“There’s a lot of Dan Stevens in the Beast,” said supervising sound editor Warren Shaw.
As Disney’s Beauty and the Beast won its second weekend atop the North American box office for a cume of $317 million, the sound team is spilling the secrets behind the sounds of the Beast, Cogsworth and the other magical characters.
“There’s a lot of Dan Stevens in the Beast,” confirmed the film’s supervising sound editor and designer Warren Shaw. “We did as much as we could with his work. He performed that part in a motion capture suit for months on set. But while it’s a classic Hollywood trick to take a voice and lower the pitch to make it sound more like a monster, we couldn’t just do that because the Beast sings and we had to keep everything in key. So basically we played with a lot of different processing elements and software, between the music department and myself, where the sound would also be in key with the music.”
Like recent Oscar darling La La Land, in Beauty and the Beast the songs are a combination of live singing on set and recorded songs.
“The roaring was a concentrated use of sound effects and sound design, but it was fun challenge to always keep him as an empathic character. We couldn’t just use classic roaring sound effects because he had such a personality. A lot of what was done was finding the right sound that could be big and scary but give him that wonderful character. We did quite a bit with human voices and then I would listen to animals sounds for the most emotional ones. It was about how to keep the emotion in the story.”
It wasn’t just the Beast that required careful thought, but the sounds made by all of the characters that were affected by the curse and transformed into objects. “I came on this movie very early and I was on for a year, pretty much as soon as they were cutting picture,” Shaw relates of his third collaboration with director Bill Condon (which also included The Fifth Estate and Mr. Holmes. “We’d have meetings with the musical department, visual effects department. We’d be talking about how the characters would develop.
“I was getting pictures of what Cogsworth (voiced by Ian McKellen) would look like long before he was animated,” he continued. “I looked at little clocks, bells, toys. We had a room full of toys in our sound department and we would record each one and come up with a combination for each character. It was an evolution. Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was fun — a duster and a bird. Bill said we had to keep it feminine and gentle.”
Beauty and the Beast was mixed in native Dolby Atmos immersive sound. “So we were thinking from minute one with how to play things with the speakers and make the whole theatrical part of the sonic experience. The castle is huge so we wanted the sound to be above you and around you.”
Michael Minkler and Christian Minkler were the films’s rerecording mixers.
Since completing Beauty and the Beast, Shaw relocated from New York to Los Angeles to join audio postproduction company Formosa Group.