A Good Fairy Masterpiece Monday


My mother’s birthday was last week, so I thought I’d honour her in today’s Masterpiece Monday post. My mother absolutely adores the three good faeries from Sleeping Beauty,  especially Merryweather, so today’s featured concept art is a set of character design drawings of Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. These drawings were created by animator Marc Davis, though they are not done in his typical style. That is because his designs were heavily scrutinized by the film’s key concept artist, Evyind Earle, who was appointed by Walt Disney  to oversee the art style of the entire film. It was especially important for the animators to get the look and personality of the three fairies just right as, despite the title, they are actually the main characters of the film.

As I said last week, Walt Disney was tired of his animated films not truly reflecting the unique concept art that inspired them. For Sleeping Beauty, Walt sought to change this once and for all by giving concept artist Evyind Earle complete creative control of the look of the film. Earle looked towards medieval and renaissance European art for inspiration, in particular he took inspiration from tapestries like the Unicorn Tapestries and illuminated manuscripts like Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. He also took some inspiration from non-European art like Persian miniatures and Japanese prints. The goal was to create a flattened, geometric world for the film, where every bit of the background would be in just as much focused detail as the foreground. Along with his bold geometric shapes, Earle choose to use bright and highly contrasting colors throughout the film, in a manner reminiscent of the avant-garde  UPA style of animation that was becoming popular in the ’50s.  His style choices applied to the characters as well, which is why this Marc Davis drawing of the fairies depicts them in such a sharp geometric  style. The colours in Davis’s drawing are also much more saturated than anything seen in a previous Disney film, with an eye-popping  contrast between their dark capes and bright dresses. This drawing comes from a time in the film’s development when Earle was in tight control, and everything had to follow his style exactly. Unfortunately, his designs were incredibly difficult for the animators and background painters to work with, often inhibiting their work and slowing down the film’s production considerably with their complexity. As time went on, both he and the character designs would soften slightly.

As the three fairies’ designs began to be refined the animator’s started seeing them less as fairies and more as maiden aunts. They became more delicate, rounded figures than those shown in these designs and that in turn helped to make them the warmest and most human characters in the film, adding some much needed life into the story. The animators also started to develop individual personalities for each fairy. Initially Walt wanted them all to act the same,  but the animators quickly talked him out of the idea.  Flora became the natural leader who was always coming up with a plan, Merryweather became the practical one who often questioned Flora’s ideas, and Fauna became the sweet yet vague peace keeper between the two. The fairies’ supervising animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, even went around watching the interactions of the little-old-ladies they knew in order  further develop the fairies’s personalities, paying attention to how the women walked, talked, and gestured and applying it to the characters. Designing these three main characters took a lot of trial and error, even finding the right signature colour for each fairy took some time. Yet, eventually the animators and designers chose the colours we know the three good fairies by today.

Hope you enjoyed this little look at the process that went into designing my mother’s favourite characters. Happy Birthday mom!

Image Credit: Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition

A Rabbit Themed Masterpiece Monday


Since Easter is coming I thought I’d write a post focusing on a Disney bunny, in particular my favorite Disney bunny, the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. You may remember that I featured some David Hall concept art for Alice in Wonderland in a previous post. The whimsical concept art of Alice and the White Rabbit I’m featuring today obviously goes in a very different direction. That is because it was painted by Mary Blair during one of the most imaginative and fruitful periods in her career.  In my opinion, Alice in Wonderland captures the creative spirit of Mary Blair’s concept art better than any other film did during Disney’s Silver Era.

If you’ve been reading my blog you already know about how Mary Blair came to find her unique modernist style By the 1950s, Mary Blair was the top concept artist at Walt Disney Animation, and Walt Disney’s personal favorite artist. Walt became very frustrated with his animators around the time Cinderella was reaching completion. He felt they were failing to realize the  unique qualities of Blair’s artwork on the screen and were instead coming up with a more generic looking product. The animators, on the other hand, complained that her concept art was too flat and unrealistic to easily replicate in animation, especially for a relatively human and realistic story like Cinderella. Luckily their next film, the whimsical and nonsensical Lewis Carroll story Alice in Wonderland left them more opportunities to come closer to  Blair’s art. The original idea for the film was to make it darker and closer to the traditionally Victorian illustrations of John Tennial, but Walt ordered them to follow Mary Blair’s style, which ultimatly helped to move the film in a more fun, comical, and musical direction

