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Top 10 Facts about Beauty and the Beast (1991)

VO: Emily Brayton
The original Beauty and the Beast is still a classic that’ll stay in our hearts forever. In this countdown we take a look the Top 10 Facts about Beauty and the Beast 1991! Did you know the song “Human Again” was cut early on? That Gaston originally had a more gruesome demise, that Gaston Originally Had a More Gruesome Demise and that Belle Wears Blue for a Reason?

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Top 10 Facts About “Beauty and the Beast” (1991)

Even after all these years, there’s plenty left to say about Disney’s tale as old as time. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Facts About “Beauty and the Beast” (1991).

For this list, we’re taking a look at interesting trivia about the first animated feature to ever score a Best Picture nomination. In case you’re the only person who hasn’t seen the film yet, keep in mind that spoilers lie ahead.

#10: “Human Again” Was Cut Early On

Sung by the Beast’s servants, “Human Again” details what life would be like if Belle breaks the curse on the castle. But the song was cut before animation even started, mainly due to its length and pacing problems, so composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman quickly wrote “Something There” as a replacement. For the “Beauty and the Beast” stage adaptation, Menken and lyricist Tim Rice reworked “Human Again” so it would fit the narrative. Because of this, when the movie was being restored, remastered and re-released in IMAX in 2002, they were able to add the song back in, with a newly animated sequence beautifully illustrating the musical number.

#9: Gaston Originally Had a More Gruesome Demise

After stabbing the Beast in the back, the dastardly Gaston loses balance and falls to his ultimate demise. Just to confirm Gaston didn’t survive the fall, the animators cleverly drew skulls in his pupils. That might sound dark and disturbing, but Gaston’s original death was actually much more terrifying. In an early draft, Gaston merely breaks his leg after the fall. The hunter becomes the hunted, though, as the wolves resurface and eat Gaston alive. Talk about overkill! While this sequence didn’t make the cut, Disney would recycle the idea for Scar’s death in “The Lion King.” Instead of wolves, however, hyenas feast upon the villain.

#8: Belle Wears Blue for a Reason

Well-read and full of ambition, Belle is the most unique person in her quiet little village. To make the character stand out even more, art director Brian McEntee suggested that Belle should be the only person in town that wears blue. This color not only brings out Belle’s individuality, but also signifies that she’s lonely and looking for something more. Of course, there is one other major character that sports this color: in the film’s prologue, the stained glass windows depict the prince wearing blue. The Beast later dons a blue jacket during his dance with Belle. The color thus indicates that Belle and the Beast have more in common than meets the eye.

#7: The Film Is Dedicated to Howard Ashman

Howard Ashman was one of the core creative minds behind the ‘90s Disney Renaissance. He not only acted as a producer on “The Little Mermaid,” but also wrote the lyrics for the songs. Shortly after winning an Oscar for “Under the Sea,” Ashman informed his longtime collaborator, Alan Menken, that he was HIV positive. Nevertheless, Ashman continued to work on “Beauty and the Beast.” Several months before the film’s official release, Ashman sadly died of complications from AIDS. “Beauty and the Beast” was therefore dedicated to Ashman’s memory with a touching message that read, “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful.”

#6: Beast Is a Hybrid of Different Animals

Glen Keane went from designing Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” to acting as a supervising animator for the Beast, who proved to be one of the most difficult characters to get right. The final result was a chimera, which is a combination of multiple animals: the Beast was given a wolf’s tail and legs, a buffalo’s head and horns, a lion’s mane, a bear’s arms and body, a wild boar’s tusks, and a gorilla’s eyebrows. Even as a Beast, though, the character maintains a pair of bright, blue eyes. This implies that there’s still a prince underneath his beastly exterior, bringing out the character’s humanity.

#5: It Was Originally Going to Be Closer to the French Fairytale

Disney’s animated features are known for taking great liberties with their source material. “Beauty and the Beast” is no exception, but that wasn’t always the case. After Richard Williams of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” declined to direct the project, Disney enlisted Richard Purdum. His vision was for a more somber story without songs, largely drawing inspiration from the original French fairytale, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and later rewritten by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. But the film would’ve had a dark tone with no music, and after seeing early story reels; Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg wasn’t blown away. Ultimately, Purdum left the project; Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were brought on to write original songs and the filmmakers started again from scratch.

#4: It Was Previewed at the New York Film Festival

In September of 1991, an unfinished version of “Beauty and the Beast” was screened at the New York Film Festival. At the time, this was an unprecedented move for Disney. Only 70% of the film had been completed, with story reels and pencil tests filling in the rest. While the film was still a work in progress, “Beauty and the Beast” reportedly received a 10-minute-long standing ovation from the crowd. Film critic Roger Ebert was initially skeptical of these reports, as he said he couldn’t imagine the New York Film Festival applauding anything. After the finished film hit theaters, though, it suddenly became clear to critics and audiences everywhere why the early buzz was so overwhelming.

#3: Angela Lansbury Didn’t Want to Sing the Titular Song

Angela Lansbury hit just the right note as Mrs. Potts. When she was approached about singing the title song for “Beauty and the Beast,” however, Lansbury was initially reluctant. She feared that her voice and the melody wouldn’t go together. Regardless, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken convinced her to give it a shot. On her way to record the song, Lansbury’s plane had to make an emergency landing due to a bomb threat. She still made it to her destination on time, and the excitement only further encouraged her to sing the song. Lansbury nailed her rendition in just one take, reportedly moving the studio to tears. No wonder this song won an Academy Award.

#2: The Film Almost Had a Very Different Cast

Before Lansbury landed the role of Mrs. Potts, Disney initially considered Mary Poppins herself: Julie Andrews. And this wasn’t the only alternative casting choice: although the character of Cogsworth was written with John Cleese in mind, he reportedly turned it down to appear in “Fievel Goes West,” making leeway for David Ogden Stiers to step in. Jodi Benson, who’s best known for voicing Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” was a top contender to play Belle, a part that ultimately went to Broadway actress Paige O’Hara. Several actors were in contention for the Beast, including Tim Curry. While Robby Benson got the job, Curry would later appear as Forte in “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.”

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

- David Ogden Stiers Improvised a Great Line
- The Beast’s Real Name Is Prince Adam
- Jackie Chan Voiced the Beast for the Chinese (Mandarin) Dub

#1: Walt Disney Tried Making “Beauty and the Beast”

Since “Beauty and the Beast” is a tale as old as time, you’d think that Disney would’ve brought the story to the big screen long before 1991. Interestingly enough, Walt Disney did actually try to get a “Beauty and the Beast” movie off the ground on multiple occasions. Following the triumph of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” Disney considered several other potential fairytale adaptations, “Beauty and the Beast” being one of them. Walt revisited the idea in the 1950s, but the source material proved too challenging for the storytelling team to adapt. Decades later, the studio returned to “Beauty and the Beast” once again, and the result was beyond anything even Walt Disney himself could’ve possibly imagined.

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