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Belle (song)

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Belle is a song written by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken for Walt Disney Pictures 30th animated feature film Beauty and the Beast (1991). Originally recorded by actress Paige O'Hara and actor Richard White, "Belle" is a French and classical-inspired song that incorporates musical elements from both the Broadway and musical theatre genres. The film's first song, "Belle" is a large-scale operetta-style musical number that introduces the film's book-loving heroine Belle, a non-conforming young woman who has grown weary of the provincial village life that she is being forced to live, and Gaston who desires her hand in marriage.

"Belle" has been universally praised by both film and music critics, with some hailing the song as one of the best opening numbers in musical film history. Musically, Belle has been compared to songs from the films West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), as well as the Broadway musicals Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me. "Belle" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 64th Academy Awards in 1992, ultimately losing to the title song from Beauty and the Beast. The song was also featured in the Broadway musical based on the film, originally performed by actress Susan Egan.

Lyrics

Belle
Little town, it's a quiet village
Every day like the one before
Little town, full of little people
Waking up to say

Townfolks
Bonjour! (5x)

Belle
There goes the baker with his tray, like always
The same old bread and rolls to sell
Every morning just the same
Since the morning that we came
To this poor provincial town

(Speaking segment)
Baker: Good Morning, Belle!
Belle: Good morning, Monsieur.
Baker: And where are you off to?
Belle: The bookshop. I just finished the most wonderful story. About a beanstalk and an ogre and a -
Baker: That's nice. Marie! The baguettes! Hurry up!
(End speaking segment)

Townsfolk
Look there she goes, that girl is strange, no question
Dazed and distracted, can't you tell?

Woman: Never part of any crowd
Man: Cause her head's up on some cloud
Townsfolk: No denying she's a funny girl that Belle
Man: Bonjour!
Woman: Good day!
Man: How is your fam'ly?
Woman 2: Bonjour!
Man 2 : Good day!
Woman 2 : How is your wife?
Woman 3 : I need six eggs!
Man 3: That's too expensive!
Belle: There must be more than this provincial life!

(Speaking segment)
Bookstore owner: Ah! Belle!
Belle: Good morning, I've come to return the book I borrowed.
Bookstore owner: Finished already?
Belle: Oh, I couldn't put it down! Have you got anything new?
Bookstore owner: Not since yesterday.
Belle: That's alright. I'll borrow... this one.
Bookstore owner: That one? But you've read it twice!
Belle: It's my favorite. Far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disguise...
Bookstore owner: If you like it all that much, it's yours.
Belle: But sir...
Bookstore owner: I insist.
Belle: Well, thank you! Thank you very much!
(End speaking segment)

Townsfolk
Look there she goes, that girl is so peculiar
I wonder if she's feeling well
With a dreamy, far-off look
And her nose stuck in a book
What a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle

Belle
Oh, isn't this amazing?
It's my favorite part because you'll see
Here's where she meets Prince Charming
But she won't discover that it's him 'til chapter three!

Woman
Now it's no wonder that her name means "Beauty"
Her looks have got no parallel

Shopkeeper
But behind that fair façade
I'm afraid she's rather odd
Very diff'rent from the rest of us

Townsfolk
She's nothing like the rest of us
Yes, diff'rent from the rest of us is Belle!

(Speaking segment)
LeFou: Wow! You didn't miss a shot, Gaston!
You're the greatest hunter in the whole world!
Gaston: I know.
LeFou: No beast alive stands a chance against you - And no girl, for that matter
Gaston: It's true, LeFou. And I've got my sight set on that one.
LeFou: The inventor's daughter?
Gaston: She's the one, the lucky girl
I'm going to marry.
LeFou: But she -
Gaston: The most beautiful girl in town.
LeFou: I know, but -
Gaston: That makes her the best. And don't I deserve the best?
LeFou: But of course! I mean, you do! But I -
(End speaking segment)

Gaston
Right from the moment when I met her, saw her
I said she's gorgeous and I fell
Here in town there's only she
Who is beautiful as me
So I'm making plans to woo and marry Belle

Bimbettes :
Look there he goes
Isn't he dreamy?
Monsieur Gaston
Oh he's so cute!
Be still my heart
I'm hardly breathing
He's such a tall, dark, strong and handsome brute!

