Beauty and the Beast
|Beauty and the Beast (1991)|
|Directed by|| Gary Trousdale|
|Produced by||Don Hahn|
|Written by||Linda Woolverton|
|Starring|| Paige O’Hara|
David Ogden Stiers
|Music by|| Alan Menken|
|Editing by||John Carnochan|
|Distributed by||Buena Vistas Pictures Distribution|
|Release date(s)||November 13, 1991|
|Running time||84 min|
|Gross revenue||$440.1 million|
|Followed by||Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas|
Beauty and the Beast is a 1991 animated Disney film based on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s take on the story from 1756. It’s recognized as the second film of Disney’s “Renaissance era” and it was a far bigger success than The Little Mermaid, making more money with less spent on the budget. Its major critical appraise made it the first of three animated movies to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It however lost to Silence of the Lambs.
The story begins with the Beast’s backstory, and it says that years ago, a young Prince refused to give an old woman shelter during a storm, but when the old woman turned into a beautiful young woman, she cursed the Prince and turned him into a Beast. And it’s stated by the narrator that the Beast must learn to love a woman, and the woman must love him back by the time he’s 21 years old, or he’ll be a Beast forever.
Belle is introduced, and she’s on her way to get a book, and go back into her home, but on the way back from the book shop, she encounters Gaston who seeks to marry her. Belle’s father Maurice invents a machine that can chop firewood automatically, and he plans to go to an event to show it to the greater public. However, he’s chased by Wolves, and he ends up at a Castle. Maurice goes inside the Castle, and meets talking objects. Lumière the Candle, Cogsworth the Clock, Mrs. Potts the Teapot, and Chip the Cup. They make him at home right away, although Cogsworth disagrees due to what the master would say. We see that the master of the Castle is the Beast, and he takes Maurice, and locks him in a cell.
Back at Belle’s house, Gaston sets up a wedding, and is ready to propose to Belle. He does so, but Belle shoves him into a mud pool much to Gaston’s frustration. Belle then sings about “Wanting more than what they got planned.” Her father’s horse appears, and she notices that he’s gone. She gets on the horse, and he takes her to the Beast’s Castle, and she finds Maurice right away, and then the Beast appears. He refuses to let Maurice go, but Belle tells him she’ll take his place. Seeing that this is an opportunity to break the curse, he agrees.
At the Tavern in the town, Gaston is still upset that Belle rejected him which he saw as “Publicly humiliating“ due to him already setting up the wedding. His friend LeFou then gets the customers in the Tavern to sing about how great Gaston is, and that all the men want to be him, and that he’s the size of a barge. Maurice then barges in, and tells the people about a Beast. However, the people don’t believe him, and kick him out. Now, Gaston plans to use Maurice as a chip to marry Belle.
As for Belle, the Beast gives her a nice room, but locks her in there because she wouldn’t show for dinner. After he leaves, the objects led by Lumière decide to give Belle food, and a tour of the Castle. After they accidentally tell her where the West Wing is, she sneaks off and goes in there. She finds a flower in a glass case, she’s about to touch it, but the Beast appears and goes crazy. Belle runs away, but she encounters wolves, and seems like she’ll be dinner, but the Beast shows up and saves her. He gets injured, and collapses. Thankful, Belle takes the Beast back to the Castle, and the two start bonding.
At the town, Gaston is talking with the owner of the insane asylum, and he pays him to catch Maurice, so he can blackmail Belle. However, Maurice left to go save Belle from the Beast. Gaston tells LeFou to stay in front of Belle’s house until they come back. We then get the famous “Beauty and the Beast” sequence, where Mrs. Potts sings of a tale as old as time. After the dance, Belle finds out that her father was out to get her, but he collapsed in the snow. Belle wants to save him, so the Beast gives her her freedom, much to the dismay of Lumière and the others.
Belle gets her father, and takes him back to the town, and nurses him to an awake state. Then, the insane asylum comes, and takes Maurice, Gaston tells Belle he can make it stuff if she marries him. Belle refuses, and shows the town that Maurice was right about there being a Beast. It scares the people, and Gaston uses this to his advantage. He convinces the people to join him on his quest to kill the Beast.
They march to the Castle, and while Gaston’s men are fighting the objects, he’ll look for the Beast. The objects win the battle, but the war is far from over. Gaston finds the Beast, and he shows no energy in defending himself. He appears ready to die, but Belle shows up, and the Beast starts fighting back. The Beast wins, and spares Gaston after he begged for it. However, when the Beast’s back was turned, Gaston stabs him, but due to him losing footing on the roof, he falls to his death. Belle confesses her love for the Beast, and he and the objects return to human form, and Belle and the Beast live happily ever after.
Paige O’Hara as Belle
Robby Benson as the Beast
Richard White as Gaston
Jerry Orbach as Lumière
David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth
Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts
Rex Everhart as Maurice
Jesse Corti as LeFou
Bradley Pierce as Chip
Beauty and the Beast had been on Walt Disney’s mind since he started making films, but due to WWII, and the famous Jean Cocteau film from 1946, it was shelved.
