Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Be Our Guest" Restaurant Mural

One of 10 early watercolors I did for Beauty and Beast 

"The Little Mermaid" was not even in the can so to speak when I was hooked in to fish out a few concepts for a new picture entitled, "Beauty and the Beast" along with Mike Hodson, a remarkable designer with a pencil. Dick Purdum was named director after Richard Williams turned it down and my wife Patty was creating pastels alongside Mel Shaw. Patty was the Project Lead which meant she was also my ... boss. She enjoyed that aspect tremendously as she could now tell me what to do at work as well as at home. I began doing some colorful watercolor concept pieces only to be called into the front office where I was told by management, "This isn't going to be another musical like Mermaid, it will be a very straight dark film, much like the Jean Cocteau version." I checked out the Cocteau classic and suddenly had visions of another heavy film like Black Cauldron all over again and reluctantly decided not to stick around, a rather short sighted mistake on my part. I needn't have panicked for when Mermaid was released and became a resounding splash along with or maybe because  of it's memorable soundtrack, the direction of a non-musical dark Beauty film was tossed, thank goodness. It was to be a magical musical more than ably directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, utilizing a very talented animation crew, another outstanding score by Howard Ashman and Alan Menkenand, and with stand out character animation of the Beast by Glen Keane. A true classic of the so called "Disney renaissance."

Well let's scoot forward to 2011 when I answered my phone, (I often do that when it rings,  but I get so sick of those telemarketers don't you?), and found myself in a discussion with WDI to design a mural for their "Be Our Guest" restaurant based on the film. Naturally I said yes, partly because I had worked with this talented team already on earlier projects and also because it's' nice to work and get paid. My wife shares in that opinion.

Mural rough blocking with guest's eyeline in mind
 The mural was to be a distant simple countryside view of majestic mountain ranges as seen from the Beast's castle ballroom. There would be drifting cloud effects and twinkling stars. After some early sketching I just thought it was lacking that something special. I mean come on, summer in Orlando, with that humidity. I just remembered how great it always felt to come in from the sweltering sun and sit down and cool my heels at the Blue Bayou restaurant at the Pirate ride and wanted something as visually memorable. I remembered that the Beast Castle was blanketed in snow for quite a bit of the film. I watched the DVD of the film just to make sure, yep, there was definitely some white stuff on them thar hills. So I though, "Why not add some icy frost to the window panes, skip the moving clouds and instead add soft falling snow flakes that would glisten as they dance through the light from the restaurant's Renaissance styled windows? "

CGI set that sold the snow idea
My final "thumbnail" rendering

I created an animation using my almost completed illustration as a rear projection with the camera moving around a simply modeled dining room CGI set and through columns, and timidly added it as an attachment. When I got a call from WDI, I was prepared to get politely reprimanded for wasting time but instead entered a phone conference call full of imagineers congratulating me on the idea. One even remarked how neat it was to actually see the concept realized fully in 3D!

"Be Our Guest" restaurant during construction.
With the support of the marvelous team at WDI headed by Senior Show Designers Jon Georges, Chris Beatty, and David Minichiello, I surged ahead finishing the final illustration. The digital painting I created was saved as a PSB, which is the "super-sized" format for Photoshop files and I brought it over on my hard drive. At first they had trouble finding a computer with enough ram to open and scroll thgrough the massive image which had me sweating bullets over whether I had saved it correctly but it all worked out. They were able to transfer the image onto a large curved canvas and the Disney artists on site did their wizardry to make it all came together.

The full size canvas mural ready for installation

On location in Walt Disney World, a team of skilled artists worked it over and really made it shine. In the end, the folks at WDI from the Senior Show Designers and Imagineers to all of the talented technicians and artists involved created yet another savory and delicious memory for Walt Disney World guests.

Well as Lumiere would say, "Ma chère mademoiselle. It is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now, we invite to relax, let us pull up a chair, as the dining room proudly presents... your dinner." 
Sheesh, I'm getting hungry already! HEY WAITER!!!

To Infamy and Beyond!

Better set your lasers to stun, because that is what people are feeling about the latest news from up north. PIXAR sources are still tightlipped about the recent rumours that the PIXAR library will soon go the way of many cherished 2D toon titles and be re-made in Live Action. Trail blazers in this translation have already included, "George of the Jungle", "Bullwinkle","Alvin and the Chipmunks", "Casper", "The Flintstones," and of course Disney's own"101 Dalmations".
What some are calling early production designs, others are calling blasphemy. Nevertheless they are exciting to many of the PIXAR folks but then again so is a fresh  bag of Cheetos and and a bottle of Orange Crush. The original lineup will be completely re-cast except for Don Rickels who looks enough like a Potato Head already. 

Intergalactic word has it that early casting is Adam Sandler set to play Woody, Will Ferrel on board to blast off as Buzz Lightyear,  Amy Adams as Barbie and Ryan Seacrest as Ken. In a surprise move Emperor Zurg will be played by John Lasseter in a cameo roll, I mean role.

To Infamy and Beyond! Oh, and happy April 1st, 2012! - BURBANK BUGLE-MP