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Director Bill Condon Talks About His ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Production Team

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” earned $1.26 billion at the box office, turning it into the year’s most successful movie. Why remake a classic? Director Bill Condon says a big reason was the brilliant score that merited “a new, grown-up approach.” The animated version’s 1991 score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman was augmented by three new songs by Menken and Tim Rice. Condon praised his other behind-the-cameras team for their contributions.

Cinematography: Tobias A. Schliessler

“Almost every moment of the film is musicalized, so Tobias was creating pictures that captured the feeling of the music in everything — framing, lighting, movement of camera. He started in documentaries, and even with a musical, his work remains connected to reality. The world has to be magic, but in a realistic way. He was dealing with LED lights, not tungsten, so he could have control over the fading, just as a theater lighting designer would. You’re not aware of it, but there were subtle changes as the music and mood change. ”

Production design: Sarah Greenwood

“She was on this movie for a year and a half. Sarah had a great inspiration early on: Let’s be specific about the time period. It’s the 1740s French countryside, when the story was written. Once we committed to that, things started to fall into place. It helped us find what the candlestick and the household staff would look like. Also, it’s rare these days to have a film like this; the movie was entirely built at Shepperton Studios by hundreds of people under Sarah’s direction. The entire village is on the back lot, and we took over the two biggest soundstages combined, so you could enter the front door of that castle and walk for five minutes all the way to the balcony and the terrace. It was so much in the spirit of the Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking.”

Costume design: Jacqueline Durran

“The animated Beast and Belle costumes, especially in the title number, are so iconic, but Jackie made them her own. For example, with the yellow gown, there is no fairy godmother who made it; it’s been pieced together by the staff, so has to be true to the period and to the animated look, yet she was creating something new. That’s just a small example of what Jackie did.”

Editor: Virginia Katz

“Ginny studied music, and she brings that musical sense to her work. The first number, ‘Belle,’ is almost five minutes, and there is so much story being told between the lines, about Belle, the village, her relationships with various people and the way girls are second-class citizens — and there was an established structure because of score. It was tricky; Virginia was always asking, ‘Is that point coming through?’ She was always finding something new, and it was exciting to watch the evolution of that number.”

Makeup/hair design: Jenny Shircore

“People think of the household staff and Beast as CG characters, but they all started with Jenny’s real design. The movie opens with the prince [Dan Stevens], with markings on his face, all painted blues and gold; those became actual markings when he turns into the Beast. She was on the movie way, way before the start, consulting and throwing out ideas. She designed characters as human beings, as they’re seen in the beginning and at the end of the film. And those ideas were translated into the household staff, which was the elaborate design by Framestore and the VFX team.”

Visual effects supervisors: Kyle McCulloch & Glen Pratt, Framestore

“We didn’t know if there was a movie worth doing until those guys demonstrated how we could create these enchanted characters in a way that was charming, not creepy, and completely original. We were excited but scared. ‘Be Our Guest’ was all created by these wizards. We started talking in preproduction, and things were created in pre-vis, then Anthony van Laast choreographed it, then they translated that into VFX. It was two years from conception to completion.”

Sound: Warren Shaw, sound designer; Mike Minkler, re-recording mixer

“Dan [Stevens, as the Beast] was in this weird jumpsuit. To find his sound, we fooled around with a half-human, half-animal sound; this was done in preproduction, though it’s usually done in post. With household members like Cogsworth [Ian McKellen], the question was: Is this a clock? Is he human? We had an idea that they’re getting progressively less human as time passes and their insides start to dominate, so their voices become more mechanical. Warren was able to get that. When the picture was completed, his sound design came to life. And Mike Minkler has a mastery of making a musical as immersive as possible. It’s powerful music but also familiar, and that was Mike’s challenge: to make audiences hear it for the first time. That was a big contribution, where the movie took a
big bump-up when we got into the final steps of production.”

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