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Scenes that You DIDN’T Get to See: Like the prologue from “Beauty and the Beast”

Jim Hill takes you through a memorable moment from Disney’s 1991 animated classic that ultimately DIDN’T make it into the final version of the film.

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Just like many of you out there, I spent ‘way too much time over the past couple of days looking at the newly released Platinum Edition of Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast – Special Edition” DVD. All in all, I think that Buena Vista Home Entertainment did a wonderful job with their latest release … and yet …

Well, call me picky (Okay. You’re picky). But would it have killed these guys to have folded in a little footage from the aborted non-musical version of “B & B”? You know, the one that director Richard Purdum reportedly spent several months supervising over in London? Before then-Disney studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg shut the whole project down in the Fall of 1989 for radical revamping?

Or – better yet – how about showing us a story reel of the original prologue for the picture?

What’s that? You say that you don’t know anything about how “Beauty and the Beast” was originally supposed to have opened? The version that wasn’t just a series of stained glass windows but a fully animated sequence?

Well then … Pull up a chair, kids. For now it’s time to get a new take on “A Tale as Old as Time.” By that I mean, would “Beauty and the Beast” have been just as enjoyable for you if ithad started out like this …

The prologue started off as the opening for most Disney animated films that are based on classic fairy tales usually do: With a shot of an ornate storybook. The storybook opens to reveal an illustration of a shining white castle that looms over a lush green country side. An off-screen narrator says:

NARRATOR Once upon a Time … There lived a spoiled, self-centered little boy who would – one day – grow up to rule a kingdom …

The camera now pushes in on the palace and – as the illustration gives way to full animation – we see this eleven year old boy as he is being dressed and fussed over by a slew of harried servants. But the Prince is making it impossible for his staff to do its job. He’s sick and tired of getting all dressed up … sick and tired of being polite … sick and tired of boring old ceremonies.

As he’s being dressed, the Prince’s two loyal Regents try to explain to the boy that a wise old woman, a person who’s respected throughout all the land, is coming to pay him a visit. This wise woman once gave advice to his parents and is rumored to have magical powers.

PRINCE I don’t care! It’s my castle and I’m only going to do what I want!

Pushing the servants away, the boy races from the room.

PRINCE Just try and stop me!

The Prince then races outside into the courtyard – where he collides with a Beggar Woman who’s carrying a basket of flowers. Onlookers gasp as the boy accidentally knocks the old crone to the ground. Then the two Regents rush over and help the old woman to her feet.

The old Beggar Woman now levels her gaze at the boy. She’s a craggy old crone who has the wisdom of the ages in her eyes.

BEGGAR WOMAN I’m waiting for an apology.

Surprised that a commoner would dare to say such a thing to a royal, the boy laughs.

PRINCE You can wait all day.

BEGGAR WOMAN You’re not going to apologize?

The Prince crosses his arms.

PRINCE I don’t have to.

The Beggar Woman smiles patiently.

BEGGAR WOMAN I’ll give you one more chance.

The boy’s temper flares.

PRINCE Why should I say I’m sorry to some old beggar woman? I don’t care about you!

The Prince now angrily kicks the old Beggar Woman’s basket, scattering her flowers across the courtyard.

Fierce power now emanates from the eyes of the old Beggar Woman, as she gazes deeply into the Prince’s soul.

BEGGAR WOMAN I can see that … you care for nothing … you love no one but yourself ..

PRINCE (arrogantly) Why should I?

The old Beggar Woman shakes her head.

BEGGAR WOMAN Then you are no better than a beast …

The old Beggar Woman now raises her arms. The Prince gasps as the crone begins to glow with magic and power. His eyes grow wide and he bolts back into the castle.

The boy flees past his two Regents, who now – as they step in front of the Beggar Woman – attempt to apologize for the Prince’s impetuous behavior.

REGENT 1 Forgive him! He’s just a child!

BEGGAR WOMAN A child in need of a lesson.

The two Regents now try to stop the crone from entering the castle.

