Disney´s Beauty and the beast from 1991 is Disney´s 30th classic. It is also my favorite movie of all times and I have seen it about 90 times.
Beauty and the beast was the first Disney animated film which had two leading characters and later on it was an inspiration for movies like Aladdin, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas and Atlantis which clearly has two or more leading characters. First Disney animation with two leading characters was Lady and the Tramp from 1955.
It is a story about a beauty called Belle and a prince who was turned into a beast by an enchantress. He is doomed to be a beast until he finds someone who loves him. The castle is forgotten, servants are turned into living objects and the beast has hidden himself from the outside world. Belle lives in the near by village with her eccentric inventor father. She is an outsider because she reads a lot and she is curious. Belle is courted by handsome hunter Gaston but Belle does not want to marry a man who is not interested from her thoughts. One day her father, Maurice travels to inventors meeting and gets lost. He finds his way to the beast´s castle and the beast captivates him. Belle goes to save her father and the beast takes her instead.
Belle is free to wander around the castle but she is not allowed to enter the west-wing. There is a magical rose which flourishes as long as the beast has a chance becoming human again. Curious Belle enters the west-wing. Beast finds her and gets outraged. Belle escapes and is chased by wolves. Beast saves her and because of this unselfish act Belle decides to stay in the castle. They start to spend more time together and become friends. In the spring time servants arrange a ball for Belle and the beast. After a romantic evening Beast shows Belle his magic mirror and Belle sees her father who is ill. Beast allows Belle to leave and accepts his destiny, that he is doomed to live as a beast for the rest of his days. He also realizes that he is in love with Belle.
Belle travels to see her father. Gaston isn´t over the humiliation Belle caused by publicly turning down his proposal. He pays for the leader of mental institution to take Maurice. Belle tells everyone that Beast is real and that her father is not mad. Gaston leads the villagers to the castle to kill the beast. Belle and Maurice escape with the help of Chip. They go to warn the beast but it is too late. Gaston has wounded him. Belle tells dying beast that she loves him and the curse breaks. Beast returns back into human form and so does the servants. Movie ends into a grand ball.
Walt Disney and Beauty and the Beast
Walt Disney was interested to turn Beauty and the Beast into an animation already during his own lifetime but the complexity of the story became a problem. Just in the beginning of the 90´s following the success of the Little Mermaid the new generation of Disney animators and script writers re-discovered Beauty and the Beast.
Tale As Old As Time
Story of beauty and the beast is literally tale as old as time. First literal versions of the story can be found from ancient Greece but theme of the story is as old as storytelling itself.
There was a historical model for the beast. A man called Petrus Gonsalvus. In the 16th century European nobles had a sick habit to collect different kinds of people. Gonsalvus suffered from hypertricosis. His body was completely covered by hair. He was found as a child from the jungles of Teneriff and was brought into the court of France. King Henri II decided to do a test and see if he could turn a savage into a noble man. Later on king´s wife Margareta, who was known for arranging marriages, arranged Petrus to marry a daughter of one of her enemies (daughter´s name was also Margareta). For the surprise of queen Margareta and the rest of the court the couple fell in love. Petrus and Margareta never got a chance to live a free life. Their every single moves were followed. From their seven children, four had hypertricosis and they were given to different courts around Europe to amuse the noble.
La Belle et la Bête
Few centuries later the story of Petrus Gonsalvus inspired the authors of the French court. 1740 Gabrille Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve published her story La Belle et la Bete. Story was about a wealthy merchant and his beautiful daughter called Belle. The plot of the story is very complex and very much like a soap-opera. In the book Belle constantly dreams about a handsome prince. And she is convinced that the beast who has captured her has also captured the handsome prince of her dreams. When Belle returns to her home to her evil, envy sisters she understands that she is in love with the beast. She has a magical ring and mirror with her and from the mirror she sees that the beast is about to die. She goes back to the castle and tells the beast that she loves him and then beast turns into the prince from Belle´s dreams. In Villeneuve´s story prince has lost his father and her mother is leading a battle against another kingdom. He has been home schooled and when prince´s mother is far away away his tutor who is the enchantress wants to marry him and when the prince refuses, she turns him into a beast. Beauty´s mother also returns. She was the sister of the passed away king and captured by the enchantress. In the story beauty and the beast are cousins and Belle is a royal by blood.
