I was fortunate enough to participate in two separate round-table interviews with the legendary Disney animator Glen Keane who has played a central role in bringing many Disney movies to life including The Little Mermaid and especially Beauty and the Beast, where he was the lead animator for the character of the Beast. Mr. Keane is as modest and friendly as he is talented and he generously spent more time than was originally allotted to answer our questions. Not all of my questions were answered because the focus was solely on Beauty and the Beast, but I did manage to get a few in.
I would like to thank Mr. Keane for spending so much time with us sharing his stories, and also to Disney and the capable Mindy Johnson who moderated both sessions. I did edit these transcripts to make it flow more conversationally but all of Glen’s answers are there. There are some parts of the interview that discussed video material and used some pictures as well, so I’ve included as may of the pictures as I could but for the rest you will need to use your imagination. Without further ado, here is the edited transcript for both sessions and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
BUILDING BEAUTY’S BEAST
A talk with legendary animator Glen Keane
Mindy Johnson: Moderator
October 5, 2010
And here we are with Glen Keane, who is just freshly back from Paris, and you spent several weeks there, Glen, preparing for an upcoming show. Is that correct?
Glen Keane: Yes. Yes. I’m actually having a – my first art show, where I’ll be showing a little bit of a retrospective of my animation drawings, my rough drawings, some from Beauty and the Beast, as well as the rest of my career. And then, that’s a third of the show. The other two-thirds are actually drawings from my sketchbook, speaker drawings, things that I’m going to actually be selling.
But the idea is to give an insight into what goes on in the life of an artist who is an animator and where do you get your inspiration. And actually, those are a lot of the things that we’ll be talking about today specifically about the character of the Beast.
But this show is at the (Arloudic) Gallery on the Ile Sainte Marie in Paris on November…ninth, yes, so I’m excited about it. If you’re there, you’re welcome to come to the (Vernusage) and it will be there for, I don’t know, a good month.
Glen, if you’re familiar with any of this, please jump in, but it is one of the most ancient stories, going back certainly to Cupid and Psyche and Oedipus, has elements and aspects of Beauty and the Beast. And what makes this unique, I think – and Glen, you probably would agree that every culture can relate to this because every culture has some version of this fairy tale. Correct?
Glen Keane: Yes. Well, it’s a story that really touches the heart of everybody who sees it. Though when we were doing research on this, it’s difficult to find the key that’s going to unlock the fairy tale for a Disney animated movie. It’s one thing to have a fairy tale that you can read to a child before they go to bed, but it’s another to have a story that’s going to carry for an hour and a half and will have all of the emotional, dramatic impact.
And in this story, the struggle we had was it really takes place at a dinner table, and every night Beast says – asks Belle if she will marry him, and that’s just not quite thick enough for an animated movie.
Well, with that, Walt Disney did do some early explorations on the story, correct?
Glen Keane: Yes, and that was – I think what I just said was one of the reasons why he put it down, that there were other fairy tales that were much more accessible and that you could build the story out of it in an easier way. Some of the stories that were – are the later fairy tales are the harder nuts to crack of these big, iconic, classic fairy tales that the world knows.
Joe Grant, who was head of story on Snow White, he was still alive at the studio at the time as – and he had done some work on our new Beauty and the Beast, but he had also done some work on the old version, the original one that he and Walt were trying to crack. And he just said, “Oh, it was just frustrating. We just couldn’t do it.” We – you know, we just – and we did. We put a lot of things on the shelf and figured that, well, someday the time is going to come, and we’ll pick it up again.
And he just happened to be living long enough where he was there to pick it up again.
Moderator: And so, that began in 1987, correct?
Glen Keane: Yes.
Moderator: And with that, we put together – a pretty extraordinary team of animators was put together for this film.
Glen Keane: Yes. Over on the left of that image is Andreas Deja, who did Gaston, and then Dave Pruiksma, sitting beneath him, did Mrs. Potts, and over on the right is Will Finn that animated Cogsworth. And above him is Nick Ranieri that animated Lumiere. They were both just like Cogsworth and Lumiere throughout the whole movie, at each other’s throats.
And then, there’s me and a big beast, or a buffalo head, that I – I found this buffalo head at a taxidermy shop not too far from where our studio was in Glendale, and so I bought it and brought it into my office and just had it on the wall as a reminder of just how big this character is, a huge animal like that.
When you take a look at some of the old…… images…yes. There is a tendency to just take the head of a wild animal and stick it on a man’s body, like – well, up on the one with Walter Crane, you can see it’s basically a man’s body, but at the very bottom he’s still got his hooves of a wild boar, but the head is just like a regular wild boar. The same one with, let’s see, Edmund Dulac and Warwick Goble.
The wild boar is a pretty interesting version of the character. Arthur Rackham’s version is an interesting one because he kind of looks sort of alien, in a way. And so, I was looking at all of these characters and trying to find something that was going to serve for inspiration for me.
And the problem that I kept coming up with was that – well, there’s two things. One is the – you take it very seriously when you’re going to design a character for a Disney animated movie. You know that that character is going to become the definitive version of that character for all time.
So you don’t just jump in and just draw something that pops out of your head. There has to be a sense of rightness, of like, yes, almost like you discovered what was already existing before you even started to draw it. I’ve always had this feeling that, on any character that I’ve animated, that the character existed before I started to draw it, and it was – it’s a little bit like Michelangelo sculpting in stone and freeing the figure that’s within.
You have that same sense of drawing on a piece of paper that’s blank and empty, but there is a character in there. And it has to touch and connect with you and the audience. And to me, it was important that this character not feel like he was an alien, like he was invented for Star Wars or something. This one of Arthur Rackham feels a little bit like that to me. He’s a weird creature.
And the thing is that he has to be appealing. See, that appeal was the thing that I kept hearing all the time from the masters at Disney that taught me, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Eric Larson would say, “Your animation has to have sincerity and appeal.”
OK, so how do you create an appealing character for the Beast?
Glen Keane: Yes. No, I – maybe on this clip you’ll actually explain it, so should we just jump in?
And so, we all went out there. It was the first time I’d ever been outside of America as well, and it was like, “Wow,” I – my eyes were opened. (Inaudible) brought my wife and I and our two kids, and we got a little place in Primrose Hill, and I walked through – down past the London Zoo. There was – I’d see the wolves and animals there, which I would draw, and ended up using a lot of that influence on the Beast.
Let’s go back a bit and talk about the castle. I know as you were through – traveling through in Europe, you guys had taken a few trips and did some exploration on the designs of the castle. Is that correct?
Glen Keane: Yes. Yes. Well, the – for me, if you’re going to work on a Disney movie, it’s not just about doing drawings of interesting characters or – it really takes place. There’s a truth to the environment. And I’d never been to Europe before. I felt like I personally really needed to go visit the place where this fairy tale was written, so we – as well as each of the artists that were there.
So we went over to the Loire Valley in France where the River Loire runs along. And as you probably all know, the different chateaus are built within a day’s ride for the king to go from one chateau to the next to the next. And so, we would drive and hit several of those in a day because we didn’t have to go by horse – we had cars – and we would visit these places.
And there was one chateau that just stood out as stunning. It was the one of Chambord, built by Francois Pombriant. And he designed this castle that just had this imposing power and strength to it.
Now, I remember the first time seeing that, and there’s actually a video clip. I’m not sure that we have it here, Mindy?
Moderator: Yes. Can we run – play this – (from segment) two.
Glen Keane: Two talks about pretty much the first time that we went and saw this castle, and there’s some footage of…
Glen Keane: And I saw it with Richard Purdum, a great respect for the original story, the classic story. And he really wanted to stay very true to that and with noble intention.
Richard Purdum: It was going to be much darker and in sort of an 18th century France. And a small but very talented group had worked on it for about six months.
So after the trip to the Loire Valley and going through the castle, it was time to go back and begin, as we saw in the clip, to kind of restart the film again.
Glen Keane: Yes. Yes. We – that first visit to that castle, which on the DVD when Beauty and the Beast comes out, you’ll be able to see that, actually driving up and seeing the castle there and the impact that it had on us.
And the truth of that place adds credibility to your drawing in a funny kind of a way. I guess, you know, just to explain to you a little bit about how I think, and when I was a kid, I didn’t do drawings to do a drawing of something. I did a drawing so I could enter into an imaginary world. My paper was like a magic mirror that I could do a drawing, and you just step right through it and suddenly you’re living in the time of the dinosaurs, or you’re living somewhere to – you’re – and you’re experiencing it.
And that with that castle, that was really important as a place where I could step into it. And then, it was equally important that the credibility of this character be based on true – you know, to me, true animals. There were various different designs.
Like here, these are some of Chris Andrews’ designs, and they’re very whimsical. This is some of Andreas’s designs, which I thought were pretty cool and interesting, but some – nothing was really jumping out and speaking to me. We had a – quite a variety, actually.
There was one – at the zoo, there was a mandrill named Boris that I would pass by and I would do drawings. This is one of the drawings I did there in London at the time, thinking of the Beast as a mandrill-like character. Remember this English lady standing next to me as I was drawing him. The mandrill turned towards me and showed its rear end, and she said, “He’s got a rainbow bum, he has!” So the Beast actually has a rainbow bum, but you don’t ever get to see it that way.
There’s different kinds of feet and, you know, claws, exploration of a wide variety of characters that we explored. As we’re clipping through these, you can see the inspiration for, like, a mandrill character. But ultimately, the Beast came down to a variety of real animals for me.
