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Exclusive: more women join pay inequality case, expanding allegations to ABC Television and Walt Disney Pictures

Ten women have now accused the Walt Disney Company of gender discrimination as part of a major class-action pay gap case that has expanded to include ABC Television and Disneys film studio.

The wage inequality lawsuit against one of the worlds largest media and entertainment corporations alleges that divisions across Disney systematically mistreat women by giving them lower salaries than male colleagues doing equivalent work and by denying them promotions.

Four more women have come forward in a new complaint filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles, which provided detailed claims about their struggles to get paid the same as men. Their claims of unlawful discrimination are against Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disneys music label, ABC Televisions music department, and the companys finance department. Six of the 10 named plaintiffs are women of color.

Being underpaid and undervalued year after year has a very real cumulative effect, financially, said Nancy Dolan, one of the new plaintiffs, in a statement to the Guardian, which first reported on the new complaint. Its also demoralizing and emotionally draining. Its time for Disney to join the dozens of California companies who have pledged to pay their women workers fairly.

The class-action case, which seeks to represent all women employed full-time by Disney in California since April 2015, is escalating at a time in which there is intense scrutiny of pay gaps in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, the media industry and other sectors.

An earlier filing in July included accusations against Disney Music Publishing, a recording arm of the company; a business division responsible for ESPN and Hulu streaming services; Walt Disney Imagineering, a division that does projects for the companys theme parks, resorts, cruises and venues; and the Hollywood Records label, which has signed singers such as Demi Lovato, Zendaya and Miley Cyrus.

Theres trepidation about coming forward, but all of them felt like they had no other option, Lori Andrus, an attorney for the women, said in an interview Wednesday.

Disney did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new complaint and plaintiffs. The company previously said the lawsuit was without merit and that the corporation had robust pay equity practices and policies.

Dolan has worked for Disneys film studio for 18 years and has been a senior manager of creative music marketing since 2015. Her supervisor has repeatedly told her that her job responsibilities were the same as someone several steps above her current title and that a promotion was long overdue, the suit said.

Her performance review in 2016 said she was operating easily at director level, if not higher. In 2018, the review said she was working at vice-president level and was an unparalleled expert in her field. Disney HR, however, has refused to promote her, the suit said, despite one review that stated: Her contribution to Beauty and the Beast alone resulted in the most substantial music marketing campaign in recent years and yielded global success.

At one point, HR allegedly told her she could not be promoted from manager to director because she would be skipping a level, but then subsequently promoted two of her male counterparts in that exact manner. When she asked about this, Disney told her that one of the men was promoted because he was more of a retention risk, since he was younger, the suit said.

One supervisor also directly acknowledged that Dolan was doing the work of an executive vice-president for a fraction of the cost, according to the complaint.

Anabel Pareja Sinn, another new plaintiff, worked as a senior designer for Hollywood Records from 2006 to 2017. She was doing equivalent work to a male colleague, but he was classified as an art director, and she made significantly less money as a result, the suit said.

Sinn told the Guardian in an email that if the company took this issue seriously, it could have widespread implications: Disney has such influence in our country, and in the world. If Disney leads the way for gender equity, all women in the workforce will be better off.

A third new plaintiff, Dawn Wisner-Johnson, worked for Disneys ABC Television music branch until 2017 (ABC is home to Greys Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and other major hit television shows).

Wisner-Johnson was classified as a manager while doing director-level work and was also denied a raise, the suit said.

Kathy Ly, the fourth person to join the lawsuit this week, worked as an analyst in the finance marketing department from March 2017 to March 2018. She routinely worked 55 to 60 hours a week and received positive performance feedback, but made less than men doing the same work and was given a much lower raise than her male counterpart without valid reason, the suit said.

Andrus said it was difficult for some of the women to directly see the company valuing men over them without justification: Sometimes the men are younger. Sometimes the men are not as good performers. Sometimes they are not as experienced. And they are just being promoted because of their potential.

For the women, it was an entirely different experience, the lawyer said: Theyre getting great performance reviews and being told to wait a year while they are watching male colleagues skip steps and move up more quickly.

Andrus, whose firm has a history of equal pay cases against major corporations, said it was a red flag that a majority of the plaintiffs were women of color. The case does not allege racial discrimination, though research has repeatedly shown that women of color suffer a worse pay gap than white women.

The attorney added that it was not easy to come forward: All of them love Disney, they love the work they do, the people they work with. But going public in court was the only step they had left after reaching dead ends internally, she said: Theyve tried everything.

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The ex-One Direction frontman is being touted to star opposite R&B singer Halle Bailey in Disneys new take on the animated romance

Harry Styles is in talks to take on the role of Prince Eric in Disneys live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

The former One Direction singer is said to be an early favourite and is currently in discussions with the studio. Styles would star alongside the R&B singer Halle Bailey who will play Ariel and Melissa McCarthy who is rumoured to take on the role of Ursula. The Crazy Rich Asians star Awkwafina and Room breakout Jacob Tremblay are also in talks to feature.

The film, the latest attempt by Disney to update a much-loved animated property, will be directed by Rob Marshall, who recently took on Mary Poppins Returns for the studio. Songs from the original will feature but the original composer, Alan Menken, will also create new numbers with help from Lin-Manuel Miranda.

In the original, the character of Eric, who falls in love with the mermaid Ariel, performed no songs but in the later Broadway musical, he was given two solo numbers.