I read Villeneuve´s beauty and the beast last year. My English is pretty great but I must admit it was quite challenging for me to read the novel because it was written in very old fashioned English. But I did get something out of the book and that is, it is foremost the story of Belle. She is both smart and beautiful. During the time when book was written, forced marriages were very common and women married young. Villeneuve wrote the book for those young women to encourage them to adapt into the situation. Future unknown spouse might seem frightening beast at first but when you get to know them they might turn out to be really nice. Some of the forced marriages were indeed love-marriages and some were not.
Girls With Monsters
In Hollywood movies that portray the relationship between a woman and a monster, the beast has always reflected fears of the people of the time. For exampole the first King Kong movie from 1933 is an allegory of a love affair between a white woman and a black man. A topic that was not openly spoken during the time.
In 1756 French lady called Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont wrote a shortened version of Villeneuve´s tale and Disney animation is mainly based on Beaumont´s version. Another inpiration for the classic animation was Jean Cocteau film from 1947. Animators and the designers used Cocteu´s film style and make up as an inspiration for the animated characters.
Belle A Modern Beauty
In the beginnig of the 90´s Belle was a Disney princess that world had never seen before. She read, she was curious and wanted to know about the world. Belle is French for beautiful and she is often considered to be one of the most beautiful Disney characters ever created. Belle´s beauty is much more than outside beauty. She is incredibly smart, bit cheeky and she is kind. Belle´s mother is absend. We can assume that she has passed away. She has been raised by eccentric single-dad and Belle loves him dearly. Belle is also very aware that both she and her father have questionable reputation in the village. Their home is just outside the village which higlights this separation from the rest of the village. Belle is never ashamed of her father. She is proud of him and it is probably because she was raised by such father Belle loves to read and is very clever. Linda Woolverton who was the script writer of Beauty and the Beast hoped that Belle would not be portrayed as a perfect character or someone who wishes to be perfect. This is why she often has one of two strangles of hair on her face and she is pulling them back behind her ears.
Mentality of the villagers in the Beauty and the beast can be easily compared to the political athmosphere of modern day where people´s mentality and ideas are constantly manipulated by the media and people are not encouraged to think by themselves. When we first become introduced to the character of Belle, already the first song of the movie tell s how the villagers react to people that are different than others. Why woman in her 20´s reads? Why she isn´t like the others? Half of the village men are stunned by her beauty but they are also afraid of her independent character.
There is also grudge towards Belle. Brigid Bardot-look-a-like triplets can not understand how any woman can reject Gaston and his muscles. In the original fairytale Belle had brothers and sisters. Her brothers were kind and protective but her sisters were always jeaous of her beauty. It is very common in fairytales that women, sisters especially are portrayed evil. In the first animation scripts Belle had evil sisters but in the end they were removed because the writers wanted to focus more on the relationship between Belle and her father. Triplets were left to the animation to represent the envy sisters.
Sheeps that gather around Belle when she is sitting by the fountain represent the sheep-mentality of the villagers. They don´t feel need to think independently and for someone to do that feels strange to them. Maurice who is probably the most smartest person in the whole town, is thrown out of the pub when he tells about Belle´s kidnapping. Have villagers considered Maurice nuts the whole time? Geniouses have been considered crazy throughout times. Sheep-mentality is on it´s highlight in the end of the movie where Gaston seduces them all to go to a beast-hunt.
Beauty and the beast begins when an old woman enters the palace and asks shelter. Young spoiled prince doesn´t want the ugly hag to enter his palace and tells her to leave. Fairy sees the corrupted soul of the prince and turns him into a beast. He grows to an adult in constant self-hatred and aggression. Beast is completely attached to the palace. He can not enter the outside world because people would be afraid of him. Right in the beginning of the movie the narrator asks the most important question about the beast. ”How beast is able to love anyone, if they can not love themself?” When Belle enters the palace beast starts to understand himself and his own behavior. Like Belle is his prisoner, Beast is the prisoner of the curse.