Woman 1: Bonjour!
Gaston: Pardon
Belle: Good day
Woman 2: Mais oui!
Woman 3: You call this bacon?
Woman 4: What lovely grapes!
Man 1: Some cheese
Woman 5: Ten yards!
Man 1: One pound
Gaston: Excuse me! Please let me through!
Cheese merchant: I'll get the knife
Woman 6: This bread -
Woman 7: Those fish -
Woman 6: it's stale!
Woman 7: they smell!
Men: Madame's mistaken.
Women: Well, maybe so
Townsfolk: Good morning! Oh, good morning!

Belle: There must be more than this provincial life!

Gaston: Just watch, I'm going to make Belle my wife!

Townsfolk
Look there she goes
The girl is strange, but special
A most peculiar mad'moiselle!
It's a pity and a sin
She doesn't quite fit in
Cause she really is a funny girl
A beauty but a funny girl
She really is a funny girl
That Belle!

Bonjour! (5x)

Man
Bonjour!

Belle: 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.

No, sir!
Not me!
I guarantee it,
I want much more than this provincial life!

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...

Other Versions

Performer(s) Title(s) Translations(s) Language
Alma Koleci & Agim Duro Albanian
داليا فاروق (Dalia Farouq) & ? Arabic
Ju Cassou & Maurício Luz Brazilian Portuguese
Йорданка Илова (Yordanka Ilova) & Венцислав Динов (Ventsislav Dinov) Bulgarian
陳寶珊 (Chan Bo Saan) & 麥志成 (Mak Ji Sing) Cantonese
Inés Moraleda & Xavier Ribera Castilian Spanish
Renata Sabljak & Đani Stipaničev Croatian
Jana Mařasová & Vratislav Kříž Czech
Louise Fribo & Per Høyer Danish
Joke de Kruijf & Henk Poort Dutch
Mervi Hiltunen & Esa Ruuttunen Finnish
Bénédicte Lécroart & François Leroux French
Jana Werner & Peter Edelmann German
Κρίστη Στασινοπούλου (Kristi Stassinopoulou) & Γιάννης Βασιλάκης (Giannis Vasilakis) Greek
רינת גבאי (Rinat Gabay) & יואל אקהרט (Yohal Akhart) Hebrew
मिमोसा पिंटू (Mimosa Pinto) & ? Hindi
Judit Kocsis & Péter Vincze Gábor Hungarian
Selma Björnsdóttir & Bragi Þór Valsson Icelandic
Ivone Rose & Iwan Dahlan Indonesian
Marjorie Biondo & Carlo Lepore Italian
伊東恵里 (Eri Itō) & 松本宰二 (Matsumoto Osamuni) "朝の風景"
(Asa no Fūkei)
"The Scene of a Morning" Japanese
Гергъокъаланы Халимат (Gerğoqalanı Xalimat) & Мусукаланы Руслан (Musukalanı Ruslan) Karachay-Balkar
전수경 (Jeon Su-Gyeong) & 정민화 (Jeong Min-Hwa) Korean
Lourdes Ambriz & Armando Gama Latin American Spanish
Malay
劉小芸 (Liu Xiao-Yun) & 李維 (Li Wei) Mandarin
Marathi
Merethe Trøan & Paul Åge Johannessen Norwegian
Katarzyna Skrzynecka & Marek Stołowski (1993 version)
Katarzyna Pysiak & Jakub Szydłowski (2002 version)
Polish
Alda Joana & João Rosa Portuguese
Putonghua
Alina Eremia & Rudolf Constantin Cocriș Romanian
Сауле Искакова (Saule Iskakova) & Алексей Гурьев (Aleksey Guriev) Russian
Alžbeta Bartošová & Martin Kaprálik Slovak
Sofia Källgren & Hans Josefsson Swedish
นฤมล จิวังกูร (Naruemon Chiwangkun) & ? (1991 version)
จันทร์จิรา นิ่มพิทักษ์พงศ์ (Chanjira Nimpitakpong) & ธานี พูนสุวรรณ (Thani Phusuwan) (2002 version)
Thai
Figen Sümeli & Suat Arıkan Turkish
Анна Сирбу (Anna Sirbu) & ? Ukrainian

