Inside Look at the Original
Beauty and the Beast
Joe Tracy, Publisher of Digital Media FX Magazine
© Joe Tracy and Digital Media FX
tale as old as time has to start somewhere and for Disney
it was in the mid 1980's when development work started
on Beauty and the Beast.
in and around a small French village in the late 18th
century, Beauty and the Beast represented only
the fifth Disney animated movie to be adapted from a fairy
tale. The others were Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,
Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and The Little Mermaid.
story of Beauty and the Beast has been retold for
centuries, with the earliest known work being Italian
author Giovan Straparalo in 1550. Film adaptations and
even a TV series (that starred Linda Hamilton as Beauty
and Ron Perlman as Beast) have kept the story alive. Disney
had a task of creating its own unique take on the fable.
your own version of Beauty and the Beast is as
much a tradition as is the story itself," says Beauty
and the Beast producer Don Hahn. "Part of the
fun is that each generation and culture adapts this story
to be its own. The themes, you can't judge a book by its
cover and beauty is only skin deep, are as relevant today
the time Beauty and the Beast was released Jeffrey
Katzenberg, now an executive and owner with Disney rival
DreamWorks, was Disney Studios Chairman. He was happy
with the concept behind Beauty and the Beast because
"it's about making ourselves better. Through these
classic fables and fairy tales, we can learn important
things about ourselves and the world we live in. They
usually contain very noble ideas and morals about good
and evil, which can be inspirational on many levels to
audiences of ages."
was only the beginning for Beauty and the Beast
which played in theaters for 42 weeks, bringing in $144.8
million, and garnishing a Best Picture Oscar Academy Award
nomination. To this day it remains the only animated movie
to ever achieve such a nomination. Critics and audiences
alike were nearly unanimous in their praise for the overall
strength of the visuals, story telling, character development,
was a long road to get to the point of success that Beauty
and the Beast achieved. The movie took nearly four
years to produce with the full time help of over about
600 animators, artists, and technicians. There were over
226,000 individually painted cels and over one million
drawings. Over 1,300 backgrounds were created for Beauty
and the Beast.
the Main Characters
of Disney's best animators, like Glen Keane, worked on
Beauty and the Beast. Keane was a supervising animator
who designed and drew the Beast while overseeing six animators
that worked with him. Keane's had a lot of experience
with Disney characters (i.e. Ariel in The Little Mermaid,
Professor Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective)
and he was ready for the new challenge.
never been a character like him before," Keane says
about the Beast, "so there was nothing to fall back
on. I began creating the Beast by figuring out who the
character really is inside. He's a guy trapped between
two worlds. He's part animal and part human and he's not
comfortable with either. His design had to show the human
side - heart, warmth and the ability to love. The ferocious,
hideous animal side had to reflect his incredible power
and agility. I filled my mind with all these things and
began processing it into a final design. Numerous trips
to the zoo, studying National Geographic videos and analysis
of stuffed animals helped in the process."
final design of the Beast ended up being various parts
from a lion, buffalo, wild boar, gorilla, wolf, and bear.
But the key to designing and animating the Beast was making
sure he appeared sincere.
eyes are the window to the soul," says Keane. "When
Belle looks into Beast's eyes, she must see his human
heart and soul. She must see sincerity and believe that
she can actually truly love this creature. This had to
come across in our animation."
was thrilled with the choice of Robby Benson to voice
the Beast, saying, "He was the best actor that we
heard by far and his performance really helped us get
the emotional edge that we needed for the character."
animators James Baxter and Mark Henn were called upon
for the design of the movie's heroine, Belle.
we tried to make her a little bit more European looking
with fuller lips, a little bit darker eyebrows and slightly
smaller eyes than Ariel," says Baxter. "She's
also a few years older than Ariel and a lot more worldly
because she's always reading. We tried to make her movements
very real whether she's simply walking or waltzing with
the Beast in the ballroom sequence."
ballroom sequence was a key defining moment for both animated
characters. Baxter was given the job of animating both
characters for the scene because they were so "interconnected."
