Many folks in my age group consider the Disney Renaissance to be the finest era of Disney filmmaking in its long history. Many people in that age group would further say that this next movie in the Disney Odyssey is one of the greatest Disney movies ever made. Though the current young generation of would-be Disney princesses would say that their favorite princess is Anna or Elsa, many of my generation would immediately and without hesitation say Ariel (who doesn’t want to breathe underwater and have voluptuous hair, but perhaps even more will name… Belle.
“Belle. It’s Belle. BELLE IS THE BEST DISNEY PRINCESS,” they will say, fervently and unyieldingly, gesturing to their bookshelves, their blue hair bows, their coordinated porcelain tea sets with pale purple trim and decorative candelabras.
Belle is the Elizabeth Bennett of the Disney canon: she is beautiful, deeply intelligent, and doesn’t have time for judgy small-town villagers. She earns her true love/destiny/happiness through Being Herself To The Max, that is, by loving books, caring deeply for her family member(s), and for not backing down in the face of a brutish, emotionally unstable lonely man. In fact, she doesn’t back down SO MUCH that that brutish, emotionally unstable lonely man totally falls in love with her, and then she’s immediately wealthier than her entire obnoxious town combined.
It’s the ultimate dream. Get rich and find the man of your dreams simply by being yourself and reading a lot.
Please don’t take any of this to mean that I don’t like Belle, or that I’m judging you for liking Belle the best. I’m absolutely not. I freaking love Belle. She’s great. She is the foundation for many strong-willed, deeply loving, action-ready heroines yet to come, and she is wonderful.
To celebrate Belle’s radness, the Fella and I invited some truly amazing people for this edition of the Disney Odyssey, one of whom was only seeing this movie for the second time… ever.
This time we welcomed my personal steampunk fairy godparents Tee and Pip, and their wonderful daughter (codename: Sonic Boom).
Tee and Pip are co-authors of the award-winning series the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences – I’m sure if you’ve read anything else on this blog you’ve heard me mention them before – among other fantasy and science fiction stories of their own. They are fantastic human beings who also run a podcast called The Shared Desk about writing, publishing, pop culture, and social media. CHECK. THEM. OUT.
And now, on to the movie.
The Film: Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- Based on the original French fairy tale La belle et la bête, which was first published in 1740. It drew inspiration from the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche and other previously published fairy tales in France and Italy.
- Walt Disney first thought about adapting Beauty and the Beast for the screen first in the 1930s, then again in the 1950s, but nothing sat quite right with him. It wasn’t until after The Little Mermaid‘s success that the studio decided to try again.
- It was the first Disney animated feature film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture – not best Animated picture… BEST FREAKING PICTURE. It also was nominated for and won the Oscar for Best Original Song for the title number.
- Belle wears blue to symbolize her good character, and to set her apart from the other people in her town, who are all in warm tones of red, brown, orange, green, and yellow. Later, she meets the Beast, who despite being a violent, brutish character, wears blue and has blue eyes. Her yellow dress compliments his blue clothing, and creates a matching pair visually. Although Gaston wears red as the villain, his eyes – like the Beast’s – are blue, which is rarely seen.
- Oscar-winning lyricist Howard Ashman died eight months prior to the release of the film, making Beauty and the Beast his last complete work in his lifetime. The movie was dedicated to him. Later, some of his work was used posthumously in Aladdin.
- Master animator Glen Keane was lead on animation for the Beast, and created a fantastic mixture of animals to form his own creature for the film. The mane of a lion, the beard and head structure of a buffalo, the tusks and nose bridge of a wild boar, the heavily muscled brow of a gorilla, the legs and tail of a wolf, and the bulky body of a bear make up the Beast we all know and love today.
- The cast for this movie is made up almost entirely of Broadway performers: Jerry Orbach as Lumiére, David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth, Angela freakin’ Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, and so on down the line.
- Patrick Stewart was offered the role of Cogsworth, but had to turn it down. He was busy filming a little show called Star Trek. Additionally, the role was written originally for John Cleese, who turned it down flat.
- Um, also, Regis Philbin auditioned for the Beast. Just…..take that in for a moment.
- The Broadway musical of the film opened in 1994, was nominated for the Tony award for Best Musical, and later closed in 2007 after a successful run of 5,461 performances.
- If the Prince has been under the enchantment for ten years, as Lumiere says in “Be Our Guest,” then it could be that the Prince was only 11 when he turned the enchantress away and caused the curse.
- Pip: “It’s only been ten years since the curse? The people in Belle’s town are kind of idiots. Nobody remembers that there’s a castle over there?!” Aly: “I bet it’s like Brigadoon. People forget it exists as soon as it’s out of sight.”
