Voiced by: Zachary Levi
Film: Disney’s Tangled
Disney is not short on memorable male leads and love interests, but there is something special about Flynn Rider, or Eugene Fitzherbert, from Tangled. He is a classic romantic hero that shares the screen with Rapunzel without being set aside for her. He is her support throughout the movie, but Eugene is also integral to the story and stands on his own as a character effortlessly. Eugene is a morally grey hero with a darker past. He naturally undergoes significant character development throughout the film, making his character arc a joy to watch and easy to become invested in.
Flynn Rider: Growing up an Orphan
Yes, Disney Animation Studios did have a hot guy meeting when designing his character, but he is far more than just a pretty face. Flynn Rider is a rogue who uses his charm and good looks to get what he wants, but the source of this has much deeper roots. With his childhood spent in an orphanage, Eugene learns to use whatever he can to his advantage. He grew up without all of his needs being met. He was lonely. His most significant source of comfort was a book full of adventures and freedom. And he essentially dons the moniker of his childhood hero to take back control of his life. Taking the name Flynn Rider was an escape from himself and the life he had known and did not want.
Eugene did not grow up wanting to be a thief, but it happened along the way in his search for freedom, adventure, and comfort. It was the quickest and easiest way for Eugene to leave his childhood behind and start fresh. He dreams of an island that’s entirely his, “tanned and rested and alone. Surrounded by enormous piles of money.” This line says it all in how uncertain and uncomfortable his life was, that his only dream is to not want for anything and to be alone because people have always let him down. Without the proper support system, the only way for Eugene to acquire the means for his freedom would ultimately put a target on his back. Then he found comfort and freedom in being a thief.
Eugene’s time as the wanted man, Flynn Rider, is exciting and comfortable to him. He has been on his own for the majority of his life. He has had friends, like Lance from Tangled the Series, but overall, he has only truly trusted himself. As a thief, he doesn’t have to trust anyone else. He might have teamed up with the Stabbington Brothers, but he knew he couldn’t trust them, so he double-crossed them before they could turn against him. Eugene tries to hold on to whatever power he can because, unfortunately, he knows intimately that nothing is certain or lasts.
Then he meets Rapunzel, the lost princess. Eugene is used to taking advantage of people, but he is not prepared for Rapunzel and what she would force him to uncover in himself. At first, he was unimpressed by her and only did what he had to secure getting the crown back. However, the more time Eugene spends with a lonely, sheltered girl, the more he looks back on his dreams and who he is deep down. He is forced to confront his past with Rapunzel reminding him of his lonely beginnings. Rapunzel trusts him. And even if the start of that trust is built on blackmail, it affects Flynn Rider. To have someone maintain expectations for him is a new experience and one he reluctantly, at first, enjoys. Part of his great journey is rising to meet those expectations, selfishly at first and then for her and himself.
Rapunzel reminds Eugene that his nefarious means of finding comfort and freedom were not what he dreamed of doing when he was young. At his core, Eugene is a good person who needs stability and love to become the person he is meant to be. Rapunzel is ultimately that person for him. It is difficult for Eugene to trust, but he learns to do so with the right person. She becomes his new dream, inspiring him to be himself unapologetically and through honest means.
Flynnigan Rider was a hero, but Flynn Rider is a thief. Being with Rapunzel allows him to be the hero. When he gets to know her truly, the softer side comes out of him, making it easier to share moments of vulnerability. The side that cares and wants to show up for someone the way he wished someone would have for him is the side of him that comes out with Rapunzel. He does everything in his power for Rapunzel to have an amazing birthday. And it’s apparent that he enjoys every moment of it. He gets to live out his childhood dreams that day and with a woman who grows to mean more to him than he bargained for.
Related Content: Relationship Deep Dive: Rapunzel and Flynn Rider
Not only was Eugene a hero in the small ways, but he would also stop at nothing to ensure Rapunzel is always safe. It also tears him up that Rapunzel might think badly of him after he was forced to abandon her. He knows what abandonment feels like, and because he cares more about her well-being than the idea of being hung, those feelings tug hard at him. And then again, when he is stabbed, he only cares about Rapunzel’s well-being rather than his life. He frees her and truly becomes the hero he dreamed of being. Luckily, things work out with the last drop of magic from the flower, and Eugene can finally live a comfortable life with the woman he loves. His new and some old dreams were finally realized through honest means and with love.
The growth Eugene goes through makes his character even more memorable. And if you follow Tangled the Series, there is even more in store for Eugene’s character.