Moderator: OK. So let’s take a look at what some of those design issues were, and let’s – I know you had quite a number of inspirations for this, Glen.
Glen Keane: Right.
Moderator: Just talk a bit about some of these inspirations provided for the…
Glen Keane: Well, this little diagram there that you just had up, it kind of describes a variety of the animals, you know, that went into his face. But actually, if you’d gone into my office before that, you would have seen some of the following images up on the walls. I would – because I didn’t know.
I didn’t – all – I was just going with a sense of a feeling, a gut feeling. You start looking in magazines or – for animals, and there’s this power of the gorilla. So I had the gorilla up there, or the lions, you know, and I would draw them. And I had these wild boars. I actually – I had the head of a wild boar, as well, on my office. There was that buffalo head, the big sadness, the heaviness of the buffalo head.
And then, there was these wolf legs. And as I started you, know, walk past – back and forth past the zoo, I guess the wolf was the first clue to me that all the drawings that I had been seeing of the past illustrators’ works of the Beast always had him standing on kind of human legs. It might change just his toes or whatever, but I started thinking of The Beast as a wolf leg because it would really make – it would always remind you of his animalness on the bottom part as well as the top part.
So that was the first thing, and then also go give him a tail that would switch back and forth. And, you know, it’s like – if you have a dog, you know that there’s – you can tell if your dog’s happy. You’re sad. You just look at the tail.
And now, that gave another whole aspect for the Beast. His body – I really like the power and the massiveness of that bear – and started drawing him on all fours, because that got me away from this just guy in a beast head , the Halloween mask or something. I really wanted him to be animal.
And so, the more I could explore and start to draw that character – and actually, there was one day I had an animator on our team, Bruce Johnson, who was going to be one of the animators of the Beast, came in. And Bruce said, “So what’s the Beast going to look like?” This is after, like, six months of drawing and searching, and I – all of these photos on my wall.
And I said, “I’m not sure, Bruce. I don’t know.” I – and I started to draw. I said, “I like the massiveness of this buffalo head,” and I sketched out the weight and – of this buffalo head, I said, “But the brow of the gorilla,” and I drew the brow there, and – “But then the muzzle of this wild boar,” and then the mane of a lion but the body of a bear, and then the legs of this wolf.
And it – as I did it, it just all came together. And like I was telling you before, there’s this moment where you recognize the character. And I looked at it, and I said, “That’s him. That’s what he looks like, like that, Bruce. That’s what – that’s the Beast.”
And it was just one of these wonderful little gifts from Heaven that happened at that moment, you know? I can’t – I wish I could take more credit for it. It was just really – it happened.
Glen, if you could talk a little bit about creating imagery for these particular scenes, and we’re going to look a little more in detail at the transformation scene shortly. But if you could just talk about these moments and perhaps what some of the challenges were in the film?
Glen Keane: Are we going to take a look at these clips? OK… we can take a look at…well, one of the really fun aspects of the Beast was this – the wild animal side next to this girl. And basically, though, we had to break that down into what does that mean in human nature. What is a wild animal like in us in human nature? Well, it’s selfish. It’s very immature.
You know, our little granddaughter, I’m watching her deal with problems by her petulance and, you know, by saying no, and that’s – basically was the Beast’s problem. That’s why all of this came, because he hadn’t learned to love.
And so, it was fun watching Belle just wrestle a beast in his nature, just wrestling that down. And so, these images of – from the film show this wild animal side and her standing there next to him.
But the biggest challenge we had was, you know, in my mind, how is the audience ever going to believe that Belle could fall in love, to earn this moment where they dance together? Because at one point in the film, after Belle heals his hand, and we went pretty quickly to this moment here. And that was after the Beast saves here, and we felt like that should be enough.
But something was missing. You didn’t really feel like you earned this dance. And at that point, Howard Ashman, who had really created the tent poles for our story, realized that we were missing an extremely important tent pole, and he wrote a song called something – “There’s Something There,” this moment where Beast gives Belle the library.
And it was so subtle and gentle of a thing that it had escaped us, that true love isn’t just like Beast going and battling the wolves seemed like, “OK, well that’s the dramatic indication of his love for her.” But it was him noticing how this girl loved to read and that he presents her with the library. And it was the little things that just – like a flower growing, that’s what that song was about.
And as soon as that was written, we knew the movie was going to work. Until that point, it just – and that happened pretty – very late, that last year, actually, in production. So we didn’t know that it was going to work until that point.
And then it earned the right to have this wonderful sequence with the Beast dancing with Belle. These are actually drawings from James Baxter of the Beast with Belle. James and I actually got out there, and we danced together. We had a dance coach helping us learn the steps, and when it came down to it, he did the animation on this. I drew over top of it.
But that was a – that’s how that came about.
Moderator: That’s a great magic moment.
And another really extraordinary moment, not only in this film but to animation in general overall, is the transformation sequence, I think one of the most visually stunning segments in recent animation. And let’s – we do have some examples, but let’s talk a little bit, Glen, about your inspiration for this in particular – how you executed this particular scene.
Glen Keane: Well, there’s this – you see these sculptures by Rodin. The reason that they’re there is – kind of goes back to that last – the last scene that I had to do on the film, kind of the one that I’d been waiting for through the whole movie, to animate this transformation.
Well, finally got down to the end, and there was no time left. I had one week left to animate this whole wonderful sequence that I felt like I was born to do, but now there was no time. And Don Hahn came into my office, and I expressed to him my frustration.
I said, “Don, I can’t do this in one week.” And he could see, like, the panic in my eyes, and he said, “Glen, look, just take whatever time you need. I will push back the deadline whatever – in whatever way we can to give you the time to do this.”
So I took a sigh of relief and left work and drove down to the Norton Simon Museum, which is where this sculpture is, the Burghers of Calais, by Rodin. And as I walked around, I started doing drawings of these figures, and particularly it was the back, the way that he sculpted the form of the back. There was such power in that.
And, you know, you don’t know how you’re going to unlock a sequence, but to me, it was the back of the Beast that was going – we were going – I wanted to see his – him transform, but to do it in space like I was walking around the sculpture there, doing these drawings of Rodin’s.
And as I did that, I realized this is what I want to see happen. I want to rotate the Beast in the air. I want to see, like, the back changing, and it will move up and slowly see his arms and his hands and his feet, and finally his head. And that’s what inspired this sequence here.
Moderator: Now, we actually have a couple of segments from – of the transformation, so we can take a look at the – Glen, if you want to walk through the images, these are paced fairly slow so we can stop and pause.
Glen Keane: OK. OK. Yes. So here you see this is the – his – the Beast’s back, very much inspired by that – the Rodin sculptures. And I love the way that Rodin would – the fabric just would disappear.
And as I was able to turn him around, to me, animation, I think of it as sculptural drawing. I shade all of my drawings. Animators say to me, “Why are you shading your drawings? No one’s going to see the shading.” It’s like, you could get that done so much quicker if you didn’t do the shading, but I’m – I would never do the drawing like this (so) I didn’t do the shading. It’s all about light and form and space.
So as the Beast turns, we see his head up in the shadow, come out of the shadow. Now I’ve staged it and set it up so that there’s something delicate can happen, and it was the wind. To me, the wind is like the spirit of God that does this transformation in our lives. I’d always related to the Beast very much like in my own life spiritually, a transformation, that my faith in God and feeling like there was a lot of things in my own life that I could look and say that I’ve matured from.
And so, this is this moment where this spirit, this wind starts to blow on the Beast’s face. I don’t know if we’ve – how far we go with that.
Moderator: And we do – can run with your rough animation in full – in real-time.
Glen Keane: Great. So this is the very sculpted face of the Prince, then, as he goes into his final pose. And here he’s lifting himself up and away, and we will watch that.
Moderator: And then we can take a look at it as in the final film.
Glen Keane: Great. Now, that all goes by, like, amazingly fast, ridiculously fast, and you look at it and you go, “So what’s the big deal about all this?” Well, it’s all – everything that happened before that, it’s all the setup that you spent an hour and a half building for this moment where you could really satisfy the audience’s thirst to see this transformation.
And it was – you were setting it up for actually when Belle looks into his eyes. That’s where you wanted to take the time. I mean, you could take, I don’t know, a half-hour on any one of these sequences and just watch that transformation, but we really wanted to play the time for Belle to be looking into his eyes.
Moderator: So just to sort of explain your overall process again, we have a couple segments of one particular scene. It’s the scene where the Beast is calling Belle to dinner. But we’re going to start and take it through each level. So if you could talk about the process of animation just a little bit, we’ll begin with the storyboard segment.
Glen Keane: OK. So in this sequence here, Beast is furious. He’s going to get Belle to come out of the room. She’s locked herself in there, not going to come out for dinner. His approach is the untransformed petulant child.
Glen Keane: OK. So, of course, you’re recognizing those are not the voices of the actors except possibly Cogsworth’s voice there. But the – anybody in the building will jump in there and do the voice. In that case, it was Kirk Wise doing the Beast. And the rough – the storyboards there are Burney Mattinson’s boards.
And that becomes the template for what you’re going to do the animation from. So Burney is really good for thinking very simply and clearly. He was Eric Larson’s assistant when he started, and he learned simple, clear approaches for communicating ideas.
And I really used a lot of Burney’s architecture for this sequence in the way I animated it. So this – then it goes to the rough animation. This is my rough animation of these scenes, the part that I love.
