The film's animation screenplay was written by Linda Woolverton with story written by Roger Allers, Brenda Chapman, Chris Sanders, Burny Mattinson, Kevin Harkey, Brian Pimental, Bruce Woodside, Joe Ranft, Tom Ellery, Kelly Ashbury, and Robert Lence, directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and produced by Don Hahn. The music of the film was composed by Alan Menken and the lyrics for the film were written by Howard Ashman (who also served as the film's executive producer), both of whom had written the music and songs for The Little Mermaid, a previous Disney film.
Beauty and the Beast was released on November 13, 1991. The film was a significant commercial and critical success, earning over $424 million in box office earnings throughout the world. Beauty and the Beast was also nominated for several awards, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (For the first time in an animated movie), with two other awards for its music. Famously, Beauty and the Beast was the first ever animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and was the only animated film to hold this honor until 2009, when the Academy Awards switched from 5 Best Picture nominations to 10, and Pixar's animated film Up was nominated. Beauty and the Beast received a total of six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Sound, and three nominations for its song. It ended up winning two, for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for the song "Beauty and the Beast".
Despite this, many critics have noted that Disney borrowed a lot from Jean Cocteau's famous and influential 1946 film adaptation of the fairy tale, as that film was the first to include a magic mirror, castle servants, and a love triangle. None of these elements were in the original fairy tale.
A direct-to-video midquel called Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas was released in 1997. It was followed in 1998 by another midquel, Belle's Magical World, and later by a stage production of the same name and a television spin-off series, Sing Me a Story with Belle. An IMAX special edition version of the original film was released in 2002, with a new five-minute musical sequence included. After the success of the 3D re-release of The Lion King in 2011, Disney announced the film will return to theaters for a limited time in 3-D on January 13, 2012. On March 2017, a live-action re-imagining was released.
The film takes place in rural France, presumably in the late 18th century (e.g. during Gaston's proposal to Belle, he wears a red tailcoat, waistcoat, breeches and black boots, which is men's fashion indicative of the 17th to 18th centuries). In the film's prologue, an enchantress disguised as an old beggar woman offers a selfish young prince a rose in exchange for a night's shelter from the extreme cold (during Christmas as we later find out in the film's midquel), as a test of his heart and emotion. When he turns her away, repulsed by her old and ugly appearance and sneering at the simple but lovely gift, she turns into an Enchantress and punishes him by transforming him into an ugly beast and turns his servants into furniture and other household items, despite his pleas for forgiveness for his behavior. She gives him a magic mirror that will enable him to view faraway events and also gives him the rose, which will bloom until his 21st birthday. He must love and be loved in return before all the rose's petals have fallen off, or he will remain a beast forever.
Ten years later, a beautiful but unusual young woman named Belle lives in a nearby unnamed French village with her father Maurice, who is an inventor. Belle loves reading and yearns for a life beyond the village. She is also the object of frequent unwanted attention and lust from the arrogant local hero, Gaston, who wants to marry her and make her his "little wife" who will bear him handsome sons, cook the food and scrub the floors.
Maurice's latest invention is a wood-chopping machine. When he rides off to display the machine at the fair, he loses his way in the woods and stumbles upon the Beast's castle, where he meets the transformed servants Lumière (who was turned into a candelabra), Cogsworth (who was turned into a mantle clock), Mrs. Potts (who was turned into a teapot), her son Chip (who was turned into a teacup), and Fifi (who was turned into a feather duster). After getting used to seeing talking objects, the servants warm him by the fire, only to be found by the Beast, who is not happy to find a trespasser in his castle and frightens his servants. The Beast imprisons Maurice, but Belle is led back to the castle by Maurice's horse, Philippe, and offers to take her father's place. When the Beast agrees to this and sends him home, Maurice tells Gaston and the other villagers what happened, but they think he has lost his mind, so he goes to rescue her alone, but gets lost on his way back to the Beast's castle.
Meanwhile, Belle refuses the Beast's "invitation" to dinner, and the Beast orders his servants not to let her eat, but Lumière serves her dinner anyway (in the song "Be Our Guest") and Cogsworth gives her a tour of the castle. However, she wanders off on her own and finds the West Wing, which the Beast had forbidden her to go into. She goes in anyway, discovering many broken items, including a shredded portrait of a young prince and the enchanted rose. Before she can touch it, the Beast sees her and angrily screams at her to get out.
