If there is one thing that you need to know about me, it's that I love nothing more than curling up with a hot drink and hours of bonus content. The invention of the DVD was life-changing for me as it almost guaranteed at least one hour of bonus behind-the-scenes content. And I do not judge, both live action and animated Disney films hold a special place in my heart.
However, there is one thing that saddens me about the animated films. There is the lack of behind the scenes featurettes. There is just something so special about seeing your favorite actors hanging around the set between takes, in full costume, goofing off or playing with their modern technology (especially when in their period costumes). Yes, it can be fun to watch the actors read their lines in the booth as well as watching the animators bring our most beloved characters to life. But if you love live-action behind-the-scenes featurettes, then Disney has you covered.
Whether it’s their live-action films or their animated films, one can find dozens of photos and videos of the characters in costume goofing off on set between takes and acting out pre-edited scenes. So, if you’re like me and you love nothing more than peeking behind the curtain and seeing how some of your favorite films have been made, then sit back, relax, and get ready to see the truth behind some of your favorite Disney films.
25 Atop A Mushroom
Any artist, no matter how skilled, needs a reference every now and then to make sure that their proportions are correct and that they have not forced their characters into positions that are simply not possible. For those who do not know, the original Alice in Wonderland film was created by having the crew record the cast acting out the entire movie in full costume on a created set. These tapes were later reviewed as used as reference for the final cut of the film. Many ad-libbed moments from these tapings were later used.
24 Wingless Woman
There is just something so amusing about this photo. I mean, I know that Maleficent is one of the biggest villains in the Disney oeuvre. And I know that this film, though beautiful, has a lot of serious and dark themes to it. But look at her.
She looks like a seal swimming through the ocean.
There is nothing intimidating about the pre-special effects version of this shot. The SFX crew deserves so much more credit that they get for taking these silly shots and making them both stunning and intimidating.
23 Nothing But Green
Though controversial, I must say that I personally feel like the live-action version of Alice in Wonderland, which was created by Tim Burton earlier this decade, was one of the greatest versions of Alice in Wonderland ever created. The visuals were stunning, the story was a fun fresh take on a classic tale (which a lot of these modern remakes have been lacking), and Mia was a brilliant Alice. But, there is just something so hilarious about seeing actors be serious and intense while standing in front of an empty green stage.
22 Racing Down The Steps
It seems like an absurd amount of work went into the original Disney animated films. I mean, not only did they make a stunning and detailed feature-length animated film but they also filmed an entire live-action film alongside it to use as a reference for the animators. In the above image, you can see Cinderella balancing dishes to bring to her step-family. Her stand-in was indeed very talented!
21 Keep Your Eyes Forward
Another controversial favorite, but a favorite nonetheless. I am going to voice the controversial opinion and state that I enjoyed the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast more than I did the animated one (and it was one of my favorite films growing up). I love the ferocity and strength that Emma Watson brought to the character and loved how the Beast was given depth and expansion. In the live-action version, it seemed like the villagers actively hated Belle rather than just ostracizing her for being odd. It seemed like they were one book away from running her out of town.
20 Protect Those Curls
Besides the amusing bag used to protect Lily James’s/Cinderella’s precious curls from spoiling before they were able to get their shot, I think it’s also fascinating to note the difference in the shade of her dress from this behind the scenes shot to the final cut of the film. The film shows a dress that is the most brilliant blue our human eyes have ever seen whereas this photo shows a much lighter version. The dress' color was punched up in post-production though this version is much closer to the original animated version.
19 A Lonely Pirate
Ah, poor Captain Hook. It looks like the recession hit him hard and budget cuts have resulted in a more minimalist version of the classic ship that he and his pirates used to ride through the seas of Neverland.
Or this is simply a glimpse at the live-action taping used as a reference for the studios' animators.
Personally, I’d like to think that the first explanation is the one closest to the actual story behind the photo instead of the latter.
18 A Lit Library
Ever since I saw the original animated version of Beauty and the Beast as a small child, I have always dreamed of having a personal library with one of those rolling ladders. I think every bookworm across the world felt their heart skip a beat when Belle rolled across the shelves like a beautiful book-loving bird. It was graceful, beautiful, and one of the most wonderful things I have ever seen. Seeing Emma Watson stand upon a similar ladder made the dream even stronger. No longer was it simply an animated dream but now it was confirmed to be a real tangible thing.
17 Villains' Day Off
This is one of my favorite things about behind-the-scenes featurettes. I love seeing actors in full costume joking around on set. It is even better when those characters are supposed to be villainous or sinister in nature. I have yet to see any of the Descendants films for myself but every single piece of information I learn about it makes me want to see them even more. Hopefully, Disney either puts all of their products on Netflix or sorts out their own streaming service soon so that I can finally get to see this modern classic.
16 Take The Shot
From a photographer's point of view, this shot from the live action version of Cinderella is brilliantly framed, stunningly lit, and is just incredibly visually appealing. However, doesn’t it also look like that director is about to go full John Wilkes Booth on that actor?
It truly does.
I know it’s a camera and that nothing sinister is going on in this photo; however, it truly does look like Kenneth Branagh is about to declare “that’s a wrap!” on this actor's career.
15 Minimalist Ships
Just another example about how those budget cuts in Neverland truly affected the pirate crew that were lead by Captain Hook. Poor Smee. He truly was the best friend (or something more depending on what part of the internet you tend to circulate) that Captain Hook could have ever asked for. That man stood by his captain's side no matter what. But Captain Hook was a truly awful friend and Smee deserved better. He really did. No one should feel obligated to remain friends with someone who treats them as lesser.