Glen Keane: Yes, that little Jackie Gleason point at the end was just really – it was so nice, and Burney had put it in there, but it was to me also the way that the arc of the point, that it has to come under and up, because I’d done that point a couple ways, and it wasn’t funny. And then, as soon as it turned at just the right way and you really stage the little finger – that index finger pointing, it was like then it was funny. It’s something that – it’s weird how something can turn on that one little thing.
Then it goes into cleanup, where somebody – we have a team of artists. In this case it was Bill Berg, an incredible cleanup artist who’s worked with me through most of my career, who also is a talented jazz musician. Flim and BB’s, he won a Grammy for that. But he also is a cleanup artist, and he cleaned this sequence up of the Beast where he tries to capture all of the emotion and frustration and feeling that I try to put into my drawings.
Glen Keane: And then, finally, we have our color version. Do we have that collected?
Glen Keane: Yes.
Moderator: We do.
Glen Keane: You know, which is what everybody sees. And the whole point, I think, is behind all of this is to give you a sense of the work that goes into animating something that is all behind the scenes. It’s described in a term that I learned from the Renaissance by a man that is try – was trying to describe the work of Raphael. And he said, “It’s Sprezzatura.” And sprezzatura means art that hides its art.
That’s what animation is. It’s an art form that’s hiding all of this that we’re showing you right now, because really, in the final color, you’re just following along, believing the character is real.
Glen Keane: And that’s it.
Moderator: Yes, there you have the final piece.
Now Glen, you’ve had an opportunity to see the Blu-Ray on this. How do you feel about the new technology involved? And is it enhancing the film?
Glen Keane: Oh, yes. Yes. I mean, it’s – the frustration with doing an animated feature is that we have in our minds the perfect – it’s never as good as we see it in our heads. So as long as we can keep improving the images of – for the audience to see, like, at least the artwork that we – we did try to get it to the best we could at that point in technology and animation, which is what we did.
Glen, is there a little bit of you in the Beast somehow?
Glen Keane: Oh, yes. Yes, there’s a lot of me in the Beast. I had an unbelievable temper as a kid. I remember just smashing things in my bedroom. And my mom would come by, in her sweet Australian accent – she’s from Australia – but I – she’d come by and she’d say, “Is that my little Glennie?” And I was just like – God, that’s just a furious little beast. I – you know, I would have been under the curse of the Beast if there had been some sorceress or something. I could have easily been him. I really related to that character.
Moderator: So a little bit of destiny here in…
Glen Keane: Yes, yes…
Moderator: … in designing a character.
Glen Keane: … in any character you do. You want to find something of yourself… to put into it.
Facially, what were some of your live-action references for the Beast’s expressions?
Glen Keane: Very much my face. I have a mirror at my desk, and I am constantly looking at my own face and expressions throughout the whole film. I didn’t not study Robby Benson’s face, mostly because Jeffrey Katzenberg really made a point that I would not need Robby until after the movie was done for fear that I was going to be drawing the beast looking like Robby Benson.
Because, I mean, I told Jeffrey, I said, “No, that’s not going to happen.” He said, “Oh, I know you. I know you. You’ll – it’s going to start looking like Robby, and Robby’s a heartthrob, and we can’t have the Beast be like that.” I said, “OK, all right, all right.”
So I looked at my own face. I would go home at night, though, and my jaw would be hurting. And I’d go, “What the heck is wrong? Maybe I’ve got this – some jaw disease or something.” And then I go back to work, and I realized, oh, I was always talking – as I’m animating, my jaw is sticking out because I’ve got these fangs there, and I make the face when I’m animating. Whatever it is I’m drawing, I’m making that face.
Moderator: I think Marc Davis said it right when he said, “Animators are actors with pencils.”
Glen Keane: Yes.
Moderator: And so, there you are…
Glen Keane: Yes.
Moderator: … embodying it.
How important was it to you for the Beast to have human eyes?
Glen Keane: Well, yes. As I went through that whole shopping list of animals, the one I didn’t mention was the eyes. The – there is a prince trapped inside that beast, and it was important that his eyes be blue. Also, Robby Benson had blue eyes, too.
And it’s one of those things that I think really connected to people. I got so many letters after this movie came out of people who have struggled with a feeling that they are a beast, but that there’s something good inside of them, but they can’t shake the dark side that’s in their life, particularly children that were abused.
I was getting so many letters from kids that just felt they were ugly because of what had happened from some trusted person. And they really related to seeing the Beast with somebody trapped inside that wanted to get out, and that’s why they loved the transformation, because they could see what they really wanted to have in their own life.
And to that point, the Beast really is one of the deepest Disney characters ever. How did you make it so frightening in the beginning, and then make the Beast become more and more human to such a touching ending?
Glen Keane: Well, at the beginning, I really needed to learn the lesson, I think, you know, that beauty is only skin deep, because I did not believe that Belle was actually – that the audience would believe that Belle would fall in love with this beast.
As I drew him, I knew that I had to communicate the wild animal nature to him. That was the easy part. I had animated a bear in the Fox and the Hound, and the ferocious wildness of a – of this grizzly bear. I just – I really drew on that for me in animating the Beast at the very beginning.
It was the middle zone where he starts to turn – that was, as I had said, the – seeing the childlike. It went from wild animal to selfish human nature. And then, at the end, the hardest scene for me to animate in the whole movie, though, was the moment where Beast lets Belle go back to – go back home. He’s standing there looking at the rose under the glass, and he knows that he will die, but he doesn’t tell Belle that. He lets her go back to see her father.
And Cogsworth comes in and says, “You let her go. Why’d you do that?” And he says, “I love her.” And it was trying to animate that line, nothing I did felt like it could communicate that arc, that change, that truth that went on in him.
So the times like that, you just – you just trust that the music, the story that’s led up to it is going to carry it through, because nothing that you can draw feels adequate.
Can you talk a little bit about the Disney Renaissance at the time, and where do you think, at the time of production beginning then, if you had the technology today, would you make any changes?
Glen Keane: Oh, yes. Yes. Technology always causes you to approach your work differently. It’s – you know, if you were going to sculpt in stone or in clay, you’re going to do something – you’re going to do it different. With the dimension that CG offers, to be able to move in and out of a castle, oh, man, I wish we’d had that technology to go down the hallways and follow Belle, to be more from her point of view. I mean, I think that there’s a lot of great things that we could have done.
Fortunately, the audience fills so much of that in in their own mind, though, you know, radio. You listen to a radio play, and probably the best movies you’ve ever seen are the ones that you’ve actually never seen, the ones that you just read in a book, because in your head, it’s there. So I guess I don’t feel sad that we didn’t have that technology then, but I’m happy that we’ve got it now.
How closely did you work with the other character animators and designers in the film?
Glen Keane: Well, we work as a team. We’re all very close next to each other, and we would get together as animators constantly and show each other our work. We wanted the film to have a cohesiveness, so there’s a broad spectrum from something very realistic, like the Beast, but he’s still caricatured enough, and Andreas’s approach on Gaston, they defined more of the very sculpted, realistic side. Then you’ve got LeFou, way, way, really broad, a bouncy, cartoony, stretchy, squashy guy.
The music, I think, is the glue that holds our character designs together in a funny way. It’s like a – it’s like you’re making a great dinner, and you’ve got all of these different elements together, that you’ve got this great salmon there with some rice, then there’s some vegetables and all that. But then you drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the top, and it just unifies the whole meal. And that’s kind of what Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s music did to me.
How was it working – did you work with Roy Disney Jr. Do you have any favorite stories of Roy?
Glen Keane: Well, Roy has always been like the godfather of animation for us from early, early on, and so he was very involved with us, coming in often to the studio, seeing how things were going with us. He gave me – like, he’d buy some pencils, I remember one time, that he was thinking of me. He was at some store, and they had these gorgeous pencils, and he wanted me to have them so that I could be drawing with them.
It was – he wasn’t going to be animating, but he wanted to participate with that. He was constantly encouraging, sending little, I don’t know, clips of things that he would read, pieces of music that would inspire him. He was a very sensitive soul. And we felt very protected knowing that we have somebody like that whose name is on the head of the building, you know, that cared like that.
What are your thoughts on the Beast in the Broadway play. How did you feel about that, making that transition of seeing your two-dimensional character become a three-dimensional character?
Glen Keane: Before we did the play, I sat down with the designers, and we talked about all the research and development that went into that character. I was really trying to stress some of the essentials, like the scale and the size of the Beast, how important that was, the animal nature, the way that he would move around. And their limitations on stage are entirely – it’s a – you’re limited. You can’t just do anything that you could draw.
But there were some things that I was just amazed at how clever their solutions were, like the transformation, that the Beast actually – it’s his clothes – his Beast costume is just sucked off by a vacuum, and there’s this transformation that happens with the cloud in front of your eyes, and you don’t see it. It was a magic trick for them. They actually had to physically do what we could just fake with our drawings. I was impressed.
Was there anything from the original story that you wish would have made it to the final film?
Glen Keane: You know, I guess I wonder about that – the repetitive nature of a fairy tale, the question that’s asked, “Will you marry me.” In that story, it was – it’s the glue that holds that story together, it – almost like poetry, the rhythm of that question all the way through.