Frightened, Belle tries to escape, but she and Philippe are attacked by wolves. Suddenly, the Beast miraculously arrives at her rescue and fends off the wolves, showing that he may have some feelings towards her. After Belle nurses his wounds, he gives her the castle library as a gift, and they become friends. Later, they have an elegant dinner and a romantic ballroom dance. However, afterwards, Belle feels lonely at missing her father. When Beast lets her use the Enchanted Mirror, she sees her father dying in the woods as he struggles to come to her rescue, and with only hours left before the rose wilts, the Beast allows her to leave, giving her the mirror to remember him by. This horrifies the servants, who fear they will never be humans again.
Belle finds Maurice and takes him home, but Gaston arrives with a lynch mob led by Monsieur D'Arque of the local insane asylum. Unless she agrees to marry Gaston, Monsieur D'Arque will lock her father up. Belle proves Maurice sane by showing them the Beast with the magic mirror, but when Belle furiously confronts Gaston after he mocks her for being in love with a "monster" by saying that he is the real monster, Gaston becomes jealous, snaps, and arouses the mob's fear of the Beast, leading them to the castle to kill him. Gaston locks Belle and Maurice in their basement, but Chip, who stowed away in Belle's luggage, chops the basement door apart with Maurice's machine, allowing Belle and Maurice to hurry back to the Beast's castle on Phillipe.
While the servants and the mob battle for control of the castle, Gaston wanders off by himself and, finding the Beast, attacks him. By being too depressed to speak, the Beast unintentionally reinforces the preconception that he is dumb. The Beast regains his will when he sees Belle arriving at the castle. After winning a heated battle, the Beast spares Gaston's life and climbs up to a balcony where Belle is waiting. Unknown to them, Gaston has secretly followed the Beast and, still consumed by his lust for Belle and jealousy of the Beast, stabs him from behind, mortally wounding the Beast, but this proves to be his downfall as he loses his balance and falls off the balcony to his death.
As Belle finds out that the Beast truly loves her as he lies on the ground, apparently dead from his injuries, she begins weeping over his loss and sadly whispers that she loves him, just as the final petal from the enchanted rose falls off, breaking the spell. Belle watches in amazement as the Beast is revived and turned back into a human. Belle studies him carefully, recognizing him as the man from the portrait in the West Wing, and seeing that he still has the same eyes, she says "It is you!" The two kiss, turning the servants human and transforming the castle back into its original elegance. The last scene shows Belle and the prince dancing in the ballroom as her father and the servants happily watch them, while Lumière and Cogsworth enter a feud.
- Robby Benson as Beast
- Paige O'Hara as Belle
- Richard White as Gaston
- Jerry Orbach as Lumière
- Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts
- David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth/Narrator
- Bradley Michael Pierce as Chip
- Jesse Corti as LeFou
- Rex Everhart as Maurice
- Hal Smith as Philippe
- Jo Anne Worley as Wardrobe
- Kimmy Robertson as Fifi
- Frank Welker as Footstool, aka Sultan
- Mary Kay Bergman and Kath Soucie as the Bimbettes
- Tony Jay as Monsieur D'Arque
- Main article: Beauty and the Beast Original Screenplay
The story was originally going to have a vastly different beginning that was closer to the original tale, where Maurice was a broke merchant, Belle's family was forced to move to a farmhouse and nearly losing it due to not keeping up with taxes, and Maurice ends up discovering the Beast's castle after getting lost while searching for a potential buyer for his late wife's music box. It was cut because of Jeffrey Katzenberg considering it far too dark and dramatic.
Production of Beauty and the Beast had to be completed on a compressed timeline of two years rather than four because of the loss of production time spent developing the earlier Purdam version of the film. Most of the production was done at the main Feature Animation studio, housed in the Air Way facility in Glendale, California. A smaller team at the Disney-MGM Studios theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Florida assisted the California team on several scenes, particularly the "Be Our Guest" number.
Beauty and the Beast was the second film produced using CAPS (Computer Animation Production System), a digital scanning, ink, paint, and compositing system of software and hardware developed for Disney by Pixar. The software allowed a wider range of colors, as well as soft shading and colored line effects for the characters, techniques lost when the Disney studio abandoned hand inking for xerography in the late 1950's. CAPS also allowed the production crew to simulate multiplane effects: placing characters and/or backgrounds on separate layers and moving them towards/away from the camera on the Z-axis to give the illusion of depth, as well as altering the focus of each layer.
