As Princess Belle Sakura flees her father’s kingdom, she is regularly intercepted by her stepmother, the wicked Empress Épine, who is seeking to drive her further and further away.
During a sequence underwater, the Empress appears in the form of an octopus. With her are two other sea creatures – characters which have changed significantly from Designer Rae Smith’s original conceptual drawings.
Acting as bodyguards to the Empress, the sea creatures originally appeared as wide-jawed, glow-in-the-dark Angler fish, similar to the terrifying example seen in Pixar’s Finding Nemo.
‘You have to remember that I’d not designed a classical ballet before,’ explains Rae, ‘so I was learning by my mistakes. And my mistake with the angler fish was that they were basically dressed in black and set against a black background, so you couldn’t see them!
‘I was hoping that the lines on the costumes, combined with the angler fish’s luminosity – that you imagine those deep sea creatures would have – would be enough to make them visible. But in fact it abstracted the body too much. And also they just looked a bit too bonkers! So it was a guess of mine that didn’t work.’
Instead, the angler fish became spiky crabs. Choreographically there were few changes required, apart from a few tweaks to their initial entrance onto the stage. Where before they stood tall with one leg out behind them, they now bend low on the floor and hold their arms out wide and crab-like.
You can see some of the differences in this video clip, which compares studio and stage rehearsals from different points in the creative process:
While the characters only appear briefly in Act II, they were no less important to get right than any of the others.
‘It’s important to clarify anything that isn’t quite working,’ says Rae, ‘so that the public don’t get stuck on these little details, and instead can simply enjoy the presentation of the whole production and the story that it’s telling.’