I have talked about Glen Keane before so I will be brief. Born 1954 in Pennsylvania and the son of comic book writer Bil Keane, known best for The Family Circus, Disney recognized him as a Disney Legend in 2013. Winner of a myriad of awards including an Annie Award (1992) and the Winsor McCay Award (2007) for lifetime contribution to the field of animation he is the creator of many memorable Disney characters. These characters include Ariel, Aladdin, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In my mind, his triumph is his leading design of Beast from Beauty and the Beast (1991).
I have written about my feelings on Beast’s design and concept already in my Beauty and the Beast review and my Favorite Character Designs. You may look at them if you are interested. For now, I want to talk about Glen Keane as an artist. A TRUE artist. When I thought about which sketch or drawing in particular I would feature in my Month of Art, Concept Sketch 87 came immediately to my mind. I read the art book, written by Charles Solomon, (He is AMAZING! He does a wonderful job describing and detailing the animated film process.) Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast (2010) last Autumn. Fascinated, I read each page carefully and came across this image.
This is one of my favorite art pieces. Period. No question. If I could, I would hang it on my wall. Yes, it is raw and lacks the precision of a completed painting or drawing but that is really irrelevant. Why do I love it so?
Firstly, the intricate small details that make up this character. We see this image later in full color in the film but it is here that Keane demonstrated his amazing talent at bringing to life a realistic person. This is the raw creation of an incredible moment. You know it.
This is the moment the audience realizes Beast has changed and he is heartbroken. As I child, it struck me how, by letting Belle go, he sacrificed everything.
Secondly, the love Keane put into Beast’s character is earth shattering to me. Looking at this image, I can see the love he has for his craft. Solomon stated in his book,
As Glen noted in the margin of the first drawing, subtle changes in the shapes of the eyes and brow reveal Beast’s anguish. Despite the depth and intensity of the character’s emotions, the animator had only tiny movements to indicate them. (pg. 100)
Every artistic work reflects the mind of its creator. Some paintings feel. . . off. I have no problem with nudity in art but there are cases where I feel intensely uncomfortable looking at a painting or sculpture. Why? It is because each artwork carries a small part of the artist whether it is good, somber. . . or any many cases overtly sexual. In this picture’s case, there is a part of me that knows Keane put his whole heart into it. In regards to this scene he said,
It was frustrating, because I wanted to animate the incredible turmoil that’s going on inside the character, and there’s no action. All I could do was press harder on the pencil. It was one of those times where you want to crawl in there and be that character, but the only way you can express those intense emotions is by tilting an eyebrow or changing the shape of the corners of the mouth. It’s very delicate work- completely the opposite of what you’re feeling inside. (pg. 98)
This statement alone shows what a passionate artist he is.
Lastly, I love the eyes. Gosh, I love the eyes. In my review I noted, “It was through Beast’s eyes, however, that Keane captured his character and depth most intensely. His eyes mirrored the discouraged young man hidden behind Beast’s terrifying exterior.” Take a look at two closeups of Beast’s eyes.
In one image, the culmination of a ten to fifteen second scene, Keane displayed Beast’s passionate love and his overwhelming anguish. There is no questioning Beast’s motives or the depth of his feelings. It is there. Plain and powerfully spoken through one glance.
Great art moves and inspires. For me, it stays with me and becomes a part of who I am. I remember a painting from the museum in Florence, Italy. It depicted a murdered man sprawled over the ground and a figure sitting nearby weeping into his hand. The colors were earthy and the atmosphere somber. I only saw it for two seconds. I do not know its name or its maker. But it has stayed ingrained in my mind to this day. I have looked for it, slaved to find out its name but to no avail.
That is what this sketch has done for me. As a child it touched me but as an adult it ingrained itself into my heart. It made me long for a man to love me that deeply. Those who think that animators are not true artists are ignorant. The process is fascinating and the result, in the case of Beauty and the Beast, timeless.