“The delightful animated film from 1991 plays as classic animation, but if you want to go a level deeper into the story and into the songs and into the emotions, that’s what this live-action film delivers: a greater depth of emotions.”
The live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.
The story and characters audiences know and love come to spectacular life in the live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast,” a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most beloved tales ever told. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart of the true Prince within.
Beauty Comes From Within
The classic tale of Beauty and the Beast – and its empowering message that true beauty comes from within – dates back to 18th century France and the first published version of the fairy tale, “La Belle et la Bête,” by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Today, the themes are still just as relevant and the story continues to enthrall storytellers, resulting in countless interpretations across all forms of media, but it is Disney’s Oscar®-nominated animated film from 1991 which has been the definitive version.
One of the studio’s most treasured titles, Beauty and the Beast was released during Disney’s second golden age of animation, along with “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King” and “Aladdin,” among others, and was immediately hailed as a cinematic masterpiece. As spellbindingly romantic as it is comedic, “Beauty and the Beast” is an unforgettable tale of love and friendship that transports readers to a magical fairy tale world where good triumphs over evil.
Beauty and the Beast was the first animated feature to receive an Academy Award® nomination for best picture and won two Oscars® (best original score and best song), three Golden Globes® and four GRAMMY® Awards, among a multitude of other awards. The film was the first animated feature to gross more than $100 million at the box office in its initial release and the first Disney animated feature to become a stage musical production, one which subsequently ran on Broadway for 13 years and was translated into eight languages, playing in over 20 countries.
The studio felt an adaptation of the story of a kindhearted maiden and her beastly prince had the potential to enchant audiences once again, but when the studio pitched the idea to Bill Condon, his initial fear was remaking something that is flawless as is. “I consider the 1991 film to be a perfect movie,” Condon says. “When the film was released it was groundbreaking, in the way the story was told and with that incredible score from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, so I initially did not want to go near it.”
But the Oscar®-winning director, whose resume includes such diverse films as “Dreamgirls,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts I and 2,” “Mr. Holmes” and “Kinsey,” soon realized the time was right for a live-action adaptation. A consummate storyteller, Condon could already visualize the story’s cinematic potential. “It is 25 years later and technology has caught up to the ideas that were introduced in the animated movie,” he explains. “Now it is possible, for the first time, to create a photo-real version of a talking teacup on a practical set in a completely realistic live action format.”
For the director, the allure of “Beauty and the Beast” was twofold: It was a chance to make a movie musical that is a tribute to the musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and an opportunity to revisit a story he connects with emotionally and to dig deeper into the characters to find out what makes them tick. The director has an encyclopedic knowledge of musicals and a clear understanding of how story and music converse with one another, and saw the film as a chance to bring back the musical genre.
He explains, “When I was growing up people would say theater was dying, and theater has been dying for centuries now. I think the same thing can be said about the movie musical, not for centuries, but it has sort of been dying for the last 50 years. I want audiences to embrace the form and understand that, at its best, music and movies and musical numbers in movies don’t distract, they don’t interrupt, they deepen and help create meaning. If you’re moved by something, you’re more moved when you hear some of those Alan Menken notes or hear some of those Howard Ashman lyrics.”
Emma Watson says, “Any time I hear music from ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ it connects me with that childlike feeling that everything is going to be okay and that there’s hope in the world, and it just gives me this sense that everything’s fine.”
According to Academy Award®-nominated producer David Hoberman (“The Fighter,” “The Muppets”), “Bill was the perfect choice. He has an intimate knowledge of the fairy tale ‘Beauty and the Beast’ going back to the first written version, he is a big fan of acclaimed French director Jean Cocteau’s 1946 avant garde take on the story and he has seen the Broadway production multiple times, so he was already an aficionado.”
Working with co-screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” “Hercules”) and Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Rent”), Condon set out to expand upon the story’s timeless themes and add more depth and dimension to the familiar characters while still celebrating the animated film and its legacy. “There have been some recent movies that have been top to bottom reinventions or stories as seen from another character’s point of view or something,” he says. “This is not that. What we wanted to do was bring the story more into reality, not create a new story.”
He continues, “It is an honor to have a chance to create something that is both reverential of the original and somewhat of a modernization at the same time, but it is also intimidating. This is a story that has lived in many forms and in many languages, and to have an opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technology and an amazing cast is such a blessing. I hope that, because this movie is so loved, we’ll be able to answer questions that fans may not have even realized they had about Belle and about the Beast specifically, and how they came to be who they are today.”
The film offers a glimpse into the Prince’s life before he became the Beast and what turned him into a man who deserves to be cursed. It also expands on Belle’s life before she goes to the castle and meets the Beast and helps explain what the two have in common and what made them who they are today.
Woven into the fabric of the story are outstanding new songs from eight-time Oscar®-winning composer Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas”) and veteran lyricist and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (“The Lion King,” “Evita”), and because Condon is a fan of musical theatre and knows all the songs and musical references, it made Menken’s job that much easier. “Bill really knows his stuff,” says the composer, “So we were able to begin working with a lot of tools already at our disposal and a lot of reference points we could discuss immediately. Bill is a micromanager in the best sense of the word because he is genuinely concerned with each element in the story and the music.”
Be Our Guest
The live-action adaptation of Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” is a stunning, cinematic event celebrating one of the most enduring and beloved tales ever told, and one that has touched readers for centuries. Now, thanks to the artistry and imagination of director Bill Condon and a brilliant creative team, audiences of all ages are sure to be captivated by the story’s adventure, passion and romance once again.
According to Condon, “The delightful animated film from 1991 plays as classic animation, but if you want to go a level deeper into the story and into the songs and into the emotions, that’s what this live-action film delivers: a greater depth of emotions.”
“It’s rare during principal photography when everyone on set is happy, but on this film where we had hundreds of people on set every day, everyone was genuinely pleased to be there,” says Ian McKellen. “Many of them had been working since the early hours of the morning, but I never heard a single word of complaint from anyone, technician or performer, and that speaks very well for the film.”
“I feel very lucky to have been given the chance to work with this material,” says Condon. “There’s something about this story – and specifically the score, which was written 25 years ago – that is just magical, and I think that’s what still draws people in and is what makes this such a special experience.”