Some stories are truly timeless and the classic French fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, is certainly no exception. This version, released in 1991, carried a healthy dose of Disney magic, some stunning computer animation, and an endearing musical score – and left new audiences thoroughly enchanted with this “tale as old as time.”
Set in a small French village in the 18th century, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of the beautiful Belle, the bookworm daughter of an eccentric old inventor named Maurice. Belle is dissatisfied with her provincial way of life and even more so with Gaston, the local brute who is constantly trying to win her heart.
One day, as he is traveling to a local fair, Maurice becomes hopelessly lost in the forest and is captured by a hideous beast who is actually a former prince, cloaked by a curse of homeliness. Only when he finds true love will the curse be forever lifted. As one might expect, this curse has left him cranky and bitter, which only compounds his problems.
When Belle finally happens upon the castle, during her desperate search for her father, she selflessly offers to switch places with him, and her mission becomes to tame the grouchy Beast and lift the curse. Alongside her in her quest are a number of animated household objects, a clock named Cogsworth, a motherly teapot named Mrs. Potts and a candelabra named Lumiere, each of which are trapped under the same curse as the beast. Only Belle’s love can save the day and release these prisoners from their bonds.
Beauty and the Beast was a true masterpiece in the Disney legacy of family entertainment, an instant classic that was even recognized with an Academy Award nomination in the Best Picture category – the only animated film to date to ever achieve such a feat. The late lyricist, Howard Ashman, who also wrote the lyrics to another classic, The Little Mermaid, would posthumously win an Oscar for Best Original Song alongside his collaborator, Alan Menkin.
Disney has continued to release titles such as Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and Belle’s Magical World in direct-to-video format over the years to keep the successful franchise going, but none have come close to matching the original. This tale as old as time is certain to live on as one of Disney’s proudest achievements in recent years and become as timeless as the story it was born from.
If you count Beauty and the Beast as one of your favorite Disney films, we welcome all of your thoughts in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this wonderful animated feature film.