Beauty and the Beast

USA 1991, 91 mins
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a tale of transformation, narrated in the overtly stylised fashion of Broadway. Accounts of the film’s production tend to foreground not directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, but animator Glen Keane, who supervised the reforming Beast, and lyricist Howard Ashman, who directed the singers from his sickbed as he lay dying from AIDS. The musician Alan Menken deserves equal credit, but his lush style, unlike Ashman’s pawky lyrics, was sadly institutionalised in subsequent Disney films.

Following 1989’s The Little Mermaid (everyone seems to forget about The Rescuers Down Under in 1990), Beauty and the Beast cemented Disney’s ‘return’ as an animation studio. Until Up and Avatar in 2009, it was the only animated feature nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, losing to The Silence of the Lambs in 1991. For sceptics, though, the new Disney was already brand-Disney. Beauty and the Beast had been meant to be directed by London animators Richard and Jill Purdum (whose studio employed, among others, a young Sylvain Chomet, director of Belleville Rendez-vous). The Purdums wanted a non-musical, reportedly ‘dark’ film, ‘something not in the Disney mould,’ according to producer Don Hahn. They were let go, and Ashman and Menken brought aboard to repeat their musical success from The Little Mermaid.

Yet for all this creative rigidity, Beauty and the Beast’_s first screening was in a uniquely metamorphic state at the 1991 New York Film Festival. This ‘Work in Progress’ (included on the DVD) interleaves pieces of finished animation with moving pencil sketches, static concept art and rough blockings, with the liquid mystery of Cocteau’s _La Belle et la Bête. In the giant ballroom, the titular dancers (hand-animated in the finished scene by James Baxter) are wire frames moving in staccato, clockwork increments against the monochrome geometries of early CGI. The Beast – shown mostly in naked pencil tests – is a mass of snarling lines, dissolving into ensouled shades and scribbles, like Forbidden Planet’s Id monster_._

The finished film lacks these dimensions, but it has a freshness and energy palpable in Belle’s first swinging steps as she walks ‘towards’ camera with the presence of Julie Andrews, cuing her small provincial town to wake up and sing. Her song, ‘Belle,’ is the radiant flipside to Menken and Ashman’s tragicomic ‘Skid Row’ in the musical The Little Shop of Horrors nine years before. Even the villainous Gaston, a preening Adonis, is first seen uplifting the chorus with his chauvinist baritone.

Some of the animated crowd shots are trite and mechanical by classic Disney standards, especially in the finales to ‘Belle’ and ‘Gaston,’ but they’re easily outweighed by the flair of a jaunty, stand-shuffling French candlestick introducing the next number (‘The dining room proudly presents… your dinner!’), or by the ballroom’s swirling camerawork. This same flair makes Belle’s overstated feistiness continually charming, now that its counter-stereotype has been thoroughly outmoded by the post-Disney heroines of Belleville Rendez-vous, Persepolis and Sita Sings the Blues.

Back in the day, academics argued if Beauty and the Beast might be feminist (the man must reform to be fit for the woman; the woman’s gaze is balanced against the man’s in the ‘Something There’ duet) or not (it’s still a fairy-tale marriage plot, and Belle happily loses herself against the Beast’s chest or paw). Perhaps inadvertently, there’s some looking-glass recursion about Belle’s place in the story. We and the Beast know Belle is the answer to his predicament (‘Who could ever learn to love a Beast?’). But the story is told through Belle, a wide-eyed adventuress and dreamer who might have almost conjured up the Beast, castle and all. These entwined framings add piquancy to the moment of (ostensible) free will when the Beast spurns their predestined story and frees Belle, sacrificing himself for love of her.

The critic Marina Warner wrote of Keane’s Beast as ‘male desire incarnate; he swells, he towers, he inflates, he tumesces.’ But it’s a displaced, sublimated desire beside Cocteau’s literally smouldering Beast, or the throbbing cartoon Wolf of Tex Avery’s Red Hot Riding Hood. Disney’s Beast hates and fears his monstrous body, like the incontinently ballooning boy in Akira. When he doesn’t get his way, his roars give way to confused petulance in a snappy scene when he argues through Belle’s door. (Keane based the Beast’s comedic moments on Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners.) Then he’s coaxed into bathing, table manners and dance steps. In one sight gag, he’s made up like the Cowardly Lion, though that’s the limit. His manly honour is restored in a stormy rooftop battle, causing his saintly death and transfiguration in a crescendo of arched limbs and billowing linework. His human form is striking in the first reveal, until he speaks.

