fxpodcast #317: Beauty and the Beast at Framestore

Magical Animation

We speak to Kyle McCulloch(Gravity, Guardians of the Galaxy), who was the Framestore VFX Supervisor on Beauty and the Beast.

Framestore worked on over 750 shots; animating the whole cast of household staff for the film, including the hero characters of Cogsworth, Lumiere and Mrs Potts. The team also worked on beautiful environments and set extensions. The film was shot in Leavesden studios, London.

As audience the world over know, a long ago in a French kingdom, there lived a spoiled and selfish Prince here played by Dan Stevens. One night, an old beggar woman entered his castle and offered the Prince a rose in exchange for shelter from the cold. The Prince sneered and laughed, even as she warned him not to be deceived by appearances. The Prince turned her away and the old woman is revealed to be an Enchantress, as punishment, she turned the Prince into a hideous Beast and transformed the subjects into household objects.. objects a team of talented animators had to bring to life before the rose dropped its’ last petal.

The film has been a huge hit, as audience have responded to the film and characters such as Lumiere and Cogsworth: the talkative candelabra and clock. And also Mrs. Potts (voice of Emma Thompson), Chip’s mother who is now a teapot, plus Chip himself; Plumette (voice of Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the maid and Lumiere’s girlfriend turned into a featherduster resembling a peacock; Madame de Garderobe (voice of Audra McDonald), an Italian opera singer who is now a wardrobe; and Maestro Cadenza (voice of Stanley Tucci), Garderobe’s husband and former composer who is now a piano. See a clip from the film below.


Not discussed on this podcast is the work of Digital Domain who handled the Beast animation using their Direct Drive facial animation system. In an Entertainment Weekly piece late last year discussed Digital Domain’s role.

“In my research and preparation, I had a chat with a couple of people who know this world,” says Stevens, whose previous credits include The Guest and Downton Abbey. “I had a really good chat with Andy Serkis, and he was great at reminding me to just disregard the freaky stuff, and to trust that all will be well. I also spoke with Mark Ruffalo, and when I told him what we were trying to do, he was just like, ‘No, that’s impossible! You can’t do that!’ So, I was like, Oh, okay.”

There was the physical puppeteering and the facial stuff,” says Stevens. “Essentially, you go from these incredibly lavish, amazing, tangible practical sets on these stages at Shepperton [Studios] — and everything’s looking gorgeous and there’s me looking like a crash-test hippo on stilts — and you’ve got to do all that again, but you’re now essentially in Tron. I’m sat wearing a black t-shirt in a sort-of UV booth with 27 cameras. The whole thing felt very very magical in a way. It just felt like pure magic how they fused these two experiences together.”

The UV system Dan Stevens is referring to is the MOVA system that won the Sci-tech award in Feb 2015.

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