One of the panels at Disney’s D23 this weekend was a preview/discussion of Beauty and the Beast 3D, due out next year (they kept saying “next year” although the IMDB lists a February date–and it sounded like they were still hard at work on it, so who knows). On hand and moderating was producer Don Hahn, along with co-director Kirk Wise, Beast animator Glen Keane, voice of Belle Paige O’Hara and Robert Newman, who’s the guy in charge of converting the film to 3D.
The panel before the footage was your basic retrospective, that offered up some treats. For one thing, they had footage of the recording sessions: showing O’Hara going through multiple takes to get started on “Belle” and Richard White recording the voice of Gaston. For another, O’Hara stated Angela Lansbury, though “terrified” of the song, blew through “Beauty and the Beast” in a single take. One bit is that there’s finally going to be a making-of book released. Apparently at the time it wasn’t thought that a making-of book for such a film would sell, but now Tale As Old As Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast is available for pre-order on Amazon with a February release date. You can snag yours here.
[ad#longpost]A highlight of the panel was Keane getting up and doing a live sketch of the Beast, projected onto the big screen. It wasn’t just Keane sketching, though, he was actively explaining the various critters that made up the composition of the beast, and how the addition of “cow ears” made him less threatening, and then human eyes completed the picture. Incidentally, there is no official name for the character of “the Beast,” although some suggestions were thrown out. Also, in a gesture of extreme coolness, he personalized the sketch for the lady sitting in the front row by him and autographed it for her as well.
The footage screened actually looked pretty cool, not jarring or “forced,” which puts it in line with most of the Disney Digital 3D we’ve seen thus far. They screened both the opening “Belle” sequence and the ballroom dance sequence. From both Newman on the panel and when I got a chance to ask a few questions of him after, this pic was…well, picked…because it’s one of the first to have used digital ink and paint and thus all of the assets needed were already ready to be converted. With help, of course, depth maps had to be created and multiple times a scene for more difficult bits.
I asked specifically about the rain in the sequence where Belle’s father reaches the Beast’s castle (it was after the Beast discovers the old man and takes him prisoner that the opening sequence ended), thinking that maybe it might be difficult to convert, but actually no. They just replicated those in a computer–it was actually crowd scenes with sweeping character movements–like the barroom brawl–that take the most time.
I also asked Newman about going further back in the Disney archives to convert older films to 3D. He said it wasn’t impossible to convert something like, for example, Snow White, but just very very difficult.
Personally, I think Disney will focus on the low-hanging fruit of films like this one and the Pixar films to convert, hoping that the technology will make the inevitable conversion of older films easier with time. I don’t think there’s anything to fear from these conversions, either. The 2D versions will still be available and can be enjoyed as they were–perhaps even enjoyed better following their restoration and cleanup.
Sadly, I don’t have a new Beauty and the Beast 3D logo–which was beautiful–to share with you. Cameras and recording equipment were verboten in the Disney theatre for this event, though they were actually in abundance and lots of people who weren’t trying to play by the rules got some snaps. So watch for those. And the panelists were to be commended–all of them were game to hang out and answer questions, sign autographs and have pictures taken.