Given that the silver anniversary of Disney's "Beauty and
the Beast" is coming up (This Kirk Wise & Gary Trousdale film initially
went into wide release back on November 22, 1991), a lot of bloggers have
recently been writing about this hand-drawn animated feature. Using Walt Disney
Studios Home Entertainment's release of the signature collection edition of
"Beast" (which includes a Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD version of this Academy
Award-winning movie) as an excuse to talk about things like "Beauty" 's stellar
Mind you, when production initially began on Disney's
"Beauty and the Beast" back in the summer of 1989, this movie wasn't supposed
to be a musical at all. In fact, the way that Richard Purdum (i.e., this
animated feature's first director) had originally envisioned this Walt Disney
Animation Studios production was that "Beast" was going to be a dark, brooding
romance. Full of mystery & magic but surprisingly free of song.
When they were initially developing this animated feature,
Disney's story team made a point of sticking closely to their source material
(i.e., "La Belle et la Bête," the fairy tale that French novelist
Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve wrote which was then published in 1740).
Which is why - in this early iteration of "Beast" - Maurice was a wealthy
merchant who had fallen on hard times after all of his trade ships had been
lost in a storm at sea.
Given that their family was now destitute, Maurice's sister
Marguerite began pressuring Belle to marry well. Marguerite had even found a
possible suitor for Maurice's daughter: The rich & handsome Marquis Gaston
Story sketch of Gaston as a fop from the Richard Purdum version of Disney's "Beautyand the Beast." Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved
Yep, in the Purdum version of this project, Gaston wasn't
the town hero / local hunter who used " ... antlers in all of my decorating." But
- rather - he was going to be this preening member of the aristocracy. A titled
fop complete with white powdered wig and beauty spot.
But what Aunt Marguerite didn't know was that - while she
was pushing Belle to marry for money - Gaston had already blown through most of
his family's fortune. In fact, the real reason that the Marquis was considering
marrying Maurice's daughter at all was that Gaston's accountant was hoping that
Belle's dowry could then be used to settle the Legume family debts.
"And who was the Legume family accountant ?," you ask. A
little nebbish-y looking guy called LeFou (Or - as you can see by the piece of
concept art below - this "Beauty and the Beast" supporting character was
originally known as La Fou).
Concept art of LeFou as Gaston's accountant from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved
Now if this version of LeFou looks familiar to you ... Well,
there's a reason for that. Disney recognizes that this darky, brooding,
romantic version of "Beauty and the Beast" was going to need all of the comic
relief that it could get. Which is why the Studio was hoping that it could
persuade comedy legend Woody Allen to come voice this character.
And given that Allen had recently worked for the Mouse House
(i.e., directing the "Oedipus Wrecks" portion of "New York Stories," an
anthology film that Touchstone Pictures released in March of 1989), not to
mention agreeing to star in an upcoming movie that Paul Mazursky was making for
Mickey (i.e., "Scenes from a Mall," which would be released to theaters under
Disney's Touchstone label on February 22, 1991) ... It wasn't all that
far-fetched to assume - given that Woody now had a working relationship with
the Company - that Walt Disney Animation Studios could somehow persuade him to come be the voice of La Fou in
"Beauty and the Beast."
Unfortunately for Allen, once Purdum showed Jeffery
Katzenberg his initial story reel for this proposed animated feature ...
... the then-Chairman of Walt Disney Studios decided that
Richard's take on the material was far too dark & brooding. More to the
point, Katzenberg was now basking in all of the critical praise that Disney's
"The Little Mermaid" had received (not to mention all of the tickets that this
Ron Clements & John Musker movie had sold. Or - for that matter - all of
the 'Little Mermaid' merch that fans of this animated feature had purchased).
Which is why Jeffery now wanted "Beast" to be more like "Mermaid" (i.e., a
light-hearted, well-crafted musical fairy tale).
Which is why - in relatively short order - Richard Purdum
was out as director of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and Alan Menken &
Howard Ashman were then brought into write some songs for this fairy tale film.
And as Howard did on all of the projects that he worked on, Ashman made some
profound changes to "Beauty" 's story. Cutting some characters entirely (i.e.,
Aunt Marguerite. Not to mention Belle's little sister Clarice and the family
cat Charlie) and radically reimagining others (i.e., transforming Gaston from
fop to the "... boorish, brainless" small town bully who attempts to blackmail
Maurice's daughter into becoming " ... his little wife").
