Known best as a computer whiz unwittingly ushered into a life of international espionage as the star of NBC's “Chuck,” Zachary Levi might not seem an obvious choice to play Rapunzel's roguish love interest in “Tangled,” Disney's musical adaptation of the popular Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
As the voice of Flynn Rider, a thief who takes refuge in the golden-haired recluse's tower and ultimately wins her heart, Levi performs two duets with co-star Mandy Moore, who has sold more than 10 million records worldwide.
Levi himself released his first single, a duet with fifth-season “American Idol” runner-up Katharine McPhee, in April.
“Almost all my experience in music has been in community theater, and while I feel as if I have something to offer in terms of singing, acting was the first thing that popped up in my life,” he says. “Would I like to sing more often? Sure, but I'm not sure when or how. Maybe I'm destined to sing duets the rest of my life.”
Levi and Moore didn't need a refresher course in Disney Animation's illustrious history when they were invited to star in its 50th feature.
Both grew up enjoying the studio's late 1980s and early '90s resurgence – Levi favors “Aladdin” (1992), while Moore is partial to 1989's “The Little Mermaid.”
“We realized this was a chance to be part of something that would live on long after we're gone,” says Moore, 26, who shared the sound booth with Levi only to record their songs, but believes their on-screen chemistry couldn't be stronger. “It's always flattering t
o be offered a great role, but Disney movies stand the test of time.”
Both understand that any Disney animation, particularly the studio's 50th, will inevitably be compared to classics like 1937's “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” which became the company's first full-length feature and, in 2008, was named the greatest American animated film ever by the American Film Institute.
Just don't expect Levi or Moore to be haunted by ghosts of blockbusters past. “It's an honor having Disney include us in their tradition,” says Levi, 30. “I felt fortunate to be hired, and you do your best once you show up, but how the movie is perceived in the long run is really determined by the publicity machine.
“I can understand how it might seem daunting to join such an exclusive club, but it's really out of our hands. Having watched the movie, I'm confident that 'Tangled' has all it needs to deserve mention in the same conversation as those earlier films.”
Starring Voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey
Written by Dan Fogelman
Directed by Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
Running time 1 hour 40 minutes