Sorry, it’s been a long time since I’ve had any original content (or content at all, for that matter). My posts take a ton of work and video games require a lot less effort, so… Yeah.
Anyway, here’s another post about the most elusive of all creatures: Disney mothers. This time, Belle’s mother, absent from Beauty & the Beast.
Rosalie loved books, though it was hardly surprising. Born the oldest of three daughters to a renowned literary scholar at the university in Paris, she had access to one of the finest libraries in all of France from a very young age. Though, as a woman, she was unable to officially attend the university, her father strongly believed in educating all of his children with a strict curriculum of mathematics, literature, philosophy and natural science, and allowed Rosalie to sit in on all of his classes.
And so it was that Rosalie met a bright young man at the university, Maurice, who was studying the sciences and who fancied himself an amateur inventor. She could not help but be fascinated with his creations, some of them impractical but all of them imaginative. There was also such an earnest enthusiasm in him that she found infectious, and soon she found herself falling for him. She helped root his inventions in reality with pragmatic thinking and lots of library research, and he kept the sometimes too-serious Rosalie young at heart.
After knowing each other for two years, Maurice proposed to Rosalie. He had created a contraption for the task: a box designed to open with a crank that revealed an expanding sign bearing his proposal. Unfortunately, the mechanism had jammed and failed to open. After several minutes, a lot of elbow grease, quite a bit of hammering and a bit of help from Rosalie herself, she could at last give her emphatic yes.
Rosalie and Maurice were joined a few years later by their daughter, Belle, who had inherited her father’s imagination and her mother’s beauty. Soon, Belle became as voracious a reader as her mother, and the young girl spent countless hours in the university library alongside her mother. Belle also regularly assisted her father with his inventions, fetching tools and reaching into small spaces that his own hands could not fit inside. Rosalie regularly had to be the grounding force when Belle and Maurice were swept up in idealistic fancies–Belle was constantly fantasizing about all of the places she had read about and wanted to visit, and Maurice encouraged her dreams by designing a mechanized hot air balloon to take the journey. Fortunately, Rosalie managed to stop them before Maurice could construct the device that would have undoubtedly blown up half of Paris.
Rosalie loved Paris, loved the university in which she had grown up, but the city streets were dirty, the winters harsh, and Rosalie was often sick. Belle would read at her mother’s bedside whenever a particularly violent cough would keep her bedridden. Soon enough, when struck by a severe bout, her doctor recommended fresh, country air as the only likely cure for her persistent illness. Sad to leave Paris, the family moved to a small, provincial town far from Paris. They chose a lovely house on a private lane with plenty of room in the basement for Maurice’s inventions and a lovely den in which Belle could read the few books they could bring with them.
However, it was at her mother’s bedside that Belle spent most of her time, reading to her as she always did during her convalescence. They no longer had the entire library contents of the university at their disposal, but Belle was happy to travel into town to the bookkeeper’s and was his most loyal customer. Belle would return home and tell her mother of the happenings in town–which were always the same–and of the people–who always seemed to treat the book-loving inventor’s daughter as something of an anomaly. At least the townfolk were kind, and always asked after Rosalie’s health, even though few had actually met the bedridden woman.
Rosalie was most entertained by Belle’s stories of Gaston, a local hunter who had been enamored with her since their very first day in their new town and had been pursuing her with gusto. “Perhaps you should consider accepting him,” Rosalie suggested one day. “It sounds like he is a handsome young man, and as a hunter your family would never want for food…”
“Mother,” Belle replied with a smirk, “Gaston does not even like to read.”
“How positively primeval,” said her mother, and nothing further was said on the matter. In fact, Gaston was so out of the question as a suitor to Rosalie that, from then on, she always referred to him as “that hunter.”
As Rosalie’s illness grew worse, she did her best as the realist in the family to inure her daughter to the possibility of her health not improving. She instructed Belle on the keeping of their finances, which had always fallen under Roslie’s purview– considering Maurice’s often scatterbrained behavior–and gave her advice on the managing of their household, most of which duties Belle had long since assumed.
“And make sure your father eats,” Rosalie had instructed. “When he gets caught up in a project, sometimes he forgets. And you will have to make certain that there is food on the table. I know the last thing you want to do is discourage your father’s ambitions, but no matter how revolutionary an invention of his could be, it will not bring any bread if it does not work. You need to keep him grounded when I am not here anymore.”
Despite the doctor’s hope for her improved health in the fresh air, Rosalie passed away just a few months after moving to the country. Belle had wanted to return to Paris, but in the end they decided to remain in their new home, if only for the sake of their finances. The city was expensive, far more so than the expense to travel to fairs in neighboring towns where Maurice could exhibit and possibly sell his more successful inventions.
Rosalie’s family coped each in their own way. Maurice thrust himself even more deeply into his work, trying to keep himself occupied to keep the grief at bay. Belle disappeared into her books, the more fantastical the better, to take her away from the banality of life without her mother. One day, she decided, she would travel the world, to find the adventure she was always reading about in the books that she and her mother had once shared.
So, I like to reveal trade secrets about the design of these characters because I spend so much time trying to get it right that I want someone to know how hard I worked. It’s difficult with animated characters to make the parents similar enough to their children that they’re recognizable, but not look like carbon copies of each other. (Frozen, anyone? They didn’t even try.) Unlike with most of my Disney mothers, she is not a composite of other people, at least not in the face. She is all Belle. It’s interesting because I spent a lot of time staring at screen shots trying to find the right angle that I started to notice the differences in art style between animators, or for different shots. Far shots they don’t have a lot of detail, but for super close-ups, there’s just so much of it. This is the shot I used in the end (left) and compare it to a more “typical” Belle look (right):
The second one is a lot more cartoony and she looks a lot younger, too. It’s not just the hair, either. Granted, Belle is squinting in the first picture, but her eyes aren’t typical the Disney-fied ginormous things, and her lips are way more pouty, the nose is more elegant… So, yeah, I definitely picked the first photo for the base, altered the face shape a bit, picked some different lips from another shot and shifted the eyes so they were actually looking in the correct direction.
The gray hair was a challenge. At first, I didn’t have any, but then I realized Maurice’s hair is all white. My reasoning is that they probably waited a long time before having kids, or they just couldn’t until Belle decided to make her appearance. So, since they were maybe a bit of an older couple, even if Rosalie was younger, they could both be going gray. Here’s the original without the gray, which I like better, but that’s just because I really wasn’t happy with the stripey-ness:
I tried to look at some other older Disney characters for reference but, like Maurice, they just go for the all-white or all-gray look, probably because it’s easier to animate. One exception is Mulan’s mom, who has two big swaths of gray on the sides, which really does work for her hair style, but Rosalie’s was so wavy that doing some stripes at the temples wasn’t going to look right. Even Ursula’s got two gray stripes on the sides, but her hair’s white to begin with, so big deal.
Her body and blanket are actually Cinderella’s. I tried to make my own bumps under the sheets, but it wasn’t going well, so I cheated.
Also, yay for me continuing my streak of not having mothers die in childbirth!
Obligatory Copyright Notice: Beauty and the Beast, all of the character names and original images belong to Disney. Rosalie is a creation by me and is a work of fan art. No copyright infringement is intended.