REGENT 2 Please! We can’t let you harm him!

BEGGAR WOMAN I warn you not to interfere.

The two Regents still attempt to block the Beggar Woman’s way. With a wave of her arm, the crone turns the two men into enchanted objects: a mantle clock and a candleabra.

The Beggar Woman now enters the castle, continuing after the fleeing boy, transforming any and all who dare to get in her way.

The frightened Prince races through the castle, looking over his shoulder as he flees. Eventually, he reaches the safety of his own room. The terrified boy attempts to bar the way by shoving furniture against the door, then cowers in a corner.

Moments later, the Beggar Woman appears in front of him. The Prince hides behind a chair.

BEGGAR WOMAN Since you are no better than a beast, then you deserve to look like one.

With a wave of her hand, the Prince is turned into a hideous creature: half-boy, half-beast.

BEGGAR WOMAN And you will remain a prisoner in this enchanted place with no human company.

The Beggar Woman now takes a single red Rose from her basket. The flower then begins to glow with enchantment.

BEGGAR WOMAN This Rose will bloom until your twenty-first birthday. If you can learn to love another and earn their love in return by the time the Rose withers … then the spell will be broken. If not, you will be doomed to remain a beast forever.

The Beggar Woman places the enchanted Rose in an empty vase on the table.

BEGGAR WOMAN I leave you with that … and a gift.

The Beggar Woman again reaches into her basket. This time, she produces an ornate, golden Mirror. The old crone places it on the table next to the Rose.

BEGGAR WOMAN This enchanted Mirror will show you any part of the wide world that you wish to see. Look well … for it’s a world you can no longer be part of.

And – in a flash of mystical light – the old Beggar Woman is gone.

The beastly Prince now races desperately through the castle … Up to the highest tower. From there, he spies the old Beggar Woman walking away from his palace. Disappearing into the deep, enchanted mist that’s now engulfing the castle.

PRINCE I’m sorry! Please! … Come back! I’m sorry!

The camera pulls back – away from the Prince as he continues to shout down at the crone from his tower – and the palace is swallowed up by the mist …

Pretty cool, huh? Now, before Disney’s lawyers descend on JimHillMedia.com with their nasty little briefcases, let me point out that the above is just an approximation of what the original prologue of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” was supposed to have been like. (Where did I get all of my info? Well, I’m lucky enough to have a few friends at Disney Feature Animation who once showed me what the storyboards for this proposed prologue for this picture looked like. Over the past 10 years, I’ve also had access to the first draft of the Ashman / Menken redo of “B & B” – dated 6/14/90 – as well as the second draft of Linda Woolverton’s screenplay – dated 6/29/90. The recreated dialogue used here is a melding of what I remember from reading those two versions of the script.)

So why did Disney not to open “Beauty and the Beast” in this manner? Admittedly, there are some great dramatic moments in this version of the opening of the movie (I particularly like the idea of getting to see Lumiere & Cogsworth – in a valiant attempt to protect their lord & master – block the way of the old beggar woman. Only to have the loyal servants then be transformed into a mantle clock and a candlelabra. And that scene between the arrogant young boy & the ugly old crone out in the courtyard isn’t half bad either). But – beyond that …

Oh, let’s be honest here, folks. The middle part of this proposed prologue for the picture (Where the old crone is spelling out the exact way her curse works. What the Mirror does. What the Rose signifies. Blah blah blah) gets real talky. “B & B”‘s screenwriter Linda Woolverton tries to cram a fairly large chunk of exposition down the audience’s throat in a small amount of time. Which is – perhaps – why we all had trouble swallowing this particular section of the sequence.

Still, as originally written, “Beauty and the Beast”‘s prologue did end really strongly. With the anguished Prince in the highest tower of the Castle, yelling down at the crone. Begging for the old Beggar Woman’s forgiveness as she walks off into the fog.