Styles, who previously appeared in Christopher Nolans Dunkirk, was also on the reported shortlist to play Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmanns biopic but yesterday saw the announcement that small-screen star Austin Butler would take on the role. Back in March, Prince Eric trended on Twitter after a user suggested that Styles would make the perfect choice for the character.

The Little Mermaid will follow in the footsteps of a long list of mostly successful Disney remakes. This year has seen Guy Ritchies Aladdin make $961m worldwide while Jon Favreaus The Lion King is predicted to take as much as $450m globally in its first weekend when it opens on Friday. But the studio has also faced a disappointing showing for Tim Burtons Dumbo which stumbled with a $352m worldwide tally earlier this year.

Later this year will see a sequel to Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, while next year sees the release of Mulan.

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Disneys reboot of its much-loved 1994 animation is a plausibly real retelling of the story of prince Simba and his struggle against wicked uncle Scar

After 25 years, during which it gained classic status as the last Disney picture in the old style that Walt himself would have endorsed and enjoyed a long afterlife in theatres all over the world with Julie Taymors staging and costumes, the 1994 animation The Lion King has been remade as a quasi-live-action digital movie. This is an anthro-leonine deepfake of impressive proportions, but the new Lion King gains in shock and awe while losing in character and wit. These are walking, talking animals that are realer than real and whose facial/speech patterns are eerily plausible way past the unsatisfying oddities of Babe the pig from long ago, with moving mouths pasted on animal faces.

Here once again is the story of the lion prince Simba (voiced by Donald Glover) who as a tiny cub is presented to his subjects in the ceremony on the phallic Pride Rock by his parents King Mufasa (in which vocal role James Earl Jones is a survivor of the original film) and Queen Sarabi (Alfre Woodard). But wicked Uncle Scar (did he have a real name before the nickname?) nurses evil designs on poor little Simba. Here the role originally played by Jeremy Irons has been given to Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is capably insinuating, but does not relish the evilness of the part in the same outrageous and enjoyable way Irons did. An evil plot and a tragedy mean Simba grows up in exile, where he must one day confront his destiny, helped by the young lioness he loves: Nala, voiced by Beyonc.

This is a virtual shot-for-shot reproduction of the original, and some credulous souls have been excitably posting side-by-side images on social media, showing the cartoon and its digital duplication. Have these people grasped that this is just an animation as well, and that director Jon Favreau has not in fact trained real animals to imitate scenes from the 1994 film? Maybe not.

In some ways, I cant blame them. This is very smooth work, adding half an hour to the original running time simply by unobtrusively plumping up each narrative part, although we get more of the backstory of Mufasa, Sarabi and Scar. We lose the quirkily eccentric Morning Report song from the pompous courtier-bird Zazu (originally Rowan Atkinson, now John Oliver) but Beyoncs Nala has a new song: Spirit.

But we have also lost a couple of well-loved things from the first film: the diversionary big pig song from Pumbaa and Timon (voiced by Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner) has been junked and when grownup Simba and Nala sing their Can You Feel the Love Tonight? love song, Nala doesnt do her startlingly sultry come-hither expression from the first film: perhaps the only purely erotic moment in the Disney canon.

The new Lion King has been modernised in the sense of having more African and African-descended voice artists, and John Kani brings a lovely vocal lightness to the priestly role of Rafiki. Yet the new Lion King boldly keeps that famous stretch of dialogue from the first film in which the hunter/meat-eater is presented as morally equivalent to the herbivore. Mufasa tells young Simba about all creatures being respected in a delicate balance, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope. But dad, dont we eat the antelope? asks Simba, and Mufasa replies sonorously: Yes … but when we die, our bodies become the grass, and antelopes eat the grass. I always expect Simba to reply: Erm, yeah, dad, but theres a difference between dying of old age and getting killed and eaten in a state of terrified pain. Simba embraces a kind of veganism in exile but its the kind of immature practice that he will have to put behind him if he is to reclaim his crown.

Basically, this new Lion King sticks very closely to the original version, and in that sense its of course watchable and enjoyable. But I missed the simplicity and vividness of the original hand-drawn images. The circle of commercial life has given birth to this all-but-indistinguishable digiclone descendant. I dont quite feel like bowing, but respect has to be paid to a handsomely made piece of entertainment.

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As an adolescent misfit, Hadley Freeman fell in love with the warped movie worlds of Tim Burton. What happened when she met Danny DeVito, Colin Farrell and her idol himself?

When I was an oversensitive, confusedly furious and faintly morbid teenager in the 90s, there was one film director who seemed to know my soul better than anyone. And that director was, of course, Tim Burton. Pee-wees Big Adventure was the first of his films I saw, after being taken by a friends mother, who mistakenly thought it would be a typical kids movie as opposed to one of the more slyly subversive takes on modern US life. I was far too young to appreciate all the jokes, but there was something about the colours, the hyperrealism and the Danny Elfman music that intrigued me. It was like being kissed for the first time: you dont really get whats happening, but youd definitely like to investigate further.

By the time Burtons great late-80s and 90s films came along Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns and Ed Wood (surely one of the greatest movie runs of any modern director), I was primed to fall headlong in love. It is hard to think of another clutch of films that capture in a more heartfelt way what it feels like to see yourself as a freakish outsider. As I entered a rocky puberty, followed by disastrous teenage years, these movies were like my internal soundtrack, each one investigating the subject more deeply as my own hormonal misery deepened.