In addition, CAPS allowed an easier combination of hand-drawn art with computer-generated imagery, which before had to be plotted to animation cells and painted traditionally. The latter technique was put to significant use during the "Beauty and the Beast" waltz sequence, in which Belle and Beast dance through a computer-generated ballroom as the camera dollies around them in simulated 3D space. The filmmakers had originally decided against the use of computers in favor of traditional animation, but later, when the technology had improved, decided it could be used for the one scene in the ballroom. The success of the ballroom sequence helped convince studio executives to further invest in computer animation.
Ashman and Menken wrote the songs during the pre-production process in Fishkill, the opening operetta-styled "Belle" being their first composition for the film. Other songs included "Be Our Guest", sung to Maurice by the objects when he becomes the first visitor to the castle in a decade, "Gaston", a solo for the swaggering villain, "Human Again", a song describing Belle and Beast's growing love from the objects' perspective, the love ballad "Beauty and the Beast", and the climatic "The Mob Song".
As story and song development came to a close, full production began in Burbank while voice and song recording began in New York City. The songs were recorded live with the orchestra and the voice cast in the room rather than overdubbed separately, in order to give the songs an cast album-like "energy" the filmmakers and songwriters desired.
During the course of production, many changes were made to the structure of the film, necessitating the replacement and re-purposing of songs. After screening a mostly animated version of the "Be Our Guest" sequence, story artist Bruce Woodside suggested that the objects should be singing the song to Belle rather than her father. Wise and Trousdale agreed, and the sequence and song were retooled to replace Maurice with Belle.
"Human Again" was dropped from the film before animation began, as its lyrics caused story problems about the timeline over which the story takes place. This required Ashman and Menken to write a new song in its place. "Something There", in which Belle and Beast sing (via voiceover) of their growing fondness for each other, was composed late in production and inserted into the script in place of "Human Again". Menken would later revise "Human Again" for inclusion in the 1994 Broadway stage version of Beauty and the Beast, and another revised version of the song was added to the film itself in a new sequence created for the film's Special Edition re-release in 2002.
Ashman died of AIDS-related complications on March 14, 1991, eight months prior to the release of the film. He never saw the finished film, and his work on Aladdin was completed by another lyricist, Tim Rice. A tribute to the lyricist was included at the end of the credits crawl: "To our friend, Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice, and a beast his soul. We will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman: 1950–1991".
A pop version of the "Beauty and the Beast" theme, performed by Céline Dion and Peabo Bryson over the end credits, was released as a commercial single from the film's soundtrack, supported with a music video. The Dion/Bryson version of "Beauty and the Beast" became an international pop hit, reaching the Top Ten of the singles charts in the United States and the United Kingdom.
In the Special Edition DVD release, the second disc contained Jump 5's music video for Beauty and the Beast. The newly-released Diamond Edition contains Jordin Sparks' version of the song.
Upon the theatrical release of the finished version, the film was universally praised, with Roger Ebert giving it four stars out of four and saying that "Beauty and the Beast reaches back to an older and healthier Hollywood tradition in which the best writers, musicians, and filmmakers are gathered for a project on the assumption that a family audience deserves great entertainment, too." The film received mostly positive reviews, among them some of the best notices the studio had received since the 1940's. Rotten Tomatoes, a film review aggregator, shows Beauty and the Beast with a 94% approval rating averaged from 108 reviews of the original theatrical release and later theatrical and home video versions. The use of computer animation, particularly in the "Beauty and the Beast" ballroom sequence, was singled out in several reviews as one of the film's highlights.
Smoodin writes in his book Animating Culture that the studio was trying to make up for earlier gender stereotypes with this film. Smoodin also states that in the way it has been viewed as bringing together traditional fairy tales and feminism as well as computer and traditional animation, the film’s "greatness could be proved in terms technology narrative or even politics". Another author writes that Belle "becomes a sort of intellectual less by actually reading books, it seems, than by hanging out with them," but says that the film comes closer than other “Disney-studio” films to "accepting challenges of the kind that the finest Walt Disney features met". David Whitley writes in The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation that Belle is different from earlier Disney heroines in that she is mostly free from the burdens of domestic housework, although her role is somewhat undefined in the same way that "contemporary culture now requires most adolescent girls to contribute little in the way of domestic work before they leave home and have to take on the fraught, multiple responsibilities of the working mother." Whitley also notes other themes and modern influences, such as the film's critical view of Gaston’s chauvinism and attitude towards nature, the cyborg-like servants, and the father’s role as an inventor rather than a merchant.