What’s particularly interesting is – after this point in the script – the screenplay indicates that the film’s title was to have appeared (albeit briefly): Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” rising up out of the mist. Then – as the title and the mist faded away – we’re outside Belle’s village. We see Belle and Maurice’s cottage in the distance. As the music rises, Belle steps out of her front door on a crisp fall morning and …

The film picks up right where it does today. With Belle, Gaston, Lefou and the villagers singing “Belle.”

So why did “B & B” directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale ultimately decide to ditch Woolverton’s proposed prologue for “Beauty and the Beast”? Opting instead to go with the stain glass window version of the opening that the film has now? Two words (that almost every animator has heard ‘way too often): “Cheaper” & “Faster.”

If Wise & Trousdale had gone forward with Linda’s prologue as originally written, that would have translated out to an additional five or six minutes of screen-time. And – back in the late 1980s/ early 1990s – it was reportedly costing Walt Disney Feature Animation over $100,000 to produce a minute of finished animation. So – by cutting out this one sequence – Disney could shave over a half million dollars off of “B & B”‘s production costs.

But – more to the point – by putting together a shorter, more cost effective opening for “Beauty and the Beast,” Kirk & Gary could get their film underway that much faster. So Linda’s five to six minute prologue was dropped in favor of a 2 ½ minute long opening sequence that elegantly & concisely laid out all of the film’s necessary exposition. (Of course, it should be noted here that Wise & Trousdale spent months massaging the exact wording of the film’s opening narration. In fact, they supposedly continued to refine the wording right up until late September 1989 – just six weeks before “B & B” was due to hit theaters nationwide. All in an effort to get the wording of the film’s opening narration just right.)

Which is how we all ended up with the opening sequence that you can see today on your DVD or Home Video version of the Plantium Edition of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Beauty and the Beast.” Rather than the one I recreated earlier.

Of course, some of you might now be saying “But, Jim … That B & B opening sequence seems awfully familiar to me. I just know that I’ve seen or heard something similar to that before.” Well, that’s because you’ve probably seen the 1997 direct-to-video sequel to “Beauty and the Beast,” “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.”

While they were getting ready to write this “B & B” sequel, “The Enchanted Christmas”‘s writers (Flip Kobler & Cindy Marcus and Bill Motz & Bob Roth) unearthed Linda Woolverton’s original screenplay for the movie. Why? Because they were hoping that they might find a few unused ideas that they might be able to fold into their direct-to-video project. Which is why the teleplay team also went over to WDFA’s Reference Library and dug out all of “Beauty and The Beast”‘s old storyboards … which is where they found all of the visualization work that had been done on the picture’s proposed prologue sequence.

Liking what they saw, Kobler, Marcus, Motz & Roth took the basic idea behind Woolverton’s prologue for “Beauty and the Beast” and bent the sequence a bit. So that it now fit into the storyline that Flip, Cindy, Bill and Bob had mapped out for “Enchanted Christmas.”

So – in this new version of “B & B”‘s original opening scene – the old Beggar Woman now shows up at the Prince’s castle on Christmas Eve. The arrogant young boy has just rejected a gift that his loyal staff has given him (A storybook, if I’m remembering correctly).

There’s then a knock at the front door of the palace. The Prince opens the door to find an old beggar woman, who ” … offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the Prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away …”

The rest of the story … I’m sure you know by heart. But what is kind of cool about this sequence in “The Enchanted Christmas” is you actually do get to see Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip get turned into enchanted objects.

As for the rest of this direct-to-video sequel to “Beauty & the Beast” … Well, it has its moments. But nothing that’s as strong as this little leftover piece of “B & B”‘s original prologue.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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General

Seward Johnson bronzes add a surreal, artistic touch to NYC’s Garment District

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Greetings from NYC. Nancy and I drove down from New
Hampshire yesterday because we'll be checking out
Disney Consumer Products' annual Holiday Showcase later today.

Anyway … After checking into our hotel (i.e., The Paul.
Which is located down in NYC's NoMad district), we decided to grab some dinner.
Which is how we wound up at the Melt Shop.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is this restaurant that only sells grilled cheese sandwiches.
This comfort food was delicious, but kind of on the heavy side.


