It takes a certain, extremely patient mindset to work on animated films, especially the ones built laboriously from individual hand drawings, one fraction of a second at a time. But artist and animator Aaron Blaise definitely seems to have had the temperament for it. He worked on a whole string of classic Disney films in the 1990s, including The Lion King, Mulan, and Aladdin, and he even directed 2003’s Brother Bear. Now, through his YouTube channel, he shares some of the tricks of the trade with aspiring artists who want to see how it’s done. Luckily, though much of his current work is digital in nature, Blaise obviously still retains a great deal of affection for the old ways of doing things. Better yet, he had the foresight to hold onto a bunch of old drawings he made for 1991’s Beauty And The Beast, and in a new tutorial video, he walks viewers through a single shot from that film.
In the scene being deconstructed, the Beast is showing Belle around the castle and warns her (futilely, it turns out) to stay away from the west wing. That’s it. Onscreen, it amounts to a few seconds of animation. It’s purely expository, nothing flashy. But as he flips through some fragile, decaying drawings from a quarter century ago, Blaise shows how even a moment like this is a great opportunity to do some subtle acting through animation. “Subtle” is the keyword of the video; Blaise uses it many times here. That’s what’s special, he says, about working on a Disney feature. An animator can take the time to perfect a turning of the head or a curling of the lip. If nothing else, this video will forever make people take notice when the Beast forms the “w” sound in “west wing.” A lot of work went into that, kids.