The trailer for Tim Burtons Dumbo.

Something else was kicking in for me, too. I was starting to see how Burtons movies linked together visually: the model towns, the holes in the roofs, the black-and-white stripes. Even the characters Jack Nicholsons Joker is recognisably an evolution of Michael Keatons Beetlejuice. And I loved seeing Keaton move from Beetlejuice to Batman, playing the weirdo in both. Burton was then considered something of an anomaly in Hollywood, the opposite to your usual director. But the truth is, he taught me how to watch movies.

Looking back at the few photos I allowed to be taken of me during my teenage years, I noticed that the fictional character I most closely resembled was Allison, the self-consciously weird outsider played by Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. But as I entered my 15th year by then refusing to brush my hair and finding myself riddled with, among other things, OCDs that made me fearful of touching anything, and left my hands cracked and bleeding from compulsive overwashing the one I related to most deeply was Edward Scissorhands. When I read in what was then one of my most treasured books, Fabers Burton on Burton, that when Burton was younger he was so unhappy he used to hide in the closet, pull at his wisdom teeth and bleed all over his office, I knew for sure I had found a kindred soul.

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands: the embodiment of teenage unhappiness.

Its not so much that Burton was my childlike thing I put away as an adult, but there did come a point when we outgrew one another. I stuck with him up to Sleepy Hollow because, even if I didnt love Johnny Depp as much as I did Michael Keaton, I still got such a kick out of seeing Burtons signature in every frame and because I thought (and still think) that making visually bland movies is analogous to writing only in cliche. You are disrespecting your audience by serving up such thoughtless, personality-free fare. Burton taught me that.

But with Sleepy Hollow, it began to feel like what had once made Burton feel distinctive was calcifying into a cliche itself. Then he entered what we Burton fans call the dark ages Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and we clung to promises that his next film would be a return to form, the way Woody Allen fans once did.

Recently, he has returned to form, although, for me, seeing movies such as Dark Shadows and Big Eyes is a bit like meeting up with your teenage boyfriend: youre glad things have worked out for them, but you feel a little wistful for the lost youthful magic; something that has much to do with you as it does with them. But Burtons earlier films still touch a tender part of my heart. When Batman Returns came out in 1992, it was widely deemed a bit of a disappointment compared with the original film, largely, I think, because people felt there were too many characters (ie two villains), a complaint that seems adorably quaint now that we are in the era of endless X-Men spin-offs. But when I watch it now, I find it thrilling to see Burton allied with such obviously kindred spirits, namely Keaton and Danny DeVito, who so effectively embodied his vision that they changed their own images for ever.

Costume designer Colleen Atwood on the Dumbo set. Photograph: Jay Maidment/Disney

And Burton obviously loved both of them, working with DeVito two more times, in Mars Attacks! and Big Fish. So, although I wasnt wildly overexcited when I heard that Burton was directing Dumbo (another Disney remake just what the world needs), my inner teenager melted a little when I heard that DeVito and Keaton would be working with him. And when I was then asked if I would like to spend a day on the set watching Burton directing it, my inner teenager became my desperately overexcited outer adult, and I was on the next bus to Pinewood studios, in the incongruously uncinematic setting of Slough.

If Burton was ever going to direct a straightforward childrens movie, then Dumbo the story of a freakish outsider is clearly a more natural fit for him than, say, Cinderella. And judging from the storyboards I am shown backstage, this one seems sweeter and more geared to children than his Alice in Wonderland was: the sets are all in very un-Burtonesque warm and cheerful colours. There is even a happy parade of pink elephants, a last-minute reference to the 1941 cartoon.

When you work with Tim, you always pay homage to Tim. But with this movie, I didnt put in any of the expected touches, not even a black-and-white stripe, says Colleen Atwood, the films costume designer, and regular Burton collaborator.

Its not fair to have complained in one breath about Burton repeating himself and in the next to whinge that a movie doesnt look sufficiently Burtonesque, so I force myself not to miss the old gothic monochrome too much. And the sets and costumes do look undeniably beautiful, or as Colin Farrell puts it more succinctly when he walks in and does a double-take at all the costumes on their rails: Oh, fuck!

Farrell plays Holt, Dumbos handler, and he proves himself to be a fully paid-up member of the Burton fanclub when he immediately, and somewhat randomly, starts talking about images of Burtons childhood you can find online: Have you seen that one of him from when he was 10 or so, and hes wearing a Halloween costume that is straight out of The Nightmare Before Christmas? Its such a touching testament to how those images in childhood bed into you, and he gets that

When I ask if Burton reminds him of anyone else he has worked with, Farrell instantly names Yorgos Lanthimos, with whom he worked on The Lobster and The Killing of the Sacred Deer: With Yorgos, the work almost destroys him. I dont even know if he sleeps during the shoot. And Tim is emotionally, physically and intellectually invested in every detail. After all this time, he still cares about EVERYTHING. One of the things that surprised me is how much actual set there is here. You know, I was talking to someone from the [live action] Lion King and, Im sure it will look beautiful, but theres nothing on set [because its all CGI]. Its just a fucking cameraman and some green screen. But we have a whole big top here!

At this point, something more vaudevillian than Burtonesque happens (or maybe its just the revenge of the Lion King): Farrells wooden chair breaks underneath him. Farrell braces his elbows on the table as it breaks, so he doesnt fall on the floor, but rather stays in a seated position above a vanished chair. 20th Century Fox better pay for this, he grins, utterly unflustered. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a movie star.