The loyal servants of the beast know their master very well. They can see when he is on a good mood or a bad mood. In away all the servants, but especially the three most important ones, Lumiére, Mrs Potts and Cogsworth represent the conscience of the beast. Lumiére who´s name is French for light represents the hope of the beast. Belief that everything can turn out fine. This comes out in Lumiére´s optimistic character and charm. Lumiére is something that the beast wishes he could be.
Rational clock, Cogsworth represents the time passing by. Cogsworth is the one who reminds the beast about the rose and his noble heritage.
Mrs Potts symbolizes beast´s parents. Beast´s parents are not mentioned in the movie. They are dead or otherwise out of the picture which has made the prince bitter. Motherly Mrs Potts looks after the beast even when he is not taking care of himself. She represents unconditional parent´s love. Her large family that lives in the cupboard reminds the beast of the things that he can not have even though he would want to.
Beast is no doubt one of the most complex and multi-layered Disney characters. When he get´s to know Belle his nature becomes more calm and he becomes more human. This was the biggest problem in the Beauty and the beast live-action. Belle was trying to change the beast to her liking and he did not change at all. In the animation beast is the one who changes himself. Beast changing into a man is not a reward for Belle but it is a reward for the beast because he chooses to die as a beast or to become a man that he has always wanted to be.
Gaston The Handsome Beast
Gaston is the villain of the Beauty and the beast and possibly one of the best Disney villains ever created. Gaston is tall, dark, handsome, muscle man- master shooter. He is also chovinist and not very bright. Gaston is similar to the beast. They both have a large ego and anger-issues. They are also physically bit similar. Aggressive behavior of the beast is not tolerated by the society because of his looks but the evil deeds of Gaston are approved because he is very handsome. Sexist behavior of the character probably would not be extremely uncommon in 17th century French village. Gaston tells Belle that woman should not read, which annoys Belle a great deal. She continues her journey with her nose in the book while Gaston sings to the village how excellent wife she is going to be for him. Belle does not want to marry a man who is only interested from her looks. In the beginnig of the movie Gaston is portrayed as buff idiot. Lefou who is always following Gaston represents Gaston´s ego. He never questions his motifs. Instead he is always worshiping and praising him. When Belle refuses to marry Gaston. Gaston´s revenge is cruel. He hires the leader of mental institution to take Maurice. An act that is as cruel as turning a teen age boy into a monster. Gaston represents the man that the prince would have turned out to become if the fairy would not have turned him into a beast. Did the fairy foresee what was going to happen. I hope so.
When Belle shows beast to the villagers from the magic mirror to prove his fathers words Gaston´s true nature comes out. He persuades the men of the village to join him on his hunt. Durign the chace he says out loud all those words that the beast has been thinking by himself
do you think the girl loves you when he can have me. You are too kind..beast
There are three stages in the transformation of the beast. The first transformation takes place when the beast saves Belle from the wolves. After this kind act Belle decides to stay in the castle and help him heal his wounds. The second transformation is the most important one and it takes place during the famous ball scene. Beast let´s Belle go and return to her father. He realizes that he has fallen in love. Third transformation is often forgotten. It happens during the battle between the beast and Gaston. Beast is about to strangle Gaston who begs for mercy and the beast let´s him go. Gaston stabs the beast and falls to his death at the same time. Act of mercy that beast shows to Gaston saves him in the end. If you watch the animation carefully, the moment when Gaston is stabbing the beast you can see small skulls in his eyes.
Beauty and the beast begins in the end of the summer and it ends in the spring. Changes in nature represent the changes in the lives of the leading charactes. In the beginning of the movie world is filled with warm colors. Belle is wearing white and blue and she stands out from the other villagers. White and blue are colors associated to Virgin Mary. Belle is innocent but she is not naive. Dress is similar to Dorothy´s dress in the Wizard of Oz. Just like Dorothy Belle finds herself in a strange magical world.