Background

History

In an attempt to replicate the success that had recently been achieved by The Little Mermaid (1989),[1] Walt Disney Feature Animation decided to adapt the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" into an animated feature film.[2] Although originally conceived as an animated film with "no songs in it whatsoever"[3] under the direction of Richard Purdum, Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was unsatisfied with the dark and somber direction in which the film was headed,[4] and ultimately ordered that it be re-written as a "Broadway-style musical with a strong heroine" instead, similar in concept to The Little Mermaid.[5] Disney then hired lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken to write the film's songs and assist in the "transform[ing of] Beauty and the Beast into a musical", the pair having just recently collaborated on scoring The Little Mermaid.[6]

According to Menken, the "plot-furthering songs"[7] in Beauty and the Beast, including "Belle", developed quite naturally as a result of the fact that the film was written to "almost ... exist as a stage musical", having been "presented in the style of a traditional Broadway musical."[8] According to Broadway actress and singer[9] Paige O'Hara, who both recorded the song and provided the voice of Belle, Ashman and Menken "wanted to leave the pop music sound of Mermaid behind and go for something more Jerome Kern/Rodgers & Hammerstein" for Beauty and the Beast.[10] The film's songs and musical numbers, which were written to both "propel the plot" and offer "character development",[11] were heavily influenced by French, classical and traditional Broadway music.[12] Additionally, Menken described "Belle" and the other Beauty and the Beast songs to The New York Times as "tangents from 18th-century France".[13]

Written in a style that Menken would later admit is very "distant from contemporary pop", the songwriters were initially skeptical of "Belle", fearful of the song's potential to "end their careers at Disney" if it was not well received.[13] Described by the film's producer Don Hahn as a "Gilbert & Sullivan operetta style" song, "Belle" reveals a lot of information "in a very short time". Ashman and Menken initially doubted that the filmmakers would appreciate their very theatrical approach to animation.[14] Much to their surprise, "Belle" was ultimately very well-liked and "adored by the [creative] team",[15] becoming one of the film's few songs to remain unmodified during production.[14]

Context and composition

"[T]hrough the ... song "Belle" ... we learn that [Belle is] smart as well as beautiful, and longs to do something spectacular with her life rather than simply marry some local simpleton. The local simpleton, the brawny, square-jawed Gaston ... decides to marry her anyway and enlists the help of his pipsqueak sidekick Le Fou."
— Film critic Jeffrey M. Anderson of Combustible Celluloid summarizing the scene in which the song appears.[16]

Hoping to write a song that would successfully "portray [Belle] in a world that is so protected and safe", Ashman and Menken drew inspiration from a story-telling style that is often reserved for traditional operettas.[17] As Beauty and the Beast's opening number,[18][19] "Belle", a "pivotal moment...in the narrative",[20] plays a significant role in the film by introducing both the film's heroine, Belle,[18] after whom the song is named, and Gaston, the film's villain. While Belle, a book-loving and intelligent nonconformist who has grown frustrated with her predictable village life, longs for an adventure similar to the ones she reads about in her books,[21] Gaston is a narcissistic hunter who seeks her hand in marriage. In roughly five minutes, the song explains both Belle and Gaston's roles in Beauty and the Beast to the audience. The song also voices the opinions of the townsfolk and "sets up the overall theme and foreshadows what makes the town so oppressive to [Belle]";[22] while the villagers award Belle high praise for her doubtless Beauty, they see her as odd because of her love of books and ridicule her for her non-conformity. However, they appraise Gaston for his looks and masculinity.