Although the likeness isn’t exact, I think Alice in Wonderland did a better job at capturing Mary Blair’s style than any other Disney film. Compare her depiction of the White Rabbit to the character in the final film and you’ll  not find that many differences. The White Rabbit in the final film is more dimensional, a bit more round and fluffy, but he retains many of the elements from Blair’s concept art. He retains his spectacles, his wide whimsical ruff, and the modernist red and white contrasting colour scheme of his clothes. Alice too retains many of the elements contained in this design. Though the final character is older and more human looking, the exaggerated silhouette of her dress  with its bell-like skirt, large puffed sleeves, triangular apron, and overly cinched waist remained. The card-soldiers in the final film look almost exactly as Mary Blair drew them here, because as cards they were allowed to look flat and unusual. If you examine Mary  Blair’s concept art and compare it to the final film you’ll find many of her imaginative ideas were incorporated. Shapes, colour schemes, and even camera angels were lifted directly from  her paintings. This is especially true of many of the backgrounds in the film, which look almost like they were painted by Blair herself. In my opinion, Disney’s Wonderland could just as easily be called Mary Blair land.

Now you know a little bit more about why the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland looks and  dresses the way he does. Hope you enjoyed and have a very happy Easter if you celebrate it.

Image Credit: ohmy.disney.com

Another Moana Masterpiece Monday

I first wrote a Moana post months ago, before the film had been released so I thought I’d feature another piece of Moana concept art in today’s Masterpiece Monday post. This  concept art was created by Walt Disney Animation  Character Designer Jin Kim. Jin Kim is a fantastic artist who has worked on all of the studio’s recent hit films. For Moana he created character design drawings for all of the major characters in the film, but focused especially on Moana herself. This particular set of drawings is part of an even larger set Jin Kim created to display Moana in different poses and with facial expressions. The purpose of these explorations was not to focus on small details like her clothing, but rather to help her personality come to life on the page, and later on the screen.

Drawings like these are incredibly helpful for the animators in pinning down a character’s distinct personality. Animators are often called “actors with pencils” or in the case of Moana computers. This is because they have to figure out exactly how the unique character they are drawing would express each emotion, what expressions and gestures they would make, and what poses they would hold while they do so. That’s how these particular kinds of character design drawings come into play. The character designer will draw hundreds of little drawings of each character like these ones, and then sit down with the directors to decide exactly which poses and expressions best represent their idea of who the character is as a person. Those particular drawings then become a guide for the animators who create the characters various expressions, movements, and poses in each scene. In the case of Moana, both the Jin Kim and directors Ron Howard and John Musker found it very important that she expressed herself like an authentic teenage girl.  They even studied footage of Auli’i Cravalho’s face as she recorded Moana’s lines, since she is an actual teenage girl herself.

You’ll notice that hair plays a particularly important role in these drawings of Moana. In these and many of Jin Kim’s other drawings, she is shown playing with her hair. Giving Moana realistic looking hair was a major goal of the filmmakers. They observed how Auli’i Cravlho and other teenager girls in their lives would constantly play with their hair and use it to express themselves, and they wanted Moana to be able to do the same. Many of the animators also missed having the ability to move hair around for effect as they had with hand-drawn animated heroines like Ariel and Pocahontas. Unfortunately, hair is a big challenge in  computer animation. Despite the progress made for characters like Rapunzel and Merida it was still extremely difficult for animators to manipulate character’s hair, and especially hard for them to have characters touch their hair. So the animators had to convince the studio and the directors that having Moana play with her hair was an important part of her personality and that it was worth putting the time and money into developing new software to do so. Jin Kim’s expression drawings played a huge part in proving this importance, as did Randy Haycock’s hand-drawn pencil tests (which you can watch here). Eventually, work began on researching and creating new technology for Moana’s hair. The simulation department studied pictures and videos of Auli’i Cravalho’s hair as well as of the hair of a Samoan woman named Fiona Collins. They watched their hair as the ran, jumped, and even tied it up into a top-knot. The result was a new simulation program called Quicksilver, which allowed the animators to manipulate character’s hair in a manner similar to hand-drawn animation while still having it appear incredibly realistic on screen.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the artistry and technology involved in making Moana look like and have the attitude of an authentic teenage girl. I’m still working on the research for a new full-length article, but my life is pretty busy right now, so stay tuned for that.