Photo by Jim Hill

Which is why — given that it was a beautiful summer night
— we'd then try and walk off our meals. We started our stroll down by the Empire
State Building


Photo by Jim Hill

… and eventually wound up just below Times
Square
(right behind where the Waterford Crystal Times Square New
Year's Eve Ball
is kept).


Photo by Jim Hill

But you know what we discovered en route? Right in the heart
of Manhattan's Garment District
along Broadway between 36th and 41st? This incredibly cool series of life-like
and life-sized sculptures that Seward
Johnson has created
.


Photo by Jim Hill

And — yes — that is Abraham Lincoln (who seems to have
slipped out of WDW's Hall of Presidents when no one was looking and is now
leading tourists around Times Square). These 18 painted
bronze pieces (which were just installed late this past Sunday night / early
Monday morning) range from the surreal to the all-too-real.


Photo by Jim Hill

Some of these pieces look like typical New Yorkers. Like the
business woman planning out her day …


Photo by Jim Hill

… the postman delivering the mail …


Photo by Jim Hill

… the hot dog vendor working at his cart …


Photo by Jim Hill


Photo by Jim Hill

… the street musician playing for tourists …


Photo by Jim Hill

Not to mention the tourists themselves.


Photo by Jim Hill

But right alongside the bronze businessmen …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and the tired grandmother hauling her groceries home …


Photo by Jim Hill

… there were also statues representing people who were
from out-of-town …


Photo by Jim Hill

… or — for that matter — out-of-time.


Photo by Jim Hill

These were the Seward Johnson pieces that genuinely beguiled. Famous impressionist paintings brought to life in three dimensions.


Note the out-of-period water bottle that some tourist left
behind. Photo by Jim Hill 

Some of them so lifelike that you actually had to pause for
a moment (especially as day gave way to night in the city) and say to yourself
"Is that one of the bronzes? Or just someone pretending to be one of these
bronzes?"

Mind you, for those of you who aren't big fans of the
impressionists …


Photo by Jim Hill

… there's also an array of American icons. Among them
Marilyn Monroe …


Photo by Jim Hill

… and that farmer couple from Grant Wood's "American
Gothic."


Photo by Jim Hill

But for those of you who know your NYC history, it's hard to
beat that piece which recreates Alfred Eisenstaedt's famous photograph of V-J Day in Times Square.


Photo by Jim Hill

By the way, a 25-foot-tall version of this particular Seward
Johnson piece ( which — FYI — is entitled "Embracing Peace") will actually
be placed in Times Square for a few days on or around  August 14th to commemorate the 70th
anniversary of Victory Over Japan Day (V-J Day).


Photo by Jim Hill

By the way, if you'd like to check these Seward Johnson bronzes in
person (which — it should be noted — are part of the part of the Garment
District Alliance
's new public art offering) — you'd best schedule a trip to
the City sometime over the next three months. For these pieces will only be on
display now through September 15th. 

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Wondering what you should “Boldly Go” see at the movies next year? The 2015 Licensing Expo offers you some clues

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Greeting from the 2015 Licensing Expo, which is being held
at the Mandalay Bay
Convention Center in Las
Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

I have to admit that I enjoy covering the Licensing Expo.
Mostly becomes it allows bloggers & entertainment writers like myself to
get a peek over the horizon. Scope out some of the major motion pictures &
TV shows that today's vertically integrated entertainment conglomerates
(Remember when these companies used to be called movie studios?) will be
sending our way over the next two years or so.


Photo by Jim Hill

Take — for example — all of "The Secret Life of
Pets
" banners that greeted Expo attendees as they made their way to the
show floor today. I actually got to see some footage from this new Illumination
Entertainment
production (which will hit theaters on July 8, 2016) the last time I was in Vegas. Which
was for CinemaCon back in April. And the five or so minutes of film that I viewed
suggested that "The Secret Life of Pets" will be a really funny
animated feature.