Costumes and props on the set. Photograph: Leah Gallo/Disney

DeVito, still in costume as the circus ringmaster, comes into the dressing room. Some actors look disappointingly different off-screen, but he looks even more DeVitoesque in person, wearing a top hat about twice as tall as he is.

Wheres the Guardian? I love the Guardian! You like my hat? Hahaha! he cackles. Right, which ones the trick chair? Youre not gonna get me like you got Colin!

This is DeVito and Burtons third film together fourth if you count Burtons cameo as a corpse in DeVitos movie Hoffa, which DeVito very much does: Wasnt that cool? Theres Tim!

Is Burton the director he has worked with the most? Mmm I think so. Well, except Ingmar Bergman. Ha!

In Burtons films, DeVito invariably plays a top-hatted impresario. Why does he think Burton associates him so closely with top hats? Ha! I dont know. I just feel like Im part of the palette Kandinskys world, because Tim is an artist.

So no worry about repeating himself? Oh God, no. And its really fun that Michael [Keaton]s here, too, because, unlike in Batman Returns, this time hes the bad guy and Im the good one, so thats progression. Ha! Also, I get a naked scene in this. Did you know that? Im in the bathtub. In Big Fish, you got to see my tush, so when Tim said: Danny, theres a naked scene in Dumbo I was like: Sign me up! Anyway, gotta go. Ill keep reading the Guardian! Ha!

DeVito has to film the last scene in the movie, and I follow him out on to an enormous stage set, mocked up to look like the most lavish fantasy circus of any childs dream, replete with a marching band and acrobats. There are 350 brightly costumed extras, half as many as in other circus scenes. DeVito jokes around with them, keeping spirits up during the boring technical adjustments. The whole tent is a rainbow of sepia-tinted colours, except for one small square black tent in the middle which is, inevitably, where Burton is based. He pops out of the tent, all in black, a beetle among fireflies, and pats DeVito on the shoulder. You just start when youre ready, he says exploiting the kind of mutual trust that can only come from a 25-year working relationship.

Danny DeVito as Max Medici in Dumbo. Photograph: Jay Maidment/Disney

But DeVito keeps fluffing his short line, promising the circus audience advancements instead of amazements.

Burton laughs: Never mind! Action!

DeVito continues to garble the line. At last, he gets it. I vote for that one! That was the best take yet! he crows.

What are you doing here? Star Wars is just across the road, you know, ha-ha! Burton says, suddenly appearing next to me, unexpectedly tall and even more unexpectedly cheerful. I cant really talk about the movie because I dont know if its a comedy or drama yet. I never do. Ill let you know when Im done, he says, slipping back into his tent.

Burton has to go back to work and I have to go home. I no longer need Burton, or any film director, to understand my soul, but as I sit on the bus looking out the window at the landmarks of Slough, I think about how I got to spend the day, watching Burton direct DeVito, 25 years after I fell in love with Batman Returns. As Farrell said, the images from our childhood bed in for ever, and Burtons movies will always be among those bedded-in images for me. I suspect hed hate being told that, but I know hed understand.

Dumbo is released on 29 March

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After a trial run in Denver, the stage adaptation of the animated smash hits New York and a passionate fanbase is already out in force and in costume

The cold never bothered them anyway.

On a chilly Thursday evening, 200 people jammed the sidewalks outside the St James Theater in New York, where the musical Frozen, the latest venture from Disney Theatrical Productions, had staged its first Broadway preview.

Frozen remains the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, making $1.2bn worldwide since its release in 2013. Very loosely based on the Hans Christian Andersen story The Snow Queen, its set in the fictional land of Arandelle and describes Princess Annas quest to find and redeem her older sister Elsa, a blond icemaker with a thing for statement gloves.

To adapt the film for Broadway, the original creative team composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and writer Jennifer Lee reunited to shift scenes, lose a snow monster and add 12 new songs. One new number, Elsas ballad Monster, would be released that same night online, but several people came out humming another new tune, Hygge.

As the wind lashed 44th Street, attendees stood comparing merchandise fluffy snowmen, fur-trimmed sweatshirts and swallowing the last of pricy cerulean cocktails like the Heart of Arendelle. Not too many adult women had come in costume, but several had assembled blue and white outfits. One man proudly displayed his blue socks. Many tiny Elsas stood near the stage door, hoping for autographs, and a few Annas, too, even though it was hours past bedtime.

It was really, really good, one of the Annas, 10-year-old Molly Sarfert said. There were some new songs, but they were really on it. She even claimed to like the hidden folk, one of the musicals innovations replacing the films trolls.

You said they were creepy, her mother Geri, 46, countered.

Development of the $25 to $30m musical, now directed by Michael Grandage and designed by Christopher Oram, was initially fraught, with the production cycling through two directors, two designers, three choreographers and cast changes, too. Reports from the pre-Broadway tryout in Denver were on the cheerful side of tepid.

The cast of Frozen at the end of the first night on Broadway. Photograph: Disney Theatrical Productions

Frozen, which stars Broadway regulars Caissie Levy and Patti Murin as inclement princesses, could flop, like Tarzan, but it could also go on to crush the Broadway box office, like The Lion King, which has earned nearly $8bn, or Aladdin, which continues to post strong profits. It will have some competition this spring from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which begins previews next month and should also appeal to family ticket-buyers.

