More than just another “The Art of…” book, Tale As Old As Time represents the best of what this genre should be.
Providing far more than an array of concept art with minimal narrative, Tale As Old As Time delves deep into the heart of the story behind Beauty and the Beast – both the classic animated film and in this revised and updated version, the new live-action adaptation. Stories abound in this introspective narrative about one of Disney’s most beloved films. Definitely worthwhile for any ardent fan who will likely find stories about the movie they’ve never heard of before.
Title: Tale As Old As Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast
Author: Charles Solomon
Age: 12 and up
Publisher: Disney Editions (DPW)
Genre: Non-fiction, art
The book pulls no punches, sharing how things came together along with stories about how they didn’t. Author Charles Solomon wasn’t afraid to tell both the good and the…difficult. I loved his “tale” about Angela Landsbury’s professionalism, coming in to the recording studio despite horrible delays and nailing the signature song pretty much in one take. Or the somber but touching final visit by a small group from the film to see Howard Ashman in the hospital, days before his passing. Solomon also was willing to describe some of the headier moments like the conflicts between Linda Woolverton who wrote the story and the story team who was trying to bring it to life (p.67). Or Jeffrey Katzenberg’s comment about needing to make the film more “commercial” to appeal to a broader audience than the darker, more somber version he was presented with (p.52).
Thank goodness they did. Some of the original ideas for the story were at times too complicated or involved too many characters. At one time there was an Aunt involved who was conniving and duped a somewhat gullible Gaston to do her bidding. In that version, Belle had a younger sister named Clarice and a cat named Charley. Producer Don Hahn commented, “We had business for her aunt, her little sister, her cat, her father – everybody but Belle, which is usually symptomatic of not knowing what to do with the main character (p.52).” Other versions included one where there was a wizard and three brothers vying for the throne and one with a falcon as a sidekick where the Beast was actually a good-hearted guy turned into a beast by an evil fairy.
This book goes beyond even the films to delve into the Broadway musical and the experience in Walt Disney World. For the musical, Solomon describes the challenges to go from stage to screen and the adaptation and additional songs created for this new version. And for the theme parks, he talks about how Enchanted Tales With Belle developed into a personal experience beyond simply picture-taking and how the ambience and menus were developed for Gaston’s Tavern and the stunning Be Our Guest Restaurant. Personally, I loved the story about how “the Grey Stuff” was created to go from the screen onto a plate and how it went from being a secret item you could order to being on the menu itself due to overwhelming demand.
While I wish there was more pre-production art for the new film, relying largely on company stock photos of the film itself, Solomon’s gift to fans looking forward to the live-action version is in the details. He has great stories about the new songs added to the already impressive soundtrack, the casting of the characters and their reflections on taking on these iconic roles, and some of the challenges in bringing an animated film like this to life. Overall, this is a wonderful book full of stories, photos, and artwork to delight Beauty and the Beast fans everywhere.
- Thanks to Disney Publishing Worldwide for providing a copy for review!
- The live action version of Beauty and the Beast opens nationwide March 17th