Disney's Original Belle, Paige O'Hara, Says Emma Watson Is 'Perfect' for New 'Beauty and the Beast'

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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It’s a tale as old time, but Beauty and the Beast became forever etched into the pop-culture consciousness in 1991 thanks to Disney’s mega-hit, the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

To celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary (and its sparkly new Blu-ray edition), the film’s lead voice star Paige O’Hara — a Broadway actress best known at the time for the 1983 revival of Showboat — stopped by Yahoo Movies for a Facebook Live interview (which you can watch above).

Some highlights:

—The filmmakers hired O’Hara to play the free-spirited bookworm Belle for her voice and her voice alone, which she found out after five minutes of first doing a more cartoonish, Ethel Merman-esque riff on the character. “She’s the oldest Disney heroine of any of them, and she’s also the most mature in terms of her soul and the way they had written her character to be,” the actress explained. “They didn’t want a high, flighty voice. They wanted something deeper.”

—O’Hara, who often does charity work tied to her iconic role and has become an artist for Disney Fine Art, is often recognized by the sound of her voice. “Right when the VHS came out, a little boy in the grocery store [recognized my voice],” she said. “And I’ve had it happen over the phone a few times.”

—While this year is all about celebrating the anniversary of the ’91 classic, next year will bring a new live-action chapter of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson (Harry Potter) in the role of Belle. O’Hara couldn’t be a bigger fan: “She is perfect casting, perfect casting,” O’Hara said. “I think she’s going to be absolutely brilliant. And I think the movie’s going to be brilliant.” O’Hara hopes to attend the film’s premiere where she can meet Watson for a little Belle-on-Belle time. Make it happen, Disney.

Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary Edition is now available.