Framestore was delighted to be chosen to collaborate with Disney on the live-action adaptation of the studio's ‘tale as old as time’, Beauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon.
The team looked after the ten core household staff characters, including Lumière, Cogsworth, Cadenza, Plumette, Mrs Potts and Chip. Collaborating with award-winning production designer Sarah Greenwood, the creative journey also saw Framestore's Art Department work on the initial concepts.
'Framestore is known throughout the industry for its groundbreaking, hand-crafted creature work, and we were all really excited about breathing new life into such treasured Disney characters.'Michael Eames - Global Head of Animation, Framestore
Framestore’s challenge was to craft characters who integrated with the opulence of the French Rococo production design, whilst still staying true to the blueprint of the Oscar-winning film from 1991. “The original Beauty and the Beast was a big part of why I wanted to have a career as a visual artist, so having the opportunity to revisit the characters, music, and magic of the Disney classic was a once in a lifetime opportunity. From beginning to end, collaborating with Bill Condon and Disney to bring Lumiere, Cogsworth, and the rest of the household staff to life was a dream come true for the entire Framestore crew.” Kyle McCulloch, VFX supervisor.
Cogsworth is an incredibly beautiful and ornate clock made up of a number of metals, gears and cogs. 'Working with Ian McKellen as a voice artist provided us with a wonderful place to start, because his delivery had so much character!' adds McCulloch. 'His delivery was so committed, and so dry, he got laughs from the first read through. That gave our animators a lot of material to work with.'
Cogsworth’s mouth is a sun-dial; a traditional feature on a grandfather clock, yet the intricate filigree and detail was engineered to create an expressive face. ‘Cogsworth is made of brass and the look of metal that doesn’t behave like metal was very distracting, and ultimately it was something we had to play with on every single character,' adds Dale Newton, Animation Supervisor. 'In terms of expressions we had to go to a phase of prototype rigging in animation, where we played with a variety of clockwork mechanisms and shapes within his face to work out what level to take his expressions to.'
Voiced by Ewan McGregor, Lumière is an elaborate candelabra, who expresses in a very physical way, ‘we watched lots of interviews of Ewan, and he has this smile and energy that is really in keeping with Lumière. We wanted to channel this spirit through the animation,’ adds Newton.
Lumière also has candle flames within his design, which was a great chance for the FX team to show some flair. ‘Often in visual effects, things simply need to look realistic and move the way they would in real life’, says Sonya Teich, FX Lead. ’This movie was quite special for us in FX because it involved magical phenomena, allowing us to infuse even the movement of something like a candle with an aesthetic that was specific to the world of Disney.’
Mrs Potts is a porcelain teapot, with limited movement and painted features. The look development process was a lengthy one, as the team played with aged, crackled porcelain and various details including the glaze and gold leaf against the warm tones of the film. ‘The materiality of it was fun’, says McCulloch. ‘In the original film they use the spout on the side of the teapot as her nose. We played her as a painted feature. We had to work with a design that epitomises who these characters are within the world of Disney.’
The eyes were a vital detail. ‘Mrs. Potts was a particularly unique challenge’, reveals Spencer Cook, Animation Supervisor. ‘Her performance required a wide range of complex human emotions, but with simple 2D shapes. The animation had to be broad enough to read clearly, and yet subtle enough to convey thoughts and emotions.’ Although based on the reference of Emma Thompson’s voice, Condon didn't want a tiny version of her face on the teapot; it was more about capturing her essence, in the way her mouth moves at certain points, or her eyebrows.
'There’s one scene of Garderobe singing that I’m really proud of, and it’s one of my favourite moments in the film. It’s so expressive, and so beautiful, and essentially is a bunch of curtains hung in a cabinet.'Kyle McCulloch - VFX Supervisor
Based on Audra McDonald’s opera singer character, Garderobe is the large wardrobe tasked to dress Beauty. An extravagant piece of furniture, Garderobe’s face is made up of a series of curtains which move as she speaks and sings. ‘It was a real abstraction of an idea but she’s really funny to watch, and it’s such an inventive use of VFX - a real thought-process went into the making of it’, adds Glen Pratt, VFX Supervisor.
Framestore’s rigging, animation and simulation teams collaborated to come up with a solution in which the animators could create movement and shapes using the broad structure of the curtains. The rig added the folding and natural shapes that were passed through a simulation team, who looked after the additional flow and flop of extra cloth.
‘It was one of the most fun experiences I had on a film!’Dale Newton - Animation Supervisor
Be Our Guest
Due to the high level of involvement of animated characters, Framestore joined The Third Floor and choreographer Anthony Van Last to pre-visualise many of the sequences in advance. The scene referenced a number of classic musical films, something that the team were inspired by, using dancers as reference to work out how the objects would move in the number.
This was true for the spectacular, head-turning ‘Be Our Guest’ dinner scene. During the shoot, the table was often physically empty. Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Tony-award winning theatre lighting designers, were brought on board by Condon to work out how household objects would light the scene, deciding on the playful use of the reflections from plates, dishes and utensils. ‘There was a massive amount of lighting and data recorded from the set. Bill really wanted to physically shoot the scene as much as possible, and then we could take it further when we brought these characters to life’, explains Pratt.
'I’m really proud of all of the beautiful work we produced across all disciplines, with some lovely performances of Mrs Potts being my favourites. As a team we are growing from strength to strength.'Dale Newton - Animation Supervisor
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