In 1991, Disney made history…
♫ Tale as old as time ♫
♫ Song as old as rhyme ♫
♫ Beauty and the Beast ♫
Based on the French fairly tale of the same name by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, Beauty and the Beast is set once upon a time, in a faraway land, where there was a Prince who had everything he desired, but was also selfish, rude, and spoiled. After refusing an ugly woman’s offer of a rose in exchange to a shelter, he was cursed into a hideous Beast. Before the last petal falls, he must find true love, or remain a monster forever.
Many years later, he takes in a prisoner named Belle, a outsider lady who doesn’t quiet fit in, and would not fall for Gaston’s proposals for love. As time would move on, the Belle and Beast begin to slowly, but surely form a bond with each other’s inner beauty. And maybe, just maybe, this might be the true love needed to break the Beast’s horrible curse…
Disney had been trying to adapt Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s fairy tale since the 1930s, but it was pushed to the back burner for decades. That all changed decades later in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, the movie responsible for starting the Disney Renaissance. With that, and their increased recognition from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Disney was confident enough to adapt the story into an animated feature.
The production was handled to the upmost care by so many talented writers, animators, artists, and composers. It was the directorial debut of duo Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, who would later helm The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Linda Woolverton’s screenplay contribution made her the first woman to write an animated feature, and would eventually co-write The Lion King. Glen Keane’s animation on the Beast is also greatly admirable, especially with all the combined animal species, and the suburb attention to detail with the frame-by-frame drawings.
The songs and music are another huge highlight of the movie, complete with the classic songs like ”Belle”, ”Gaston”, “Be Our Guest”, ”The Mob Song”, and the title song ”Beauty and the Beast”. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman teamed once again after their big breakthrough on The Little Mermaid to bring life into these iconic songs. Sadly, Ashman passed away before the movie was completed due to complications from AIDS. His memory is dedicated in the credits with:
"To our friend, Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice, and a beast his soul. We will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman: 1950–1991."
An unfinished cut was presented at the New York Film Festival on September 29, 1991 to astounding applause. On November 22, 1991, the film in it’s completed form was released to public cinemas, and was universally acclaimed by both audiences and the critics, being described as the closest thing Disney has ever gotten to perfection. It also did extremely well at the box office with $425 million worldwide.
But then came the Academy Awards where it won Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Original Song (for “Beauty and the Beast”). It was also nominated for three more Oscars, including the grand prize, Best Picture. The movie may have lost the award to The Silence of the Lambs, but this was the first time in history that an animated feature was nominated Best Picture. Something that was near-impossible happened with this movie, and helped make animation more accepted as a true film medium than a kids genre.
Beauty and the Beast was the film that changed the animation landscape, and brought Disney back to the top as the king of animation with the Disney Renaissance. Sure the franchise got a few setbacks by two sub-par direct-to-video sequels (The Enchanted Christmas and Belle’s Magical World), and a redundant 2017 live-action remake, but the impact Disney left with this animated masterpiece is something to greatly admire. And Beauty and the Beast Source is here to dedicate and honour that status.