Disney's Beauty and the Beast is one of the greatest animated films ever made. Now, a clip from a new documentary about one of the men responsible for that gives us a glimpse at the recording of one of the film's greatest moments. Don Hahn was a longtime producer at Walt Disney Animation behind some of the studio's greatest film during the renaissance period of the 1990s. Now, he is working on a documentary on the work of Howard Ashman, one of the musical minds behind films like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Now, check out a clip from the new documentary Howard which shows the lyricist working alongside Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach during the recording of the Disney classic "Be Our Guest."
For fans of the original Beauty and the Beast, this is a great peek behind the curtain at the making of the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture. The focus is on Howard Ashman, but we also get to see the great Jerry Orbach performing as Lumiere while Angela Landsbury sings the part of Mrs. Potts. One has to wonder if part of the reason the song turned out so well may have been that the two actors were actually performing together, something that rarely happens when recording for animation. And Orbach is especially is clearly "performing" as well as singing. You get the impression that he'd start dancing in the recording booth if he had the ability.
In addition to the two main vocalists, we also see that the music was recorded live as they sang, which is about as far from the norm as possible. The voiceover in the clip posted to Don Hahn's Vimeo page, from Beauty and the Beast director Kirk Wise, compares the recording of the music for Beauty and the Beast to that of recording a Broadway cast album.
Those early Disney Renaissance movies were, in many ways very much like Broadway musicals, even more so than their classic predecessors, and a large part of the reason for that was Howard Ashman. He had worked on Broadway for years before making the jump to the big screen to work with Disney. He first worked with the House of Mouse back in 1988 on the lyrics for one of the songs in Oliver and Company, but then went on to write songs for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, receiving Oscar nominations for all three movies, and awards for the first two.
Unfortunately, Howard Ashman was only ever able to accept one Oscar, as he passed away in 1991, prior to the release of Beauty and the Beast.
Howard will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month.