La belle et la Bete
February 6, 2017
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“Beauty and the Beast,” though primarily recognized as the Disney animated film, dates back to the 18th century. Most know “Beauty and the Beast” as a romantic, animated fantasy, but don’t know the original tale. The fairytale was originally penned by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve and later re-written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.
The original version, “La Belle et La Bête”, portrayed Beauty not as the daughter of a merchant, but as the daughter of a king and a fairy. She was later relocated and disguised as the daughter of the merchant in order to protect her from an evil fairy that was trying to take her life. In this same beginning version, the Beast’s background also contradicts the animated Disney film. He was a prince who lost his father at a young age and whose mother was forced into a war to defend their kingdom. He was then left in the care of an evil fairy who attempted to seduce him when he became an adult. When he rejected her she turned him into a beast.
In Leprince de Beaumont’s version of “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle is portrayed in yet another different manner. She is the daughter of a once wealthy merchant who loses his wealth and is one of six siblings (three girls, three boys). She was hated by her sisters for her beauty and for not sharing their hatred of the peasant life, but was loved by everyone else. In both original versions, the Beast lives completely alone and there are no lively, talking furniture pieces like Lumière or Chip. These changes came about due to the time period in which the story was re-written.
The second edition of this story was written during a time of social unrest in France around thirty years before the French Revolution. This was a time where the upper class were resented, and being the daughter of a king would not have made Beauty a very appealing character. Being a daughter of a blue-collar worker made her character more relatable to the people, increasing the story’s popularity.
The next, and most famous, depiction of Beauty and the Beast was released by Disney in 1991. This adaptation incorporated many different aspects and characters. It featured charming, anthropomorphic characters like Chip and Lumière, who added a cheerful tone to the film, making it very family oriented. Disney also added disfavored characters like Gaston and his crew to fill in the gaps of the storyline making it more like a typical fairytale. The Beast on the other hand, was portrayed in a less attractive manner than the initial story. In this Disney version, he was turned into a beast because of his arrogance and unwillingness to give shelter to an old woman, who happened to be a witch, compared to the original where he refused the fairy. The Beast is hated because of his brutish and brash attitude, not because of the effects of an unfortunate curse. The Beast, however, was not the only character to have foundational changes. Beauty, also known as Belle, was an only child unlike the original script. Belle’s sisters were edited out of the story in order to avoid similarities to another popular fairytale, Cinderella. One unique characteristic of Belle in comparison to other Disney princesses is that she is the oldest, aging at 20 years old.
These paramount details that Disney fabricated led to a very successful reaction to the film. Beauty and the Beast was the first ever animated film to ever break $100 million at the box office. It was also the first animated movie to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, even though it did not win the award. However, it won Oscar awards for Best Original Music Score, Best Picture, and Best Sound. It also achieved two Golden Globe awards for Best Original Score, and Best Motion Picture. “Beauty and the Beast” was even the third highest grossing movie of 1992. The Library of Congress approved it as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” and it was chosen as part of the National Film Registry.
The most recent buzz surrounding Beauty and the Beast is the new live-action version being released by Disney on March 17th. The film will star the acclaimed actress Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast, and Luke Evans as Gaston. Many other renowned actors will appear in the film including Oscar winner Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan. The re-telling of this classic story was directed the Oscar winning director, Bill Condon. This interpretation of the classic tale holds promise for awaiting fans. The soundtrack features big names like Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Ariana Grande and John Legend. This movie has been in the works since 2015, and is finally ready to hit the big screens. Disney intends to stun its fans with a tale as old as time with a contemporary new feel. Lovers of “Beauty and the Beast” are left on the edge of theirs seats, waiting until March to see what will come of the new and upcoming innovation of “Beauty and the Beast.”