Betsy Hearne, the editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, writes that the film belittles the original story's moral about "inner beauty," as well as the heroine herself, in favor of a more brutish struggle; "In fact," she says, "it is not Beauty's lack of love that almost kills Disney's beast, but a rival's dagger."
Stefan Kanfer writes in his book Serious Business that in this film "the tradition of the musical theater was fully co-opted," such as in the casting of Broadway performers Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach. IGN named Beauty and the Beast as the greatest animated film of all time, directly ahead of WALL-E.
- Main article: Beauty and the Beast (video)
Special Edition DVD
Beauty and the Beast 2-Disc Special Edition (Platinum Edition) DVD was released on October 8, 2002. It was Fully Restored and Remastered with an All-New Remixed Soundtrack. The special edition includes a deleted song called "Human Again". The Special Edition DVD went to the Disney Vault (out-of-print) on January 31, 2003 along with its sequel (Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas). On October 5, 2010, Beauty and the Beast was released on Disney Blu-ray and again in DisneyDigital 3D.
Diamond Edition Release
The film was released from the Disney vault on October 5, 2010, as the second of Disney's Diamond Editions, in the form of a 3-Disc-Blu-ray Disc and DVD combination pack; representing the first release of Beauty and the Beast on home video in high-definition format. This edition consists of four versions of the film: the original theatrical version, an extended version, the New York Film Festival storyboard-only version, and a fourth iteration displaying the storyboards via picture-in-picture alongside the original theatrical version. The bonus material contains never-before-seen art, making of video, and interviews along with new games activities. A two-disc DVD edition was released on November 23, 2010. It was also announced that Disney would release 3D Blu-ray in October 2011.
25th Anniversary Signature Edition Release
A new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is available for preorder from the Disney Movie Club, as of June 21, 2016. It was available on Digital HD September 6, 2016, and on Blu-Ray/DVD September 20, 2016.
25th Anniversary Signature Edition Videos
- Originally, when Gaston plotted with Monsieur D'Arque to blackmail Belle, Gaston and LeFou were to visit the Asylum and see its interior. It was cut because it would have been considered too disturbing for the audience with all the insane laughing and yelling from all the patients.
- Originally, Beast was to have brought back a deer he had killed in the forest to the castle and eat it in an animalistic manner, but it was cut because it would have resulted in the audience viewing him with disgust, and not with intended sympathy.
- In previous drafts, Belle was intended to meet with some servants in the Beast's Library shortly after being given it by the Beast, although it was cut for time.
- Originally, Gaston was going to stab the Beast a second time before Beast knocked him off. In addition, an even earlier rendition of the scene had him ready to kill Beast with his blunderbuss, with Belle preventing him by smashing him in the head with a slab. Gaston would land onto the ground, and then be mauled by the wolves that Belle and Maurice encountered earlier.
- The theatrical version only has the song "Beauty and the Beast" at the end credits. The IMAX and Special Edition versions have the song and the unused score "Death of the Beast" due to having longer credits involving the addition of "Human Again".
- In the stained glass image at the beginning of Beauty and the Beast it looks as though the prince has two pedigree looking dogs; one white and one brown. But throughout the movie, there is one dog depicted and when returned to its true form it looks more like a mutt, that is Sultan.
- Beauty and the Beast is apparently the first movie to use the title twice, including at the end, the next being The Lion King and Tarzan.
- Beauty and the Beast is the first Disney animated classic (other than 101 Dalmatians, The Lion King and two Toy Story films) to feature the 2006 Walt Disney Pictures logo and the Walt Disney Animation Studios logo at the beginning of the film on current releases.
- There was originally talk of a sequel, where Gaston had a younger brother, named "Avenant" (named as a nod to Belle's unwanted suitor from French poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau's 1946 adaptation of Beauty and the Beast), who would seek revenge for his brother's demise (and establish himself as superior to Gaston (their late-father's favorite), and finally stepping out of his shadow, once and for all); this idea was, instead, recycled for the sequel to the The Little Mermaid, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, with Morgana, sister to the late Ursula, claiming to be seeking revenge for Ursula's death, but really wanting to succeed where Ursula (their mother's favorite daughter), had failed.
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