We couldn’t keep – we couldn’t do that because it – watching actually a movie, if a character is saying that, it’s like putting a guilt trip on somebody, and it just didn’t work. I wish that there was that kind of repetition, a meter that you could find, in a way. You know, I would have loved to have found a way to have that in this story. That, you know, probably would have messed it up in some way, but I don’t know. It’s a good – interesting question.
Are there any directors, animators today that you’d love to work with?
Glen Keane: Yes. Well, there’s a guy named Michael Dudok De Wit. He’s a Belgian animator. He did a short film called Mother and Daughter that is so sensitive, so beautiful. I really admire his work. I would love to do something with him some day.
Dean Wellins I think is one of the most talented directors that there are. For a while he was working with me directing Tangled. He has an amazing sense of story structure and architecture and story that I would love to work with him again.
How has the shift to digital elements in animation helped to make your job easier, or has it made your job easier?
Glen Keane: No. No. Technology never makes life easier. It just makes it different. It makes some things easier, but then it always adds some new thing onto the table that you’ve never imagined, and now you’ve got that to deal with.
It’s like – OK. So in betweening it was – is a pain in the neck in hand-drawn animation, and wow, hey, we don’t have to do in-betweens. The computer does all of those extra little in-between steps.
But now you’ve got lighting, and how does that lighting work around the edges of a character? And then there’s the fabric, and there’s the costume designs, and everything is real, and there’s – everything has a texture. Everything has to be painted and planned, and a background is not just a – something that is painted once. You actually have to build that table, and it’s got to feel like real wood.
And there’s unbelievable weight of integrity is added with this computer that, you know, you – when you went to the car lot, the – and you bought the CG thing and you thought it was going to make it easier, well, that’s not why you bought it. You bought it because it makes the world more credible and believable. That’s the beauty of it, and that’s why we want to do films in CG.
Though there’s something in hand-drawn that CG has to bend its knee to. There’s an immediate connection with the – I don’t know, the soul of the artist, the – something happens in my brain. I know that when I draw with a pencil, it – the ideas come. And it doesn’t happen with words. It happens by actually the graphite touching the paper, and that’s a really important thing for me to continue that. That – it’s a unique art form.
Imagine if you considered that, OK, we’ve got synthesizer music. Hey, now we don’t have to have violin players anymore. We can just have them work on the synthesizer. And whole orchestra, we don’t need them anymore. I don’t know, wouldn’t we have lost such an incredible thing? There’s – it’s so important that hand-drawn animation continue. And just like CG should grow on its own, hand-drawn has to evolve, as well.
Are there any subtle elements in your Beast design that you feel people missed?
Glen Keane: Besides his rainbow bum?
Subtle elements. And is there an element that you’re particularly proud of?
Glen Keane: Well, I guess – that’s such an interesting question. Did somebody miss something in the design? I don’t know. I guess I feel that the design works as a whole, you know? If you go back to the orchestra idea, there’s violinists that are playing that no one ever really heard them, but they contributed to the – to the whole.
And there’s so many elements that contribute to the whole, and it works together. I don’t have a sense that I wished people would recognize something more in the design. I feel like the – they actually read more into it sometimes than is actually there.
And did you work with – and if so, how closely – with Howard Ashman and Alan Menken?
Glen Keane: They would come to the studio. We would hear their music.
My relation with Howard and Alan was probably a lot closer on Little Mermaid, and that’s where the important work happened for me in terms of trust. You’re a very tight little team, and here comes somebody who doesn’t know animation stepping in, and you – it took a while for us to really trust and listen to what Howard was saying.
So when he suggested this song, “There’s Something There,” you embraced it at that point, and we had to go with it knowing we had such little time, and you had to really trust him. And I think that that was important for me as an animator that I felt like I already – I knew that that guy was going to come up with something really helpful for us. I just had that trust.
And while in production, was there any pressure to follow the success of The Little Mermaid?
Glen Keane: Yes. We felt like The Little Mermaid might be just an anomaly. And like I said, that when we were working on Beauty and the Beast, we didn’t know that it was actually going to be a success at all.
Matter of fact, there were points in the film where we were looking at it, and we – it just wasn’t working. The version in London we threw out and we started again. And there are screenings on every one of these films where you’re looking at it and you’re just thinking, “This stinks. This is really bad. Oh, man. I just hope that we are given another chance after this flop.”
And there was points on – not that you really believe it’s going to flop, but you know that, somewhere down the line, something is missing, and somebody’s got to come up with the solution on it, and we just didn’t know what it was yet. It – it’s not written. You don’t feel this sense of, you know, like you’re working on some classic thing. You really are groping through the dark.
John Lasseter describes it as if you are walking through a maze blind, and the only way to go through it is to have your hands on the wall and walk through every wrong turn until you get out. That’s kind of the way these animated movies seem to be made.
What was it like working with CAPS, and what are some of the big mistakes either animators make when combining cell with CGI?
Glen Keane: I’m not exactly sure, I mean, combining cell with CGI?
Well, traditional hand-drawn animation and then going into CG.
Glen Keane: OK. Well, any time the computer enters into hand-drawn, it always demands that you draw with more integrity and believability because the computer respects dimension and space in such a severe way that you – it’s going to create an environment that much more dimensional, and you have to think more sculpturally.
I love that. I love the fact that the computer causes me to think in terms of sculptural drawing. Like for Tarzan, it was very much that way. In Great Mouse Detective, that was really the first – the very first one was actually Black Cauldron, where we had the cauldron animated through CG.
Then it was Great Mouse Detective with the gears and the clockwork, and Oliver & Company we did – oh, Oliver & Company we had a car moving through there, and then we had, in – let’s see, what was that – after Little Mermaid, I guess, with the ship at the end. And then, we did Rescuers Down Under before we did Beauty and the Beast.
And you look back on that, and you – I’m just so glad that we had that whole CAPS system developed and prepared ourselves to go and do Beauty and the Beast, so to be able to do that ballroom sequence. Bit by bit by bit, it kind of snuck in, infiltrated. It was very natural growth that way.
As the Beast character changes throughout the film, various color changes occur certainly during the gloomy scenes. They get much darker, going to more of a – brighter tones during the brighter sequences. How closely did you work with determining those changes?
Glen Keane: Brian McEntee was the art director on the film. And as where he would do a color script of the whole story, and those ideas were really worked out at the same time that the script is being written. So we were really thinking in terms of color and emotion right from the very beginning. We knew what was going to be in deep shadow, where we were going to have the lighting on a shot. We would have layouts that really showed just where you were going to be animating so you could stage it properly.
The color is every bit as powerful as a script element as the script itself.
What does a normal day look like for you as an animator?
Glen Keane: Oh. Well, you see…
I’m sure it varies.
Glen Keane: Well, for me, is what’s normal as an animator hasn’t been normal for me for eight years now since I’ve actually animated that, since I’ve been shepherding our story of Rapunzel/Tangled through to the end here.
When I did have a normal day, it was very much a day of try to get in as early as I could and animate, because I had usually a crew of artists that I would go oversee their work. And so I would get in very early and do my animation. And then, around – after lunchtime, I would start to check in with the other artists and go over their animation so that hopefully, by the end of the day, I could leave to get home to be with my family.
My family has always been an incredibly important part of my life, and the only reason that I think that I’ve got a career that has lasted this long, and a lot of the characters that I’ve done have been inspired by different members of my family, that – I guess they’ve always been sort of the (through line) for me, that I try not to let work become my god, you know? That’s a – that’s a constant challenge.
Anything that you’re working on now – what’s ahead of you? Directing? Writing? More storyboard?
Glen Keane: Well, I feel like I need to draw. I need to get my hands dirty. On this film, I did a lot of drawing on the (Centique) over top of the animator’s work, and that was really satisfying, fun to contribute that way because I didn’t animate in CG. But I could help others to apply the principles of Disney animation to their work.
On a (Centique), we would take a look at – we – well, we have a screening room on Tangled where you can see the animators work, and then I had a (Centique). I could draw over top of it, project it up on the screen, do corrections. They would have those drawings in their office for them when they get back to apply those changes to.
So through that whole time, though, I’m thinking, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to sit down at my desk with the pencil sharpener and sharpen a pencil, and then I don’t draw with a sharp pencil. I immediately kind of rub it flat on a little sandpaper block, and then I start to draw, and it’s like butter on paper. It’s just like it feels so satisfying.
And you start to draw something, and it connects with your heart. And I – that’s why I cannot wait to get back into doing that. Whether I’m animating on my own project that I will develop or animate on somebody else’s, I’m still waiting to determine that.
What do you think about being considered one of the new Nine Old Men of Animation?
Glen Keane: Well, the new is going by its wayside pretty quickly since I feel like I’m – I am the oldest guy on our animation team on Tangled at 56 years old – that’s what I am – and so new doesn’t really fit. I’m second generation, like a fine wine. Just keeps getting better, I’m hoping, you know?
There’s – I just keep passing it on. Everything that I’ve heard I spent a lot of time just passing that on to this group, and there is a new generation, though, that’s coming out from our generation, you know? I’d say we’re moving into now the third generation.
Moderator: Absolutely, with lots of exciting things ahead.
Well, Glen, it’s been a joy. Thank you so much for taking the time this morning out to share some of your insights into this extraordinary character. Want to thank you for your time, hope it’s been enjoyable for you.
Glen Keane: Oh, this is just – it’s been really, really wonderful to be able to talk about this film. You know, what’s interesting to me is you’ve been asking the questions, and incredible questions from these different countries and artists or journalists from around the world, that it’s not just – I don’t feel like this is reminiscing to me.
