Snuggly Duckling's remarkable age (more than 100 years old) reveals that there is more to the mainland than meets the eye. A lot more, in fact. As the aging wine barrels underground indicate, the Snuggly Duckling has probably been involved in wine making from the region’s very beginning, nearly a century ago. The grapes, however, can't be that old. The consumption of wine during the pub scene indicates a strong demand for the beverage. Hypothesizing that the owner of the pub has diversified into distant wineries makes sense, but since we haven't seen any grapes (or the organized manpower to run a sizable winery operation), we must look elsewhere.
First, we must consider the extensive network of passages (at least one labeled with the Snuggly Duckling logo) that connects the pub with boarded-up tunnels, creek-side caves filled with rocks, and dilapidated dams. The wooden dam, in particular, seems useless for water control or recreational purposes, and the waterwheel doesn't seem to turn anything, either. It does, however, have a long flume (as mentioned earlier, log flumes show up again in the TV series).
For this reason, it seems apparent that Corona's initial success and prosperity is due to a massive gold rush. The resulting gold-mining operations dug miles of twisted mazes underground, leaving much of the forest above-ground untouched. By the time the gold ran out, the kingdom's careful leadership had already turned the small country into a thriving commercial center. Under this theory, the abandoned (and primitive) wooden dam makes sense. It was needed to provide a steady flow of water down the flume to help separate the gold from the ore. This also helps explain the existence of Corona's under-utilized bridge to the mainland. There isn't need for such an enormous bridge anymore because gold shipments have stopped coming to the seaport. How, then, did people first come to Corona’s shores and find the gold?
From the TV series, we know that Lady Caine is a member of a notorious pirate gang. Pirates are very much in existence in the Kingdom of Corona. Therefore, we should not be surprised by the pirate skeleton (with cutlass) in the Snuggly Duckling escape tunnel. The obvious familiarity of Corona's citizens with ships and the pirate skeleton indicate two things:
The original inhabitants of Corona were seafarers, as evidenced by their mastery of ships and close relationship with the sea. This explains their continued fascination with the ocean (and rejection of the inland). Pirates and sailors don't have experience growing crops and settling down on land.
The pirates, buccaneers, and adventurers who landed on the shores of Corona were specifically seeking gold, and fought over the control of this precious resource. This explains why other natural resources, such as wood, were mostly overlooked. Ruffians and thugs don't have time to cultivate crops.
The criminals, ruffians, and thugs, then, seem to control the lawless interior, but what is there for them to control? As it turns out, the Snuggly Duckling pub is most likely the headquarters of the organized-crime smuggling syndicate that supplies wine to the black market. Note that Snuggly Duckling wine is not seen in the capital city until after Rapunzel and Eugene are welcomed home (and the criminals are inducted into society). This indicates that Snuggly wine is prohibited in Corona during Rapunzel’s childhood; but why? Two reasons exist:
A commercial country such as Corona depends heavily upon sales tax to operate. Alcoholic beverages such as wine were heavily taxed, making the legal sale unprofitable. Snuggly's undercover operations circumvented the sales tax.
The symbol of the kingdom is the sun, which is related to light, joy, and celebration (and gold, of course). Once Rapunzel was kidnapped, the King and Queen (and the whole kingdom with them) were greatly saddened. The law against wine was designed to keep the citizens of Corona sober, and remind them of their loss. This plan seemed to be working in the film: everyone seemed clear-eyed and industrious in the capital city.
If wine was prohibited in Corona, then was there even a market strong enough to support this secretive operation? Yes, definitely.
First, note the apparent apathy the royal guards have towards the Snuggly Duckling and its many wanted criminals. Instead of making a raid on the place, they actually cooperated with the bootleggers (why else would the ruffians risk alerting the guards, and talk about getting the reward?). This indicates that the guards are aware of its existence and tolerate its operation, perhaps because they are being bribed, or perhaps because they like to have a drink every once in a while.
