Beauty and the Beast is in theaters now. The live action movie brings to life the animated tale of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within. The film stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Ewan McGregor as Lumière, the candelabra; Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, the feather duster; Hattie Morahan as the enchantress; and Nathan Mack as Chip, the teacup; with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.
The classic tale of “Beauty and the Beast” – and its empowering message that true beauty comes from within – dates back to 18th century France and the first published version of the fairy tale, “La Belle et la Bête,” by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Today, the themes are still just as relevant and the story continues to enthrall storytellers.
Beauty and the Beast Characters
Prior to 1991, most female characters in animated films were viewed as passive and somewhat one dimensional, but Belle broke the mold. She is interested in literature, has thoughts of her own and is not easily intimidated, and quickly became an empowered role model for girls around the world and the first contemporary feminist heroine in an animated film. “Belle is someone who doesn’t really care about becoming a princess,” says Condon. “She’s more interested in seeing the world and figuring out who she is than in finding a man and getting married.” Not only does Belle herself love reading, but she also loves sharing her passion for books. Says Condon, “We all know how intelligent and worldly and sophisticated Emma is, and while that doesn’t describe.
Several of Beauty and the Beast’s main characters include Lumière, Cogsworth, Chip, Mrs. Potts and Babette. Visual effects broughtLumière, Cogsworth, Chip, Mrs. Potts and Babette to life. According to Dan Stevens, the scenes with the Beast and the household objects also took a great deal of imagination on his part. He explains, “I would walk on the set to film a scene where I am speaking to Lumière but I would be looking at an LED light on a stick and hearing Ewan’s voice. It was like an extra level of weird that we had to deal with.” For the design of the mantel clock, Cogsworth, played by Ian McKellen, the base and main box were made from polyester resin and painted gold. The exterior pieces were gold plated, the face was made from brass, and it was fitted with proper clock movements to make the ticking and movement of the weights authentic. The candelabra, Lumière (Ewan McGregor), is one of the few household objects that could open up and become a moving character with what are essentially arms, legs and hands, and the filmmakers wanted to bring as much of McGregor’s personality to the character as possible. McGregor was filmed dancing and moving the way he envisioned Lumière would move, via performance capture technology. “Lumière was difficult to concept because we wanted him to be able to move, but at the end of the day he’s still a gilded candlestick,” says visual effects producer Steve Gaub. “Once we had a 3D computer model of him that everyone was happy with, he was constructed from a process called rapid prototyping which is able to take 3D computer files and produce an accurate model in polyester resin so you can physically see and feel it.” The same process was used for the teapot, Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson): she was designed via computer, prototyped and then molded. To bring Garderobe (Audra McDonald) to life, a real version of the beautiful – and enormous – wardrobe was created and rigged to make her move. Additional special effects elements, like those in the scene where Garderobe creates Belle’s gown and dresses her, were then added in post-production.
Dan Stevens conversed with Thompson about the relationship between the Beast and Mrs. Potts, and says, “Mrs. Potts is the closest thing the Beast has to a mother figure, really. She’s a bit like his strict aunt; she keeps him in line, keeps him in check, and it was nice to chat and establish that between ourselves.” The filmmakers reasoned that if anyone could take on the legacy of a character created by Angela Lansbury, it was Thompson, as she has a similar warmth, history and connection to an audience. Newcomer Nathan Mack plays Mrs. Potts’ son, Chip, who is now a teacup, and Hattie Morahan (“Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Mr. Holmes”) is the enchantress who places the spell on the Beast and his castle at the beginning of the story.
Beauty and the Beast Filmmaking FUN facts
- Over 8,700 candles (or 104,400 inches of wax) were used as set decoration during production.
- The ballroom floor in the Beast’s castle is made from 12,000 square feet of faux marble and its design is based on a pattern found on the ceiling of the Benedictine Abbey in Braunau, Germany. The 10 glass chandeliers in the ballroom – each measuring 14 feet by 7 feet – are based on actual chandeliers from Versailles which were then frosted, covered in fabric and candlelit.
- Approximately 1,500 red roses were grown or purchased during production for use as research or set decoration. The enchanted forest which surrounds the Beast’s castle and features real trees, hedges, a frozen lake and 20,000 icicles, took 15 weeks to complete. Approximately 180 feet of feather light satin organza was used to create Belle’s yellow dress. The dress, which required 3,000 feet of thread and took over 12,000 hours to create, was accentuated with 2,160 Swarovski crystals.
- During production, the costume department challenged itself to design and create ethical and sustainable costumes made from fair-trade fabrics (meaning the use of organic materials from suppliers that pay their employees a fair wage and are considerate of the environment), which they achieved. Working in tandem with Eco Age and the Green Carpet Challenge, the department used natural and low impact dyes, carefully disposing of any waste water, and printed with traditional wood blocks.
- A production crew comprised of more than 1,000 people worked around the clock to design, build and decorate the film’s mammoth sets.
- Philippe, Belle (Emma Watson) and Maurice’s (Kevin Kline) horse, is played by three different horses, two of which had to be painted on a daily basis. Emma Watson (Belle), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Luke Evans (Gaston) and Nathan Mack (Chip) all share the same birthday, April 14, which was also the date of the cast read through.
- Froufrou, the dog belonging to Madame de Garderobe (Audra McDonald) and Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci), is played by Gizmo, a rescue from one of the U.K.’s oldest and most famous animal rescue centers.
- The coat of arms in the Beast’s castle is a lion and a boar with a WD anagram (the WD is meant to represent a fictional character, William Devereaux, but could also stand for Walt Disney).
- Some of the original lyrics written by Howard Ashman for the songs “Gaston” and “Beauty and the Beast” that were not used in the animated film have been added to the live-action adaptation.
- The lend-a-hand lights on the terrace and staircase in the Beast’s castle and the rose colonnade on the castle grounds are an homage to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 Avant Garde film, “La Belle et le Bête, which was a source of inspiration for Bill Condon.
Beauty and the Beast Movie Review
The re-telling of the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast animation brings to life Belle, the Beast, Lumière, Cogsworth, Chip, Mrs. Potts and Babette. Belle is independent, a rebel, nonconformist intellectual inventor. Instead of marrying a prince and following the traditional path of girls in her village she is in love with books, education and the arts. Emma Watson is the ideal actor for Belle.
I watched the original 1991 Classic a million times. Unlike the original movie classic, the new movie will answer the question about what happened to Belle’s mother as well as a backstory to the Beast. However, the live-action film bring the animated film to life especially with the added visual effects. It is a great film for families and children. For additional information visit the Beauty and the Beast online.