And since Gaston was no longer supposed to be this
spendthrift aristocrat, he then didn't need a nervous accountant to constantly
fret over the Legume family's rapidly dwindling fortune. Which is why LeFou
then had to be reimagined as well. Becoming more of a traditional sidekick /
comic foil for "Beast" 's central villain. Who was now recast as this little
French village's hero because Gaston was - according to LeFou, anyway - " ... the
greatest hunter in the whole world."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And since Disney designers were now seeing Gaston's sidekick
as more of a round / low-to-the-ground character, Woody Allen's voice was no
longer really a good fit for LeFou. Which is why Venezuelan-American actor
Jesse Corti was eventually hired to voice this character.
Which isn't to say that Walt Disney Animation Studios had
then completely given up on the idea of someday recruiting Allen to come voice
a character for one of their films. To be honest, it all came down to finding
just the right role for Woody. Some cartoon character that would genuinely
benefit from having their lines delivered in this comedy legend's very distinct
Which brings us to the Spring of 1995. When Kevin Lima -
fresh off making his directorial debut with Disney's "A Goofy Movie" - was
given the opportunity to develop Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Tarzan of the Apes"
into a full length animated feature. (Ironically enough, in the early 1990s as
a follow-up to the Studio's "Prince and the Pauper" featurette starring Mickey
Mouse, Walt Disney Animation Studios had toyed with the idea of making a spoof
of Burroughs' "Tarzan" stories entitled "Goofy of the Apes." Sadly, this intriguing
sounding featurette was never put into production).
Concept art for a Woody Allen-inspired version of Tantor for Disney's "Tarzan."Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Anyway ... Given that there had already been multiple movie
versions of the tales of Tarzan, Lima was looking to put a different sort of
spin on Edgar Rice's characters. Bring them to life on the screen in a way that
had never been done before.
Which is why - as Kevin started breaking down "Tarzan" 's
story with his co-director Chris Buck and screenwriter Tab Murphy - he began
pondering on this motion picture's pachyderms. After all, it has long been said
that " ... an elephant never forgets." Well, if that particular turn-of-phrase
were true ... Wouldn't that then mean that elephants - because they'd weighed
down by the memories of every single experience that they'd ever had over the
course of their lives - would then have to be the most neurotic animals in
And if that were actually the case ... Well, then who better
to voice Tarzan's faithful elephant friend Tantor than Woody Allen?
Concept art for the Woody Allen-inspired inspired version of "Tantor" for Disney's "Tarzan." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
And Allen did in fact initially agree to come voice this
character for Disney's new feature length animated version of "Tarzan." At
least until Jeffery Katzenberg (who had bolted from the Mouse House in August
of 1994 so that he could then join David Geffen & Steven Spielberg in the
creation of DreamWorks SKG) began wooing Woody to come voice the character of Z
in DreamWorks Animation's first CG film, "Antz."
Mind you, Katzenberg knew that - in order to get Allen to
abandon "Tarzan" for "Antz" - he'd have to put something awfully tempting on
the table. Which is why Jeffery offered to have DreamWorks' live-action side
distribute Woody's next four films if he'd agreed to come voice Z.
This was an offer that Allen-the-filmmaker simply couldn't
refuse. Which is why he ankled Disney's "Tarzan" in 1996. Which is why Wayne
Knight would wind up voicing Tantor in the finished film. Meanwhile - following
the October 1998 release of "Antz" -- DreamWorks Pictures honored Jeffery's
agreement with Woody and distributed Allen's next four movies: 2000's "Small
Time Crooks," 2001's "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," 2002's "Hollywood
Ending" and 2003's "Anything Else."
So now that you've heard this behind-the-scenes show
business story, do you think that Woody Allen would have been a better fit for
LeFou in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" ? Or - for that matter - a suitable
voice for Tantor in Disney's "Tarzan" ?
This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Thursday, September 22, 2016
That's very interesting; I always knew that there was an accountant incantation of Lefou but I never knew that Woody Allen was slated to voice him.
Speaking of Purdum's B&tB, there is a question I have always had about the character of Aunt Marguerite: What was her ultimate fate at the end of the story? Did she mend her ways or was she kicked out of the house by Maurice?
Its very interesting.i recently search the topic about LeFou in disney's "Beauty and the Beast".Now i am happy.The design of the characters are super.And i have question-what was the end of the story?.
B&TB came out right before the Woody Allen-Mia Farrow-Soon-Yi Previn scandal, so it's probably in the film's best interest that he wasn't cast as the negative publicity might have reflected badly on the studio (see also: Victor Salva and POWDER).