In 1991, Beauty and the Beast made history. It was the first animated Disney film to use an official screenwriter; the first to blend hand-drawn animation with Pixar’s computer-driven technology; and the first animated film ever nominated for a best-picture Oscar. And tucked away in the film’s credits is a bit of history that’s easy to miss: Beauty and the Beast was also the first film in which individual lead animators were acknowledged for their specific character contributions.
Disney’s approach of assigning a specific artist to a particular character was tried and true, and as old as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That methodology allowed an animator to focus on and hone a single performance, the way actors immerse themselves in roles. But for Nik Ranieri and Will Finn, who animated castle dwellers Lumière and Cogsworth, respectively, the contentious friendship between the suave candelabra maître and the punctilious pendulum clock hit incredibly close to home.
“Oh God, the casting on that film was absolutely perfect—divinely guided, one would say,” recalls Dave Pruiksma, who was supervising animator for the matronly Mrs. Potts and her tea-cup son, Chip. “Will is Cogsworth. Nik is Lumière. And, like any great actors and animators, both of these artists drew from their personal experiences to make it real between the characters on the screen.”
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