Beauty and the Beast is a classic story that was brought to life by Composer, Alan Menken when I was a kid. The animation version was described as perfect by the Director of the live action Beauty and the Beast. I agree that is perfect, but it was nice to have some questioned answered. The new film reveals more of the characters without changing the animated story.
Alan Menken discusses what drew him to Beauty and the Beast. “I was drawn to the story by Disney. Howard Ashman and I were working Little Mermaid, it hadn’t been released yet but people were very happy with it and they said how about Beauty and the Beast. We’re interested in doing that next. I have to say Howard and I, we had Aladdin, but Aladdin had to go back to development because we were a bit to edgy. There was more development work to do on that so Beauty and the Beast then came in and became the next thing we worked on together. As far as what drew me to it beyond that I gotta go back and credit Howard. When you look at the initial story and how you’re gonna turn it into an animated musical then it was a matter of inventing the enchanted objects and inventing, this huge ego for Gaston and his posse of nitwits who praise him. For the structure, we needed to put in production numbers and comedy numbers. It was all those brilliant ideas and I gotta say Howard was so instrumental in that.”
Bill Condon talks about what drew him into Directing the new live action Beauty and the Beast. “There’s this movie, this classic, perfect movie that already exist and for me more than anything it was the score, the chance to really roll around in that music and to re-stage it, make a new version of it in a live action format, but to specially those songs. It just felt to me like a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Days of Summer
Alan Menken talks about the songs added to the live action Beauty and the Beast. “Days in the Sun, before Bill was on as a director, this goes back to about 2008. There was discussions about a movie version of Beauty and actually went as far as early script and when I was in London and I said let’s try working on a couple of songs. The Days in the Sun, the genesis of that actually began back there as a lullaby moment, Bill came aboard then that really got reworked, you know, to be a vehicle of so much back story and we’re threading a lot of story to it. The other songs we decide at the beginning. Some moments we followed through on. You know, the actual conception of the songs was yes, here they are. The actual execution was two years of changes. A little bit of How Does a Moment Last Forever into the middle of Days in the Sun. We’re gonna take Days in the Sun theme and we’re gonna put it at the top as the Aria and these threads and you begin to weave with them.
Revealing Not Reinventing
Bill Condon discusses how he reveals more of the story without reinventing it. “It was always about revealing more. It wasn’t about reinventing. You start to bring it into the real world and you start to ask questions that didn’t matter in the animated film. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village? What happened to her mother? How did the Prince become such a dissolute figure that he was worthy of being cursed? It’s interesting you start asking those questions and you start to bat around what the possible answers are. You’re making something different, but for me I could ever really rely on my own kind of reverence for the original film in knowing when you’re changing something or going too far. I hope never to cross that line.” I do not think that the new Beauty and the Beast crosses the line. I think it work perfectly to reveal and answer the questions we all wondered about after watching Beauty and the Beast as an adult. The questions smarty pants kids will ask.
Choosing Emma Watson as Belle
Alan (“AM”) and Bill (“BC”) discuss how they chose Emma as Belle. BC: “I suspected it just seeing her in Harry Potter. It seemed like that was a perfect kind of connection to a 21st century Belle. Then, we met. I was shooting a movie called Mr. Holmes. We met for an hour and the thing that I loved was how much she loved the original movie and how much she wanted to play the part and she came with a whole pile of books because I was late because I was shooting and she was in the middle of reading. The only question became she’s never sung professionally before. She needed to answer that question for herself too. She wanted to go off. It was Christmas holiday and she said, you go out and get a script together you can send me. We made a handshake deal and Emma’s gonna go off and make a tape and explore her voice, and that scary moment.”
“To me it’s more intimate than taking your clothes when you first hear somebody sing even in a karaoke session.We’ve seen that a few time in movies too but, her voice is so much a continuation of who she is and how she speaks and there was clearly this kind of sweetness to it and clarity to it that made it seem like it was gonna be a different Belle, but I was gonna be a really satisfying one.
AM : “She was a little terrified. I mean no bones about it and we made sure she had her vocal coach. I had Michael Kosarin, my musical director. Bill was at the sessions. This is not necessarily it always is but it’s so helpful because she was I think intimidated by me. I don’t know why. Possibly because of me being the composer, I don’t think she wanted to be that vulnerable in front of me so I really hung back in the control room. We also had a guy named Matt Sullivan who is a music supervisor and just gave Emma the space to just find her voice and work on it.”
More Beauty and the Beast
This is blog post is sponsored in exchange for an all-expense paid trip from Disney. However, as always, all experiences and opinions are my own.