More familiar Belle feels herself in the castle of the beast, the colors of her outfits become warmer. They go from pink to red and from blue to forest green. Use of colors represent the concreting of the adventure she was looking for. Life in the castle is surprisinly exiting. The yellow/gold dress she wears in the ball represents her future role as a princess. Blue/gold outfit that the beast wears in the same scene reprents self-acceptance and appreciation.
In the beginning of the movie beast wears dark red/purple cape. Dark outfit symbolizes his wish to hide himself from the outside world. When Belle and the beast enjoy the winter wonderland beast has a bright purple cape. Purple symbolizes transformation and royalty. Such simple act as the settle color change represents the quite change that has began in the character of the beast since Belle has arrived. Gaston´s colors are red and black. Red represents attention, blood and hate. Black is the color of hidden identity.
Palace of the beast is dark and blink. After the curse the angels on the walls have turned into laughing demons. Color world of the rooms varies between dark red and purple. Ballroom with´s it´s gold ornaments and painted ceiling is familiar to the mirror room of Versailles. When the curse is broken the dim colors become bright again and the angels return. Palace is like it´s owner, the cursed beast. Abandoned and nearly forgotten. When Belle and the beast fall in love, palace begins to change as well. It does not show outside just yet but interior becomes more and more brighter.
In the Villeneuve´s fairytale Belle´s father climbed to the beast´s garden to pick up a rose for his favorite daughter. In Disney´s beauty and the beast rose has another meaning. It became the hourglass of the curse. When the rose dies, the beast has lost all hope. In the language of flowers red rose symbolizes passionate, all winning love. Love between Belle and the beast overcame all obstacles (hopefully after the curse was broken it was also passionate). The fact that the rose is kept under a glass cover represents the hopeless situation of all characters. They are trapped and way out of it feels hopeless at times.
Lot of the success of the Little Mermaid in 1989 had to do with it´s music and the composer duo Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. They were hired to compose music for the Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast bears similarity to Frozen in that sense both movies had a song that lives a life of it´s now. People who have not seen the movie know about the son. These songs are of course Let it go and Beauty and the Beast. Songs for Beauty and the Beast were recorded with a living orchestra. There was also a pop-cover made from Beauty and the Beast and it was performed by Céline Dion and Peabo Bryson. Song plays during the film´s end credits. Movie won the Academy Award from the best music in 1992. Song human again was composed for the film but it was cut away from the movie because it wasn´t nessecary for the plot. In 1994 human again was added to the Beauty and the Beast broadway musical and since 2002 song and the animation scene made for it have been added to dvd and blue-ray versions. Howard Ashman had Aids and he passed away eight months before the premiere of Beauty and the Beast on March 8th 1991 and never witnessed the worldwide success of the movie. Creators of the film dedicated it to the memory of Howard Ashman. In the end of the film it says:
To our friend Howard who gave mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful
I am really fed up with the Stockholm syndrome talk so here me out. Standing up to yourself is not a typical behavior for people with Stockholm syndrome. The person who made the claim clearly hasn´t seen the film and neither knows what the syndrome is all about. In Stockholm syndrom person sheepishly does everything that their abusers tell them and never question them. Belle always stands up to herself when the beast is cruel and she only decides to stay when he saves her.
In the beginning of the 90´s there was lots of changes going on in the Disney studios. The first storyboard was closer to Beaumont´s book. Belle was a daughter of a merchant and the role of the beast was much smaller. Film was directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. Beauty and the Beast was first movie direction for both of them. Trousdale had been working at Disney in the effect appartment since the 80´s and Wise as an animator. Later on both have directed several Disney films. Script was written by Linda Woolverton who was later on writing the Lion King, Mulan and live-action Beauty and the Beast and she was also the first women who ever wrote a script to a Disney film.
Woolverton wanted to make Belle a different kind of Disney princess. Princesses before Belle (and Ariel), such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella were products of their time and lived in rather domesticated world. Belle was more free. She was allowed to come and go as she pleased. Neither her father or the beast forced her to do housework. In the film we don´t see Belle cleaning or baking. She sings more to herself than to animals. Belle reads and she dreams about a different kind of life. She can´t stand men like Gaston. It is easy to minimise the importance of her character in 2018 but in 1991 character of Belle represented the independent woman of the 90´s and she showed the way for other powerful Disney heroines such as Mulan, Pocahontas and Elsa.