Keane drew another muscled Disney hero in 1999’s Tarzan, but that character’s physique outstripped his personality. CGI films have relegated monsters to comic or cuddly duties, while Shrek tried revising Beauty and the Beast by turning a beautiful princess into a homely ogress. Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle contrasted its hero’s monstrous transformations with a girl’s empowering human changes, from young to old and all points between.
Andrew Osmond, 100 Animated Feature Films (BFI/Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) Reproduced by kind permission of Bloomsbury Publishing. ©Andrew Osmond

Director: Dean Wellins
USA 2010
6 mins

Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
©: The Walt Disney Company
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
In association with: Silver Screen Partners IV
Executive Producer: Howard Ashman
Producer: Don Hahn
Associate Producer: Sarah McArthur
Production Manager: Baker Bloodworth
Pre-production Manager: Ron Rocha
Senior Production Co-ordinator: Rozanne Cazian
Production Consultants: Hans Bacher, Mel Shaw
Casting: Albert Tavares
Screenplay: Linda Woolverton
Story Artistic Supervisor: Roger Allers
Story: Brenda Chapman, Burny Mattinson, Brian Pimental, Joe Ranft, Kelly Asbury, Christopher Sanders, Kevin Harkey, Bruce Woodside, Tom Ellery, Robert Lence
Visual Development: Kelly Asbury, Joe Grant, Kevin Lima, Sue C. Nichols, Michael Cedeno, Jean Gillmore, Dave Molina, Christopher Sanders, Terry Shakespeare
Camera Manager: Joe Jiuliano
Optical Camera: Allen Gonzales
Animation Camera Supervisor: John Cunningham
Supervisor Digitising Camera: Robyn Roberts
Visual Effects Artistic Supervisor: Randy Fullmer
Compositing: James ‘J.R.’ Russell, David J. Rowe, Shannon Fallis-Kane
Colour Models Supervisor: Karen Comella
Colour Model Mark-up: Leslie Ellery, Rhonda L. Hicks, Beth Ann McCoy
Animation Check Supervisor: Janet Bruce
Animation Checking: Karen Hepburn, Karen S. Paat, Gary Shafer, Mavis Shafer, Barbara Wiles
Supervising Animators: Belle: James Baxter, Mark Henn; Beast: Glen Keane; Gaston: Andreas Deja; Lumiere: Nik Ranieri; Cogsworth: Will Finn; Mrs Potts/Chip: Dave Pruiksma; Maurice: Ruben A. Aquino; Le Fou: Chris Wahl; Philippe: Russ Edmonds
Clean-up Artistic Supervisor: Vera Lanpher
Computer Graphic Images Artistic Supervisor: Jim Hillin
Effects Graphics: Bernie Gagliano
Special Effects Supervising Animators: Dave Bossert, Dorse Lanpher, Ted Kierscey, Mark Myer
Special Effects Animators: Ed Coffey, Chris Jenkins, Christine Harding, Eusebio Torres, Kelvin Yasuda
Special Effects Breakdown/Inbetweeners: Kennard Betts, Peter Demund, Paul Lewis, Masa Oshiro, Kristine Brown, Sandra M. Groeneveld, Dan Lund, Lisa Ann Reinert, Tony West
Computer Animations: Linda Bel, Greg Griffith, James R. Tooley
Layout Artistic Supervisor: Ed Ghertner
Background Artistic Supervisor: Lisa Keene
Florida Background Artistic Supervisor: Richard John Sluiter
Ink and Paint Manager: Gretchen Maschmeyer Albrecht
Paint Supervisor: Hortensia M. Casagran
Editor: John Carnochan
Associate Editor: Gregory Perler
Art Director: Brian McEntee
Scene Planning Supervisor: Ann Tucker
Title Design: Saxon/Ross Film Design
Optical Supervisor: Mark Dornfeld
Music: Alan Menken
Songs: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Howard Ashman
Music Director: David Friedman
Orchestrations: Danny Troob
Additional Orchestrations: Michael Starobin
Music Producers: Howard Ashman, Alan Menken
Supervising Music Editor: Kathleen Bennett
Music Sound Recordists: Michael Farrow, John Richards
Sound Re-recording: Terry Porter, Mel Metcalfe, David J. Hudson, Denis Blackerby
Sound Editors: Julia Evershade, Michael Benavente, Jessica Gallavan, J.H. Arrufat, Ron Bartlett
Sound Effects: Mark Mangini, Dave Stone
Special Sound Effects: John P.
Special Vocal Effects: Frank Welker
ADR Recordists: Doc Kane, Vince Caro
Foley Artists: John Roesch, Catherine Rowe, Vanessa Ament

Voice Cast
Paige O’Hara (Belle)
Robby Benson (Beast)
Richard White (Gaston)
Jerry Orbach (Lumière)
David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth)
Angela Lansbury (Mrs Potts)
Bradley Michael Pierce (Chip)
Rex Everhart (Maurice)
Jesse Corti (Le Fou)
Hal Smith (Philippe the horse)
Jo Anne Worley (wardrobe)
Mary Kay Bergman, Kath Soucie (bimbettes)
Brian Cummins (stove)
Alvin Epstein (bookseller)
Tony Jay (Monsieur D’Arque)
Alec Murphy (baker)
Kimmy Robertson (feather duster)
Frank Welker (foot stool)

USA 1991©
91 mins

With thanks to The Walt Disney Company

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