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, Universal Pictures wanted to make sure that Expo
attendees remembered that there was another Illumination Entertainment production
coming-to-a-theater-near-them before "The Secret Life of Pets" (And
that's "Minions," the "Despicable Me" prequel. Which
premieres at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival next week but
won't be screened stateside 'til July 10th of this year). Which is why they had
three minions who were made entirely out of LEGOS loitering out in the lobby.


Photo by Jim Hill

And Warner Bros. — because they wanted "Batman v
Superman: Dawn of Justice
" to start trending on Twitter today — brought
the Batmobile to Las Vegas.


Photo by Jim Hill

Not to mention full-sized macquettes of Batman, Superman and
Wonder Woman. Just so conventioneers could then see what these DC superheroes
would actually look like in this eagerly anticipated, March 25, 2016 release.


Photo by Jim Hill

That's the thing that can sometimes be a wee bit frustrating
about the Licensing Expo. It's all about delayed gratification. You'll come
around a corner and see this 100 foot-long ad for "The Peanuts Movie"
and think "Hey, that looks great. I want to see that Blue Sky Studios production
right now." It's only then that you notice the fine print and realize that
"The Peanuts Movie" doesn't actually open in theaters 'til November
6th of this year.


Photo by Jim Hill

And fan of Blue Sky's "Ice Age" film franchise are in for an even
longer wait. Given that the latest installment in that top grossing series
doesn't arrive in theaters 'til July
15, 2016.


Photo by Jim Hill

Of course, if you're one of those people who needs immediate
gratification when it comes to your entertainment, there was stuff like that to
be found at this year's Licensing Expo. Take — for example — how the WWE
booth was actually shaped like a wrestling ring. Which — I'm guessing — meant
that if the executives of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. didn't like
the offer that you were making, they were then allowed to toss you out over the
top rope, Royal Rumble-style.


Photo by Jim Hill

I also have to admit that — as a longtime Star Trek fan —
it was cool to see the enormous Starship Enterprise that hung in place over the
CBS booth. Not to mention getting a glimpse of the official Star Trek 50th
Anniversary logo.


Photo by Jim Hill

I was also pleased to see lots of activity in The Jim Henson
Company booth. Which suggests that JHC has actually finally carved out a
post-Muppets identity for itself.


Photo by Jim Hill

Likewise for all of us who were getting a little concerned
about DreamWorks Animation (what with all the layoffs & write-downs &
projects that were put into turnaround or outright cancelled last year), it was
nice to see that booth bustling.


Photo by Jim Hill

Every so often, you'd come across some people who were
promoting a movie that you weren't entirely sure that you actually wanted to
see (EX: "Angry Birds," which Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia
Pictures
will be releasing to theaters on May 20, 2016). But then you remembered that Clay Kaytis
who's this hugely talented former Walt Disney Animation Studios animator — is
riding herd on "Angry Birds" with Fergal Reilly. And you'd think
"Well, if Clay's working on 'Angry Birds,' I'm sure this animated feature
will turn out fine."


Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, there were reminders at this year's Licensing Expo
of great animated features that we're never going to get to see now. I still
can't believe — especially after that brilliant proof-of-concept footage
popped up online last year — that Sony execs decided not to go forward
with  production
of Genndy Tartakovsky's
"Popeye" movie.  But that's the
cruel thing about the entertainment business, folks. It will sometime break
your heart.


Photo by Jim Hill

And make no mistake about this. The Licensing Expo is all
about business. That point was clearly driven home at this year's show when —
as you walked through the doors of the Mandalay
Bay Convention Center
— the first thing that you saw was the Hasbros Booth. Which was this gleaming,
sleek two story-tall affair full of people who were negotiating deals &
signing contracts for all of the would-be summer blockbusters that have already
announced release dates for 2019 & beyond.


Photo by Jim Hill

"But what about The Walt Disney Company?," you
ask. "Weren't they represented on the show floor at this year's Licensing
Expo?" Not really, not. I mean, sure. There were a few companies there hyping
Disney-related products. Take — for example — the Disney Wikkeez people.


