Bringing a Fairy Tale Cartoon into Reality:
Behind the Scenes of Disney’s Live Action BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
By Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
MOVEGUIDE® recently attended a press conference with some of the cast and crew from Disney’s new live action version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the 1991 animated movie.
They all said they loved the challenge of bringing a classic animated film to life.
Director Bill Condon said the first thing he asked was how to take the exaggerated behavior in the cartoon and bring it into reality.
“Once you start to investigate that,” he said, “then you realize, wow, there are questions maybe you never asked before that you want to know about. For example, how did Belle and [her father] wind up in this village where they’re outsiders? That leads to new songs, and suddenly you’re creating something new.”
Actress Audra McDonald said she was excited to be a part of the movie because Emma Watson was going to play Belle and because Emma has been such a role model for girls over the years.
“My daughter is someone who now asks for people to donate money to charities for her birthday gifts instead of presents and that’s because of you, Emma,” Audra said.
Emma Watson noted, “It’s really remarkable to play someone that I’m almost sure had an influence on the woman I have become. The first time I saw Paige O’Hara sing Belle. . . I just immediately resonated with her. I was so young I didn’t even know what I was tapping into but there was something about that spirit, there was something about that energy, that I just knew she was my champion. When I knew I was taking on this role, I wanted to make sure that I was championing that same spirit, those same values, that same young woman that made me a part of who I am today.
“In our film, she’s actually an activist within her own community. She’s teaching other young girls who are part of the village to read, and moments like that where you could see her expanding beyond just her own little world and trying to kind of grow it. I loved that. That was amazing to get to do.”
Actor Dan Stevens, who plays the Beast, said the role was a very physical one for him because his Beast costume was on stilts.
“We decided that the prince before he was the Beast was a dancer, that he loved to dance,” Stevens said. “So, I trained myself like a dancer and learned three quite different dances for this movie. Getting to know Emma, first and foremost, on the dance floor was probably a great way to get to know your costar. I’m going to try and do that with every movie I do now, whether there’s a waltz in the movie or not.”
In playing the villain, Gaston, Luke Evans said, “A villain shouldn’t start out as the bad guy. A villain should end up being the bad guy. With Gaston, outwardly, to a lot of people in that village, he is the hero. He’s got the hair, he’s got the looks, he’s always impeccably dressed, not a bad singing voice. He’s got a great pal who makes everybody support him and sing about him.
“I wanted the audience to like him a little bit first, so that when the cracks start to appear. . . the jealousy takes over and that’s who he becomes.”
Director Condon and Composer Alan Mencken said they use the songs in the new live action version as storytelling devices.
“They often say in musicals that people sing when it’s no longer enough to speak, that their emotions are running so high,” Condon said.
He cited the new song “Evermore” in the live action version, which the Beast sings after he lets Belle go, knowing that she probably will never return to him.
“It’s one of the dramatic high points in all of literature,” he said, “the fact that the Beast at this moment lets Belle go and becomes worthy of love and discovers what love is, but at the same time sacrifices his future.”
Once Beast lets Belle go, he knows the spell that makes him a beast will not be broken now, Mencken agreed.
“But at least he knows what love is.”
Actor Josh Gad said he was thoroughly awed about bringing to life such an animated classic “that was so much a part of our childhood.”
He said that when he first started to sing the famous song about Gaston in the end, “I literally started choking up, because you think back to yourself as a kid, and you’re like, “Oh my g*d, I’m doing this. I’m doing this for real and I’m going to be the version that a lot of kids are going to see.” That was such a thrill.
“That first day that we did the table read,” he added, “all of these pieces [came] together before our eyes, and I don’t think there was a single one of us who didn’t have goosebumps.”