Image Credit:  /cosmoanimato.tumblr.com/

A Mary Poppins Masterpiece Monday


I decided to do something a little different for today’s Masterpiece Monday post and take a look at some concept art from a live action Disney film. Today’s piece of concept art depicts Mary Poppins and Bert in the “Jolly Holiday” sequence of Mary Poppins. Not everybody realizes that Disney creates concept art for their live action films almost as frequently as they do for their animated films. Although the characters in the film are played by real  people, the costumes, props,  sets, etc all still need to be designed. This is where concept art comes into play. Just like in animated films, concept art for live action films explores the different stylistic  and thematic possibilities for the film. Concept art can also display in a very tangible way the tone the director intends to set for a particular sequence. It helps guide the decisions of the cinematographers, lighting designers,and even editors towards a collective style and tone. Concept art is especially useful for the creation of live action films that move away from realism like Mary Poppins. That is why I find this piece of impressionistic concept art for the film so fascinating, especially since it depicts a scene that would combine live action with animation.

Mary Poppins was intended to be an impressionistic picture-book  depiction of London in the 1910s. The concept art made for the film reflected this goal, as the artists used mainly pastels and crayons as their medium. This technique appeared most frequently in concept art for the “Jolly Holiday”, as the director wanted to keep a chalk drawing quality throughout the sequence. The illustrated version of England was then transferred over into the live action production. The sets were built by Broadway set designers to look like they were meant for the stage. Most of the  backgrounds were then added in later with matte paintings created by Peter Ellenshaw, who again stuck to an impressionistic style for his London streets and skylines.The costumes were made artificially bright and colourful for the era, and the lighting was designed to be anti-naturalistic, reflecting the mood of the scene more than any real life natural lighting sources. All of these elements within the live-action film took their cue from impressionistic pastel concept drawings like this one, just as any animated film would.

The pure fantasy of the film was  furthered with its use of whimsical special effects, especially in its use of animation, both stop-motion and hand-drawn. The stop motion effects were done by Xavier Atencia and Bill Justice. The hand-drawn animation for the “Jolly Holiday” sequence took a lot more people and a lot more work. Using concept art like this  as a guide, bits of live action props and sets were built and then painted to match the chalk-drawing style of the animation. Anything that Mary, Bert, and the children would interact with directly had to be made in real life to look animated. This included big things like the carousel and less noticeable things like the garden gate Mary and Burt walk through. Platforms for Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke to dance on were built and painted to look like a hand-drawn country road. All of these props and platforms were then set up in front of an orange sodium vapour screen, which would not show up on film. The sequence was filmed in front of this set-up, and then later Peter Ellenshaw would add his matte paintings to the footage to create the backgrounds, again guided by the concept art. Finally, the animation would be added in. The animation unit was headed by the Disney veteran Hamilton Luske, while most of the penguin animation was done by one of the “Nine Old Men” Frank Thomas.  When all of this footage was put together, you got a wonderful fantasy sequence that perfectly matches the picture-book style of the original concept art.

So as you can see, when it comes to Disney live-action films, the concept art isn’t just gorgeous to look at, but also as integral to the production process as it is for animated films.  Hope you enjoyed this look at the “Jolly Holiday” sequence of Mary Poppins. Keep an eye out in the coming days, I’m hoping to announce the theme of my next full-length article very soon.

Image Credit: The Walt Disney Film Archives. The Animated Movies 1921–1968

Another Mulan Masterpiece Monday

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I initially planned on featuring a piece of concept art from a different film in today’s post, but due to technical difficulties with my DVD player I have to postpone that post until next week. Instead, I am writing this rather last minute about a film and a character I know extremely well and could talk all day about, Mulan. I have  previously featured concept art of Mulan by Mark Henn in this post, but today’s concept art depicts a very different Mulan from the earthy, athletic girl seen in Henn’s drawing. This beautiful sketch of a graceful and feminine Mulan holding Cri-Kee was done by Disney character designer Chen Yi Chang.  Despite how different Chang’s design looks from the ones created by Henn, both artists’ sketches were equally important in contributing to the development of the complex character of Mulan.

Chen Yi Chang was an incredible asset to the design team for Mulan because he was born and raised in Taiwan, an thus had a stronger grasp on Chinese culture and art than many of the other crew members. In fact, the directors of Mulan, Tont Bancroft and Barry Cook, sight him as the film’s most influential artist. He drew character designs for not just Mulan, but all of the characters in the film. For Mulan’s design he took inspiration from soft s-curve design element often found in classical Chinese art, especially in depictions of running water. You can see this element in this particular drawing in her elegant willowy silhouette. This same soft elegance appears in her arms and their flowing sleeves, her thin, almost branchlike hands, and her long curtain of hair. Chang also took inspiration from elements of  classical Chinese art in Mulan’s facial features. Her features are based on those of idealised women in Chinese paintings, a round face with almond shaped eyes, willow-leaf eyebrows, and cherry blossom lips. Even Mulan’s pose in this picture has a sense of grace and femininity to it, a sharp contrast from the Mark Henn drawing I featured in my previous Mulan post.

