So…I have a question for everyone. Is Belle’s dress supposed to be yellow or gold?
Entertainment Weekly recently released pictures for Disney’s upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. The cover photo features Belle and the Beast dancing in the famous ballroom sequence, presumably while Angela Lansbury–er, sorry, Emma Thompson this time–sings gorgeously in the background about tales and time and meta-narratives.
Something was bugging me, and it wasn’t the Beast’s horns (which are still very odd to look at no matter how I turn my head). It was, in fact, the ballgown.
Truth is, there’s nothing wrong with the dress at all, at least not practically speaking. It is functional and very close to its animated counterpart. But I kept staring at the picture with this troubling sense of noooo until it hit me–the dress is the wrong color. Right. Right?
Funny thing about animation: colors can be weird. Especially when those colors can’t quite articulate the material an item is made from. Swords, for example, tend to look flat and gray in your average 20th century 2D animated film. They lacked that metallic sheen to help us identify them as metal. But because we’re human and somewhat clever, our brains can typically parse this out. It’s the right shape, and the sound effects department gives it that ‘schwing!’ sound, and we know what we’re looking at.
But sometimes you brain does those translations all on its own, without a multitude of cues. So here’s my problem: Belle’s dress is not yellow, it is gold.
At the end of the day, this is all down to personal perception, and yet I could not be more certain of anything in the world. I have lived the majority of my life thinking of that dress as gold, and you cannot take it away from me. It matches the Beast’s embroidery! What kind of grumpy prince puts yellow embroidery on his coat WHEN IT COULD BE GOLD? HE IS RICH, THERE ARE NO LIMITS.
Interestingly, The Road to El Dorado helped to make this distinction clearer by creating a brand new way to animate gold and give it the luster we typically expect. (Of course, this also benefitted from the additional touch of CGI.) But Beauty and the Beast didn’t have that resource, so the dress is gold and I will take this certainty to my teeny tiny grave.
If you need further proof, I just chatted this to my spouse without preamble, and this was the response I got:
A very un-scientific roundup of opinions in the Tor.com offices has revealed a slight gold bias, then followed by the question of whether or not yellow and gold can be considered different colors in the first place. (Again, on the 2D plane perhaps not. But yes, they are.) In addition, most Disney merchandise favors a yellow hue in Belle costumes, probably for the sake of making the dress look a bit more cartoon-like. But I had a music box when I was a kid that was Belle as a porcelain figures, and the ballgown was definitely painted a shimmery gold. And the Belle in Once Upon A Time also gets a gold gown. So even Disney can’t make up its mind on its own character. Whatever the case, most versions still appear quite different than the canary yellow number that Emma Watson is wearing.
Which is just a really roundabout way of my asking–what color did you think the dress was when you saw the animated film? I have to know, this is going to keep me awake at night. Help.