Part One – Part Two – Part Three – Chip Interlude – Part Four – Part Five
Maurice heads off to the fair, passing through breathtaking countryside straight out of Romantic landscape painting. But come nightfall, the lush, colorful landscapes give way to an eerie, mist shrouded forest. Even without the change in the score from a happy hopeful tune to more forbidding, creepy music and Maurice’s dialogue indicating his confusion, the nearly leafless, faintly visible trees against a dull brown sky communicate that Maurice is not on the right path.
It’s A Shortcut
To keep Maurice from talking to himself through this scene, the Disney crew provides him with a draft horse named Philippe. Aside from pulling the cart that contains Maurice’s wood chopping machine, Philippe gives Maurice a reason to explain his situation to the audience. The animals in Beauty and the Beast are kept realistic. They are limited by the anatomy and vocal abilities of real animals, even if some like Philippe boast a great range of expression and language comprehension than the average horse.
Philippe’s task in this scene is to be smarter than Maurice. Though Maurice realizes that he is lost, he remains set on taking the darker, scarier path, insisting that it’s a shortcut. It is Philippe who has the good sense to want to take the well lit path, though Maurice has the reins and ultimately gets his way. Philippe’s fearfulness, while never over the top, is played for laughs, adding a touch of humor to an otherwise scary scene.
Speaking of those two paths, did you ever take a close look at the signpost that Maurice and Philippe stumble upon when the trail divides? It’s a little tough to read, but if I raise the contrast and connect the fragments…
So the two paths are marked “Anaheim” and “Valencia.” Anaheim is home to Disneyland, while rival theme park Six Flags Magic Mountain can be found in Valencia. Since this is a Disney film, it’s no surprise that the Anaheim path is the brighter one that Philippe wants to take while the shadowy Valencia path is the one Maurice foolishly chooses. The three signs above these two (only one of which is visible above) read “Newhall,” “Saugus,” and “Ramona,” three other cities in Southern California. They may have been homes of some of the Disney artists.
The wolves that threaten Maurice and later Belle are a Disney invention with no parallel in the original fairy tale. Here and in their later appearance, they act as a device to move the plot forward. They separate the terrified Philippe from Maurice and force Maurice to search for shelter. Introducing the idea of wolves in the forest now prepares the audience for their return, when they play a more crucial role. Though the wolves aren’t from the fairy tale, the wolf as a vicious predator and a threat to humans has plenty of precedent in other fairy tales and feels at home in the story’s European setting.
I was going to reconstruct this pan of the castle to demonstrate how the perspective in the image changes to reflect Maurice looking up at the castle, increasing the feeling of a tall and imposing building. But once I had the screen captures, I realized that the shot is comprised of several separate pieces moving at different rates, so nothing lines up. Because of that, the best I can do is show you the relatively straight-on beginning of the shot above….
…which you can then compare to the end of the shot, showing the castle’s highest towers.
Life Is So Unnerving for a Servan’t Who’s Not Serving
The wolf attack is a frightening and intense scene and there’s another one on the way. We need a break, a lighthearted scene to break the tension before the Beast makes his entrance. So now is the perfect time to introduce the enchanted objects, the Beast’s servants who have been transformed along with him.
Cogsworth and Lumiere are the castle’s majordomo and maitre’d respectively. Like most of the enchanted objects, their new forms fit with their personalities. Lumiere is a born entertainer, eager to offer light and hospitality. Cogsworth is fussy, by the book, and tightly wound, making him the perfect foil for Lumiere and the other objects.
Lumiere is voiced by the late Jerry Orbach doing his best Maurice Chevalier. Orbach may seem like one of the biggest stars to lend a voice to Beauty and the Beast but keep in mind that his thirteen year run on Law & Order began the same year that this movie was released, so he wasn’t yet a household name. At the time, he was an actor with a great track record in musical theater and one who Howard Ashman believed would bring the right combination of warmth, showmanship, and humor to Lumiere. Nik Ranieri served as Lumiere’s supervising animator, making the challenge of animating a character without proper hands of legs seem easy.
Cogsworth’s animation was supervised by Will Finn, who worked to balance the character’s wood and metal body with the need for him to move and emote like a living creature. David Ogden Stiers of M*A*S*H* fame was a natural choice for the proper British mantle clock. Early treatments of the movie featured a stately grandfather clock who seemed to be running the household. But once it became clear that he would be acting alongside a teapot and a table candelabrum, Cogsworth was downsized. This gives him the added disadvantage of being easy to ignore or run over with a rolling tea tray when the other servants aren’t interested in listening to him.
Though Cogsworth’s protests are ignored by his fellow servants, they aren’t unfounded. While Lumiere brings Maurice in to warm up by the fire, the Beast looks on from the shadows. It’s to dark to see any details, but his lowered brow as he sees the intruder in his castle is enough to foreshadow the trouble to come.