It’s more like a way to remind myself of what I love, what I love to do, and – you know, so I really thank you for doing that, Mindy and everybody else that’s contributed to this hour – however long we’ve gotten together now.
Moderator: About an hour and a half.
Glen Keane: Thank you.
PART II -
Glen, if you could take us back a little bit. There’s quite a bit of interesting history about this story in general. We’ve got a few of the facts there on the screen about this story. But it’s my understanding that Walt Disney, himself had explored this story. Is that correct?
Glen Keane: Yes. There has been a lot of research that we did on time to get to the roots of this story. And apparently Walt had done the same thing. On the film, at that time as we were working on it, Joe Grant, who was the head of story on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Fantasia was working with us on Beauty and the Beast. He was 90 or close to that anyways, late 80s.
So I asked Joe about it. I said did you already work on Beauty and the Beast? He said oh yes. We tried to crack that nut but it was just too difficult. I mean the whole story just takes place in one dining room, where the Beast asks Belle every night if she’d marry him. And there’s just not a lot of story in that. And we tried to figure it out. Finally we just put it on the shelf.
And there’s a lot of ideas that have been put on the shelf. But we waited until there’s a time where we can really focus and crack that nut. In this story, I feel like really needed – well I guess it really needed Howard Ashman in a big way. I mean there is something about Howard Ashman’s approach to breaking something down musically and describing story in these tent pole songs that really started to give us a structure to tell that story.
Moderator: And that began roughly about 1987, correct?
Glen Keane: Yes.
Moderator: OK. Let’s take a look. We’ve got a rather vintage image of some of the lead animators from the film. If you want to point out who everybody is.
Glen Keane: Yes. This is kind of a weird looking image here. It was actually taken – the picture was taken in a totally dark room. These are the lead animators. And the way the guy did this was opened the shutter of the camera, and then with a flashlight went around the wall with a red light. And you see all of that. And then shined the white light on us. And whatever was lit came onto the film and was exposed.
So we all had to hold that pose entirely still. It was why we all look like we’re from Mt. Rushmore or something. But on the left – the far left standing next to me is Andreas Deja, who animated you know Gaston. And then sitting down in front of him is Dave Pruiksma, who did Mrs. Potts. And then standing on the other side of the big buffalo there is Nick Ranieri who did Lumiere. And then sitting in front of him is Will Finn that did Cogsworth.
But both Nick and Will were like at each other’s throats through the whole movie, just like Cogsworth and Lumiere. Matter fact at one point at the end of the film where Cogsworth and Lumiere have finally have a moment where they start pushing each other and shoving one another, Nick and Will filmed each other doing the same thing. It was very cathartic for them.
But that’s me next to the big buffalo that I had purchased so I could have it on my wall at work. It was a – there is a taxidermy place not far down the street from our studio there in Glendale. And I wanted it there just as a reminder about the immense size and power of this beast. A buffalo. If you have ever been next to one, I mean they are standing you know up to seven feet tall next to you. They’re huge.
And I wanted to remember the power of the Beast constantly. Now that buffalo head hangs in our house. For a long time it was in our garage until my wife finally let me hang it in our living room.
Moderator: So a constant reminder for you then.
Glen Keane: Yes.
Moderator: Let’s go back and take a little bit of a visual history at this story in general. Some of the earlier Beasts – well the Beasts in this story were explored certainly in the early forms of literature. So we’ve got some examples of early illustrations. And Glen, if you could just talk a bit through each of these pieces. If there was any inspiration in these, or not, for you?
Glen Keane: Well whenever you are going to design a character for a Disney movie, I mean I take it really seriously, because I know that it’s going to become the definitive version of that character. When people you know 100 years from now think about the Beast, what’s he look like? They’re going to be thinking about Disney’s Beast.
So I wanted to see if – was there like a definitive version of the Beast that had been done? And as I went through a lot of these images, you see Walter Crane, there is – doing some drawings with him with kind of a wild boar head. But if you notice, the body is very much like a – just a regular man. They all look like Halloween characters. You know like a costume. You just put the head on there. He’s got his little animal hoof boots. But he is not really an animal.
And if you – you know Warwike Goble there also was doing the head of the Beast kind of a thing. But even the legs were very human. Arthur Rackham was pushing it a little further. He was trying to really go into an ugliness of the Beast. But when I saw that I thought OK. Well I know that our version – he’s got to be appealing. Even though he’s got to be ugly, there’s got to be an appealing I believe. Something that you are drawn to.
He can’t look like an alien. He’s got to look like a creature that is actually from this earth somewhere. So as I had done that research, I realized all right. I am not going to find the clue from past illustrators’ work. They were more like these are tries that – I don’t want to go down that path.
Moderator: OK. So with that kind of background, we’ve got a few segments from the bonus features on the new diamond edition DVD coming out tomorrow in the U.S. Those of you in other countries, if you wanted to check with your markets on the regions – on the release dates within your regions.
But let’s take a look at one of the segments from there. I think this is sort of a setup which will get us into the flavor of what the research was like in preparation for designing this – working from the Beast’s castle.
Glen Keane: We were originally doing this story – we went out to London, a group of us with Don Hahn the producer. And to start to explore this story, how we were going to animate it. And it was just some footage shot back then.
Moderator: OK. So that experience in London kind of changed up a little bit. You guys had gotten to a point on the film. But then change came about. Is that correct?
Glen Keane: Yes. We realized that this story needed a – it needed a whole fresh approach. And Richard Purdum was taking a much more of a very classic sticking by the book approach on the story, not wanting to go into too far into the zone of a Disney musical.
Well at that point, Jeffrey Katzenberg said all right. Now we’re going to throw out everything and start over again. And at that point we had found ourselves in Europe with nothing to do except do a research trip. So we decided well, let’s go take advantage of this time and go to Loire Valley. Now the Loire Valley, of course it’s in France, and the Loire River runs through that area. And built along the river are chateaus that the kings had built over the years, and each one is a ride – one day’s ride from the chateau.
And it was there that we found Chateau of Chambord. And it was something about that. It was an ominous, impressive place with all of these spires and just standing there before us. I mean I’ll never forget the morning driving up there through the mist and fog and seeing it there. I thought this is the Beast’s castle. This is where he lives.
And to me, as an animator, it’s really important to animate a character in a real environment. I mean when I was – when I was a kid, and I would draw – I wouldn’t draw just to do a drawing of a face or something. I would do a drawing so I could enter into that paper. You know for me it was like a magic mirror that you could step into. And suddenly I was – I was living in the time of the dinosaurs, or like a time machine, or with the knights or something.
And I just remember that feeling. And animation is like that. And so I really needed for me, as an animator to understand the environment of the Beast. And for all of us as animators, that’s what that trip did.
Moderator: Now there’s been some discussion of the castle as almost a metaphor for the Beast, in that it’s a large ominous place, but yet clearly as we enter into the interior of the castle, there is quite a lush interior, but yet it’s empty and hollow in a sense, very much like the Beast. Was that any inspiration gone for you from that?
Glen Keane: Well the whole Beast castle becomes a visual symbol of what had happened on the outside of the Beast. It’s ugly. It’s dark. It’s tortured. It’s twisted. It’s devoid of life. And when Belle meets the Beast, she is meeting a guy that has been cursed. The outside is – has got that dark exterior. And at the end of the movie when Beast transforms, and the castle’s curse is lifted, you see the transformation. And very much of – there’s a feeling of that at Chambord that we had seen in the Loire Valley with all this beautiful white stone from (inaudible) that we were able to let it transform back into that.
Moderator: OK. Let’s take a look and move on to another segment from the bonus features, which helps to get us – the tone set for exploring the early exploration for the piece.
Moderator: So, with that early beginning, you had to sort of take a second look at how this Beast was going to take – be shaped. So let’s jump into some of these early concept pieces that had been underway at an early time in production.
Glen Keane: Yes. So some of these drawings at the very beginning are – some of this is Chris Sanders’ Beast drawings. And they do have kind of an alien kind of a creature to me. They’re fun and whimsical. But to me it didn’t speak the Beast. And these were Andreas Deja’s drawings, which were very dark and twisted and sort of scary.
But the – there’s still something about the human body thing that bothered me. Now we had all kinds of different ways of throwing animal faces on, the (upper left) one is kind of cat-like. And there is sort of goats. And then there was a mandrel that was in the London zoo that each day as I walked past the London zoo I would do these drawings of this mandrill character.
I remember there was a woman there as I was doing some drawings that said you know if you turned around the mandrill showed me that its rear end was all multi colored. And she said, oh he’s got a rainbow bum he has. Which I just loved her accent saying that.
So Beast actually has a rainbow bum but nobody knows that but Belle. There was these different kinds of themes and you know what – what is there – is his feet going to look like there? And where we have got …
Moderator: It is on the screen.
Glen Keane: Oh it’s on the screen?
Moderator: Yes, we’re getting a little discrepancy.
Glen Keane: OK.
Moderator: But it’s – the image is showing through there.
Glen Keane: OK great. I’ll look at (Chuck’s) screen. We have a wide variety of different creatures. But you know to me appeal was really, really important. You know how were we going to find the Beast – you know that for me was the real Beast. You know like I said, you feel like it’s really important to communicate that this is appealing character. And to me there’s a sense that the character existed before you even started to draw it.