I wouldn’t say that this concept drawing depicts a version of Mulan that is really that much of a departure from the character in the final film. Many think of Mulan as the “tomboy” Disney Princess or the Disney Princess that rejects traditional femininity altogether. That’s not entirely true. Mulan’s character really contains the perfect balance between traditional masculine and feminine qualities, both Yin and Yang. I  feel it is important to point out the fact that when Mulan defeats Shan-Yu and becomes the hero of China, she does so neither while disguised as a man in armor nor in her ultra girly matchmaker dress, but rather in a simple blue dress while using a fan and sword as weapons. Mulan does not fully reject womanhood, but rather changes the definition of womanhood away from the traditional Chinese qualities of weakness and silence towards intelligence and strength. This is why Mulan’s final design is really a blend of both Mark Henn’s athletic “tomboy” and Chen Yi Chang’s classical Chinese beauty.  She has both the sturdy muscles of Henn’s drawings and the delicate s-curve silhouette shown in those of Chen-Yi Chang. That’s actually a large part of what makes Mulan my favourite Disney princess.

I hope you enjoyed this look at one of Cheng Yi Chang;s character designs for Mulan. Personally I find Mulan’s concept art fascinating in regards to gender studies and feminism, which is why I devoted an entire chapter of my dissertation to her. Next week I should have the technical difficulties with my DVD player sorted out and will be featuring a very interesting piece of concept art which I had hoped to feature this week.

Image Credit: Design: Walt Disney Animation Studios: The Archive Series

A Zootopia Masterpiece Monday



As I’m sure you know, Zootopia recently won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It also recently had its first anniversary. Because of this, I thought I would feature a piece of concept art from the film in today’s Masterpiece Monday.This concept art was created by Zootopia‘s Art Director of Environments,  Matthias Lechner. It features a location that was deleted from the film, an amusement park called “Wild Times”  that was owned and operated by Nick Wilde. This concept art not only brings attention to a very interesting discarded early plot for the film, but also shows just how much attention was put into the details of the unique locations within the city of Zootopia.

The “Wild Times” theme park played a significant role in an earlier version of the film in which Nick, not Judy was the main character. In this version, Zootopia was a more dystopian city with a very blatant prejudice against predators. Prey animals ran the city and feared predators so much that they forced them to wear shock collars meant to tame primal urges like excitement and anger.  Nick created this amusement park to allow the predators to enjoy their more primitive urges and be free of their collars. The entrance was a fake medical clinic that contained a tunnel that lead to the park. Once they arrived, Clawhouser, who in this version was one of Nick’a friends, would remove the animals’ collars and allow them to enjoy the park free from the fear of being shocked. Although the park made Nick a lot of money, it was also illegal, and eventually Nick would have been arrested, which is where Judy came into the story. This version of the film was discarded for being too cynical and depressing, no one wanted to root for Zootopia to become a better, more accepting place because from Nick’s point of view, it was already horrible. Instead, the optimistic and naive Judy became the main character so that the audience could better see the good in Zootopia.

What I like most about this piece of concept art  is how it showcases one of the best aspects of Zootopia, the clever ways its environments are designed. Zootopia is a city built by animals for animals, and so the design of all the buildings had to reflect that both practically and stylistically. “Wild Times” is located in the Rain forest District of the city, and so it’s design reflects it’s location with its use of trees, both real ones and ones made of neon lights. The film’s crew studied a wide range of real cities for inspiration for Zootopia, and as a result it became a unique hodgepodge of many different styles of architecture.  The design of “Wild Times” was very clearly inspired by the bright lights of Las Vegas casinos. The inside of the building was also designed to reflect the fact that predator animals would spend their time there.The park’s main attraction was the “Roar-a-Coaster” which went both inside and outside the building. There were also games to test animal’s bite  strength, a whack-a-mole, a cat-apult, and even a ball of yarn pit. A huge amount of detail went into designing “Wild Times” to look like an environment that real anthropomorphized predators would go to for thrills.