Photo by Jim Hill

I'm assuming that some Disney Consumer Products exec is
hoping that Wikkeez will eventually become the new Tsum Tsum. But to be blunt,
these little hard plastic figures don't seem to have the same huggable charm
that those stackable plush do. But I've been wrong before. So let's see what
happens with Disney Wikkeez once they start showing up on the shelves of the
Company's North American retail partners.


Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of Disney's retail partners … They were
meeting with Mouse House executives behind closed doors one floor down from the
official show floor for this year's Licensing Expo.


Photo by Jim Hill

And the theme for this year's invitation-only Disney shindig? "Timeless
Stories" involving the Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm brands that
would then appeal to "tomorrow's consumer."


Photo by Jim Hill

And just to sort of hammer home the idea that Disney is no
longer the Company which cornered the market when it comes to little girls
(i.e., its Disney Princess and Disney Fairies franchises), check out this
wall-sized Star Wars-related image that DCP put up just outside of one of its
many private meeting rooms. "See?," this carefully crafted photo
screams. "It isn't just little boys who want to wield the Force. Little
girls also want to grow up and be Lords of the Sith."


Photo by Jim Hill

One final, kind-of-ironic note: According to this banner,
Paramount Pictures will be releasing a movie called "Amusement Park"
to theaters sometime in 2017.  


Photo by Jim Hill

Well, given all the "Blackfish" -related issues
that have been dogged SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment over the past two years, I'm
just hoping that they'll still be in the amusement park business come 2017.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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It takes more than three circles to craft a Classic version of Mickey Mouse

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You know what Mickey Mouse looks like, right? Little guy,
big ears?

Truth be told, Disney's corporate symbol has a lot of
different looks. If Mickey's interacting with Guests at Disneyland
Park
(especially this summer, when
the Happiest Place on Earth
is celebrating its 60th anniversary), he looks & dresses like this.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc.
All rights reserved

Or when he's appearing in one of those Emmy Award-winning shorts that Disney
Television Animation has produced (EX: "Bronco Busted," which debuts
on the Disney Channel tonight at 8 p.m. ET / PT), Mickey is drawn in a such a
way that he looks hip, cool, edgy & retro all at the same time.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights
reserved

Looking ahead to 2017 now, when Disney Junior rolls out "Mickey and the
Roadster Racers
," this brand-new animated series will feature a sportier version
of Disney's corporate symbol. One that Mouse House managers hope will persuade
preschool boys to more fully embrace this now 86 year-old character.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

That's what most people don't realize about the Mouse. The
Walt Disney Company deliberately tailors Mickey's look, even his style of
movement, depending on what sort of project / production he's appearing in.

Take — for example — Disney
California Adventure
Park
's "World of Color:
Celebrate!
" Because Disney's main mouse would be co-hosting this new
nighttime lagoon show with ace emcee Neil Patrick Harris, Eric Goldberg really had
to step up Mickey's game. Which is why this master Disney animator created
several minutes of all-new Mouse animation which then showed that Mickey was
just as skilled a showman as Neil was.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc.
All rights reserved

Better yet, let's take a look at what the folks at Avalanche Studios just went
through as they attempted to create a Classic version of Mickey & Minnie.
One that would then allow this popular pair to become part of Disney Infinity
3.0.

"I won't lie to you. We were under a lot of pressure to
get the look of this particular version of Mickey — he's called Red Pants
Mickey around here — just right," said Jeff Bunker, the VP of Art
Development at Avalanche Studios, during a recent phone interview. "When
we brought Sorcerer Mickey into Disney Infinity 1.0 back in January of 2014,
that one was relatively easy because … Well, everyone knows what Mickey Mouse
looked like when he appeared in 'Fantasia.' "


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"But this time around, we were being asked to design
THE Mickey & Minnie," Bunker continued. "And given that these Classic
Disney characters have been around in various different forms for the better
part of the last century … Well, which look was the right look?"

