Don Hahn Talks Beauty and the Beast Going Blu
DH: Well, we had the best story crew on the planet and almost every one of them has been a director: Roger Allers (The Lion King), Kelly Asbury (Gnomeo & Juliet), Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon) and Brenda Chapman (Brave). So these were soon to become all-stars at the beginning of their careers. We were pretty lucky and when you add Kirk & Gary and Howard Ashman, you have that extra level of experience and storytelling that really galvanized everybody. Howard taught us a lot -- and I say that proudly. We knew animation and we knew Disney and we knew storytelling, but we didn't know music and that Broadway style, and Howard knew how to take the deepest emotional and funny parts and put them in the body of the songs and those fundamentals really drove that era.
BD: What new bonus features are you touting on the Blu-ray?
DH: There are three versions of the movie [theatrical, extended and New York Film Festival work-in-progress], which are fun, and the "Human Again" song we finished a few years ago; an alternate opening.
BD: I remember the work-in-progress from the old laserdisc days.
DH: Yeah, we've cleaned it up and put it on the Blu-ray, so I think for fans out there it'll really be fun to see some of the most beautiful work. Glenn Keane's animation of the transformation of the Beast is epic. He was studying sculptures of Rodan and drawings of Michelangelo. It's as strong as any animation you'll see and to be able to see his roughs is a real treat.
DH: Well, he did something we've never done, which is to go back and talk to everybody on the movie. I think we started out with 50 names and he ended up interviewing dozens more, and tried to piece together what happened 20 years ago like a crime scene: what the points of view are. I think he did a great job from the genesis of the movie and the first phone calls to Linda Woolverton's script to pulling together the movie with Richard Purdum [the initial director] in London and on and on and on. And then he found memos and notes to substantiate it, so to me it was a real detective job.
BD: And what did you think of John Canemaker's book, Two Guys Named Joe (Disney Editions) about Joe Grant and Joe Ranft, who was another Beauty and the Beast alumnus?
DH: Emotional, funny. To me, those guys are some of the heroes of animation. I liken them to John Ford and John Huston and Howard Hawks of live action. These were the guys really driving the boat when it came to story and character design and characterization, and you take those two guys out of Disney and Disney and Pixar and it's a vastly different landscape. And their gift to animation is amazing and I think Canemaker captures it beautifully in his book.
DH: Not too much to say. We started shooting about three weeks ago, so it's damn fun. We have a spectacular crew in London and it's exciting to have Tim direct an animated movie.
BD: Is it going to be in black-and-white?
DH: That's what I hear…Yes, it is.
BD: And the great challenge in adapting the short?
DH: It's still in progress, but the thing that attracted us all to it is that it's a great monster movie, great Frankenstein story that's in our culture, our mythology, and you can't go wrong with that. Like Beauty and the Beast, it's a reinvention and retelling of a tale as old as time, as you know.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.