It’s a shame that this wonderfully detailed and clever environment was never used to its full potential, but if you look closely you can see the theme park in the background during some parts of the film. In the end, the story worked better with out it, and it was not the only incredibly cleverly designed location within the film. Still I hope you appreciated this look at this gorgeous concept art for the deleted “Wild Times” theme park in Zootopia

Image Credit: www.matthiaslechner.com

A Black Cauldron Masterpeice Monday



Now that I’ve finished featuring one piece of concept art for each Disney Princess, I thought I’d feature one of Disney’s forgotten princesses, Princess Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron. I’ve written a full article on the film previously, but disclosed very little about the princess within it. In fact, I originally intended to include this particular piece of concept art in the article, but eventually had to cut it. This early piece of concept art was drawn by Disney legend Andres Deja in pencil and magic marker. Just like so many of the pieces of early concept art I featured in the larger article, it displays a character design that would have made the princess a unique and intriguing character within the film.

This concept sketch comes from extremely early in The Black Cauldron’s development, and from extremely early in Andreas Deja’s career. Before he was hired by Walt Disney Animation, Andreas Deja heard about the studio’s plans to make a film out of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydian book series. He was immediately attracted to the idea, and began making character sketches for the film which he then submitted to the company as part of his portfolio. This sketch of Princess Eilonwy was one of the ones he submitted. The studio liked his character designs so much that they not only hired him as an animator, but also seriously considered using his submitted designs for the film. While ultimately his designs were rejected, Deja became a very important member of the film’s crew.  He initially worked alongside Tim Burton on the film, translating Burton’s unique monster ideas into a more typical Disney style of animation. After Burton’s departure, Deja became one of the film’s main animators, contributing more final animation drawings than any other crew member. His experience on the ill-fated Black Cauldron eventually helped Andreas Deja  become one of the most accomplished animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He eventually went on to animate characters like King Triton, Gaston, Jafar, Scar, and Hercules. So this early sketch of Princess Eilonwy ended up leading Deja into a very long and fruitful career with Walt Disney Animation.

In this drawing and in many other early concept drawings, Eilonway looks much more like a servant than a princess, like Cinderella and Snow White in their rags, especially compared to her final design. This design actually follows the character’s description in the original books very closely. In the books, the princess is described as having reddish blonde hair, as she does here, not the light blonde she has in the final film. In the book series Eilonwy is almost always barefoot, again as she is in Deja’s concept drawing, but in the film she wears flats throughout. Although she is a princess, Eilonwy is being kept prisoner in the Horned King’s dungeon, so a dirty and shabby dress actually makes sense for her character. There is even a line in the final film where the Horned King implies that he has been making her work as a scullery maid, which would have made much more sense had she been dressed like this. This scullery maid dress lasted all the way up until the rough model sheets were made for the character, but ultimately, Eilonwy was made to look cleaner and more princess like in the final film. She was given a dress similar to Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty and hair in the colour and style of Alice in Alice in Wonderland. Although Eilowny’s design was made to fit in better with the Disney women and girls who came before her, I’ve always admired how Deja’s designs stuck closer to the character’s depiction in the original book.

I hope you enjoyed this look at a discarded design for Disney’s “forgotten” princess, Princess Eilonwy. Who knows, maybe in the future when Disney makes a live action version of the Chronicles Prydain  they’ll look to Andreas Deja’s character design drawings for inspiration.  

Image Credit:http://andreasdeja.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-blast-from-past.html


Another Frozen Masterpiece Monday


It’s my final Masterpiece Monday featuring a princess I’ve never featured before! Technically I’ve already done one Frozen post, but that time I focused more on Elsa. I thought it was only fair that Anna get her own separate post. While she didn’t go through as many physical changes in design as her sister did, there were plenty of changes made to Anna’s personality and journey during Frozen‘s chaotic development process.These character design drawings, done by Scott Watanabe, reveal a little bit about one of the rejected script’s for the film and Anna’s unusual role within it.Of course, do keep in mind that much like Tangled, the details of the many rejected plots for Frozen are kept pretty secret, so my information is pieced together from a lot of bits and pieces uncovered through a lot of difficult searching.

