Beauty and the Beast filmed in UK studio
Disney’s live-action film version of the classic story Beauty and the Beast filmed at Shepperton Studios in south-east England.
The movie is set in 18th century France and tells the story of Emma Watson’s Belle, a young woman who is taken prisoner by the Beast in his grand castle, but gradually discovers the humanity behind his gruff exterior.
A thousand-strong crew created expansive sets on Shepperton’s stages that were inspired in part by Disney’s iconic animated version of the story, released in 1991.
“Being based out of London, we have such a diverse amount of locations right here on our doorstep,” says Adam Richards, the film’s supervising location manager, in an interview with KFTV.
“We are also a short hop from France, where the film is set and where we did countless recces to get inspiration for the sets. A lot of ‘plates’ were also shot in France, in various villages and in the countryside of south-west France, in order for the VFX companies to input these into the backgrounds.”
The ballroom of the Beast’s castle was one of the largest sets, with the production team building a 12,000 sq ft faux marble floor and ten chandeliers modelled on real examples from Versailles. A 9,600 sq ft forest that surrounds the castle was in fact built over 15 weeks on Shepperton’s largest stage and included real trees and hedges, as well as 20,000 icicles.
Belle’s village Villeneuve was constructed on Shepperton’s exterior back lot as a set spanning nearly 30,000 sq ft. Buildings included Belle’s cottage, a school house, a church and the village square. Nearly 30 wagons, hundreds of animals and 150 extras were used for an opening musical number introducing Belle as the story’s main character.
One of the film’s main challenges was the two weeks of location filming, which took production to Ashridge Forest and Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, and in the Surrey Hills near the village of Shere.
“The Shere location, for instance – which is where we shot the tree being struck by lightning, forcing Belle’s father to steer towards the Beast’s castle – was down a single-track lane, with forest either side and nowhere to pull off the road,” Richards tells KFTV.
“These were night shoots, so you can imagine the amount of lighting needed. Huge swathes of forest clearings had to be tracked out to accommodate 300 crew, lights, cherry-pickers, horses, carriages and trucks.
“We had to get special permission from the council too to close the road, as the track you see the horse and carriage travelling on is actually a tarmac road which had to be covered in mulch and leaves to disguise it. In all the lane was closed for five nights.”
Disney is a regular visitor to the UK. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms filmed at Pinewood last year and Mary Poppins Returns is shooting with a base at Shepperton. Live-action versions of Aladdin and Dumbo are also scheduled for UK shoots.
For more on filming in the UK see our production guide.
Images: Laurie Sparham/Walt Disney Enterprises.