According to Irving Tan of Sputnikmusic, "Belle" is an "idyllic, orchestra-driven" musical number,[23] written in the style of a traditional operetta.[24][25][26] Commonly regarded as the film's "I Want" song,[27][28][29] a term originally coined and popularized by Ashman himself, "Belle" offers its protagonist an opportunity to "expresses her yearnings".[9] Described by Filmtracks.com as a "snare-tapping song",[30] "Belle" is, according to sheet music originally published by Walt Disney Music Publishing, a Broadway-inspired and musical theatre-influenced song, performed at a moderate "pastorally" tempo of 80 beats per minute in the key of D major. Combined, O'Hara's soprano[31][32][33] and White's baritone[34][35] vocal ranges span approximately two octaves, from the low note of A3, sung by White, to the high note G5, sung by O'Hara. Additionally, actors Alec Murphy, Mary Kay Bergman and Kath Soucie's vocals are also featured on the track.[36][37] In total, "Belle" runs a length of five minutes and nine seconds.[38][39]

Reception

Critical response

"Wandering through her village while reading a book, Belle becomes the focus of a spectacular opening number that captures the essence of this film's appeal. Bit by bit, the population trickles out to greet Belle and gossip about her, while she herself bemoans the small-mindedness of the place. This rousing number reaches such a flurry of musical counterpoint that it recalls sources as unlikely as West Side Story, while the direction builds energetically from quiet beginnings to a formidable finale."
The New York Times film critic Janet Maslin's detailed analysis of the song and its corresponding scene.[40]

Since the November 1991 release of Beauty and the Beast, "Belle" has received universal acclaim from both film and music critics. Filmtracks.com labeled the song "among the most satisfying and clever cast pieces in history", as well as deserving of an Academy Award nomination. Additionally, Filmtracks praised the song's reprise, likening it to "The Sound of Music" from The Sound of Music (1965) because of their similar instrumentation.[30] Sputnikmusic.com's Irving Tan described the song as "idyllic".[23]

Jennie Punter of The Globe and Mail hailed "Belle" as "one of the most delightful openings of any movie musical".[7] The New York Times' Janet Maslin was very enthusiastic about the song, praising the way in which it advances the film's plot, while describing "Belle" as "a spectacular opening number that captures the essence of this film's appeal." Additionally, Maslin drew similarities between "Belle" and some of the songs featured in the musical film West Side Story (1961).[40] Beliefnet called the song a "joyous introductory".[41] Pete Vonder Haar of the Houston Press liked both the song and its reprise, admitting to the inevitability of having to experience an "unexpected swell of emotion" when both songs are heard.[42] Highlighting the song as one of the film's most notable, Sandie Angulo Chen described "Belle" as an "infectious" song "that reveals how different Belle is from the other Disney heroines".[43] While describing the song as a "teeming ... opener", TV Guide positively compared "Belle" to some of the songs featured in the musicals Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me.[11]

Accolades and legacy

Alongside "Be Our Guest" and "Beauty and the Beast", "Belle" was one of the three Beauty and the Beast songs that received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song at the 64th Academy Awards in 1992.[44][45] "Belle" ultimately lost to the film's title and theme song.[46] According to producer Don Hahn, Disney was actually hoping that the award would go to "Beauty and the Beast" and promoted the song heavily, spending significantly less money and attention on "Belle".[47] Oh No They Didn't ranked "Belle" at number twenty in its article "The Top 25 Disney Songs of All Time".[48] Similarly, Ultimate Disney ranked the song 20th on its list of "Top 100 Disney Song", praising its role in the film as a musical number and describing O'Hara's vocal performance as "dazzling".[49]

"Belle" is heavily parodied in the animated musical film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) through its opening number, "Mountain Town".[50][51] Filmtracks.com described the parody as "a delightful introductory piece".[52]

