It's been 26 years since Disney's Beauty and the Beast was released in theaters, and it's still widely considered one of the studio's best movies of all time. As the third entry of the Disney Renaissance, it received critical acclaim and was nominated for numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture, the first animated movie to earn such an honor. Next month, its live action remake will come out, but no doubt many of you have wondered since the project was announced why Disney would want to re-do Beauty and the Beast given its level of success last time. As it turns out, a lot of it had to do with putting a new twist on Belle.
Acknowledging that the original Beauty and the Beast is essentially "perfect," Bill Condon, director of the re-telling, noted in a featurette that both the live action elements and the opportunity to reimagine Belle for a new generation were the main reasons Disney was keen on giving the fairy tale another go. In Condon's words:
Part of it was this great opportunity to tell it in a live action, fully photo-real version, and distinguish Belle again 25 years later as a 21st century heroine.
Belle was definitely a more progressive "princess" protagonist compared to the ladies Disney had provided before Beauty and the Beast. Not only was she less passive, but she was primarily interested to learning and adventuring, and she definitely wasn't concerned with finding a man. Granted, she did eventually fall in love with the enchanted prince who kept her captive, but that's beside the point. Still, a lot has changed since the animated Beauty and the Beast was released, and the live action version allows more opportunities to both update and expand upon the character.
She is a character in an animated movie, so it is a question of taking these characters and putting them into this extra dimension, putting them into a live-action context, which means adding levels of psychology and nuance, and updating it.
While Beauty and the Beast will presumably be rated PG so it's accessible to viewers of all ages (not to mention follow in the footsteps of the live action versions of Cinderella and The Jungle Book), it will be nice to have a little more maturity and depth to the remake. The animated version will always be a classic, but this version has to make certain changes to both stand on its own and be more compelling in certain areas. For instance, Belle is now the inventor rather than her father, Maurice. Hopefully we'll also get an answer about what happened to Belle's mom.
The new Beauty and the Beast will work its magic in theaters on March 17.