Secondly, note that Mother Gothel is also familiar with the Snuggly Duckling. When she finds the Wanted poster of Flynn Rider, she heads immediately to the pub. Interestingly, when she threatens the old man loitering outside the Snuggly Duckling in order to force him to reveal the secret tunnel’s exit, he leads her to the wrong exit to protect Eugene and Rapunzel. This cannot have been an accident, because there are no splits or path separations in the first tunnel. This indicates that he is familiar with the many tunnels honeycombed underneath the forest.
Thirdly, note the sheer number of barrels stacked in the short film Tangled Ever After. This indicates the enormity of the country's thirst. If we assume that the wine inside the barrels is two years old and that the wedding happened at least a year after the events of the main film (possibly more, considering the sheer number of things that occurred in the TV series), then the Snuggly Duckling had all of that wine stockpiled before the “forbidden” beverage was legalized. Why would the Snuggly have so much wine in storage? Basic business sense tells us that the Snuggly wouldn't produce more wine than the available demand. Which means that many people were already drinking Snuggly wine!
No wonder there are so many ruffians and thugs at the pub! They are needed to keep the operation running smoothly, perhaps using strong-arm tactics to bend the law (and this would explain why they didn't protest too loudly when the guards showed up). Eugene, who is familiar with the criminals (and thus their not-so-undercover operation), must have lobbied for the Snuggly wine to be legalized once he and Rapunzel were reunited with the royal family. Now that Rapunzel had returned with a fiancé, the kingdom had a legitimate reason to celebrate. The king and queen were successfully persuaded to lower taxes enough to let the wine be sold through commercial channels.
Still In Search of Grapes
Even with such a tidy explanation, one pressing question remains: where did the grapes for the Snuggly wine come from? The answer, of course, is Weselton. As the leader of Arendelle's self-proclaimed "most important trading partner," the Duke of Weselton naturally did business with other countries, as well. We know that Weselton had favorable conditions for grapes, because the Duke is taken home on a ship bound for the Southern Isles, in Frozen. This means that Weselton is south of Arendelle (and as we already established, south is warmer than north in this universe).
In the best interests of his country, the Duke had no qualms about selling his grapes on the black market to whomever would buy, even if they were being used for illegal purposes (note that he is the only visiting dignitary to use body guards in Frozen, who look related to the Stabbington brothers).
Weselton's grapes were shipped overseas in barrels to Corona, where they were further processed, aged, and resold by the Snuggly crime cartel. However, this underground source of grapes soon became mainstream, as our timeline tells us that Snuggly wine was legalized in Tangled Ever After. However, Weselton's legitimate source of grapes only lasted for a short time.
A New Trading Partner
Just three years after Eugene and Rapunzel's wedding, Arendelle imposed a trade ban against the Duke and his country because of his conduct during and after Queen Elsa’s coronation. With Corona a clear ally of Arendelle (due to the fact that Eugene and Rapunzel attended the coronation), it is likely that public outcry in Corona quickly mounted against trading (even indirectly) with Weselton. The re-commercialization of the Snuggly wine had raised the issue of grape origins, which had been suppressed under the old system. As a result, grapes were no longer imported from Weselton, and most likely began to be shipped in from the Southern Isles instead (where Prince Hans was sent back in disgrace). Whether the Duke of Weselton was deposed or not is unknown.
All Tangled Up
In short, I believe that there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the worlds of Tangled and Frozen exist in the same universe. While this universe certainly does not perfectly match the geography of our own world, it appears to be very similar, with both Nordic and Germanic influences. I believe that films are stronger when their directors and writers take the time to flesh out the background details, even if those details are left unexplained in the films themselves. That is why I am so disappointed that the creative teams behind Tangled and Frozen did not work together to combine the best parts of their worlds. Imagine, for a moment, if the King and Queen of Frozen had actually been traveling to Eugene and Rapunzel's wedding when their ship overturned. If they had done so, they might have heard stories in Corona about the magic powers that the Moonstone and Sunflower bestowed upon Rapunzel and Cassandra. This might have helped them find the source of Elsa's ice powers, avoiding the rather confusing "elemental powers" explanation that the second Frozen film concocted.
As it stands, I am content with simply imagining these connections. But perhaps when these films inevitably receive the live-action treatment, there will be more depth of thought put into these worlds.