`Lights, Camera...O.K., Byte Brain, Do Your Stuff'

There's a point about midway through the new animated film Beauty and the Beast where the Beast takes Beauty's arm and guides her into his castle's ballroom. The doors open, the audience gasps, and the two stroll in, dance, and fall in love. The mood and atmosphere needed to be just right. To get it, Walt Disney Co. turned not to its army of talented animators but to a cluster of computers arrayed in a single room in Glendale, Calif. The staggering scene -- a glittering ballroom that soars 72 feet to a painted ceiling with gilt cherubs -- is the first fully computer-generated, three-dimensional setting in a Disney animated feature. It is but the latest example of the march on Hollywood by the techno-nerds, whose computers are quickly moving into the mainstream of entertainment. Working out of studios from Hollywood to Silicon Valley, these graphic artists are using computer-generated images to make their mark on feature films, snazzy television commercials, and music videos such as Michael Jackson's new Black or White.

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