But for several in the crowd, there was no competition at all. Dustin Overfield, 34, stood outside holding a huge bag of souvenirs and waiting for his wife. Theyd flown out from Detroit to see the show. Its her Valentines Day present, he said. Hes already pre-ordered the cast album and he proudly showed off a piece of sheet music signed by the composers.

Away from the stage door, other groups clustered. Adam Kaufman, 43, who had come with his fiancee and some friends, described the show as amazing, totally magical. His friends, who had bought sweatshirts, thought so too. A few of them were surprised by what Kaufman called a number that was a little risqu.

There was more nudity than expected from Disney, said his friend Jenn Mante, 36.

But everyone agreed that the reindeer, Sven, was an improvement on the movie, and so was the snowman, Olaf.

Half an hour later, the crowd still hadnt dissipated. Some people are worth melting for, Olaf says. And some shows are worth shivering for.

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The British singer has recorded a song for the soundtrack of Ava DuVernays film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time

Sade has recorded a new original song for the upcoming film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Director Ava DuVernay announced the news on her Twitter account: I never thought shed say yes, but asked anyway. She was kind + giving. A goddess. We began a journey together that Ill never forget.

Titled Flower of the Universe, the song will be the first new music from Sade since her eponymous bands 2010 album Soldier of Love, their sixth. The soundtrack to A Wrinkle in Time will also feature music from artists including DJ Khaled and Demi Lovato, Sia, Kehlani and Beyonc proteges Chloe x Halle. Iranian-German composer Ramin Djawadi best known for writing the score to Game of Thrones will provide original composition.

Ava DuVernay (@ava)

I never thought shed say yes, but asked anyway. She was kind + giving. A goddess. We began a journey together that Ill never forget. Proud to announce that Sade has created an original song for WRINKLE IN TIME. Its entitled Flower of the Universe. And its a dream come true.

February 20, 2018

Sade, 59, was born Helen Folasade Adu in Ibadan, Nigeria. In 1983, she left the band Pride, in which she was a backing singer, to form her own band with guitarist and saxophone player Stuart Matthewman, keyboardist Andrew Hale, bassist Paul Denman and drummer Paul Anthony Cook. Their debut single, Your Love Is King, was released in February 1984, followed by their debut album, Diamond Life, that July. The album has been certified four times platinum. In the Queens 2017 birthday honours list, Sade was awarded a CBE for services to music.

A Wrinkle in Time is released on 9 March, and stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. DuVernay was announced as director of the film in February 2016, making her the first woman of colour to direct a live-action film with a production budget of more than $100m.

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Theres been talk of Stockholm syndrome with the Beast, but Belle changes him

Linda Woolverton, screenwriter

Disney hired me to write a Winnie the Pooh spec that was never made. But chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg read it, and asked me to start working on Beauty and the Beast. There had been two previous unsuccessful attempts to adapt it, in the 1930s and 50s; my first draft wasnt a musical, was visually darker, and there were no talking objects.

The Little Mermaid changed everything. Musicals had fallen out of fashion, but Disney animation had been in a slump in the 1980s and needed something different. I flew to Florida to meet with [lyricist] Howard Ashman, and we hit it off instantly.I had seen the Jean Cocteau version in college, and knew animate objects were part of it, but our reason for introducing Lumire and Cogsworth, the talking candlestick and clock, was because Howard said, Whos going to sing my songs?

I deliberately set out to create a Disney heroine who was about more than her looks or how nicely she could behave when terrible things were happening to her. I came out of the 60s and I was a feminist; I didnt think women would accept a heroine who was going to sit around and wait for the prince to come and save her. The opening scene with her reading the books as she walks through town was what I did as a kid: when my mother sent me to the store, I kept reading all the way there and back.

Disney animation was an old boys network at the time, though, and I met with a lot of resistance. I wrote a scene in which Belle puts pins in a map while shes waiting for her father to come back because she wants to travel to interesting places. But when the storyboards came back, she wasnt putting pins in a map, she was baking a cake. They didnt want a woman around thats the truth. If I hadnt had Jeffreys backing, I wouldve been kicked to the kerb.

I won some battles, I lost some. The final scenes were rushed to meet the release deadline and some of the later animation doesnt look so great they had to borrow some frames from Sleeping Beauty. But in the end I was very happy. It became the first animated feature to get a best-picture nomination at the Oscars, and it enabled the whole concept of the Disney heroine to be broken open. Theres been a lot of talk about Stockholm syndrome with the Beast, but it isnt. Belle changes him.

Lumire, Cogsworth, Chip, Mrs Potts and Featherduster, plus Belle and the Beast in the background, 1991. Photograph: Alamy

Alan Menken, composer

My songwriting partner Howard Ashman and I had done The Little Mermaid, and Disney asked if wed like to do Beauty and the Beast it was as simple as that. But what I didnt know when we started was that Howards days were numbered. He had been diagnosed with Aids. This would be the last project he was ever going to work on.

Before he told me about the illness, there were incidents I didnt understand. Once, when the mic on his $600 Walkman Pro stopped working, he took it and smashed it against a wall. Then he glowered at me: Dont touch it. I was getting mentally beaten up, but it was self-flagellation by Howard as much as anything else.