According to Woolverton Belle´s character was inspired by Kathreen Hepburn´s Jo March in the 1933 film version of Little Women. She made Belle into someone who loved reading, who was not a princess and who did not have any desire to become a princess or to get married. Belle was radically different to any of the previous Disney princesses and this caused grudge and suspicion among some of the movie producers and animators. In the first storyboards animators constantly drew Belle crying during her captivity. Woolverton did not accept this. Belle was not a quitter. She was at the time oldest of all Disney princesses, 20 years old (Elsa is currently oldest, being 21). In the beginning of the captivity Belle might have been shocked by the situation but she owned it and straight away started to familiarise herself with the new environment. When the animators gave up crying, Belle became a super-bitch and she was constantly fighting with the beast. It was not until Woolverton, Belle´s voice Paige O´Hara and the producer Don Hahn explained to everyone what kind of character Belle truly was movie was back on tracks.
When Glen Keane did sketches for the beast he combined several different animals, but the eyes of the beast remain the same throughout the whole movie was he in his beast of human form.
Beast in his human form and the inspiration, Michelangelo´s David.
Beauty and the beast was partly created with CAPS (Computer Animation Production System). Caps was a digital software that was created by Dsieny for Pixar. With the program it was possible to create more deeper and larger variety of colors and color effects to the characters. Ballroom secen was one of the first scenes in the history of animation where characters painted on animation cells are animated against a digital background. Originally the creators did not want to use computers at all but after the software became more advanced they decided to use it in the ballroom scene. Because of the success of the scene studio started to take more risks with the animation. This can be seen especially in the following Disney animation, Aladdin from 1993. Scene where Aladdin is on a magic carpet flight in the treasure chamber was made with the same advanced technique.
Most important ingredients of the animation are the characters. Figure of Belle was inspired by the Dega´s Balet Dancer paintings and her facial features came from Hollywood golden age actresses, Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn. Belle´s animators were Mark Hehn and James Baxtor and Gaston was animated by Andreas Deja. Beast was animated by (now a Disney legend) Glen Keane. When Keane was shaping the character of the beast he used several different animals as an inspiration. Such as bears, bores, oxes and bisons. For the transformation scene in the end he studied sculptures from Greece ad Rome. Especially the works of Michelangelo. Human shaped prince has lots of similar features to Michelangelo´s David.
I have seen beauty and the beast countless times in Finnish but also in English and in French. I grew up with the Finnish version but I also liked English and French versions. I did not understood aything from the French version except of course words ”bonjour” and ”ma cherie” thanks to Lumiére but since the movie takes place in imaginery France I think French language fits well to the world of the film. I was actually bit puzzled when I saw the English version because in the Finnish version beast´s voice is always downgrated when he is in the form of the beast. This is not the case in the English version. I do love the voice of Paige O´Hara. She is nowdays an official Disney fine artist and paints a lot Beauty and the beast themed art. In the Finnish version wonderful opera-singer Mervi Hiltunen is the voice of Belle (she is also Finnish voice of Aurora and Alice). Lumiere is Esa Muje, Beast is Matti-Olavi Ranin and Esa Ruuttunen is Gaston. Ruuttunen is also an opera-singer with a wonderful bariton-voice. Definitely my favorite Gaston voice.
When Beauty and the beast appeared it broke all the animated-movie records. It was nominated in four different academy awards categories and it was the first (and only) animation ever to be nominated for the best picture award. This happened way before there was a category for animated movies. It was also nominated for the best sound, music and song. It won the best music and song awards. It was the first animation in the world to win a Golden Globe for the best movie/musical of the year.