Moderator: Oh let’s see. Let’s run segment three. This is a short clip which talks about the importance of recognizing the role of the Beast, and sort of reflecting on that. But before we get into the inspiration, let’s take a look at this.
Moderator: So with the Beast established then as our key protagonist, that had to have had a pretty impactful influence on how he came about – how you came about getting the final design.
Glen Keane: Well there was – you knew that he had to be frightening. And as I would do these different drawings of the Beast, I kept thinking, how in the world is Belle going to fall in love with this guy? I mean no one’s going believe this, really.
And so of all these drawings, nothing seemed to be clicking for me. And if you would come into my office you would see all sorts of photos on the walls of like a gorilla, of sketches. Or I would just try to – what is it about that gorilla that I love? I mean ultimate I love the brow of that gorilla. So I would draw some of the brow of that gorilla on the Beast.
And then there was this – the lion. The lion’s mane. I loved that. The softness of it and so the lion’s mane came into be part of the Beast as well as the fangs. But there was the wild boar, the ugliness of that. But his muzzle – so I put that onto the Beast with the tusks coming up. It was the sadness of the buffalo. The weight, the – looks like the buffalo carries around the weight of the world on his head. And I loved that.
And then the beard of the buffalo. That went into the crock-pot. And then there was the wolf though. Every day I would walk to work past the London zoo. And these wolves would walk back and forth, back and forth. And I realized they’re so animal like. And one of the things that I really am searching for is how can I communicate that the whole beast is like this beast animal? And that it’s not just his head or his hands, or his feet.
And so it was the structure of the leg that I started to use a wolf leg, and the wolf tail for the Beast. And the way the Beast could swish his tail around gave it a lot more emotion possibilities. Then the body of a huge big grizzly bear for the Beast. I mean there is nothing more massive and powerful. I knew that from the fox and the hound and animating the grizzly bear in that.
So that came into play. So all the drawings that I started to do with the Beast though, I put them on all fours, just as a reminder, this guy is an animal. And one day in my office, Bruce Johnson, one of the animators working with me said, so Glen, what’s the Beast going to look like? This is after like six months of drawing. I said, I don’t know, Bruce. I grabbed the sheet of paper and started drawing. And I was like – and I went through the same thing I just told all of you about all of these different elements except I was drawing it as I was telling him this.
And suddenly I looked at him, and it was like, that’s him. That’s the Beast. That’s what he looks like. And it was like I said, it’s as if the character existed beforehand, and suddenly he appears on the paper and you recognized him. And that was the experience of that moment.
Moderator: Well pretty powerful stuff. When the combination of it comes together. Let’s take a look at a few little images, a few scenes from the film, images that show just a little glimpse of the Beast.
Glen Keane: There is this petulance that the Beast has got in these – and the image – just that one there. Yes. His you know where Belle is binding up his wounds after the Beast has saved her from the wolves. And you start to see the crack in the armor there. And the Beast starts softening. And you know how do you show the reason that he was turned into a beast was not because he was a murderer or something. It was because he was selfish.
I mean and that’s a lot more fun to play when you get to play more to the childlike stomping kind of a beast. I just spent the weekend with my eighteen-month-old granddaughter. And I see in her a lot of the characteristics of the Beast. Her learning to say no and pushing other little kids. I mean she is really sweet. But there is still this dark side you know that you have to confront.
And that was the fun part of this character. Animating the wild animal, but then into a more identifiable thing that the childlike selfishness. And we thought that once Beast had saved Belle’s life, that that was enough to earn this dance. This moment with her falling in love. And so we had the – the story went that way. And when we got to this sequence where Beast and Belle dance, which was just in the storyboard at the time, we had a screening.
And there was a feeling like this movie is not working. I don’t believe. We haven’t earned this moment for Belle and Beast to fall in love. It feels like we’re forcing it. Feels like the artist’s hand is sort of making people believe this, trying desperately, but it’s not working. What is it?
And at that point Howard Ashman came in with this song that I think really turned the corner for us. The “Something There” song. And I had always felt that Robby Benson should have a moment in this movie where he could actually sing. The guy’s got a great voice. A baritone base voice. It’s very soft and gentle. And so this song, “There’s Something There” was written. And what was wonderful is it was a very small little thing that the movie turned on. You know Beast giving Belle the library. It was – that was the thing that he had noticed what was special to this girl, and he gave her this gift.
And it was really cool just to see how the story, you suddenly believed it after that. And before that song was written, you didn’t.
You spoke earlier about you know the fact that you were not permitted to even see Robby Benson doing any of his lines.
Glen Keane: No, that was verboten. He – you know Robby Benson, for any of you who may be really young journalists out there; you may not know that Robby Benson – when this movie came out, was a big teenage heartthrob. Or at least that was his history at that point. He wasn’t quite the heart – he wasn’t a teenager at all. But that was his reputation.
And Jeffrey Katzenberg was so afraid that I was going to draw the Beast like Robby Benson. And so he said, I don’t want you to meet Robby Benson until after this movie’s done. Because I had usually gone into recording sessions, worked with the actors. But in this case I wasn’t allowed to specifically because of this thing with Jeffrey.
So it wasn’t until after the movie that I actually got a chance to meet Robby. And I guess that’s something that does happen that you draw the people that you know into the character. I think I could have – I think I could have worked around that.
Was there anything about the voice? His voicing of the character that sparked you in any way or helped you to …?
Glen Keane: Yes. Well the – at the beginning. I remember when we were trying to find the right voice for this character, we had – the directors had boiled it down to three different voices. And I got this tape from them, a cassette tape that night. And I drove home. And I remember I was washing dishes. We had had dinner. And so I just put the tape on. And as I am washing dishes I am hearing one version of the Beast. Nah, that’s not it. Then the next one. No, that’s it. And then the third one was like whoa. That’s the Beast.
I mean I could suddenly see the voice just fit with the drawings and it was clear, that was the Beast. And I went in and I said who is this guy? And they said well that’s Robby Benson.
Moderator: Amazing how that takes shape. Well we’re going to run some segments of taking a look at one of the scenes from the film. This is where the Beast is calling Belle out to dinner. And we’re going to take it and look at it from four different perspectives. I will start initially. And four perspectives in the process of animation. So starting with the storyboard segment. And let’s take a quick look at this and then Glen, if you want to walk through it a bit.
Glen Keane: Yes. Well the storyboard is the phase of where you just have to get the images up on the board to see what you’ve got, to plan it out. So let’s take a look at this.
Glen Keane: OK. So obviously those are not the – all the – there’s a couple of the final voices in there. But most of those are like I think Kirk Wise is doing the voice of the Beast. He was our director. And various different people filling in.
But enough for us to get a feeling of how that little scene is going to play out. A template that seemed to work. And it was fun. And Burny Mattinson, who was one of the guys who worked with one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men, was his assistant. Burny was Eric Larson’s assistant in those Nine Old Men. And he had learned to really communicate everything in the most simply means with very clear, strong poses. And that’s what I really tried to follow some of Burny’s suggestions and leave on the animation.
And the rough animation, I have to tell you is to me – that’s where – that’s where it all happens for me. I go into my office. I turn off the lights. And except for one light above my desk. And it’s like a stage. It all just becomes real. And I enter into the paper. And I’m living it. And there is an emotion. There is a feeling that comes through in the pencil lines, and I – to be honest, it never gets better. It never gets better than this for me. This is the rough animation of that sequence.
Glen Keane: And what’s interesting is how something – an idea can turn on a tiny little solid thing. Like the Beast pointing, doing the Jackie Gleason. My first – we had done different ways of the point. And if you turn the hand you know so you see the back – the front side of it as he’s pointing, it’s not funny. It has to be turned the very way that it’s turned there, and it’s got to come up in that gesture the way it does.
And you don’t know that until you’ve done it a couple times and you go OK. Well why is this not working? And then you finally find it. So the next step is the cleanup. And that’s where you break down all these rough lines that you seen into one clean line. And it’s quite a challenge.
I had an artist that worked with me for my whole career, (Bill Berg), he is – actually he was a musician, a drummer that won a Grammy for Flimm & the BBs, the jazz group. But he was also a phenomenal artist. And so he oversaw the cleanup of this scene.
Glen Keane: (Inaudible) at one point, I had a lot more stripes designed into the character. And we realized we’re not going to be able to finish this movie, Glen if you have all of these stripes in (inaudible) face, here. And (Bill) had already gone through and drawn all the stripes in there. And he had to go through and erase and simplify. Take out all the stripes that he had drawn in there. I think that is the simplified stripe version. But (Bill) (Herculean) effort there.
Moderator: Yes. And now, to see it all put together, we have the final color segment. So. Put it into context.
Glen Keane: Yes.
Glen Keane: So what you’ve just seen is kind of an unveiling of all that goes underneath it. There’s a term I learned that describes this. And it’s called (spretzitera). A term coined in the 1500s by someone describing the work of Raphael, how – and it means art that hides its art. And that’s what animation is. It’s this amazing art form. But soon as it’s in color, you’re not looking at drawings anymore. You’re looking a living breathing character.
And the animator disappears. You as an artist, it’s an art form that where you really hide. You’re not out front at all.
In the beginning when we first meet the Beast, quite a stark and frightening character. What sorts of things did you do to purposefully enhance that transition into a softer, gentler beast by the end of the film?
