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Beauty and the Beast
Photograph: Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

‘Beauty and the Beast’ turns 30 – here’s 30 facts about the classic Disney animation

Be our guest as we regale you with trivia and knowledge on the classic tale

Jon Hornbuckle
Written by
Jon Hornbuckle

Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast is celebrating its 30th birthday. Since its release in UK cinemas back in October 1992, the beloved movie has been followed by sequels, stage adaptations and live-action reimaginings.

While 1989’s The Little Mermaid is often cited as the beginning of Disney’s renaissance era, it was Beauty and the Beast that brought the animation studio out of the wilderness of the 1980s and firmly back into the record books.

Here are 30 facts about Beauty and the Beast to celebrate – one for each year since its release:

There are many versions of the classic tale

Beauty and the Beast has its roots in 1740 a novel by French writer Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

It was soon after adapted by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756 and it is this version of the fairy tale that Disney took most inspiration from.

Belle originally had brothers

In the earliest incarnations of the classic tale, Beauty wasn’t an only child and her father was a merchant rather than an inventor. Beauty’s sisters were more superficial and demanded that their father return with gifts of jewellery and gowns, while Beauty asked for only a single rose. Other versions saw Beauty with several roguish brothers who were hellbent on fighting Beast.

Gaston is a new creation in the movie

With the omission of Belle’s sinister relatives, Disney realised they needed to create a villain to ramp up the stakes. Inspiration for Gaston comes from Jean Cocteau’s 1946 masterpiece La Belle et la Bête, in which the antagonist, Avenant, is hellbent on marrying Belle and killing Beast.

It’s the first animation to land a Best Picture nomination

Beauty and the Beast is the first feature animation to score a Best Picture nomination, ultimately losing out to The Silence of the Lambs. It maintained that unique distinction until Up picked up a nomination in 2009.

The Beast is a hybrid of different animals

Ever wondered what animal the handsome prince was turned into? Well it’s a bit of a mash-up. The Beast is a mix of several animals including a lion, a buffalo and a bear.

Disney animator Glen Keane revealed that Beast was made up of the head of a buffalo, the mane of a lion, the tusks and nose of a wild boar, the brow of a gorilla and the bulky body of a bear.

To soften the Beast’s features, he was given the ears of a cow. 

The stage musical was a huge success

As early as the first screening of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, critics were quick to note the animated movie’s clear potential for a Broadway musical adaptation.

Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway in New York back in 1994 and ran for 5,461 performances in the 13 years it was open. The stage adaptation has earned more than $1.7 billion worldwide, with a recent stint at London’s Palladium Theatre starring The X-Factor winner Sam Bailey as Mrs Potts.

Beauty and the Beast, London Palladium, 2022
Photo by Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast recently returned to London's West End

Several Disney legends have voiced Belle

While Paige O’Hara landed the role for animation, other Disney legends have portrayed Belle in its various sequels, video games, audiobooks and TV series.

Jodi Benson – best known for voicing Ariel in The Little Mermaid – stood in for O’Hara for Disney Channel series, House of Mouse.

When Beauty and the Beast premiered on Broadway in 1994, the role of Belle was played by Susan Egan who later went on to portray Meg in Disney’s 1997 animated adventure, Hercules.

Belle’s unique hair colour

To this day, Belle is the only Disney Princess to have brown hair. Cinderella, Aurora and Rapunzel are known for their golden blonde locks, Ariel and Merida are redheads, and Snow White – The OG of Disney Princesses – is famous for her black hair, as are Mulan, Jasmine and Tiana.

Disney took inspiration from a 1946 live-action movie

Before Disney’s animated flick arrived, perhaps the best known screen adaptation of Beauty and the Beast was from French filmmaker Jean Cocteau.

His take on Beauty and the Beast saw a more feminist approach to Belle, who – much like in the animated version – voluntarily goes to Beast’s castle in her father’s place, unlike early versions that effectively saw her forced into imprisonment. 

ARCHIVIO GBB / Alamy Stock PhotoThe 1946 movie was an inspiration for Disney's own Beauty and the Beast

Gaston was based on real bodybuilders

With lyrics in his self-titled song about eating ‘five dozen eggs so I'm roughly the size of a barge’, Gaston always needed to be animated as a muscular tank of a man.

To achieve this, animators on Beauty and the Beast brought in real-life bodybuilders to take inspiration from.

One thing about the Beast stays the same

The Beast’s transformation is the crux of the movie, but his eyes always remain the same. Supervising animator Glen Keane notes that he wanted to show ‘a man looking out from inside the beast’, and thus kept the piercing blue eyes in both incarnations.

An R&B legend became Belle for the Broadway production

Four years after Beauty and the Beast premiered on Broadway, music legend Toni Braxton joined the cast as Belle in 1998 – the first time a black woman has starred as the lead in a Disney musical on Broadway.