Aside from Cogsworth the enchanted objects are thrilled to have someone – anyone – to wait on other than their temperamental master. A canine footstool lets Maurice put his feet up. A coatrack provides him with a warm blanket. He gets a relaxing cup of warm tea from the friendly teapot Mrs. Potts and her teacup son Chip. Angela Lansbury voices Mrs. Potts in another no-brainer castin choice. David Pruiksma, who had previously worked with directors Trousdale and Wise on Cranium Command, was in charge of animation on both characters, reflecting the close relationship between them. Mrs. Potts presented particular challenges, as she is essentially a walking head. This greatly limits her body language; she cannot point, shrug, put a hand to her head, or do any number of other gestures that convey attitude. While facial expressions can tell an audience a lot about what a character is thinking or feeling, it can actually be more difficult to animate a character that is only a face than one thay has no face, but enough limbs to gesture effectively. Pruiksma’s effective use of expression and head tilts, combined with the gentle warmth of Lansbury’s vocal performance, overcomes this problem beautifully.
You’ve Come to Stare at the Beast
Yes, this is what our hero looks like in his first full appearance. The audience already knows his backstory and while the knowledge that there is a human being in there somewhere might make him less frightening, the artists crafting this moment are free to pull out all the stops. Since viewers already have some sympathy for the Beast and his plight, this moment can be devoted entirely to making him scary. So after the doors burst open, every source of light in the room is snuffed out, and a menacing horned shadow engulfs the chair Maurice is sitting in, this walking nightmare enters the room. The light source behind him and his warm red and brown color scheme against the cool blues and purples of the room help him to stand out against the background. The hair along his spine is standing up and the jagged line makes for an unsettling image even if your don’t recognize it as a symbol of agitation in animals. Because this is such a dark scene, the Beast’s most fearsome features can be highlighted, such as his silhouetted horns and the sharp white fangs protruding from his lower jaw. Further along in the movie, Beast’s cape will add elegance and flow to his movements and his blue eyes his serve as a reminder of the humanity trapped within this monstrous body. But right now, all we see is the blood red cape of a potentially violent animal and blue eyes that glare out of the darkness of Beast’s shadowed face.
We do get a little comedy relief right after the Beast arrives on the scene. Lumiere and Cogsworth both attempt to explain Maurice’s presence to their master. Lumiere gives a straightforward account of what happened, while Cogsworth tries to pin the blame on everyone else and save his own skin. Both are cut off by furious growls from the Beast, who remains off camera. Because we don’t see Beast during these exchanges, he retains his scariness and doesn’t get drawn into the comedy. Even though they’re entertaining and offer a brief break from an otherwise frightening scene, these shots also increase the threat that the Beast poses. These are characters who have lived with the Beast for years and even they cower in fear of him.
Creating the Beast posed a number of challenges, including finding the right voice for him. All manner of deep voiced actors tried out for the part, but nothing clicked. Then actor Robby Benson read for the role and provided a completely different approach to voicing the Beast. Though Benson could summon up the appropriate snarls of fury, he also brought a youthful quality to Beast’s voice that hinted at the prince within. The filmmakers were impressed and the former teen heartthrob was cast as the movie’s male lead.
The Beast’s design was an equally daunting problem. The artists working on the film knew that whatever they came up with would likely become the definitive version of the character for years to come, which only added to the pressure. Trousdale and Wise were not satisfied with early Beast designs, which all fell into the easy trap of “guy with an animal head.” Story artist Chris Sanders was handed the task of creating something more unique and developed a menagerie of beasts based on birds, fish, and insects. These new ideas expanded the possibilities of what the Beast could look like and eventually led Sanders to a design that the directors approved of. The job was then placed in the capable hands of supervising animator Glen Keane, who further refined the design and exhaustively studied the real world animals that made up the various parts of the Beast. The resulting design is both unique and believable, You don’t look at the Beast and think “Oh, he looks like a lion” or “Oh, he looks like a bear.” While he may sport a lionish mane and a bearlike body – along with the legs and tail of a wolf, a buffalo’s horns, the facial structure of a mandrill, and various other animal parts, he still reads as a whole creature rather than a mess of parts thrown together. He is an animal that does not exist, but could.
The way the Beast is constructed influences his movements. Later on in the film, Belle’s positive influence will start to bring out his human qualities. But here, confronting the stranger in his castle, the Beast is all animal. He is able to walk on all fours and in this scene, he only stands on two legs when he needs to grab Maurice or to tower over him. I particularly like how he is so focused on getting at Maurice that he steps over the chair in his path rather than going around it. It’s these little details that show how much the Beast’s animal side has taken over.
Breaking the spell isn’t on the Beast’s radar right now. We know from the prologue that he no longer believes that it’s possible. All he wants is to be left alone, with no one from the world outside staring at him and reminding him that he is no longer human and likely never will be again. He’s not going to calmly consider that this stranger in his home might have a nice daughter who he could bring by sometime and that if he treats her father well, she might be more inclined to fall in love with him. He is only concerned with remaining hidden and punishing Maurice for unknowingly trespassing.
Continued in Why I Love Animation: Beauty and the Beast – Part Five.
All images in this article are copyright Disney.