Live performances and cover versions

O'Hara first performed "Belle" live at the 64th Academy Awards ceremony in 1992,[53] at which the song was nominated for Best Original Song.[54] In spite of the fact that the producers of the telecast wanted well-known "pop stars" to perform the song at the ceremony, Disney executives Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg were adamant that "Belle" be performed by the original artist by whom it was recorded.[55] The producers also gave O'Hara the option to lip-synch the song. However, she opted to perform it live instead. O'Hara was also forced to wear a rendition of Belle's blue and white costume from the film, of which she was harshly critical because she felt that it was "much too frilly", and Belle is supposed to dress "much simpler." She likened the costume to something that the fairy tale character Little Bo Peep would wear. O'Hara admitted that she was very nervous before her performance. However, actress Angela Lansbury, who provided the voice of the character Mrs. Potts in the film and was to perform "Beauty and the Beast" at the ceremony, comforted her by telling her, "Paige, if I sang like you I wouldn’t be nervous."[56]

In August 2011, O'Hara performed an abridged version of "Belle" live during the Disney Legends awards ceremony, at which O'Hara was also a recipient.[57] The performance was a Beauty and the Beast medley, during which O'Hara musically combined "Belle" with "Beauty and the Beast" and "Be Our Guest".[58]

Gallery

Wiki
The Disney Wiki has a collection of images and media related to Belle (song).

Trivia

  • When Belle is talking about her favorite book, there is foreshadowing to later parts of the movie, such as "daring swordfights" (like the battle between Gaston and the Beast, although ironically, blades weren't actually used during the battle until just prior to Gaston's death when he stabbed the Beast in the back), "magic spells" (in the castle and on its inhabitants), "far off places" (as the castle seems far away from the town, although the actual distance is ambiguous), and a "prince in disguise" (the Beast). When the librarian tells her "if you like it so much it's yours", he is telling her to have the book, but also foreshadowing that she would go on to live the tale itself.
    • In addition, the book that Belle was reading (which the sheep briefly bites a page off) is implied from her description to be Sleeping Beauty, which was later confirmed in the New Fantasyland attraction version of Belle's Cottage, which shows both the original book Belle's mom read to her as a child (explaining why it was her favorite) and the book that she acquired from the bookkeeper.
  • In the first speaking portion of the song, when conversing with the Baker, her description of the book implied that the book she had finished and returned was Jack and the Beanstalk. Although Jack and the Beanstalk's earliest known publishing date was in 1807, which at first glance would conflict with the setting of the film being late 18th Century France, the story itself preceded that date significantly, with a similar story, The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean, being included in the 1734 second edition of Round About Our Coal-Fire.
  • There is a brief moment of fourth-wall breaking in the ending of the song. Shortly after the final verses of the song (where the crowd is tailing her and singing about how she's odd while exchanging "bonjours"), Belle briefly snaps back a look, and the townspeople proceed to resume to their duties as if nothing happened.
  • Similar to Under the Sea in the Official Comic Adaptation for The Little Mermaid, the song was incorporated into dialogue in the Official Comic Adaptation for the film.
    • In addition, in the fifth issue of the Beauty and the Beast comic serial published by Marvel Comics, her flashback to the village referenced the events of the opening song, or rather, the scene immediately after it.
  • The woman who sings "Bonjour! // How is Your Wife?" originally was supposed to be a mother with her child tagging along, as well as wearing a far more conservative outfit.[59]
  • During the village chatter scene near the end of the song, there are some anachronisms and errors in the statements: Specifically, a woman and a man requested for 10 yards and a pound of something, respectively. In the setting the film took place in, late 18th century France (implied to be the prelude to the French Revolution by Glen Keane), the actual measurements used during this time were hands and feet, with the Metric system only being established during the events of the French Revolution. In addition, the measurement terms of "yard" and "pound" belonged to the US Customary measurement system, something that isn't used in France even in the present day, let alone during the setting of the film.