I eventually found out about his illness just after we won the Oscars for The Little Mermaid. No one else was to know it was a death sentence, and people wouldnt want to be in the room with him. So there were difficulties. A musical director would set up a rehearsal on the fifth floor Id look down and there would be Howard struggling to get up the five flights. This was a young man in his 30s.

There were some preliminary sketches, ideas and structures, but Howard and I set the tone of the movie. We adapted the original French fairytale pretty liberally the creation of enchanted objects opened up the opportunity for songs such as Be Our Guest, while Gaston and his hangers-on allowed for the big tavern number. Howard referred to Gaston as rough trade, and there were winks to that sexuality throughout: Ill tell you whose team he prefers to be on, I use antlers in all my decorating… And yet its also classic old Walt, this Bavarian-style village right out of Snow White.

Often the job of the music is to be clear and concise and get out of the way of the lyrics. Be Our Guest, for example: I made this classic Thank Heaven for Little Girls kind of thing a stock French piece of music and said to Howard: Look, I know its dumb, come back with a lyric. He then let the lyrics just explode off it.

By a certain point, he wasnt well enough to travel. Once Disney knew, they brought a lot of the production over to the east coast; he made it through all the last recording sessions. For Something There, Paige OHara was singing the line: New, and a bit alarming. By now Howard was nearly blind and could barely talk. But he said in this hoarse whisper, over the phone from his bed: Tell Paige, when she gets to alarming: Streisand! Next came all the scoring sessions, and pre-production for the animation, but by then he was gone.

The live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is in cinemas now.

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The late Star Wars villains return to the space franchise isnt the first time a star has been digitally brought back to life, but could represent a tipping point for Hollywood

We want to scan you, all of you, your body, your face, your emotions, your laughter, your tears. We want to sample you, preserve you. We want to own this thing called Robin Wright. These are the unnerving words from Danny Hustons Jeff Green in sci-fi film The Congress, as he discusses the idea of digitally capturing the actor for generations to come. Once her image is handed over, she will lose all creative control of how it is used the studio owns her for all time.

Its hard not to think of these words when watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, in which the late Hammer legend Peter Cushing returns to the screen for the latest instalment of the franchise.

With the aid of advanced CGI, a walking, talking Cushing once again reprises his role as the sneering Imperial Officer Grand Moff Tarkin from the 1977 original Star Wars: A New Hope, even though the actor has been dead for more than 20 years.

The news that Cushing would feature in Rogue One broke last year, with sources reporting that it would be one of the most complex and costly CGI re-creations ever. Since the release of the film, critics have noted how remarkable yet slightly creepythe digital resurrection of Cushing is.

The effect is remarkable, if uncanny, and the technology is breathtaking. How the trick was pulled off remains a mystery as the wizards at Lucas Film and Disney remaining tight-lipped about their achievement. Since the start of cinema, its technical magic has always made us gasp, and seeing Cushing interacting, near seamlessly, with new characters brings a smile to the face.

Then come the questions about this necromantic cinematic feat and what it means for the industry. When the effects can be so spookily lifelike, you start to wonder can you copyright and package an actor after death? It would seem so.

This isnt the first time that the dead have graced the silver screen. Brandon Lee was tragically shot while filming Alex Proyass goth classic The Crow. The film was completed by digitally lifting Lee from previously captured footage and superimposing it on later scenes. After Oliver Reed died in the middle of shooting Gladiator, Ridley Scott similarly used digital renderings of the actors face to complete the missing scenes. Both were remarkably effective, with audiences barely aware of the digital trickery.

More recently, theres been a trend of actors being given digital facelifts to restore them to their younger selves, as was the case for Robert Downey Jr in Captain America: Civil War and Anthony Hopkins in Westworld.

Superimposed star Brandon Lee in The Crow. Photograph: Cine Text/Allstar/Sportsphoto

Musicians have been raised from the grave, too. At Californias Coachella festival in 2012, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg were joined on stage by Tupac Shakur, 16 years after the actor was shot dead in Las Vegas, thanks to holographic technology. The same techniques have been deployed for Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley concerts, where audiences enjoy the macabre spectacle of the dead performing again.

Framestore, the VFX company that has provided visual effects for Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast were also behind the Galaxy chocolate TV advert set on the Amalfi coast that brought a 19-year-old Audrey Hepburn back to the screen They used FACS (facial action coding system) and body doubles. Mike McGee, CEO and co-founder of Framestore, says: Many young and old actors today are having their heads and bodies digitally scanned to future-proof their image, to allow future technologies to recreate them.

But such technological marvels can feel unnerving, as if theyve been plucked from a dystopian novel. Where science and alchemy have failed, Hollywood is creating its own philosophers stone.

So where do we draw the line? It was reported last year that the late actor Robin Williams had passed on rights to his name, signature, photograph and likeness to a trust protecting the use of his image until 2039. Williams, as with Ari Folmans The Congress, clearly saw Hollywoods direction.

Returning to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, its interesting that Peter Cushing isnt credited on the Internet Movie Database, nor the presumed body double used to stand in for the shots. This is more likely about not creating a spoiler for diehard Star Wars fans, rather than a creative snub, despite the characters return being well-publicised.

Questions remained unanswered, though. Who gets paid for a digital resuscitees role? Does an estate have to give permission if the likenesses are taken from pre-existing footage under licence to movie studios? It is difficult, at least in English law, to protect your own likeness, and unless an actor, as Williams did, has taken steps to protect their image, it is unlikely that permission would be needed.

