The spectacular 1991 version was the first full-length animated film to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards and helped inspire the creation of the best animated film category, which was introduced 10 years later in 2001. While critics and audiences were moved by the story and songs, Beauty and the Beast also wowed with groundbreaking visuals, specifically during the iconic ballroom dance sequence. It was the first film to integrate hand-drawn cels with computer-generated 3-D backgrounds. Using an animation program co-developed with Pixar, Disney animators created and composited every frame of film, adding shadows and colors to make the 3-D look more lifelike. The results thrilled critics.
Condon and his visual FX team have been working hard to seamlessly blend CGI with live-action while still keeping the awe-inspiring romantic visuals of the 1991 film. Condon admitted to the Hollywood Reporter that it took a few tries to get it right. However, the team realized that with so many CG characters, grounding the film in real, practical elements was key. "The thing that was fun, given that we knew there were these CG characters, was making sure that as many elements as possible could be real," said Condon. "The sets were massive, like an MGM movie circa 1950. You could go from the entry to the dining room in the castle, all the way to the ballroom, across two sound stages. They were all connected. We built the entire village."
And given the number of positive reviews, it sounds like the hard work paid off. A.O. Scott's review in the New York Times notes, "There are a few moments—a climactic high-elevation fight scene that looks like every other climactic high-elevation fight scene; a chase through the forest involving wolves—where the digital seams show, and you're aware of the cold presence of lines of code behind the images. Most of the time, though, you are happily fooled. More than that: enchanted."