Several new songs were written for the stage adaptation

During Braxton’s run on the show between 1998 and 1999, songwriter Alan Menken composed a new song for Braxton called ‘A Change in Me’. Several other new songs were written for the stage adaptation, including Beast’s showstopper ballad ‘If I Can’t Love Her’, which serves as the climax of the first act.

Rupert Everett auditioned for the role of Gaston

Years before playing a villainous prince in Shrek 2, British actor Rupert Everett auditioned for the role of Gaston.

In his book Disney Voice Actors: A Biographical Dictionary, author Thomas S Hischak claims Everett was ‘not deemed arrogant enough’.

It shares a scene with Sleeping Beauty

While the ballroom dance scene at the end of Beauty and the Beast is groundbreaking for its use of CGI, it is heavily lifted from an earlier Disney classic.

When viewed together, there’s an identical parallel between it and the ballroom dance scene from Sleeping Beauty, with the characters mimicking the routine – albeit with much fancier technology.

One line was changed after the film was finished

In the dramatic fight scene between Gaston and Beast, there’s a discrepancy between the audio and the way Gaston’s mouth moves: the original line, ‘time to die’, was changed to the gentler ‘Belle is mine’.

The movie has inspired kids to read more books

Speaking in 2012 to promote the movie’s 3D reissue, Paige O’Hara claimed that Belle’s love of books had a positive impact on audiences.

‘I know that Disney did a survey and found out that a lot more young ladies were reading books than before the film came out,’ O’Hara told Shockya.

‘Be Our Guest’ was almost very different

Hard to believe, but Belle was nearly not involved in the ‘Big Our Guest’ sequence at all. O’Hara remembers that the scene nearly revolved around Belle’s father instead.

‘[Originally] “Be Our Guest” was sung to Maurice, the father,’ she explained. ‘The crew realised it needed to be sung to Belle so they ended up throwing out months and months of work, came back in and redid the whole process and the whole song.’

Nick Jonas starred on the Broadway adaptation

Thought Chip the teacup couldn’t get cuter? Think again! Back in 2002 – years before finding fame with the Jonas Brothers – Nick Jonas took on the role of Chip on the Broadway adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.         

The live-action remake was a massive hit 

Disney’s live-action remake with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens became the tenth highest-grossing film in cinema history when it came out in 2017 release, grossing $1.2 billion.

Beauty and the Beast
Photo: DisneySir Ian McKellen starred as Cogsworth in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is dedicated to Howard Ashman

Beauty and the Beast was released just months after the death of lyricist Howard Ashman. Although it was the last movie that Ashman worked on from inception to completion, he had already begun work on Disney’s next full-length animated feature, Aladdin, with three songs making the cut on the final film.

The Beast has a real name

The more you think about it, the more rude it seems how several characters have worked for ‘The Beast’ for decades, yet never refer to him by name. Thanks to various spin-off books, we now know he is called Prince Adam.

Walt Disney wanted to make Beauty and the Beast in the 1940s

Fresh from the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney was looking for another classic fable to adapt into an animated feature. He had his heart set on Beauty and the Beast, but found the fairy tale too challenging to be adapted. 

Céline Dion had a chart hit with the title song

In a move that would soon become a staple of Disney soundtracks, producers looked to contemporary singers to give new life to the movie’s signature songs.

Céline Dion teamed up with American soul singer Peabo Bryson to release their take on track ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – originally sung by Angela Lansbury – which became an international hit.

There’s a Beauty and the Beast theme park ride

A ride based on the animated classic opened at Tokyo Disneyland in September 2020.

The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast, sees guests board enchanted serving dishes that move in rhythm to the film’s soundtrack and follow Belle on an adventure inside the castle as she breaks the Beast’s fateful spell.

Gaston’s pal is quite literally ‘the fool’

Throughout his scenes in the film, villainous Gaston is joined by short and stupid sidekick Lefou, which quite literally translates from French as ‘the fool’.

Belle is the only character in the movie to wear blue

Animators made the decision to keep Belle as the only character to wear blue clothing in a bid to make her stand out from the crowd.

Belle is the English translation of the name

It’s quite obvious in hindsight, but in the original stories the lead female character was known simply as ‘Beauty’, but through the centuries it has become adapted to Belle, the french word for ‘beautiful’.

Disney added a cut song back into the movie for the reissue

Originally intended for the movie, a song called ‘Human Again’ was cut before release as its lyrics were thought to confuse the timeline of when the enchantment spell had taken effect. Disney later added the song back into the movie for the IMAX re-release in 2002 and it has been included in subsequent outings.

Belle actress reprised role for Wreck-It Ralph 2

Paige O’Hara reprised her voice role as Belle in the sequel to Disney hit Wreck-It Ralph.

In Ralph Breaks the Internet, the titular character and companion Vanellope stumble into a movie convention where they encounter a group of Disney Princesses backstage.

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