14 Gather Round The Monitor, Children
Seeing these actors in full costume, gathered around the monitor, reviewing the scene that just transpired is truly special. Seeing the concentration on each and every one of their faces as they review their own performance.
I wonder what the cast is thinking in this photo.
I know several actors refuse to watch their own performances out of fear that they will do nothing but critique every aspect of it and drive themselves mad. Especially when that performance involves dancing and worst of all, singing.
13 Chilling Like A Pirate
This may be the coolest photo I have ever seen in my entire life. Look at Orlando just laying about on the set of the first (and truly the best) Pirates of the Caribbean film. The casual way in which Orlando is laying about, the sunglasses, the costume, the sword… Everything about it is utterly amazing and the only thing more amazing than all of those elements is the complete utter lack of emotion on Orlando’s face. Cool, calm, and collected.
12 Pose Next To The Zombie
I cannot say which element of this photo from the set of the Disney Cult Classic Hocus Pocus is my favorite. Is it the actor currently undergoing the lengthy process of zombification? Is it the set itself? Or is it the crew member in modern clothes simply posing for the photo, looking out of place both on the set and beside the actor she is sat next to? There is just something so fascinating about historical and thematic anachronisms provided by behind-the-scenes photos and featurettes from classic films.
11 We'll Add The Animals Later
I cannot properly express how utterly hilarious I find this photo. Something about those plainly written signs existing in the background while the beautiful princess stand-in dances gracefully around them is just utterly hilarious. I think my favourite sign might be “tree.” I have no idea what is so funny about this reference scene but it is truly hilarious. I can barely stop laughing long enough to type this out. Alright, it is time to move on to the next photo.
10 No Longer Enemies
This photo looks like it was taken from the Aurora and Maleficent spa day. After the discovery of the true and maternal love that exists between them and Aurora was awoken from her supernaturally enchanted slumber, they decided to have a mother/daughter-figure bonding day in order to explore their newfound comradery.
So they headed out to the local fairy spa in order to achieve their goal of good old fashioned female bonding. I wonder if this is what the sequel will be about.
9 Imagine The View
Sometimes we are on a bit of a financial and budgetary constraint and it isn’t always possible to find an elaborate background with a stunning view for a princess to prance around upon. Sometimes shortcuts are made, a green screen is brought out, and we are to make due. These shots are then sent to post-production where a skilled, talented, and dedicated team of special effects animators add in a realistic and awe-inspiring background for her to prance around in front of.
8 We're Flying, Peter
You know, the flying magic that Peter Pan claims that he has is far less impressive without the animation. Imagine if some random lad broke into your room through your opened window, convinced you that he could take you to a faraway place where you’d never age and all your dreams came true, and then laid down on his stomach on the floor and claimed he was flying. You would probably call the police without hesitation and you’d be right to.
7 Sweet Children
Though these photos are exceptionally sweet and nostalgic towards a simpler time, every drop of Hocus Pocus knowledge I have inside of me is screaming out for that little girl to run. Those witches are not your friends. They want to make you into soup. Their only desire is eternal youth and ending children is an easy way for them to achieve that goal. Little child, sweet little girl, you are not safe in their arms. Flee as fast as you can and do not look back.
6 A Proportioned Head
There is something so strange about seeing everyone in Wonderland existing in normal size. Iracebeth’s head is nothing to gawk at. In fact, it’s a completely normal size.
There is nothing engorged about it at all.
Alice is not a giant who towers over the Queen, but rather a normal sized girl whose chair is simply much taller than the Queen's; which might be treasonous or frowned upon at the very least. And let us not ignore the oppressive sea of green that everything has been cloaked in.
5 Band Mates
One of the coolest things about the Lindsay Lohan-led version of Freaky Friday was the band that they created for her character to play in. I am not ashamed to admit that I jam to Pink Slip’s songs every time I watch the film and have both of their most well-known jams saved to my phone for regular listening sessions. The coolest bit of behind-the-scenes insider information that I could dig up on this film was the fact that the crew took promotional-style band photos of the fictional band.
4 Hand Him Over
This shot was taken from the reference footage used to create the classic animated film, Peter Pan. Though the film has some issues when held up against modern ideas and beliefs, it is a classic and I firmly believe that those moments that make us uncomfortable are beautiful, in a way, because it shows us how far we have come as a society. We now know that those representations are no longer things that we accept and seeing how far we’ve come in such a short period of time is truly fascinating.
3 Just Picture The Army
This is the funniest photo I have ever seen. Look at Mia sat atop that giant stuffed animal that will eventually become the Bandersnatch. Anne and Johnny are the only other fully costumed humans that appear on this set. Everyone else is in a suit or a strange position in order to create the shape needed to turn them into the characters that we know and love. After post-production, these characters will become the creatures that we grew up with standing at the front lines. But for now, they are simply oddly-shaped green blobs.
2 Pieced-Together Scenery
My favorite thing about films that combine practical effects with digital effects are sets that come across as half-finished during the filming process.
I mean, look on the set that Aurora is sat upon.
The lake has been created and the greenery around its edge exists. However, nothing beyond her immediate surroundings exists yet. It is as if it has yet to load. Like Aurora is living in a video game whose background and scenery only loads into view as she moves through the world.
1 Nearly Complete
Though I love the reference footage captured in order to create the early Disney animated films, I will note that the costumes make it appear like they are creating a finalized cut of the film. It could have honestly been easier to have simply filmed these actors and create these films as live-action productions rather than filming an entire live-action film and then turning it into an animated film. That is two films for the price of one.