Emma Watson’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ gown and Cinderella’s dresses on display at Disney’s D23 Expo


When Belle slowly descends the stairs in her elegant yellow ballgown to meet a cleaned-up Beast in Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast,” you know something magical is about to happen.

What follows is the film’s most beautiful sequence, showing the love that is blossoming between the two characters, with the movie’s Academy Award-winning theme song swelling in the background.

The costumes worn by Emma Watson as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast."
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The ballroom scene helped cement the iconic status of Belle’s yellow dress, making it that much more important to get right for the 2017 live-action adaptation of the film.

“People wanted to see something very similar to the animated version,” the movie’s costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, previously told The Times. “No one stopped us from experimenting, [but] it never quite felt right. And what it came down to was how it felt to Emma [Watson, who played Belle]. And really about the dance, how it flowed and looked in that important dance scene.”

The costume worn by Angelina Jolie in "Maleficent."
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

That dress, along with Belle’s more practical blue village dress, will be among the more than 70 costumes on display at a 12,000-square-foot exhibit at this year’s D23 Expo. The three-day Disney fan fest will kick off on Aug. 23 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Presented by the Walt Disney Archives, “Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume” will give guests an opportunity to get close-up looks at various outfits worn by their favorite characters over the last 55 years of Disney movies and TV shows.

“We wanted to focus on the design process of our costumes and give our fans the opportunity to get really up close and see some of these amazing pieces in person and to see how beautifully they’re crafted,” Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline told The Times in a recent interview.


The exhibit is meant to not only highlight the artistry of the costumes, but also show guests how costume design is an important part of the storytelling process.

“Everything at Disney is storytelling,” Cline said. “The stories of these characters are even told through the costumes — even in small things like the turn of a hem or some embroidery. The designers take such care to do this so that the actors feel like the character when they’re wearing the costume.”

To highlight this element of the craft, one section of the exhibit will be dedicated strictly to Cinderella’s dresses. In “Cinderella’s Workshop,” visitors will see a number of live-action interpretations of her same costume.

The ball gown worn by Lily James in "Cinderella."
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Visitors will see dresses worn by Brandy (“Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”), Anna Kendrick (“Into the Woods”), Lily James (“Cinderella”), Scarlett Johansson (for an Annie Leibovitz portrait series) and Jessy Schram (from the TV series “Once Upon a Time”).

Fans will also see a special short film made specifically for the exhibit featuring interviews with designers such as Colleen Atwood, Sandy Powell, Eduardo Castro and Ellen Mirojnick.

The exhibit will also feature a main gallery space split into sections for “Disney Heroes,” “Disney Villains” and a third for characters who fall into the “Spaces Between.”

“We chose the heroes and villains theme because most of our costumes fit into one of those two categories,” Cline said. “But then we realized that there were some characters like Jack Sparrow, or Elsa from ‘Frozen,’ who kind of have a foot in both worlds. They’re not villains, they’re not really heroes, they’re kind of in the middle.”

In addition to Disney antiheroes such as the live-action Maleficent, the “Spaces Between” includes characters that start off kind of bad and turn good, or begin as seemingly good and go bad. Time from “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” the Sugar Plum Fairy from “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” are among other “Spaces Between” characters.

Other costumes include those worn by the trio of witches in the cult classic “Hocus Pocus”; dresses worn by the stepmother and stepsisters in 2015’s “Cinderella”; Mary Poppins’ travel dresses from the 1964 original, 2018’s “Mary Poppins Returns” and the Broadway musical; and outfits worn by Jasmine, Aladdin and Genie in Disney’s latest live-action adaptation.

The costumes worn by the witches of "Hocus Pocus."
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Most costumes will be displayed in ways that will allow guests to see them from multiple angles. Additionally, some will be displayed on mannequins in memorable poses seen in the various movies.

Cline hopes that visitors will find a new appreciation for costumes.

“It’s not just the writers of the script, or the directors or actors who tell these stories onscreen that makes these movies so wonderful,” Cline said. “Many times it’s these unsung heroes behind the scenes who are creating these fabulous worlds that [collaborate] to make a wonderful film.”

Twitter: @tracycbrown