Though she’s just 3 years old, Nellee Rossi has already been portrayed as Wonder Woman, Little Red Riding Hood and legendary female warrior Hua Mulan by her father, Josh Rossi, a commercial photographer.
So this year, for a Valentine’s Day surprise, he went a bit more traditional and cast her as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, his daughter’s current obsession.
“Whenever something special comes up I do something fun for her,” Josh, 32, tells PEOPLE. “The new Beauty and the Beast movie is coming out and she’s obsessed with Belle from the movie. She loves when the Beast comes out, when they fall in love. So I was like, ‘Okay. That could be fun.’ ”
And he just happened to be traveling in Europe earlier this year for so he was able to photograph real castles for the background, including the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
“I took some background shots of the castle, some surroundings,” he says. “We had somebody donate three of the replica dresses that they created, for a kids’ version. Then I got home and did a photo shoot of her. So it’s this magical, Disney-type series for Valentine’s Day.”
Nellee was especially thrilled when she saw the dresses, he says. (They were donated by designer Ella Dynae.)
“She was over-the-top excited about the dresses,” he says. “While we were in studio shooting her she wanted to reenact certain parts from the movie. She had seen it so many times that she had the dancing scene memorized. She got the most excited for that part because finally she could act out that [dancing] scene with the Beast (me).”
She loved that scene so much he decided to give an enlarged portrait version of it to her as a special gift, which he gave to her on Valentine’s Day morning.
“I wanted to give that to her because it represented my love for her and how special she is to me,” he says.
The surprise gift was a huge success, he says.
“She is little so she just jumped up and down and couldn’t believe it,” he says. “Then she started singing, ‘Tale as old as time,’ went and put on her Belle dress and now she is in a different world.”
Moments like those make all the time and effort he puts into the shoots worth it, he says.
“I want her to have something that represents the relationship she and I have,” he says. “A normal photo doesn’t do it for me. I’m constantly taking photos and videos to try and hold on to each moment spent with her.”
The Beauty and the Beast series is a follow-up to his eight-photo Halloween series casting her as Wonder Woman, which had more than 35 million views.