- The Fella: “If this is France… is this before or after the revolution? If after, does that make the Beast the King of France? And is that the reason why he’s in the middle of nowhere, because his parents were like ‘O no, ze revolution, we must hide eem in ze middle of nowhere!’” Tee: “…so what I’m hearing is, this is a sequel to Les Mis.”
- As a librarian, Pip was mortally offended by Belle allowing a sheep to eat such a beautiful book page.
- Pip was likewise later horrified when Gaston steals Belle’s book and tosses it in the mud. We had to hold her back from reaching through the screen and throttling Gaston herself.
- Fella: “Enter Maurice – the Steampunk Dad.” Is this movie steampunk?
- (the invention starts blowing steam and whistling as the cogs churn to chop the wood) Tee: “Aaaaaand time! THAT is STEAMPUNK!”
- (Maurice and Philippe enter the woods) Sonic Boom: “HELLO DARKNESS MY OLD FRIEND!”
- Philippe is one of the only Disney Horses that doesn’t act like a dog. He’s full-on horse. He’s wonderful and sturdy and steadfast. And distinctly equine.
- Pip: “If Lumiere is speaking with a French accent, shouldn’t everyone be doing the same?” Fella: “Yeah, I mean, presumably Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts are servants from Britain, but yeah, technically there should be some consistency…”
- Fella: “Oh my GOSH, Gaston looks just like Brom Bones!”
- Tee compares Gaston to Trump. “Somewhere he’s tweeting: BIMBO BELLE! Kicked me out of her house when I proposed! SUPER UNFAIR! #CrookedBelle #NastyWoman”
- The initial interactions between the Beast and Belle are fascinating and really well written – we get so much about both the curse itself and its impact on everyone as well as genuine insight into both Belle and the Beast’s personalities.
- Traditional Disney Princess Behavior: throwing oneself onto a couch, bed, or other flat surface in order to cry.
- Lefou wasn’t born stupid; he got the stupid punched into him by hanging out with Gaston too much.
- “Be Our Guest” as a big showstopping follies number about food is perhaps the true epitome of what France is really all about.
- The Fella: “So, in this curse, the people and one dog were turned into inanimate objects. Were all the inanimate objects also cursed? And if so, when the curse is lifted, will they turn into people?” Tee: “You are… waaaay overthinking this.” Aly: “He does this with every movie.”
- Aly mistakenly identified the voice of the asylum keeper as the same voice from the Haunted Mansion ride – but it’s not, this actor is Tony Jay, who would later voice Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. *shudder*
- DAT LIBRARY THO. Tee: “These are all hand-drawn books.” Aly: “…bless them. Bless those animators.”
- Frankly with a library that size, why would the Beast be so lonely? It’d keep one of us busy for at least another couple decades. Just sayin’.
- Pip: “Does Mrs. Potts just not like her other children as much as Chip?” Aly: “I… don’t think the other ones are her children. I think they’re just other servants.”
- There’s such a wonderful moment between Belle and the Beast after their budding romance montage – where even though the Beast knows he can make her stay here, he does a selfless thing and allows her to go visit her father. LOVE, you guys, LOVE.
- Sonic Boom: “Gaston was the villain all along!” Tee: “He even has shed his Disney prince appearance for a wild, crazy villain look.”
- Fun Fact: The Fella played Gaston in high school – and the “Kill the Beast” song was his favorite one to sing.
- Tee: “I think he just rolled a crit fail. That was a one, for sure.” The Fella: “Yeah, you’re gonna FALL off that cliff.” Aly: “Is Gaston a ranger?” Tee: “Yeah, definitely.” Aly: “And Belle is a cleric.” Pip: “She is – she’s got a +1 for making her hair look good while it’s raining.”
- The transformation of the Beast is so beautiful – thank you Glen Keane.
- The ballroom scene at the end is recycled animation from Sleeping Beauty.
- This is the first time the credits follow this format: slow jam of a main song done by pop stars, a scrolling list of the animation teams of each character, etc. Mmm. Dat slow jam. Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson.
Extra special thanks to my patrons who made this and all Disney Odyssey posts possible: Candace, Cameron, Andy, Allen, Josh, Ben, Kuta, Stephen, Tiffany, Kat, AE, Matt, David, Dennis, and Mary-Kate. If you’re interested in supporting this blog, the Disney Odyssey, and future fantastical adventures, please consider donating a dollar or more to my Patreon!
Thank you for joining us this time on the Disney Odyssey… and make sure to subscribe to the blog for the next post…. Aladdin!!!