I was honored to be invited to the #BeOurGuestEvent, a Disney press junket for Beauty and the Beast, Moana Bluray, and other Disney and ABC TV programming. As a guest, my expenses were covered in return for a series of articles about my experiences and reviews of the programming.
What a memorable moment I had with Alan Menkin during the Beauty and the Beast press junket in Los Angeles!
I have been sharing the experiences I had during during the Beauty and the Beast press junket. You can find all our stories by clicking on #BeOurGuestEvent. One of the best moments, during my trip, was hearing Alan Menken play out a melody of Beauty and the Beast music LIVE on a grand piano at the start of the press conference. When, Dan Stevens and Josh Gad joined in to sing Gaston…I am pretty sure all of us were in awe. Take a listen.
How amazing for us, that moments after that performance, we were sitting down with Bill Condon and Alan Menken to interview them about Beauty and the Beast.
Director Bill Condon & Music Composer Extraordinaire Alan Menken, a beautiful collaboration!
Beauty and the Beast is available in theaters nationwide. Avoid waiting in lines at the theater or having tickets sold out. Buy your Beauty and the Beast tickets in advance by clicking HERE to buy your tickets through Fandango.
Learn what we learned about the making of Beauty and the Beast from Bill Condon and Alan Menken
Getting involved with the live adaption of Beauty and the Beast
With such an impressive résumé of film and music we wanted to know what drew both Bill Condon and Alan Menken into retelling the Beauty and the Beast story through a live action-packed film. They were both eager to share their connection to Beauty and the Beast and what they hoped would come from a reimagination of the film.
Alan started, “I was drawn to the story by Disney. Howard Ashman and I were working on Little Mermaid, it hadn’t been released yet but people were very happy with it.” Alan talked about the interest in both developing Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin as new films. After some discussion Beauty and the Beast became the next project. Alan continued to explain, “As far as what drew me to it beyond that I credit Howard, who had some really (great ideas). You look at the initial story and (consider) how to turn it into an animated musical. It was a matter of inventing the enchanted objects and inventing this huge ego for Gaston and his posse of nitwits who praise him. Simply for the structure we needed to put in production numbers and comedy numbers and it was all those brilliant ideas and I gotta say Howard was instrumental in that.” All of these projects within the project are what pulled Alan Menken into being part of the new vision for Beauty and the Beast.
Bill adds, “I have to say it was, I come in. There’s this movie, this classic, perfect movie that already exists and for me more than anything it was the score, the chance to really roll around in that music and to restage it, do a new version of it in a live action format, but to specially those songs. It just felt to me like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Before we moved on to another question Alan shared his joy that Bill Condon would be a part of Beauty and the Beast, “When I heard that Bill was directing it, I didn’t know you (him). I knew the work you (he) had done but Richard said Bill is a major fan of musical theatre. He loves it so this was oh, he knows the craft. He knows musicals and that was huge.”
Bill Condon and Alan Menken on Working Together
We wanted to know how do two brilliant geniuses work together. I do love how the idea of collaborating was something both Bill and Alan looked forward to.
Bill went first sharing, “Well for me I was intimidated at our first meeting because here I am and I’m sort of talking about the first possible new song and this is a legendary composer but also, (Beauty and the Beast) is a property that as we keep saying is perfect on its own.” Bill talked about how you want to know what can you add to a film that is already great. He continued to explain and talk about the collaboration, “I think Alan as a man of the theatre, is somebody who craves the dialogue and the collaboration. I think that’s what it’s about and that became clear very, very soon. We just started a conversation, (that) went on for a couple of years”
Alan agreed while adding, “We’re both professionals. We both have done a lot of work. We know what’s necessary in order to collaborate. There are people who are new to musicals and will try to reinvent the wheel in one direction or another but both of us have been through so much and when you’re a pro you basically arrive at the same place because you know what’s important and you know what needs to get done. You also know the necessity of process and I know that for me to go back to Beauty and the Beast on my own, no way I could do it.” Alan elaborated, “I had done it. It’s all about other people coming in and collaborating and for me. The director is the boss and it takes such a burden off me. I’m able to be a catalyst which is what I wanna be more than somebody driving the ship.”
Making the classic, Beauty and the Beast better
I think all of us can recognize that when you are trying to remake a classic, or tell a great story in a new way there are challenges. What do you add to enrich the story? What do you keep to not stray from what made the story of classic in the first place? As the director, Bill Condon explained how he handled it.
Bill says, “I think it was always about revealing more. It wasn’t about reinventing. It was (lets) bring it into the real world and (then) you start to ask questions that didn’t matter in the animated film. How did Belle and Maurice wind up in this village? What happened to her mother? How did the Prince become such a dissolute figure that he was worthy of being cursed? It’s interesting, you start asking those questions and you start to bat around what the possible answers are. Then, you’re making something different but I think for me I could (had to) rely on my own kind of reverence for the original film in knowing when you’re changing something or going too far. You know, I hope never to cross that line.
The Music of Beauty and the Beast
With a longer film we first wanted to know if there was any new music in this telling of the Beauty and the Beast. Don’t you want to know? Alan shared some interesting insight on the new music in Beauty and the Beast.
Alan told us, “Before Bill was on as a director, this goes back to about 2008. There were discussions about a movie version of Beauty and it went as far as an early script. When I was in London working on Sister Act, Tim was there and I said let’s try, working on a couple of songs. The Days in the Sun (song), the genesis of that began back there as sort of a lullaby moment but once Bill came aboard then that really got reworked to be a vehicle of so much back story. The other songs I would say were the songs we decided at the beginning. The actual conception of the songs was yes, here they are. The actual execution was two years of here are these songs, black and blue and, we’re going to reprise it here and we’re going to put it here, so a little bit of How Does a Moment Last Forever into the middle of Days in the Sun. We’re gonna take the Days in the Sun theme and we’re gonna put it at the top as the Aria and you begin, you have these threads and you begin to weave with them.