There are also positives. It is wonderful to see Cushing, replete with snarling lip and piercing stare, back in the franchise that relaunched his career. It appears to be an act of affection by director Gareth Edwards who, rather than recasting the Grand Moff, has opted to honour Cushings memory.

Legal points aside, what does this means for actors in moral terms? Are studios right to use an actors likeness? Pandoras box has been opened,. Stories and plots are remade and rebooted all the time in Hollywood, but what if this becomes the case with actors? Could a director resurrect an actor digitally if they believe there are perfect for the role? Are we going to see Marlon Brando, James Dean, Grace Kelly and other Hollywood icons brought back to star alongside Dwayne Johnson and Melissa McCarthy? Perhaps.

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A slate of vivid movies is coming to cinemas for Christmas and many of them have women at the centre of their story

What do a Pacific Islander on an emotional quest, the wilful leader of a small rebel band and a young girl who dreams of learning to fly an eagle have in common? Theyre all set to dominate the box office this Christmas.

On the surface, Disney animation Moana, Star Wars spinoff Rogue One and documentary The Eagle Huntress are three very different films. What they share, however, is a sense of indomitable purpose and the ability to move audiences at a time when they are desperately in need of good cheer and its this that looks set to propel them to success.

Weve had a lot of girl guides, football teams and high school groups coming to watch the film and the reaction has been amazing, says Otto Bell, director of The Eagle Huntress, which follows a young Kazakh girl, Aisholpan, as she battles prejudice and bad weather to become the first female to enter the countrys annual Golden Eagle competition. We had one moment where we came out after Sundance and all these kids whod seen the film spontaneously started applauding, cheering and shouting her signature eagle-calling shout. It was incredible.

The intrepid and independent Moana in Disneys film, who has been described by many critics as an anti-princess, has received a similarly warm response. What I love about Moana is its focus on a young leader who discovers her inner power and learns to trust herself, says Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly. Plus she shows the charming but pompous tough guy, Maui, that brawling isnt always the best solution to a problem. Brothers everywhere, big and little, should take note.

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Rogue One, which opens this week, will see Felicity Joness Jyn Erso gather a ragtag band of rebels including Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna and Donnie Yen to take on the might of the Empire a plotline that has taken on slightly more resonance in the light of recent political events.

So are we seeing the rise of a new kind of heroine? Bell says that what drew him to Aisholpan was her quiet determination, and its certainly the case that all three women are shown as go-getting leaders. I see Moanas story as a classic heros journey regardless of gender, says Osnat Shurer, producer of the Disney animation. We see her courage and emotional intelligence, her determination and compassion, and its a fascinating tale.

In recent years, Disney has made concerted efforts to move away from its image as the home of sparkling dresses, glass slippers, singing birds and princes swooping in to save the day. Brave was a story about the bonds between mothers and sisters, Frozen a tale of sisterly love and loyalty, and even though Rapunzel and Tiana the respective heroines of Tangled and The Princess and the Frog got their men, in neither case was it their main concern.

Aisholpan, the young Kazakh falconer whose story is told in documentary The Eagle Huntress Photograph: Allstar/Sony Pictures Classics

I just rewatched Sleeping Beauty and I forgot how passive she is: its the fairies and the prince who come to the rescue. Same for Snow White and Cinderella, says Monica Castillo, film writer for the New York Times. Starting with the 1990s Disney renaissance, the princesses become more active, peaking with Mulan, who becomes a warrior to take her fathers place in the army. I was thrilled that Tiana had ambitions beyond big ballgowns and the real love story of Frozen was between two sisters. Its a whole new world from where we started: pretty things to be rescued from witches, dragons and evil stepmothers.

Moana continues that evolution with a story thats as much about helping your community as discovering yourself. Most notably, her figure is athletic and strong rather than wasp-waisted and delicate. She had to look as though she could go on this journey to save her world, says Shurer. The way she looks shouldnt be radical but its true that right now it is. Hawaiian writer Robyn Lucas agrees. Moana as a Disney princess was not only body-positive, but having her as a darker-skinned/brown girl made a huge impact, she says. I was mesmerised watching it, because it was the first time I saw anyone who looked like me on the screen in that capacity as a leading actress.

Many fans are also responding to the opportunity to celebrate a brown girl in a leading role. I loved it Ive seen it twice now and think it does a very good job of both harking back to the Disney renaissance and moving the story forward in a progressive way, says Aisha Harris, culture writer for Slate and the host of that sites popular podcast, Represent. Theres no prince, no love interest. Its a film about a girl and her journey and the heroine is a girl of colour, and thats so important.

Daniel Jose Older, author of the acclaimed young adult fantasy Shadowshaper and a new novella, Ghost Girl In The Corner, agrees: Moana isnt passive. Shes central to the story and I know from my own inbox how important that is since I wrote Shadowshaper, its been full of brown girls saying they hadnt felt at home in a book before. Its a really powerful experience to find yourself at home somewhere without being translated by others. To see that in a Disney movie is huge.

Nor is it the only example. A recent piece in Vanity Fair quoted Disney as saying that between 2016 and 2018 about 24% of the studios live-action releases will feature ethnic minority leads. A similar push has been made by Disney-owned LucasFilm regarding female leads brunette and British ones, at least with Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones set to join Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones in the Star Wars universe.