These two drawings are actually designs for Anna’s  dress for her wedding to Hans, which explains the fancy crown and the bouquet. In this version of the film, Anna would have knownabout Elsa’s ice powers and they would have caused a rift between the two sisters. The people of Arendelle would have feared and ostracized Elsa because of her powers, while kind and normal Anna would have been beloved by all. This would have caused Elsa to hate her sister, until she eventually fled the kingdom and created her ice palace, leaving Anna alone to become queen. Eventually, Anna would have met and become engaged to Hans, who she naively believed she was in love with. In the hopes of patching things up with Elsa, Anna would have invited her to her wedding, only for Elsa to come with an army of snowmen, destroy everything, and kidnap her sister. Elsa would have taken Anna to her ice palace, where she would have sang her villain song “Cool with Me” (you can read the lyrics here). At the end of the song, Elsa would have purposely frozen Anna’s heart out of jealousy and a desire to make her sister feel as icy and unloved as she does. Anna then would have spent the rest of the film trying to get back to Hans to unfreeze her heart, while Elsa tried to stop her, until eventually Anna realized that Kristoff was her actual true love and Elsa would have been somehow redeemed. The story that these wedding dress designs were created for would have been very different than what made it onto the screen, but clearly some of the key elements were already there.

Anna’s dress does not look much like a typical fairy tale wedding dress. That’s because it’s actually based on traditional Norwegian wedding dresses, which are nothing like what brides typically wear in America. Frozen‘s visual development artists did a lot of research on traditional Norwegian culture, even going on a research trip to Norway, where they sketched and photographed many aspects of the culture. The traditional clothing they saw especially inspired them, and many of their early concept sketches of Anna showed her in very realistic traditional dress. Over time her clothing became a little more simplified and cutesy to match the classic Disney Princess look,  but they still retained some Scandinavian elements.. Even the traditional Norwegian wedding crown Anna wears in these drawings made it into Frozen Fever, as Anna’s birthday crown.

Thanks to this concept art of Anna in different wedding dresses, you now know a little bit  about another discarded plot for Frozen and about Anna’s design links to Norwegian culture. Hope you enjoyed.

Image Credit: pavementmouse.blogspot.com

A Valentines Day Masterpiece Monday


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


A Mary Blair Masterpiece Monday


Right now at Epcot Disney is holding an International Festival of the Arts, which I went to a week ago. As part of this festival, they have a few galleries displaying the art work of famous Disney artists throughout history. One of these galleries celebrates the work of Mary Blair, specifically her South American inspired work, which in turn inspired the look of the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros (which I also just rode a week ago). I’d always wanted to see some of Mary Blair’s art work in person, so it was a real treat for me to visit this exhibit. The art work  is even more spectacular n person when you can see every brush stroke and experience every bright colour up close. I was so inspired by my visit to the gallery that I thought I’d feature one of the paintings on display in today’s Masterpiece Monday.

This gauche painting shows a costume design done by Mary Blair for the film The Three Caballeros, one of the first feature films made by Walt Disney Animation to combine animation and live action. Because of this, costumes were needed for the human actors, and Mary Blair took on the role of designing these. It was the perfect role for her, as she often designed and sewed much of her own unique clothing.  While not all of her designs made the cut for the final film, this particular one did. This design was inspired by the clothing Mary Blair saw Brazilian women wearing while touring the country with Walt Disney. The silhouette draws from Brazilian sources both traditional and modern. The colours of the costume are extremely bright and festive, reflecting Mary Blair’s signature style, while also showing off the capabilities of the still relatively novel technicolor process. As good as this costume looks in Mary Blair’s design, it looks even better on screen. in the “Baia” segment of the film.

The singer who wore this particular costume in The Three Caballeros was Aurora Miranda, the younger sister of Carmen Miranda. While touring South America, Walt Disney and his staff met and developed relationships with many native performers, including the famous Carmen Miranda. Walt had asked her to be a part of the film, but her schedule did not allow for it, so she recommended  that Walt hire her younger sister Aurora instead, which he did. Creating Aurora Miranda’s scenes alongside Donald Duck and Jose Cairioca involved a technologically innovative process.Miranda performed her scenes in the costume designed by Mary Blair in front of process screen and the animated characters were projected behind her for guidance. Then, a new optical printer developed by Ub Iwerks was used to combine the animation and live-action footage. The result was what I consider one of the most fun and memorable scenes in The Three Caballeros. 

I hope you enjoyed this look at Mary Blair’s costume design for Aurora Miranda’s part live-action and part animated number in The Three Caballeros . If you can at all make it to Epcot this month for the International Festival of the Arts I highly recommend it. There you can see this painting and many other Mary Blair paintings for the film up close and in person. It is truly and amazing experience.

Image Credit: disneyconceptsandstuff.tumblr.com