Warning: minor spoilers for Beauty and The Beast are in play. If you don't want to be spoiled, stay out of the West Wing and read some of our other coverage on this tale as old as time. However, if you don't care about spoilers, or are reading this after you've seen the film, then be our guest.
Beauty and The Beast has always lived up to its reputation of being a tale as old as time, but even time worn tales need something new when they make the jump from animation to live action. In the case of director Bill Condon's re-imagining, a long lingering subject became the grist for a key sequence in the film's chain of events. That subject was, of course, the absence of Belle's mother, and through the inclusion of a newly created flashback, as well as the song "How Does A Moment Last Forever?" one of the most iconic mysteries of Beauty and The Beast history finally came to life.
The reasoning behind this new plot point's inclusion was the topic of a discussion between The Hollywood Reporter and producer David Hoberman, who made the following case for the decision to finally spell out the death of Belle's mother as follows:
The mom had to have died somehow. We went through many incarnations of ideas, but we also wanted to be truthful to the period. The plague seemed like a natural fit.
Hoberman's reference to the Black Plague is realized in the film, as Belle and The Beast are given a magical opportunity to see Maurice flee the outskirts of Paris with baby Belle in tow. The reason being her mother is infected, and as her last wish, she urges young Maurice to leave so the two of them can live. As it turns out, Belle was once closer to that great wide somewhere she'd always wanted to see, but was taken away in order to survive.
This wasn't a subject that appeared out of thin air though, as the 1991 version of Beauty and The Beast had some of its original drafts containing references to Belle's mother. The reasons for the subject being dropped was the fact that in an animated film, there isn't really a lot of time to go into as much backstory as you want to divulge. So, naturally, like most of the other deleted songs and references, it made its way into the 1994 Broadway musical, with our heroine's mother briefly being alluded to in the musical number "No Matter What."
Bringing resolution to the long standing mystery of Belle's mother is one of the more interesting things that Beauty and The Beast has up its sleeve, all in the name of fleshing out all characters, both background and central. How well it works is up to the audience, of course, but at the very least the addition of "How Does A Moment Last Forever?" does give Belle and her father Maurice some new emotional background to mine for tender moments between the two. And if putting Emma Watson and Kevin Kline on screen together is a bad thing, then you can consider us bad people.
Beauty and The Beast is currently in theaters, with early screenings through the night.