At first, Jim Cox attempted two treatments for the film in early 1988. The second treatment, set during the early 15th century, would take cues from the Jean Cocteau film. Michael Eisner, after reading the planned treatment, called him while the latter was vacationing in Mexico. However, by the time he submitted the screenplay, then-Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg called him and bluntly refused his treatment as "no one bats a thousand" and intended to take it a different direction. Richard Purdum was then called in to put it together as a screenplay. His treatment removed Belle's wicked sisters as the main antagonist, but instituted in their place a gold-digging aunt named Marguerite, as well as a prototype version of Gaston in the form of a nobleman. But after criticisms arose for The Little Mermaid’s protagonist Ariel not being feminist enough, Disney studio chairman Jeffery Katzenberg told him to rewrite the story completely. In a rage, Purdum left the project. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman returned to do the music putting Aladdin on a pause. At this point, everyone knew Ashman had AIDS, and he wouldn’t be around much longer as all the songs were recorded in New York instead of California. Katzenberg got in Linda Woolverton to write the screenplay so there could be more of a feminist twist to the original fairy tale.
Initially, Jodi Benson who voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid was supposed to voice Belle, but due to her not sounding European enough, she was replaced quickly by Paige O’Hara.
This movie promotes feminism much more than The Little Mermaid. Case in point, the Wedding proposal scene. Gaston gets shoved into the mud pool, and one could argue he deserved it due to the way he proposed which made Belle uncomfortable, but Belle’s choice of lyrics in “Belle (Reprise)” weren’t about that at all. “Is he gone? Can you imagine? He asked me to marry him! Me, the wife of that boorish, brainless ... Madame Gaston can’t you just see it? Madame Gaston his little wife (kicks wooden table) No, sir! Not me! I guarantee it! I want so much more than this provincial life! … And for once it might be grand to have someone understand I want so much more than they’ve got planned.”
Traditional marriage isn’t as positively portrayed compared to The Little Mermaid. In the wedding proposal scene, Gaston brings up that when they’re married, they’ll have six or seven strapping boys which Belle isn’t too happy to hear. One can argue it’s the way Gaston proposed to Belle rather than throwing marriage away as it’s heavily implied that Belle and the Beast got married after he became human again. Although their relationship isn’t as wholesome as other Prince-Princess couples. On a similar note, the only characters in the film that are implicitly depicted as having any support for traditional marriage, the blonde triplets who fangirl Gaston, are demeaned by being depicted as shallow blonde bimbos (even being called "the bimbettes" officially) who fall for the town hunk (Gaston in this case).
Redemption is very positive as the Beast has to slowly but surely learn to love not only to fix himself, but also his people who were affected by the enchantress’ curse. That said, however, Beast's refusal to defend himself or his servants after letting Belle go (which the story treated as his first selfless act) when Gaston and the villagers raided the castle with the explicit intent to lynch him makes it ambiguous as to how positive the promotion was for redemption.
The land is implied to be Catholic due to it being 18th century France, and the stained glass artwork in the beginning with a Cross on the Beast’s crown. As for the religion itself, it’s shown in the failed wedding scene, and lyrics in “The Mob Song” “Sally forth, tally ho! Grab your sword and your bow, praise the Lord and here we go!” In the wedding, much like The Little Mermaid, it was there because that’s how weddings are blessed. As for “The Mob Song” not only is the movie saying that’s bad as we’re supposed to be rooting for the Beast, they’re also portrayed as ignorant in other lyrics. “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us and this monster is mysterious at least.” this can be attributed to lyricist Howard Ashman being a homosexual dying of AIDS, and it was about how he viewed the Christians being more anti-Homosexual than anti-AIDS, with producer Don Hahn confirming such was the case, although Howard Ashman's younger sister denies this in the Howard Ashman documentary. To a lesser extent, the film in the opening song "Little Town" also depicts the villagers as being inferior to Belle in terms of intelligence as well as ignorant with it being heavily implied their shunning Belle was partly due to her being literate (despite the existence of a bookshop implying that the other villagers were literate alongside Belle). On a similar note, Belle is not shown to acknowledge God or the Bible at any point in the film at all, which alongside the narrative painting her as intellectually and morally superior to the villagers (whom, as noted above, were heavily implied to be Catholic) heavily implies that Belle might have been an atheist or at best agnostic.
Sequels and Prequels
Beauty and the Beast received a midquel in 1997 called “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.” It takes place after the Beast saved Belle from wolves, but before the “Beauty and the Beast” sequence (though the beginning and ending took place after the curse, implied to be the Prince's first Christmas since the breaking of the spell, as the main events of the film were an in-universe story told by Mrs. Potts to Chip), and it’s regarded as average in Michael Eisner’s straight to video era. There were also plans to make a Beauty and the Beast cartoon series much like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin had theirs, but only three episodes were made, and they were edited together for a film called “Belle’s Magical World” which was released in 1998. In 1999, there was another Beauty and the Beast film called “Belle’s Tales of Friendship” which had live-action segments. In 1994, Beauty and the Beast received a Broadway musical, with Tim Rice writing all the new songs. In 2017, Beauty and the Beast became the first film in the “Disney Renaissance” to receive a live-action remake, which got some praise, but is nowhere near as beloved as the 1991 cartoon.
Although not a direct sequel/prequel to Beauty and the Beast, Linda Woolverton admitted to Time Magazine that her infamous 2014 retelling of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, drew from the same feminist themes she intended to impart in Beauty and the Beast.