Happy Valentines day! A little late I know, but I thought I would celebrate today by featuring a piece of concept art depicting one of Disney’s most famous couples. Today’s featured art is an early concept drawing of Belle and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast created by Glen Keane. Although they don’t necessarily look like the characters in the final film, the romantic chemistry between the couple is clearly present in this drawing. Despite the huge changes that would eventually be made to the design of the couple, especially to that of the Beast, the Disney animators clearly knew from the beginning that the main focus of the story they were telling was romance.
Obviously, the Beast looks very different from his final design in this concept art. This version of the Beast was actually based on a mandrill, a type of monkey. Despite the magic curse, Beast’s supervising animator Glen Keane wanted the character’s transformation to be based on real-life animals and not the alien beasts often seen in story books. He spent a lot of time going to the zoo and sketching various animals to try to figure out what creature would be best for the Beast. For a while he liked the idea of the Beast being a mandrill, because he felt they were very intelligent looking creatures. It was an idea that I think actually worked quite well in this concept art. Despite his animal form, the mandrill based Beast looks just human enough and intelligent enough to be sophisticated instead of comical in his period accurate suit.Of course, this version did not make the final film. Instead, Glen Keane created a completely new creature for the Beast, combining all of the features he liked best from the various animals he sketched.There are far less differences in Belle’s appearance in this sketch, but there are a few, mostly in her dress. The square neckline and bell sleeves are far more accurate to the late 18th century than any of her outfits in the final film are. For most of the film’s early development Belle was depicted wearing highly period accurate clothing. Even her gold ballgown had the overly wide panniers worn in french courts at the time.Over time her dresses became more modernized, but still fitting for a period fantasy romance.
As I said, the directors, writers, and animators who worked on the film were fully aware that the main focus would be on romance. They often referred to the story as the greatest love story ever told. That didn’t mean that it was initially easy for them to create that love story. Early drafts of the script were seen by many as boring and lacking in any real chemistry between Belle and the Beast. The story at that point was basically two people sitting down to dinner every night with the Beast asking Belle to marry him and Belle saying no, until she eventually said yes. A lot of changes needed to be made to the script in order to make it a more believable love story, including the addition of the enchanted objects to help encourage the romance. Even when most of the script was finished, there were still problems with the relationship. Much of the crew felt that the ball room scene felt like it came too soon, like Belle and the Beast were being pushed into romance rather than naturally falling in love. The solution to this problem came from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who wrote the last song to be added into the film “Something There”. Once that song was added all the rest of the pieces fit together, and Belle and the Beast seemed to fall in love gradually and naturally in a compelling way that the audience could believe.
As you can see, even a romantic pair as iconic as Belle and the Beast took a lot of time and effort to create. Hope you enjoyed your Valentines Day.
Image Credit: Design: Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Archive Series