List of awards and nominations
Academy AwardsMarch 30, 1992Best PictureDon HahnNominated
Best SoundTerry Porter, Mel Metcalfe, David J. Hudson& Doc Kane
Best Original ScoreAlan MenkenWon
Best Original SongAlan Menken & Howard Ashman for "Be Our Guest"Nominated
Alan Menken & Howard Ashman for "Beauty and the Beast"Won
Alan Menken & Howard Ashman for "Belle"Nominated
Chicago Film Critics AssociationFebruary 1992Best PictureNominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association1992Best Film3rd place
Best Animated FilmWon
Golden Globe AwardsJanuary 18, 1992Best Motion Picture – Musical or ComedyDon Hahn
Best Original Score – Motion PictureAlan Menken
Best Original Song – Motion PictureAlan Menken and Howard Ashman
For the song "Be Our Guest"Nominated
Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
For the song "Beauty and the Beast"Won
Grammy AwardsFebruary 18, 1993Album of the YearNominated
Record of the YearCeline Dion and Peabo Bryson
For the song "Beauty and the Beast"Nominated
Best Album for ChildrenWon
Best Pop Performance by a Group or Duo With VocalFor "Beauty and the Beast"
Song of the YearFor "Beauty and the Beast"Nominated
Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion PictureAlan MenkenWon
Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for TelevisionFor "Beauty and the Beast"
Best Pop Instrumental PerformanceFor "Beauty and the Beast"
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 14, 1991Best Animated FilmGary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Producers Guild of America March 4, 1992 Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures Don Hahn
Me and the beauty and the beast -inspired hair style (also works for Elsa and Elizabeth Swan)
Me and Beauty and the Beast
I could write a whole a book about this movie. I have seen it so many times. Often Disney fans like to categorize themselves. I am a Beaty and the Beast fanatic. I saw the film first time at the age of 5 and I watched it at least once a day after that. I was obsessed with it. I still watch it at least once a year.
Fun fact, some years ago I came across an article that listed favorite Disney films of different generations. For those born in the end of the 80´s, majority´s favorite is Beauty and the Beast. For those born in the beginning of the 90´s, it is the Lion King and for those born in the beginning of the 2000 that movie is Frozen. This list is easy to explain with the fact that these three films are the financially most successful Disney animations of all times. Especially when Lion King premiered it was marketed with intense never seen before.
When I first time saw Beauty and the beast I had an artistic awakening. It is all because of Glen Keane. The scene where the beast turns back into a man was for the young me so beautiful and amazing that I made a conscieus decision to become an artist when I grow up and create something as magnificent and moving (only the people who like my art know if this came true).
Many girls of my age (and probably some boys as well) identified themselves to the character of Belle. She is very easy to relate. She is an outsider in her village, a book worm who dreams about another kind of life. When I was a child Belle was my absolute favorite princess. I still think she is one of the most beautiful animated characters ever created. More I have matured the more I have started to like and appreciate the character of the beast because of his complexity. He is not a typical prince and he is not Flynn Rider/Robin Hood type of rogue/trickster hero. Beast is a beast. A conflicted, torn a part character who becomes a better person when Belle enters to his life. Not because they fall in love straight away (quite the opposite) but because his interactions with her force beast to look deep down inside himself. He becomes more brave and unselfish. Quoting the animator of Belle James Baxtor:
What makes Beauty and the beast a remarkable character-oriented film is that it is a story where the main characters become friends and actually get to know one another before they fall in love. It is not like Disney stories before that where girl and the boy fell in love during the first song.
Film has been sometimes criticised for the fact that the beast returns back to human in the end of the film. Does it change the message of the film that the beauty is also inner beauty? I admit I was a bit disappointed as a child when the beast turned into a prince. But nowadays I really like him as a human prince as well (especially when he has his hair loose). We know that Belle would love him was he a beast or not. Beauty and the beast is a story about two people. When the prince learns to put other people before him he becomes human again. Becoming a human is not a reward for Belle for accepting him as the way he is but it is a reward for the beast for sacrificing himself and deciding to be better. Message of the film that beauty comes in all shapes and forms is truly tale as old as time.
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Pronounced as Nee-na.
Artist, illustrator, writer, watercolorist and a folklorist. Gryffinclaw. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea and period dramas.
Love fandoms AOGG and Little Women (prefers books over the films). Louisa May Alcott researcher.
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