Bringing music to an action film
As you can see we spent some time talking about bringing a classic animated film to the big screen. We couldn’t get enough information from Bill and Alan. As eager as we were to learn more, they were just as eager to keep sharing their stories and experiences. Here they explain about taking music and incorporating it into a feature film so that the Beauty and the Beast’s music told a story as it was sung by the characters.
Bill said, “Well the thing is that it had been conceived as a movie first. There are certain principles; you can’t just stop a movie for a ballad for three minutes. The story’s has to be told during the course of a movie number. You can’t do things (that) you can do on stage. That had already been figured out by Alan and Howard and the creations of the originals. That was a useful thing to build on, and I think for me in terms of making it different you take the (musical) number of Belle. People look at that and say, well, it’s just the way it was in the animated but actually, in the course of (the song) we’re telling some other new stories. We’re showing the fact that this is a village where only boys go to school or girls do their laundry and where, the village lasses who are so into Gaston resent Belle because their mother has always doted more on Belle than her.” This is where I personally picked up on so many details I missed the first time I watched Beauty and the Beast. As Bill says, “Little glimpses, characters who then turn out to play bigger roles in, one of them turns out to be Mr. Potts. One of them turns out to be somebody else’s spouse, it was fun to be able to pack as much story into the songs because I think you’d agree that’s when movie songs really work.”
Alan praised Bill as he added to our conversation, “What Bill was doing, you could compare it a high wire act. I mean in a sense every choice he makes is one that has to be weighed against the next choice he makes and then also what was there and people’s expectations. I always say we have two brains. … The gut brain that tells me I need something there. My gut tells me it doesn’t make sense. There’s something wrong with that. My job, as I often liken what I do to being an architect, we take a story and we create structures that can be musicalized and write these songs and we create that structure.” After more elaboration Alan says, “I love when a song or a musical of mine is reconceived as long as you don’t take our numbers and throw hand grenade to it. A structure is a structure but then it’s great when it gets reinvented and that’s been so well done with this movie.”
Casting Emma Watson as Belle
By now we all know that Emma Watson was cast as Beauty and the Beast’s Belle. We wanted to know how that came about. How did Bill Condon know that Emma would make the perfect Belle? Considering that every story has two sides, I’d love for you to head over to our interview with Emma Watson, to get her side of the story. Here’s Bill’s.
Bill talks about the first moment he knew Emma would be the right actress, “Well I suspected it just seeing her in Harry Potter. It seemed like that was a perfect kind of connection to a 21st century Belle. Then we met. I was shooting a movie called Mr. Holmes. We met for an hour and the thing that I loved was how much she loved the original movie and how much she wanted to play the part and she came with a whole pile of books, because I was late, she was in the middle of reading. Then the only question really became she’s never sung professionally before. (We needed to know if she could sing.) She needed to answer that question for herself too. She wanted to go off (and see if she could sing.)”
“It was Christmas holiday and she said, you go out and get a script together you can send me. We made a handshake deal and (Emma went) off and made a tape and explore her voice. That was the thing, that kind of scary moment. To me it’s more intimate than taking off your clothes, when you first hear somebody sing even in a karaoke session. It’s like oh, my God, that’s the sound that comes out of you. We’ve seen that a few times in movies too but, for her the voice, her voice is so much — it’s so much a continuation of who she is and how she speaks and there was clearly this kind of sweetness to it and clarity to it that made it seem like it was gonna be a different Belle but it was going to be a really satisfying one.
Alan adds about Emma singing professionally for the first time, “She was a little terrified. I mean no bones about it and we made sure she had her vocal coach. I had Michael Kosarin, my musical director. Bill was at the sessions. This is not necessarily (how) it always is, but it’s helpful because she was I think really intimidated by me. I don’t know why. Possibly because of me being the composer I don’t think she wanted to be that vulnerable in front of me. I really hung in the back of the control room. We also had a guy named Matt Sullivan who is a music supervisor and had to give Emma the space to just find her voice and work on it and work on it and she did and Dan was similar. It was new for both of them.
It was so delightful to talk with both Bill Condon and Alan Menken. They took the time to share with us answers that were so thoughtful and gave us insight into the magnitude of putting together a Disney film. I think, even when the time came to end our interview, they didn’t want it to be over. We didn’t either. ;-). This is the last of our Beauty and the Beast interviews. I hope you have enjoyed them. Remember, you can click over to here, to read more of our Beauty and the Beast interviews.
Watch Beauty and the Beast TODAY at your local theater!
- Avoid waiting in lines at the theater or having tickets sold out. Buy your Beauty and the Beast tickets in advance by clicking HERE to buy your tickets through Fandango.
- Learn more about Beauty and the Beast by clicking over to this post, Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Movie Trailers, Behind the Scenes Features & More
- Enjoy Beauty and the Beast coloring sheets and activity pages by clicking over to this post, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Printables & Coloring Sheets
- Read about our interview with Emma Watson (Belle) in this article, Get to know Beauty and the Beast’s Belle, Emma Watson
- Read about our interview with Dan Stevens (Beast) in this article, Get to know Beauty and the Beast’s Beast, Dan Stevens
- Read about our interview with Luke Evans (Gaston) & Josh Gad (Le Fou) in this article, Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston & Le Fou, Luke Evans & Josh Gad
- Read about our interview with Audra McDonald (Garderobe) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette) in this article,Beauty and the Beast’s Garderobe & Plumette, Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Please note Jersey Family Fun does participate in affiliate programs. If you use our link to purchase products, a small commission does go to Jersey Family Fun to support our free services to readers, but this does not affect your price.