Monday, June 24, 2013

Mel Shaw's Beauty & the Beast

Mel Shaw was a very cool guy.
He was funny, and he could draw everything…really well…really fast! He was a wizard with pastels.
I first saw his art when I started at Disney in 1980. His office was overflowing with incredible Vis Dev work for a proposed sequel to Fantasia, then titled Musicana. As I mentioned before, the whole concept for that film was stunning!
Behind Mel in the photo are sketches for the Scheherazade sequence (top) and for Finlandia.

Mel later became a member of what I should call Le Groupe, a selection of Disney artists who in 1989 were sent to London and later the Loire Valley in order to prepare the next animated feature Beauty & the Beast. (I was lucky enough to be part of this group along with Hans Bacher, Glen Keane, Tom Sito and Don Hahn.)

You can find out more about this research trip on Hans' great blog:

Here are a few wonderful Mel Shaw doodles and sketches from this earlier version of the film.
They include Belle, the horse Philippe, but also a later eliminated character, her aunt Marguerite.

These continuity pages show several story threads: 
Maurice gets mad at his sister Marguerite, and Belle rides off on Philippe to find and prevent Gaston from killing the beast. Lovely thumbnails.

A couple of atmospheric pastels. Did this man know light or what ?!

I believe this photo was taken in a London restaurant. Hans Bacher might correct me on this.
After the death of his first wife Mel married John Lounsbery's widow Florence. She came along on the trip. And there's me with Hans.

Mel passed away not long ago on Dec. 5, 2012.
He had talents in so many areas, he was an architect, sculptor, painter and story artist.
There really wasn't anything he couldn't do. 


  1. Just so beautifull drawings. And that´s amazing drawing is that, where man riding up hill with horse. There´s weight and could see posture so well, even that seem to be small drawing.

  2. you are right, andreas, it was a pretty expensive restaurant in camden town, london. GOOD OLD DAYS ! mel was not just one of the most incredible artists I ever met, he was also very, very nice, and a good friend. I was sitting opposite of him at a big drawing table in the purdum studio in london, where we prepared the drawings for about 1 hour of film to go to the trashcan. man, I saw him paint these jewels, depressing! I have it even on video. what a great time. you forgot jean gilmore and derek gogol, they were part of our team as well.

    1. -B-
      Any chance to share that video with us, Mr.Bacher?

    2. Also Thom Enriquez, Hans.
      By the way, they had a very nice Mel Shaw lifetime celebration at the studio, hosted by Don Hahn. All of Mel's family was there, and Florence's as well.

  3. This treasure from the vaults of animation history! Thanks for unearthing it. Hopefully one day the 'test' footage for the Purdum's version will find its way online . . .

  4. Very interesting, speaking of removed characters what was the older version of the film like. I heard it was very different from the one we all know and love (kind of like Aladdin before it was changed). The only thing I really know about the old version was that it didn't have musical numbers.

  5. On Beauty and the Beast, Johansson will play Kurt, father to Tori (Amber Skye Noyes), and will be introduced in the sixth episode ... show how Vincent's disappearance has impacted everybody, with a bigger mythology …Mike Walden Review

  6. Do you think you could post some more Musicana artwork? In paticular, I'd like to see some more from Finlandia and the Yma Sumac sequence because the featurette on the Fantasia 2000 DVD was lacking in artwork from both those sequences.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I agree with you, Matt Copper. Anybody blog show more images to this sequences. I founded four images for Finlandia senquence in a Spanish (or Mexican or Peruvian, i don't know, i know this is spanish language) blog called Más que Disney, but the Peruvian/Yma Sumac sequence was really lacking.

  7. He worked too, in Musicana, a unreleased Fantasia from 1970-80s with Woolie. I liked of this never-made Fantasia. And I have a post about this unused Fantasia, who isn't a prototype of Fantasia 2000.