The Force Awakens and Rogue One absolutely show that female heroes can carry a blockbuster action-adventure movie, says Breznican. Similarly, Moana shows that we can continue to reach beyond the Brothers Grimm. The world is full of amazing folktales and mythology and animated films are just another step in the process of handing these stories to a new generation.

Not everyone is singing Moanas praises, however. Disney worked for six years on the film, establishing an Oceanic Story Trust made up of people from all walks of Pacific Islands life, from anthropologists and linguists to master navigators and tattooists. It employed a Samoan musician, Opetaia Foai, to co-write the music, and cast two stars with Pacific Island heritage, Aulii Cravalho (Moana) who is Native Hawaiian and Dwayne The Rock Johnson (Maui) who is half-Samoan. But some Pacific Islanders remain unconvinced.

Feleicity Jones as Jyn Erso in Rogue One. Photograph: Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm

Disney is engaged in a sophisticated form of colonisation, says Dr Teresia Teaiwa, senior lecturer in Pacific studies at Victoria University of Wellington. It has very cleverly manipulated some islanders deep desire to be affirmed by the dominant culture and its now selling this desire back to us. What is most insidious about Moana is that is offers us roles as a comical buffoon on one hand or an adolescent faux-feminist on the other, and distracts us from the deep and rebellious intelligence that is our true inheritance, in this ocean that has been our home for millennia.

Tina Ngata, a teacher at Te Wananga o Aotearoa, New Zealands indigenous university, and a campaigner for indigenous rights, agrees. Moana has taken a very broad-stroke approach to a very wide area that holds a very diverse set of cultures, she says. The film is problematic about many things, from rock-stacking, which is actually a very disrespectful and problematic practice in Hawaii, to Moanas father banning the village from venturing beyond the reef which is codswallop, and does not reflect our own world views and likely responses to the event of losing someone at sea.

Our region has always been an exotic escape that people go to in order to turn their back on stress, and acknowledging distinct mana [rights] is not a part of that experience. A number of whanau [extended families] from islands across the Pacific are genuinely enjoying the movie. All I can say to that is not all that we enjoy is good for us.

Shurer remains sanguine. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, particularly about their own culture, she says. My one hope is that people see the film and dont make their decisions simply based on the trailer.

Lucas agrees. Although there were some problems with the film, the makers had clearly done a great deal of research and I understand that you cant fully get Polynesian culture condensed for a two-hour film.

I adore Moana because she was smart and yet vulnerable and her relationship with her parents was respectful, which is huge.

Its important, too, that the commitment to creating diverse and interesting characters continues. Older says: Its great that weve got to this point, but we cant get stuck here. Our world and society are complex and diverse and the stories we tell and are told need to reflect that.

Moana is out now. Rogue One and The Eagle Huntress are both released thisweek

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Sketches and scenes from classic animated movies, including The Jungle Book and Fantasia, unearthed in studios archives

A lost world of Disney is to be made public for the first time, including images that, when added together, show Donald Duck dancing with giant cigars, and sketches for a film about the American folk hero Davy Crockett.

Film historian Daniel Kothenschulte has collated celluloid images from hundreds of Disney projects that, for various reasons, never saw the light of day. Having been given unrestricted access to the Disney Archives and Animation Research Library, his discoveries are to appear in a major book entitled The Walt Disney Film Archives: The Animated Movies 19211968.

Kothenschulte told the Observer: You open up pastel drawings that are still rolled up, and all this coloured dust appears on the table. A wonderful moment. The Donald Duck film was developed pretty far. There are beautiful colour storyboards, pastels that give you a view of the whole film. Those have never been published anywhere.

Kothenschulte was also given access for the first time to Thomas Hart Bentons 10-page treatment for a never-made Davy Crockett film, with sketches of fantastic swamp creatures drawn in 1946. This is a wonderful thing that nobody has ever seen except for the archivists at Disney, he said. Its not just the images that have never been seen; nobody knew what it was about. It was just known that a Davy Crockett project was in development.

In the book he writes: Benton shows himself here as a true storyteller who uses the opportunity to pay homage to his second-greatest artistic passion early American folk music. The script begins in a swamp landscape, out of which alligators emerge and begin to tap dance to Johnnie Queens Clog. The song grows wilder and wilder as the alligators transform into ring-tailed roarers. In a sketch, Benton depicts one of these creatures out of American folklore, which he describes as half-alligator, half-horse, and half-devil.

Speculating on why the project was shelved, Kothenschulte pointed to a letter from Benton that suggests it was too extravagant, although Disney himself was an enthusiastic backer. Other ideas that fell by the wayside include a feature film on Hiawatha, inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellows epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha. Kothenschulte described the surviving storyboard as monumental. Other unpublished imagery includes a scene from the short film, Little Hiawatha, in which the main characters canoe is wrecked on forbidding rocks.

The holdings of the Animation Research Library extend to some six million artefacts, of which Kothenschulte estimates less than a million have been scanned or catalogued so far. I was able to get access to things that other scholars didnt, or maybe they didnt ask the right questions. Its not an archive that you can just move in and touch things. You have to wait for them to come up with a box, or maybe 10 boxes if youre lucky.

With 1,500 illustrations and essays by Disney experts, the book covers each of the major animated films made in Disneys lifetime, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Jungle Book. Kothenschulte said: With every film, we have examples that have not been published before. We have 50 or 60 unpublished drawings from The Jungle Book.

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