Glen Keane: Well there’s little things that you would do with the Beast in terms of how he would have a gentleness in his expression. I know that for me, the center of emotion in a character is in the brows and the eyes. And that’s the place where the audience is looking. All the other cool stuff, the animal things, and all the horns and everything are set dressing for the eyes.
The eyes are that window to the soul. And the one thing I didn’t mention on all those aspects of the designing of the Beast were the eyes are the (prints) of someone who’s trapped inside this beast. And that’s the thing at the end of the movie where Belle, after the guy has transformed, she has to look into his eyes and realize, it is you. I mean it really is the eyes that you know that reveal him.
It’s interesting, in animating this character, I got so much mail from people, more than on any other character of people who really related to the Beast. The dark side of him that they felt in their own life that there was – there was a person inside of them that they wanted to get out. That they thought of themselves as ugly. And it was – I got a lot of letters from people who had been abused, just as a weight that they’ve carried in their life. And they really related to the Beast in watching this transformation at the end.
For them it was a symbol of everything that they wanted to see happen in their own life. The struggle that they were going through. It was really remarkable for me in that.
Is there anything about the Beast you would go back and change, if you could?
Glen Keane: I wish he could have stayed the Beast. In fact, I did have us record a line at the end of the movie where Beast and Belle, the prince – who knows what his name is. I mean you know his name was Beast – were dancing. And I knew that the audience was going to be disappointed that here was – what happened to our Beast?
So I had them record Belle saying, do you think you could grow a beard? See? You’re laughing. It was a good idea. It’s not in the movie. We should have put it in there. Yes.
Moderator: Well speaking of transformations. Let’s take a look at probably one of the most astounding scenes in animation of all times. And certainly in contemporary animation. And that is the transformation of the Beast.
And Glen, I know there is quite a process to this. But you went through – or it was a pretty pivotal time for you at the time during production. Could you talk a bit about that?
Glen Keane: Well, there was this sequence that I had been waiting to animate for years, I think, as we were working on this movie. And that was you know where Beast is going to transform. But it came down to finally I had one week left in production. And I hadn’t even gotten to it yet. And Don Hahn came in to my office, the producer.
And I said Don; I don’t have time to do this. I feel like this is what I was born to do, and how am I going to do this in a week? And he said all right. All right. All right. Glen, look. Whatever it is that you need to get done, this sequence, just make it great. Take the time that you need. I’ll fight off the wolves here. We’ll figure it out. Just do what you need to do.
So I – that day I just up and I left. And I went down to the Norton Simon Museum. This is a photo of the Burghers of Calais, a sculpture that’s in front of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. And you don’t know what you’re looking for at that time. I was just looking for something. And I walked in there. And those sculptures were so bold and powerful and emotional.
And as I walked around, I had my sketchbook, and I was doing these sketches, looking – particularly I noticed the back. The back of (Rodin’s) men there, as their bent over. And how expressive they were. And as I started thinking about it, this was a way I could show the transformation scene the Beast’s back being powerful massive thing. And as it turns around, you slowly reveal around to his face.
You don’t show his face first. But you get little glimpses. Keeping his head up in the shadows. And so that’s where I went. And let’s take a look at the actual – the rough animation of that transformation.
Here you can see I am doing some of the – in some of these drawings, there is a shaded thing that I am doing in all of my animation that when people look at my rough animation, they say, why are you shading your drawings? It’s like – I mean no one is going to see that. It’s like yes, but it’s more real to me. It’s like sculptural drawing.
You know and as we click through, you can see. I am starting with the Beast’s back with these big powerful forms. And it is like sculptural drawing. Let’s click through there. And as the Beast is turning, you would think that the back is not expressive. But it’s actually incredibly expressive aspect of this character.
And his head is coming around slowly. But I am keeping it in shadow. And then as the head comes towards us, this transformation, this – this is a spiritual moment. And I tried to set that up with this wind that starts to move across his face, and brings the – what’s hidden inside out as the prince is formed, and we get a glimpse there. And then the light will start flying out from his fingertips and toes.
Moderator: Let’s watch that in Real Time now.
Glen Keane: There’s actually some drawings that are missing in there where you see the wind moving across his face. But we’ll see it in the color. You know for me, when you’re animating something, you’re trying to express something that you’ve experienced in your own life. This isn’t just drawing a character. Going through something that’s unrelated that you know you can be just doing these drawings. You have to live it. You have to feel it.
And I know that for me when I am animating a character, I am going through all of those same emotions that they’re – like animating the Beast. To me, I would go home and my jaw would hurt from drawing this face that – you know his expressions and his emotions, and what he was talking about. I was living it. And in this moment here, this to me was very much something that I think I just experienced in my own life, my own spiritual life.
A transformation to me. I mean I am a Christian. I really experienced this. I wrote on – up in the upper corners of the paper as I was animating this, a bible verse from I Corinthians. It says if any man is in Christ, he’s a new creation. The old things have passed away, and all things have become new.
That’s what this was for me. Every artist has to draw on their own experience, their own beliefs, and put that into their work. And it’s there. You sense it. It’s true.
Were you assigned the Beast, or did you request this character specifically?
Glen Keane: I was asked to do the – do the Beast. Yes. It was one of those things, it was like wow. The best stuff in life is a gift. You know. Things that you work hard to get sometimes are not the best for you. And the best things are something you you’re like wow. There it is. This was an opportunity that really – I was so happy that I was there at the right time.
Did you see Jean Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast, and did that have an influence on you?
Glen Keane: Yes. That’s a great question. There was – that’s obviously the classic iconic film that defines you know the genre of Beauty and the Beast. And we did look at that. And when we visited the chateaus in Loire Valley, I saw the actual arms holding the candles in the chateaus there that he used you know as the arms kind of turn. And there were these wonderful moments in there that – I don’t know. It just felt – there was the presence of castle, the chateau is what really hit me about Cocteau’s version that this was happening in a very magical place.
How about the Beast, himself? Did that have – play you think anywhere in there?
Glen Keane: To me, that did not. If it was much more of a – something that I discovered in our own version of this movie.
You kind of touched on this a little bit. But I know most artists are never quite finished with their work. Is there anything about the Beast, his appearance, and animal that you would have wished you would have put in there? Is there anything just bothers you about it, or that you want to go back and change?
Glen Keane: You know I felt like everything came together on this character. And in such an amazing way that I would not – I would not change anything on him. Even the stripes that we took out. Now when I look at it I go, yes, yes, yes. There was too many stripes. I was trying to bringing in some of the wild tiger kind of pattern to the Beast.
And now when I look at it, I think yes, maybe that would have been just a little too distracting to him. I am very satisfied with the way he looks, you know. I think I would ruin it if I tried to change it.
What was it like comparing – working on Tarzan to working on the Beast here? Because here – in Tarzan you have a man who thinks he’s a beast, or vice versa, a beast who really is a man underneath.
Glen Keane: Yes you know, it’s interesting. I really thought a lot about those two characters. Because Tarzan was the opposite. I mean he – he was a man of nobility and desperately trying to become a beast, to fit in you know with his surroundings. And the Beast was somebody who there was no nobility in him, and that’s why he was turned into a beast. And he had to become a man.
Their paths were crossing each other the opposite way. But I think I related to both of them. I mean there is a course in our life I feel like that we go that way. We try to mature and grow. The thing that I guess I really connected with both characters was a visceral feeling of animalness in both of them that I just was fascinated with Tarzan, living in the jungle. Surviving, moving like an animal. And the Beast the same way.
Their hair was really important. A character’s hair is sort of defined the struggle that that character has in the film. It’s not just like oh, what are we going to do with the hair? You know you just throw something on there. The hair is like a symbol of that character’s story struggle with – for Ariel, her hair floating there was a constant reminder that this girl is underwater and that she has got to struggle to live on another zone of – to survive on land.
With Pocahontas, it was this ethereal spirit like movement of her hair that moved in the wind. The colors of the wind. And it was very much this girl trying to communicate that to someone who was from a very black and white kind of a world. With Tarzan, it was the dreadlocks. Is he – is he going to embrace himself as an animal, or as Lord Greystoke?
And with the Beast, it was a constant reminder of the fur on him surrounding this prince. I don’t know, these are thoughts that I just ran through my head as I was working on both of those characters. And I …
Most of the time in the Tarzan film he is hunched. He is shuffling like an ape. Beast in the beginning is more or less the same way, walking on all fours. Did you cop some model sheets from Beast who applied to Tarzan? Or just came that way?
Glen Keane: No. I just – it really came that way from – I mean when I – when I felt like Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller to walking around like just a regular guy, and I tried drawing Tarzan like that. It was embarrassing. I mean when he is like this sort of a mostly naked guy with a loin cloth. And as soon as I made him like an animal, it was like OK. Yes. That’s it.
And the same with the Beast. People would come in and do – some of the animators would draw the Beast. And they would draw him standing straight up. It was like no, he just – it looks – I don’t believe him anymore. This is a man whose weight is down with this animal body. He wants to stand up. But his body – the design of it pushes him down constantly. And that was really an important thing in the Beast, is to feel like there was a struggle for him to just to stand erect. But naturally he would want to go down on all fours.
I was just curious. I know that dance scene was incredibly revolutionary for the time. How difficult was that to do? What challenges did it present to you?
Glen Keane: Well the – animating with the computer, anytime the computer enters into a hand drawing, I find that it forces you to draw better. It forces you to think more dimensionally. So I have always embraced anytime the computer work comes in. I mean for me, John Lassiter and I started this thing way back right around (Tran) doing this little animated test called the (inaudible) things, where we animated the background in (CT) but I could do the character in hand drawings.
