In Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Belle’s name, as the song says, means beauty. However, it seems that the early concept art of the character bore a resemblance to Angelina Jolie and was changed as it was thought to be too perfect. Details revealed in Emily Zemler’s new book, Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara (via Inverse), explain that the first designs for Belle were deemed too “glamorous” and were toned down to make the character more relatable.
While there are few who would call Belle in the 1991 film anything other than a beauty, which is not surprising considering her appearance in the movie ended up being based on the looks of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, as well as Paige O’Hara who provided the character’s voice. O’Hara is quoted in the book as saying, “She kind of looked like Angelina Jolie – very beautiful.” The book goes on to say, “Original concept art for Belle shows her as a glamorous woman, but the animators quickly adapted the character’s look to ensure viewers could connect to her.”
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When it came to that version of Belle, O’Hara felt that there was something about the original designs, which had attempted to make her look “more European,” that would have prevented audiences from feeling such a connection to her. O’Hara is quoted as adding:
“I didn’t see how anybody would identify with that person. You’d look at her and put her on a pedestal. Mark and James changed the look of her. She was a little too perfect. I knew that this was going to change the view of Disney Princesses. Belle was the first one not looking for a man. She wanted to see the world and all the places she’d read about in books.”
Beauty and the Beast Gets a 30th Anniversary Special on ABC This December
Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991 as part of a resurgence in Disney’s return to form after a string of 80s disappointments. Following on from The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast not only continued Disney’s renaissance but brought them the accolade of having the first animated feature film to nab a nomination in the Best Picture category at the Oscars the following year. Although the film ultimately did not win the award, it did pick up statues for its score and original song.
In celebration of the movie, which is still regarded as one of Disney’s greatest animated classics, ABC will air a musical special on December 15, which will follow in the footsteps of The Little Mermaid Live as a host of stars perform the songs from the movie in front of a live audience. Recently ABC announced the cast of the special, which includes H.E.R as Belle, Josh Groban as the Beast, Joshua Henry as Gaston and Tony Award winner David Alan Grier as Cogsworth. West Side Story star Rita Moreno will also appear as the narrator of the show, which will combine the live performances with animation from the original movie.
Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration will premiere on ABC on December 15 and will be added to Disney+ the following day.