Over this weekend’s Annie Awards That’s it LA caught up with Jane Foray Award Honoree Don Hahn, producer of such films as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991 & 2017), The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Lion King. We chatted to the legendary mind behind some of our favorite Disney movies about receiving the honor of the night for benevolent and charitable contribution to the animation industry.
“It was fantastic, you don’t make movies to get awards. Of course when somebody looks back and says ‘Don’s done some things that inspire the industry’ it’s very humbling, it’s a huge honor. June Foray is a legend, to get an award with her name on it is fantastic. Then they have your colleagues in the industry say, ‘Let’s stop for a minute and acknowledge Don is fantastic.’ It’s a great night.”, Hahn said humbly about getting the award.
He also let us know a little more about the very under wraps live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast that’s set for release in 2017. Belle is one of the most popular Disney Princesses and when we asked Hahn how she might be updated in the next feature to reflect this generation, he generously tip-toed around specifics. “The original Beauty and the Beast, we were really conscious of making Belle a person who was not waiting to live her life when her prince showed up. The same with Maleficent, we really wanted to make those characters living, breathing real people and not so dependent. It’s a little too early to talk about the live-action Beauty and the Beast but I guarantee you that we’re all filmmakers and we love making films for our generation in our era and we want to make it appropriate for the audience. So that whole team who’s making Beauty and the Beast live action is very well aware of that.”
Since the announcement of the cast fans have been itching for more, specifically how they would pull off the more animated characters alongside the live action actors. Hahn described his enthusiasm about the ensemble, “We have Emma Watson playing Belle and this terrific cast with Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan doing voices and being performers. It’s hard to go wrong. They’re all after the same great entertainment, good storytelling that’s appropriate for audiences today. The Beast is played by the coolest guy, Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey who I love. It’s perfect because he’s got this amazing heart for the role and he can do drama and the darker side of it too. So I just can’t say enough about the cast and the filmmakers on that one.” When asked whether the castle cast was present on set to do more of mo-cap performance or if they recorded separately, Hahn smiled, “I think you’ll be surprised and very happy with that way that it’s been handled.”
To many Disney fans, the Fairy Tales are like our Star Wars. With acquired properties like Marvel and Star Wars coming out with films practically multiple times a year or every other year, we asked Hahn about his thoughts for the Disney Fairy Tale films to have a new Renaissance. “I think Disney has been associated with princesses happily so and Fairy tales for the duration of it’s life in film going back to Snow White.” he responded, “I think it’s probably a sure bet to say that in the coming years and decades you’ll not be disappointed if you’re looking for more fairy tales–more stories with handsome princes and beautiful princesses and stories that are uplifting and fun and musical and all the things that we are used to from Disney. ”
So will Disney Princess fans be getting a more diverse slate like the superhero fans do?
He laughed, “You will, we’ll work on that. I grew up with them, you grew up with them and it’s great to be able to know that in the future, generations of audiences are gonna have that.”
When chatting about the films nominated for the night, we asked Hahn what his favorites of 2015 were. “I loved Pete Doctor’s movie, Inside Out. I’m probably prejudice about Roger Allers film The Prophet, it’s a real favorite because of how he put together all those interesting sequences and diverse talents.” He said and elaborated on the state of the industry, “What I love is the diversity that’s starting to come in animation in terms of directorial styles, artistic styles, it’s about time. Animation has a long ways to go in terms of variety. I think you’re starting to see a lot of that this year. Not only in the Annies but the Academy Awards acknowledging filmmakers that have a different voice.”
When Hahn went up to accept his award later that night, he prided his experience with all his amazing colleagues throughout the years and expressed his excitement for diverse inclusion in the field. He even closed out with the hopes of change to continue and noted, on the need of female directors in the field, “more of that too.”