Disney’s Beauty and the Beast redefined the animated features genre when it became the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.
It was a feat that had not been accomplished in over the 50 years since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs first established the genre in 1937. Beauty and the Beast was also the first animated film to earn over $100 million at the box office. Walt Disney originally considered developing Beauty and the Beast as early as the 1930’s after the success of Snow White but was dissuaded from moving forward after the brilliant live action release of Jean Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête.
When the studio finally chose to move forward with the animated film, they followed the 1756 French version of the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont about a young woman named Belle who takes her father’s place as a prisoner of a ferocious beast. A tale as old as time, the beast eventually falls in love with her, as does she with him, and the spell he has been under is broken by their transcendent love. There were a few genius ideas Disney decided to borrow from Cocteau’s film such as the objects in the Beast’s castle coming to life as well as a rival suitor for Belle.
The original direction taken with the film was to create a non-musical version,
But after 10 weeks of storyboarding the narrative was considered too dark and depressing by the studio. It was around this time that The Little Mermaid premiered to great success and Beauty and the Beast switched gears to become a Broadway-style musical, with the same songwriting team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman from The Little Mermaid called in.
In order to set a different tone from typical fairy tale intros, the team went with a stained glass motif during the prologue of the story, creating a magical and beautiful opening. Animators for our beautiful and brainy heroine, Belle, designed her graceful movements based on ballerinas and used Audrey Hepburn’s princess gown in Roman Holiday as the inspiration for Belle’s iconic ballgown. Belle is also the second Disney princess to become royalty via her marriage to Prince Adam. The first was Cinderella. Animator Glen Keane based the Beast’s character design on a combination of different animals. He has the head and beard of a buffalo, the mane of a lion, the brow of a gorilla, the tusks of a wild boar, the body of a bear, the legs and tail of a wolf, but his eyes are human.
Sleeping Beauty shares a connection with Beauty and the Beast.
Disney reuses a lot of its animation and the dance scene at the end of the movie with Belle and the Prince is reused footage from Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip’s dance scene at the end of Sleeping Beauty. This film also marked one of the first collaborations between Disney and Pixar, which used the software developed by the two companies, called Computer Animation Production System (CAPS). This enabled the creation of the 360-degree ballroom set showing Belle and the Beast dancing to the title song Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast went to to become Disney’s first attempt at producing a Broadway musical opening in 1994 with it’s success cementing a new foothold for the Mouse House on the Great White Way. The film was also added to the National Film Registry in 2002 after the Library of Congress deemed it a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” film. Almost 25 years after Beauty and the Beast premiered on the big screen it is still stealing the hearts of new generations who are discovering the true beauty of this animated classic.
Be our guest and enjoy this enchanted gallery of Beauty and the Beast fan art.
It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting “ideas”, and “thinking”…”
Enchanted? Ha-ha ha-ha! Who said anything about the castle being enchanted? Ha-ha-ha…”
I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand to have someone understand I want so much more than they’ve got planned…”
Ma chère mademoiselle. It is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now, we invite to relax, let us pull up a chair, as the dining room proudly presents … your dinner.”
I want to do something for her … but what?”
Well, there’s the usual things: flowers… chocolates… promises you don't intend to keep…”
- Who is your favorite Beauty and the Beast character and why?