On November 22nd, 1991 Disney gave us Beauty and the Beast. A film that was made with everything right. A story that showed us that no matter how you may appear deep down you can find not only friendship, but also love.
Years before the film became reality there were multiple attempts to adapt the story. Walt Disney himself considered making an adaptation after the success of Cinderella but that never came to fruition. But the second and more well known attempt had quite a troubled production, which lead to the version we actually ended up seeing.
Jeffrey Katzenberg assigned first time directing duo Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale in charge of the project. The two would later co-direct 1996’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and 2001’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Linda Woolverton was assigned to write the screenplay. Linda has since gone on to write for 1994’s The Lion King and the Live-Action Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent films. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were brought on board to write the music for the film. Ashman would pass away before the film’s release. Don Hahn served as the film’s producer. He has since gone on to produce multiple animated and live-action films with Disney.
Originally Jodie Benson, who played Ariel in The Little Mermaid, was considered to play the role of Belle. But Disney instead decided on Broadway actress Page O’Hara, who was the better fit for the role. Actor Robby Benson would portray the reclusive Beast while opera singer Richard White would play the villain Gaston. Though one was human and one was a beast it turned out that the human was more monster while the beats was more man. Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers and Angela Lansbury made up the side cast as Lumière, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts.
Work on the film was done at a then record two year development process. Traditionally it would take four years to make a film of that scale but two of those years were spent on the earlier scrapped version. Though mostly hand drawn certain parts of the film were down with CGI, most notably the ballroom dance. The technique of blending hand-drawn with CGI began in The Great Mouse Detective, but was perfected here with future films using the same technique.
The film released to critical and financial success, making $440 Million on a $25 Million budget. The film would be the very first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture category at the 64th Academy Awards, but lost to The Silence of the Lambs. Though it did win Best Original Song and Best Original Score.
Since then the film went on to have two Direct-to-Video sequels. The more positively received Christmas film Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas in 1997 and the infamously bad Belle’s Magical World in 1998. There was also a short lived TV series Sing Me a Story with Belle that blended a live action segment with recycled Disney animated shorts.
In 2002 a ‘Special Edition’ was released on DVD which added a scrapped song “Human Again”. The film was also adapted into multiple different mediums which include the ongoing Broadway Musical and the 2017 Live Action Remake.
Beauty and the Beast has captured the imaginations of multiple generations of children. Often considered the peak of the Disney Renaissance the story about judging someone based on who they are inside sends a great message to anyone of any culture.
Here’s to the hard work that these storytellers went through to give us this masterpiece. Thank you for your dedication.
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