The film's animation screenplay was written by Linda Woolverton with story written by Roger Allers, Brenda Chapman, Chris Sanders, Burny Mattinson, Kevin Harkey, Brian Pimental, Bruce Woodside, Joe Ranft, Tom Ellery, Kelly Ashbury, and Robert Lence, directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and produced by Don Hahn. The music of the film was composed by Alan Menken and the lyrics for the film were written by Howard Ashman (who also served as the film's executive producer), both of whom had written the music and songs for The Little Mermaid, a previous Disney film.
Beauty and the Beast was released on November 13, 1991. The film was a significant commercial and critical success, earning over $424 million in box office earnings throughout the world. Beauty and the Beast was also nominated for several awards, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy (For the first time to an animated movie), with two other awards for its music. Famously, Beauty and the Beast was the first ever animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and was the only animated film to hold this honor until 2009, when the Academy Awards switched from 5 Best Picture nominations to 10, and Pixar's animated film Up was nominated. Beauty and the Beast received a total of six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Sound, and three nominations for its song. It ended up winning two, for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for the songs "Beauty and the Beast".
A direct-to-video midquel called Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas was released in 1997. It was followed in 1998 by another midquel, Belle's Magical World, and later by a stage production of the same name and a television spin-off series, Sing Me a Story with Belle. An IMAX special edition version of the original film was released in 2002, with a new five-minute musical sequence included. After the success of the 3D re-release of The Lion King in 2011, Disney announced the film will return to theaters for a limited time in 3-D on January 13, 2012. In June 2014, it was announced that a live-action re-imagining of the film is in the works.
After becoming prisoner to the Beast, Belle stays in the castle with his talking household objects. After she starts to fall for the beast, Belle must protect him and her from a jealous Gaston.
The film takes place presumably in the late 18th century, (i.e., during Gaston's proposal to Belle, he wears a red tailcoat, waistcoat, breeches and black boots, which is men's fashion indicative of the 17th to 18th centuries). In the film's prologue, an enchantress disguised as an old beggar woman offers a selfish young prince a rose in exchange for a night's shelter from the extreme cold (during Christmas as we later find out in the film's midquel), as a test of his heart and emotion. When he turns her away, repulsed by her old and ugly appearance and sneering at the simple but lovely gift, she turns into an Enchantress and punishes him by transforming him into an ugly beast and turns his servants into furniture and other household items. She gives him a magic mirror that will enable him to view faraway events, and also gives him the rose, which will bloom until his 21st birthday. He must love and be loved in return before all the rose's petals have fallen off, or he will remain a beast forever.
10 Years later, a beautiful but unusual young woman named Belle lives in a nearby but unnamed French village with her father Maurice, who is an inventor. Belle loves reading and yearns for a life beyond the village. She is also the object of frequent unwanted attention and lust from the arrogant local hero, Gaston, who wants to marry her and make her his "little wife" who will bear him handsome sons, cook the food and scrub the floors. (The film gives no clear explanation as to why Gaston wants Belle as his wife other than because of her good looks.) Maurice's latest invention is the wood-chopping machine. When he rides off to display the machine at the fair, he loses his way in the woods and stumbles upon the Beast's castle, where he meets the transformed servants Lumiere (maitre d'/candelabra), Cogsworth (butler/pendulum clock), Mrs. Potts (housekeeper/teapot), her son Chip (who was turned into a teacup), and the maid, Fifi (who was turned into a feather duster). After getting used to seeing talking objects, the servants warm him by the fire. The Beast imprisons Maurice, but Belle is led back to the castle by Maurice's horse, Phillipe, and offers to take her father's place. When the Beast agrees to this and sends him home, Maurice tells Gaston and the other villagers what happened, but they think he has lost his mind, so he goes to rescue her alone but gets lost on his way.
Meanwhile, Belle refuses the Beast's "invitation" to dinner, and the Beast orders his servants not to let her eat, but Lumiere serves her dinner anyway (in the song Be Our Guest ) and Cogsworth gives her a tour of the castle. However, she wanders off on her own and finds the West Wing, which the Beast had forbidden her to go into. She goes in anyway, discovering many broken items, including a shredded portrait of a young prince and the enchanted rose. Before she can touch it, the Beast sees her and angrily screams at her to get out.
Frightened, Belle tries to escape, but she and Phillipe are attacked by wolves. Suddenly, the Beast miraculously arrives to her rescue and fends off the wolves. After Belle nurses his wounds, he gives her the castle library as a gift, and they become friends. Later, they have an elegant dinner and a romantic ballroom dance. When he lets her use the Enchanted Mirror, she sees her father dying in the woods, and with only hours left before the rose wilts, the Beast allows her to leave, giving her the mirror to remember him by. This horrifies the servants, who fear they will never be humans again.
Belle finds Maurice and takes him home, but Gaston arrives with a lynch mob. Unless she agrees to marry Gaston, the manager of the local madhouse will lock her father up. Belle proves Maurice sane by showing them the beast with the magic mirror, but Gaston arouses the mob's anger against the Beast and leads them to the castle to kill him. He locks Belle and Maurice in a basement, but Chip, who hid himself in Belle's luggage, chops the basement door apart with Maurice's machine.
While the servants and the mob battle for control of the castle, Gaston wanders off on his own and, finding the Beast, attacks him. The Beast is initially too depressed to fight back, but regains his will when he sees Belle arriving at the castle. After winning a heated battle, the Beast spares Gaston's life and climbs up to a balcony where Belle is waiting. Unbeknownst to them, Gaston has secretly followed the Beast and stabs him from behind, but loses his footing and falls off the balcony to his death.
As the Beast lies on the ground, apparently dead from his injuries, Belle sadly whispers that she loves him, just as the final petal from the rose falls off, breaking the spell. Belle watches in amazement as The Beast is revived and turned back into a human. Belle studies him carefully, recognizing him as the man from the portrait in the West Wing, and seeing that he still has the same eyes, she says "It is you!" The two kiss, turning the servants human and transforming the castle back into its original elegance. The last scene shows Belle and the prince dancing in the ballroom as her father and the servants happily watch them, while Lumiere and Cogsworth enter a feud.
- Belle (Paige O'Hara)
- Beast (Robby Benson)
- Gaston (Richard White)
- Lumiere (Jerry Orbach)
- Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers)
- Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury)
- Chip (Bradley Michael Pierce)
- Maurice (Rex Everhart)
- LeFou (Jesse Corti)
- Philippe (Hal Smith)
- Fifi (Kimmy Robertson)
- Wardrobe (JoAnne Worley)
- Monsieur D'Aquire (Tony Jay)
Differences Between the book and the Original Fairytale
- In the original fairytale, Belle had two jealous older sisters, and was called Beauty.
- Beauty's father was a merchant whereas in the film he was an inventor.