To achieve the results, Baxter studied dancers and even
took waltzing lessons!
Woolverton wrote Beauty and the Beast and perhaps
gives the best perspective into the character of Belle,
seeing her as "a very strong, smart, courageous woman."
trades her freedom, the very thing she's been wanting
from the start of the film, in order to save her father.
Because she is an avid reader, she has a point of view
of her life and that doesn't necessarily involve a man
getting her there."
known animator Andreas Deja was given the task of bringing
the movie's unique villain, Gaston, to life. Gaston isn't
your typical villain as he was "handsome" and
somewhat of a overly confident charmer to the women with
a touch of sarcasm.
tried to retain the whole range of expressions - the sarcasm,
the broadness and the expressiveness - that the handsome
leading man seldom gets to show,"
says Deja. "I wanted Gaston to be a dimensional character
that the audience would feel they could reach out and
to Deja, doing research for Gaston was quite easy. "Los
Angeles is full of good-looking guys who just adore themselves,"
he says. "You see them all over, always admiring
themselves in the mirror, making sure their hair and everything
else is in place. It was fun to observe them and bring
some of that attitude to Gaston."
Beauty and the Beast was a major stepping stone
for Disney into the world of innovative computer animation
for theatrical animated movies. A relatively unknown company
at the time called Pixar produced the rendering software
that was used in Beauty and the Beast.
and the Beast mixed traditional animation and select
scenes of computer animation together to create new visuals
of grandeur for the audience. And the computer animated
assisted scene that seemed to capture people's imagination
the most was the ballroom scene.
ballroom sequence features the first computer-generated
color background to be both animated and fully dimensional,"
says Jim Hillin, CGI Artistic Supervisor for Beauty
and the Beast. "What this means is that the background
is literally moving and the animators had to animate to
it in much the same way that they worked with the live
action composites in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. This gives
the advantage of sweeping camera moves and perspectives
as well as theatrical lighting that would otherwise be
impossible. It introduces live action techniques into
the animated world. Here the camera plays a very important
role in establishing the mood and helps us to experience
what the characters themselves are feeling."
saw the ballroom sequence as a defining moment in the
ballroom sequence is the bonding moment of the film when
the two main characters finally get together," says
Hahn. "For us as filmmakers, the computer offered
us a way to get heightened emotions on the screen and
more dramatic effects than we could have gotten conventionally.
It allowed us to move the camera around and take a look
at the room instead of just looking at a flat piece of
artwork. Technology as a whole is an extension of our
fingers, hands, and minds. Computer graphics let us go
beyond what we can currently achieve with pencil and paper
or paint and a brush."
artists and technicians worked alongside the layout, art
direction, and background teams to achieve the results
of the ballroom scene. Even the dimensions of the ballroom
played a major role in creating the final look.
feet from door-to-door with a width of 126 feet.
wall window sections.
86 X 126 foot dome with a mural (that was hand painted
then applied as a texture map)
the ballroom wasn't the only extensive use of computer-assisted
animation in Beauty and the Beast. The movie's
climactic song, "Be Our Guest," also made use
of computers. Dancing plates, forks, goblets, bubbles,
and the chandelier were created with computers.
main purpose of CGI is to build and animate things with
the computer that will aid and enhance what is going on
with the hand-drawn art," says Hillin. "Our
biggest challenge is to incorporate the two things and
make it seem as if they belong together. If we get too
real or the perspectives are too perfect then it doesn't
fit in with the rest of the film."
the case of Beauty and the Beast both the traditional
and computer animated environments melded near flawlessly
to create a magical and enchanting environment for millions
of people worldwide to enjoy.
Tracy is the publisher of Digital
Media FX Magazine, the premiere online publication
for animators, FX artists, and animation enthusiasts.
Tracy's past online animation publications have won several
industry awards including being named by Smart Computing
Magazine as one of the "Top 2,500 Sites on the Web."
Tracy serves as co-author on two computer animation books
and is the author of two Web marketing books. You can
email Tracy via firstname.lastname@example.org.
His favorite animated movie of all time remains Beauty
and the Beast.