References

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  10. Moore, Roger. "Voice of Belle had a ball in 'Beauty and the Beast'".. StarTribune.
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  19. Cling, Carol. "More than 20 years after 'Beauty and the Beast,' Paige O'Hara still remembered as voice of Disney princess".. Stephens Media LLC.
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  59. Disney Concepts on Tumblr

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Media

Films: Beauty and the Beast | The Enchanted Christmas | Belle's Magical World | Beauty and the Beast (2017 film) | Video
Television: Sing Me a Story with Belle | Belle's Tales of Friendship | House of Mouse | Once Upon a Time | A Poem Is...
Books: The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty's Prince | The New Adventures of Beauty and the Beast | Winter Wonderland | Time Flies! | Sittin' Pretty! | Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast | Classic Storybook | Disney's Wonderful World of Reading | Golden Look-Look Book | Golden Sight 'n' Sound Book | Little Golden Book | Disney Princess Beginnings
Marvel Comics: A Chance For Romance | Wardrobe's Big Surprise | The Wishful Walk | Almost Amour! | Lyrical Love Part 1 and 2 | Dove Tales Part 1 and 2 | A Masterpiece for the Master | Deck the Halls for Belle with Holly | Belle, Book and Castle | Bound to Surprise | The Dessert Disaster
Video Games: Beauty and the Beast (video game) | Belle's Quest | Roar of the Beast | A Board Game Adventure | Disney Infinity | Disney Infinity: 2.0 Edition | Kingdom Hearts II | Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days | Kingdom Hearts χ | Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ | Disney Enchanted Tales
Music: Beauty and the Beast (Original Soundtrack)

Disney Parks

Animated film: Art of Animation | Beauty and the Beast Ride | Disney Animation Building | Fairy Tale Forest | Le Pays des Contes de Fées | Mickey's PhilharMagic | Voyage to the Crystal Grotto
Live action: Disney Illuminations
Entertainment: Animazment - The Musical | A Table is Waiting | Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage | Cinderella's Surprise Celebration | Disney's Believe | Disney's Dreams: An Enchanted Classic | Disney Classics: The Music & The Magic | Disney Dreams! | Disney in the Stars | Enchanted Tales with Belle | Fantasmic! | Feel the Magic | Mickey's Magical Celebration | Mickey and the Magician | Once Upon a Time | Royal Theatre | The Golden Mickeys | World of Color
Restaurants: Be Our Guest Restaurant | Gaston's Tavern | Maurice’s Treats Snack Cart
Shops: Bonjour! Village Gifts
Parade: Disney's Magical Moments Parade | Paint The Night Parade | The Wonderful World of Disney Parade | Tokyo Disneyland Electrical Parade: DreamLights | Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams
Halloween: Disney's Not-So-Scary Halloween Show | It's Good To Be Bad With The Disney Villains | The Disney Villains Halloween Showtime

Characters

Original: Belle | Beast | Lumière | Cogsworth | Mrs. Potts | Chip Potts | Chip's Sibling | Chef Bouche | Villagers | Maurice | Philippe | Gaston | LeFou | Bimbettes | Sultan | Wardrobe | Fifi | Enchantress | Monsieur D'Arque | Wolves | Music Box | Gaston's buddies | Pierre | Palanquin
Enchanted Christmas: Angelique | Forte | Fife
Belle's Magical World: Webster | Crane | Le Plume | Witherspoon | Chandeleria
Deleted Characters: Clarice | Marguerite | Belle's sisters | Belle's suitors | Belle's mother
Comic and Storybook Characters: Countess de la Perle | Thunder

Songs

Original: Prologue: Beauty and the Beast | Belle | Gaston | Be Our Guest | Something There | Human Again | Beauty and the Beast | The Mob Song
Broadway: No Matter What | Me | Home | How Long Must This Go On? | If I Can't Love Her | Maison Des Lunes | A Change in Me
Enchanted Christmas: Stories | As Long As There's Christmas | Don't Fall in Love | A Cut Above the Rest
Belle's Magical World: A Little Thought | Listen With Our Hearts
Live-Action Film: Our Song Lives On | For Evermore | Days in the Sun

Locations

Beast's Castle | Library | Belle's Cottage | Village | Ballroom | The Black Forest | Tavern | The West Wing | Belle's Room

Objects

The Enchanted Rose | Enchanted Mirror | Maurice's Machine

See Also

Beauty and the Beast (musical) | Disney Renaissance | Original Screenplay

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