Beauty and the Beast Beauty and the Beast
DisneyFeature Film

Unseen Footage From Disney’s First Attempt at ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Beauty and the Beast
An early interpretation of the Beast by Glen Keane.

As Disney prepares its live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, it’s worth taking a look back and remembering that the beloved Disney feature was not always intended to be a musical.

Former Disney visual development artist for Beauty and the Beast and Mulan Hans Bacher has uploaded a six-and-a-half-minute compilation of behind-the-scenes footage from the film’s early development in 1989, including a short clip of a story reel, depicting an early intended opening for the film.

Not commonly known, the film started development in London when key animators Glen Keane (Beast) and Andreas Deja (Gaston), among others, worked on the story under the directorial guidance of Richard and Jill Purdum. The home movies, taken from five hours of unreleased footage shot by Bacher in the Purdums’s animation studio, also reveals early concept art for the Beast’s castle and decidedly porcine designs of the Beast himself.

Among the Disney staffers who can be spotted in Bacher’s clip are producer Don Hahn, Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, Derek Gogol, Mel Shaw, Tom Sito, and Bacher himself. There’s footage of the late Mel Shaw taking a dust buster to the pastel grains on his castle concept art and Disney staff revelling at a wine and cheese party.

The story reel clip, which starts at the 5:17 minute mark, provides a glimpse of a lighter, less gloomy prologue to Beauty and the Beast, with a temporary music box soundtrack, an excised sinister aunt character, and a cheery old-fashioned narratorial style that makes one long for the dark, rich tones of David Ogden Stiers. Executives back in Burbank, California felt that it wasn’t the right take on the story and eventually pushed the film in a more musical direction with different directors. Below is an extended look at the Purdums’s reel:

By his own account, Bacher ultimately quit the film when he saw the finished design for the castle, and has called the resulting film “just another generic looking Disney movie.” Head to Hans’s blog for much more artwork and photos from his time on Beauty and the Beast.

  • jhalpernkitcat

    Beauty and the Beast was one of my earliest movie theater memories–and one of my favorite Disney movies ever.
    THe storyboard is very interesting as it shows how much different the story originally was–with a few things such as the inviting castle with practically unseen servants, a summer garden, and Maurice as a merchant who unexpectantly hits poverty connecting to several literary versions of the fairy tale.

    Yet, while I enjoy the delightful horsie–and the silent yet alive objects–especially the stable ones–that aunt is horrid and doesn’t really add much to the story–aside from introducing Gaston–who I am actually glad they transformed from a foppish nobleman to a handsome, yet boorish villager.

    Also–that scene in the marketplace with the prostitute beckoning to Maurice was a bit of a surprise.

  • Droobiedoo

    Well…it only got better. Especially on the visual front.

  • Fredster

    Interesting as it was, I can’t help but imagine how horrible the movie would’ve ended up if they’d continued down this route. It’s tedious and just doesn’t work as a first act.

  • AmidAmidi

    You should argue that point with Hans himself because he has written that he quit the film.

    • RCooke

      You are correct. I fixed it.

  • Beamish Kinowerks

    I like the mandrill look, but it probably would’ve been more appropriate for a project like THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU.

  • Marc Hendry

    Does anyone know what Richard Purdum is doing now?

  • Stuart Sumida

    Rafiki in Lion King was a hybrid of a mandrill and a baboon.

  • Geoffrey Hayes

    As an artist/writer myself, I understand how attached one can get to one’s initial concepts or to memories of frustration or anger when those don’t seem to be appreciated. But this is boring. I can see why Disney went in another direction. None of the characters have any personality, Belle’s little sister is no more than a prop, and there’s far too much time taken up with the slapstick antics of that silly horse. Orson??? This feels cluttered. Too many subsidiary characters. Poor pacing.

  • Tony

    Great to see that Disney had the dedication to at least explore a different visual feel than the ultimate release. In some of the early shots I can deliberately see a Gainsborough influence, and even throughout the reel. Also, I’ve never seen a story reel where so many of the drawings are rendered as much. Very cool. Obviously a different time for Disney. As productions progressed in the subsequent years, the emphasis was on story, followed by the vis dev and story reels. Thanks for sharing this gem.