christmas 1988 I spent with my wife in california, mostly visiting friends in L.A. ANDREAS DEJA, one of the leading animators in the disney studio, had told me about a new project he was working on – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. in the studio he showed me some of the visual development work that he and MEL SHAW had done. MEL SHAW, who had worked at MGM and with ORSON WELLES before he joined disney to work on FANTASIA, BAMBI and THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, came after years back to the studio to help with his skills and knowledge on RESCUERS and THE FOX AND THE HOUND, where he created numerous beautiful color-charcoal paintings for the visualization of that film and all the following productions. as production designer he was the first artist in the studio to get involved in new projects, a lot of them were never produced. he showed me hundreds of his masterpieces, for THE FOX AND THE HOUND and THE BLACK CAULDRON, as well as for MUSICANA and THE LITTLE BROOMSTICK. here now for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST he created the first visuals of the eighteenth century fairy tale world. ANDREAS DEJA concentrated first on ‘beauty’. his early version was much closer to the women of PETER PAUL RUBENS and TITIAN, a bit more full-figured than the usual heroines, getting much closer to the real look of that period of time. a beautiful character-design! needless to say – I was excited about the new story and a chance to have the paintings of FRAGONARD and WATTEAU come alive.
I remember the story was a lot different then. DON HAHN, the producer, described to me how he saw beauty’s father riding from the black forest ( in southern germany ), where they lived, to a small harbour town in the normandy ( northern france ), where he was supposed to pick up some goods they were arriving with a ship. well, I tried to explain some minor geographical distance problems. in his typical ‘don-hahn-humor’ he calmed me down, that these little details didn’t really matter, I was just too german accurate. I understood what he meant when I finally saw the film. anyway, during my stay we exchanged a lot of story ideas, like the opening of the film and the ‘magic rose’.
back home in germany I started researching, everything about the art of that time, collected reference photos and books, and did hundreds of photographs myself in the snowy forests of southern germany. paralell I sketched medieval villages, castles, forest scenes. just for fun, for myself, officially I had nothing to do with the disney project. based on the sketches I created several small color designs in my usual technique at that time, feltpen and gouache. I kept them pretty small, 18 x 12 cm, that way I could finish about three a day. the end of february 1989 I sent color xeroxes to andreas in the disney studio. he was excited to see them and showed them to DON HAHN. he called me the next day and asked me to book a flight to L.A. immediately. that’s how it all started…
these were some of the first color designs.
© disney enterprises, inc