And it just naturally helps you think dimensionally when the background is turning in space. You just naturally just enter into it and think that way. So what seems difficult about it is the dimensionality of animating and drawing a character that is turning in space.
And that’s really not the hardest part of it. What the hardest part of the dance sequence was – was actually learning to dance. We – James Baxter and I, James, who was doing Belle, and I was doing Beast, we filmed – I mean we brought a dance instructor in. And so he and I would dance together. And where I would learn the Beast steps. And you know he would do Belle.
And we worked on that. And we kind of blocked it out ultimately. James went through and blocked out all the animation himself first. And then I went in and went over top of it and was drawing the Beast. But it – in the end, I would have to say it was really just the subtleties, the gentleness of keeping the Beast – of learning the dance steps that were the most difficult in that sequence.
Beauty and the Beast kind of reestablished Disney animation across the board, across all audience ages, the Oscar nomination of course. So I am wondering, with all the experience you had on films leading up to that that may have been a little more kid-focused, was there a different feeling in what was going on in the studio at the time? Or maybe just in particular for this film?
Glen Keane: Well with The Little Mermaid, we were all shocked that the public loved it as much as we did. You know there was quite a while there it felt like Disney just was you know the Golden Age was over and we missed it.
And yet there was no less artistry. There’s no less passion in the work that we were doing. And so Little Mermaid opened that door up for us. And we realized wow, this really can happen for us too. And you’d think though that as we were working on Beauty and the Beast, we would have felt that hey, this is really – this is going – this is another one. But we didn’t feel that way.
We felt like oh man. This is – how are we going to – how are we going to fix this? This thing is not working out. This is – everything that we did, we had some great songs by Howard Ashman and (Megan). But it still wasn’t really singing. There’s something that was missing with this. And as I had mentioned to you before, that song that Howard Ashman wrote, There’s Something There. But that happened pretty late in the story.
And so there was a – there wasn’t this feeling of you know manifest destiny that we were claiming for ourselves. It was more of like desperately trying to just get the thing so that it would look good so people didn’t throw tomatoes at us. And then to see how it all came together at the end there like that. That’s what was amazing, is to realize how all of these elements together just coalesce towards the end of the picture, and there it was.
But we didn’t have a feeling that it was all happening until the end.
And then you ended up with your own little Golden Age.
Glen Keane: Yes. Yes. It was – you know that’s – now we want another one.
How did it feel to go through the whole thing where you might have gotten a possible Oscar for best picture? I mean talk about an – even Uncle Walt didn’t quite pull that one off.
Glen Keane: Yes.
And at the same time, do you ever think the Academy will ever give a full animated feature film that honor?
Glen Keane: Well, we were amazed that that happened at that time. And I think it took the academy by surprise, and there was a lot of uproar about it. And you know I would – I’d be really interested in seeing what the final vote count on that was. How close we were to Silence of the Lambs.
Admittedly tough competition.
Glen Keane: Yes. I mean Silence of the Lambs was a phenomenal film. So was Beauty and the Beast. And is it going to happen again? I believe it will. I have to believe that this art form animation is the greatest art form there is. And what we have done is just the early curve of where it can go. Because of where computer animation is, and where hand drawn animation is. I think that there is something really new and wonderful to invent and create that no one has seen yet. And I really have to believe that one of these days, yes. An animated feature is going to win best picture of the year. Came close then, and it will happen again.
I saw Toy Story III. And it blew me away. I don’t know if you know your colleagues over there up there – up there in Northern California did a hell of a job.
Glen Keane: Yes. Well this is – this is a film that could win that. You know and the fact that you’re saying that, there is a lot of other people feeling the same thing. You know one of the things that happened with Beauty and the Beast that really bothered me, and that whole academy thing was the way they were talking about well, what about real actors? We need to have real actors winning these awards.
And I was thinking, well what am I? I mean I feel like I really poured my heart and soul into this character. And Robby Benson’s voice, I mean I feel like both of us put so much into that. And the fact that we’re drawing it doesn’t cheapen it. It actually adds more value to it to me. You know so I think it’s coming.
But when you’ve heard Robby’s voice, and obviously you didn’t know who he was. Did that affect – because a lot of times I’ve – you know you kind of mentioned it also. Animators will look at the actor that does voicing stuff, and it will affect their performance. And I think one case in particular is your colleague, (Mark Han), talking about – or not (Mark Han), it was Mike Surrey. Mike Surrey, saying how much Cummings’ performance affected Ray the Firefly.
Glen Keane: Yes.
Was that kind of a similar situation for you with the Beast and you know hearing the voice make you change any of the drawings?
Glen Keane: Yes. You know listening to the voice made me really work on the brows, the expressions. Because you become so familiar with the voice, there is a sensitivity and attentiveness that would come out in Robby’s performance that I would really push the expressions and the drawings. It was more like taking the design that I had and letting it work to the sound of the voice, mouth shapes.
Robby has a kind of a soft way of speaking. So the mouth shapes of the Beast weren’t just kind of wild and violent as much as they were carefully shaped. And those are kinds of things that just happened because of the sound.
As supervising animator for the Beast, how closely did you work with the other animators working with you?
Glen Keane: Are you talking about the other supervising animators, or the other actual animators working?
The other actual animators on the Beast.
Glen Keane: I worked very closely with them. I would – there were some animators that would actually in Florida. And you know how closely can you work in there? Well I would get their drawings sent to me. And I would draw over top of it and FedEx it back. I would use – do faxes. They’d send me their thumbnails, little sketches, what they were thinking of the scene. And I would draw over top of that with lots of notes.
We’d talk on the phone. Aaron Blaise, he ended up – well he was a new animator on the film. And I trained him. But I trained him from California, and he was working in Florida. But we felt that we could do this as long as we had an ability to draw over top of each other’s work. You can’t just talk it. You actually have to draw for somebody.
So I had an enormous amount of drawings sending back and forth. Drawing over top of animators at the studio as well. It’s much easier if I can have somebody standing, and – over my shoulder and watching me draw over their work. And I did that a lot.
Well and since you mentioned it, how closely did you work with the other supervising animators?
Glen Keane: We were all very close. Just from often in the offices next to each other. Constantly in story meetings together. Taking a look at each other’s work. Jeffrey Katzenberg was a very solidifying influence on our team, as well. He would have early story meetings, 7:00 in the morning. We’d all get there and he have his – a big Diet Coke and we would talk together as supervising animators with Jeffrey and the directors.
And we – I think we became very close together. We knew each other really well.
Hello, I am (Michelle) from Mexico. I under – which work did major differences between traditional animation and (inaudible) computerized animation? And which may be the future of this kind of animation as 3D increases?
Glen Keane: Well it’s interesting. Computer – because I just finished Tangled, well overseeing animation with a lot of the animators. But the way I worked on that film was by drawing on a (sintik) over top of people’s computer animation. And what I kept reminding everybody was – is that this is – computer animation is still just a graphic flat art form. Even though we say it’s 3D, it’s on a flat screen, and it’s just as much of a graphic shape as drawing is.
And for them to think in terms of graphic simple shapes. And so I would do a lot of drawings, and apply the same principles of hand drawn to computer animation. And I think that the more we can bring the feeling – the – I guess the influence, the inventiveness of hand drawn into computer animation, where you are not tied to just what the computer is giving you.
Because the computer seems to always shade everything so perfectly. And try to convince you that there, this is what you want, right? Look how good it looks. It’s like dimensional everything. And you start thinking wait a second. No. That’s not quite what I wanted. I pushed that silhouette a little stronger, and I stretched that arm out more. And I jut that jaw out further.
And you know that’s the things that we have to remember that we are the masters of the graphic statement. And letting the computer bend it’s knee to the animator, instead of the animator to the computer. And at the beginning, I think we really struggled with the computer was sort of like dictating what we were going to get. And now in Tangled, I feel like you will see the computer really changing and bending to what it is that we want it to look like.
It’s very unusual animation in computer animation. You’ll see a big influence of the same kind of principles you see in Beauty and the Beast, you’ll see handled in Tangled.
Who are you working on in Tangled?
Moderator: Well we want to kind of keep things centered to Beauty and the Beast on this – in our timeframe. So we’ve got time for one more question. Well, I’ll wrap it up then with the final question, Glen.
In all of your time and your experiences here at Disney, what’s been your most favorite project, and/or character?
Glen Keane: Well every project I am working on, it keeps presenting a new challenge to me. And there are different phases in my life. I mean I guess The Little Mermaid to me was like wow. That was – this is the start of a whole new thing.
Beast was such a personal – like a spiritual expression for me. That’s what I got out of that one. And it maybe touches me some ways the deepest. Tarzan was absolutely a thrill because of the joy of animating this character and space and the thrill of drawing that that gave to me. This film I am just working now, Tangled, to answer your question there. I mean I have overseen the animation of the character Rapunzel, and the other characters as well. But designing her particularly.
Kind of bring all that – the beauty of hand drawing into CG. It’s been an incredible – I don’t know, challenge and great satisfaction out of it. You know I guess they’re kind of like kids. Which kid’s your favorite?
Glen Keane: I love them all.
Moderator: We do too. We love it all. Thank you so much for your time, Glen. We sure appreciate this.
If you would like to learn more about the making of Beauty and the Beast, pick up a copy of the movie on Blu-ray!