Which is why Jeff and his team at Avalanche Studios began watching hours &
hours of Mickey Mouse shorts. As they tried to get a handle on which look would
work best for these characters in Disney Infinity 3.0.


Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"And we went all the way back to the very start of Mickey's career. We began
with 'Steamboat Willie' and then watched all of those black & white Mickey shorts
that Walt made back in the late 1920s & early 1930s. From there, we
transitioned to his Technicolor shorts. Which is when Mickey went from being
this pie-eyed, really feisty character to more of a well-behaved leading
man," Bunker recalled. "We then finished out our Mouse marathon by
watching all of those new Mickey shorts that Paul Rudish & his team have
been creating for Disney Television Animation. Those cartoons really recapture
a lot of the spirit and wild slapstick fun that Mickey's early, black &
white shorts had."

But given that the specific assignment that Avalanche Studios had been handed
was to create the most appealing looking, likeable version of Mickey Mouse
possible … In the end, Jeff and his team wound up borrowing bits & pieces
from a lot of different versions of the world's most famous mouse. So that
Classic Mickey would then look & move in a way that best fit the sort of
gameplay which people would soon be able to experience with Disney Infinity
3.0.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"That — in a lot of ways — was actually the toughest
part of the Classic Mickey design project. You have to remember that one of the
key creative conceits of  Disney Infinity
is that all the characters which appear in this game are toys," Bunker
stated. "Okay. So they're beautifully detailed, highly stylized toy
versions of beloved Disney, Pixar, Marvel & Lucasfilm characters. But
they're still supposed to be toys. So our Classic versions of Mickey &
Minnie have the same sort of thickness & sturdiness to them that toys have.
So that they'll then be able to fit right in with all of the rest of the
characters that Avalanche Studios had previously designed for Disney Infinity."

And then there was the matter of coming up with just the
right pose for Classic Mickey & Minnie. Which — to hear Jeff tell the
story — involved input from a lot of Disney upper management.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"Everyone within the Company seemed to have an opinion
about how Mickey & Minnie should be posed. More to the point, if you Google
Mickey, you then discover that there are literally thousands of poses out there
for these two. Though — truth be told — a lot of those kind of play off the
way Mickey poses when he's being Disney's corporate symbol," Bunker said.
"But what I was most concerned about was that Mickey's pose had to work
with Minnie's pose. Because we were bringing the Classic versions of these
characters up into Disney Infinity 3.0 at the exact same time. And we wanted to
make sure — especially for those fans who like to put their Disney Infinity
figures on display — that Mickey's pose would then complement Minnie.

Which is why Jeff & the crew at Avalanche Studios
decided — when it came to Classic Mickey & Minnie's pose — that they
should go all the way back to the beginning. Which is why these two Disney icons
are sculpted in such a way that it almost seems as though you're witnessing the
very first time Mickey set eyes on Minnie.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

"And what was really great about that was — as soon as
we began showing people within the Company this pose — everyone at Disney
quickly got on board with the idea. I mean, the Classic Mickey that we sculpted
for Disney Infinity 3.0 is clearly a very playful, spunky character. But at the
same time, he's obviously got eyes for Minnie," Bunker concluded. "So
in the end, we were able to come up with Classic versions of these characters
that will work well within the creative confines of Disney Infinity 3.0 but at
the same time please those Disney fans who just collect these figures because
they like the way the Disney Infinity characters look."

So now that this particular design project is over, does
Jeff regret that Mouse House upper management was so hands-on when it came to
making sure that the Classic versions of Mickey & Minnie were specifically
tailored to fit the look & style of gameplay found in Disney Infinity 3.0?


Copyright Lucasfilm / Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"To be blunt, we go through this every time we add a new character to the
game. The folks at Lucasfilm were just as hands-on when we were designing the
versions of Darth Vader and Yoda that will also soon be appearing in Disney
Infinity 3.0," Bunker laughed. "So in the end, if the character's
creators AND the fans are happy, then I'm happy."

This article was originally posted on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Jim Hill

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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