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Beauty & the Beast: Production Design—The Making of a Fairy Tale as Old as Time #book2movies

In my ‘review’ of Beauty and the Beast I shared that I wanted to take a little closer look at the stunning sets. I appreciate that 'stunning' is one of those words very much in overuse right now. [You won't believe just how stunning ‘celebrity de jour’ looks today.] But in this case, it’s not hyperbole. I would be shocked (really, you won’t believe how jaw-droppingly shocked I would be) if production designer Sarah Greenwood and her art director partner in crime, Katie Spencer didn’t receive a nom, and quite possibly a win. Here, with a nod to Architectural Digest, who had a chat with Sarah Greenwood, that closer look at those phenomenal Beauty & the Beasts dead-drop gorgeous sets. I’ve added photos of the real world inspiration when possible.

A crew of over 1,000 artisans, workers, and builders, wanted to keep the sets as realistic and highly detailed as possible. “The goal isn’t to have the audience think, ‘That looks just like the castle in the animated film,’” Greenwood says in the production notes. “Instead, you want the audience to feel that this is, in fact, the Beast’s castle, because every detail faithfully supports the story they know and love.

The opulent ballroom was designed with the famous waltz scene in mind. The floor’s artwork is based on a ceiling motif at a Benedictine abbey in the Czech Republic.’’

Palace of Versailles
The room’s ten glass chandeliers were based on versions found at Versailles.’’ 

Greenwood and her team built the fictional provincial town of Villeneuve (named after the author of the original fairy tale, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve) on a backlot at Shepperton Studios outside of London.’’
Conques, France
 “The massive set was inspired by the town of Conques, roughly 2/3 of the way between Paris and Marseille in southern France. The reconstruction measured 28,787 square feet.’’ 
Greenwood based the castle’s library on the Biblioteca Joanina in Coimbra, Portugal. The room is filled with thousands of books that were custom-made for the film. 

 Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra, Portugal

The workshop of Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline) was a small but painstakingly detailed set.

The designs of his clocks were inspired by the work of 18th-century German goldsmith Johann Melchior Dinglinger.’’ (above)
There is a lovely scene where Belle speaks with her father while he sits at his workshop table, tinkering with one of his creations. Whenever he needs anything, she is there. Just the right tool, just the right gear, she has it ready almost before he knows he needs it. It’s a wordless expression of Belle’s devotion to her father at the same time providing an interesting look at his creations, intricate pieces that fit together like magic. For anyone who has ever idolized their father, sitting at his feet, happy to hand over a screwdriver or hammer so he could fix this or that, it’s a memorable moment.

Have you seen Beauty and the Beast yet? In just 12 days the movie has made over $700 million worldwide. The year is young but it’s the number one grossing film of 2017 so far.

Moneymaker or not, I thought it was 100% swoonworthy. If I had a teeny complaint it would be I’d like to see more Dan Stevens out of his Beast costume. But then, wouldn’t we all?

The official Beauty and the Beast trailer.