“Beauty and the Beast” made history as the first animated feature film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Now, on the 25th anniversary of its release, the timeless tale is still proving groundbreaking for fans and music legends alike.
Alan Menken, the movie’s composer, said there was a moment “very early on” in the process when he knew "Beauty and the Beast" would be something special. It was when he was writing the movie’s opening number, “Belle,” with Howard Ashman, the movie's lyricist.
“It was developing into this six-minute opening number, ['Belle'],” Menken told ABC News’ Juju Chang. “Howard [Ashman] said, ‘We can’t send this song to them. I mean, who asked for a six-minute opening number? Who asked for this musical theater thing?’”
“And we finally sent it and the reaction was, ‘Oh my God,’” he recalled.
The movie tells the "tale as old as time" of Belle, a village girl who goes into a castle to save her imprisoned father and accepts a promise by her father’s jailer, the Beast, to stay in the castle forever in her father's place. The movie's antagonist is Gaston, who vies for Belle's affection.
The award-winning music score Menken created for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” inspired some of the most legendary music composers who went on to score their own Disney productions.
Songwriter Stephen Schwartz, who collaborated with Menken on "Pocahontas," “Moana” songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda, and “Frozen” songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez joined Menken and Chang for a discussion of what “Beauty and the Beast” meant to them.
“It’s the platonic ideal of a Disney musical to be sure,” said Miranda, who also created “Hamilton.” “I mean, it’s the most successful example of the way a score is supposed to work.”
Schwartz called the song “Gaston” the “most impressive thing” in “Beauty and the Beast.”
“It was a villain who was funny and did a song that was basically subtext,” he said. “The villain was singing one thing about how terrific he thought he was and was completely clueless about how we in the audience were reacting to him.”
Miranda called the song, "one of the great villain songs of all time, while Anderson-Lopez called the character of Gaston a “really fresh idea.”
“The kind of subversive quality of that villain, the way that kind of stuck it to the old guard of like big, strong, manly man who think they’re better than everyone was a really fresh idea at the time,” she said.
The intimate discussion among composers inspired by “Beauty and the Beast” is one of the bonus features in the Walt Disney Signature Collection of the movie, released this month. The Walt Disney Signature Collection Blu-ray and DVD of “Beauty and the Beast” will be released on Sept. 20.
“‘Beauty and the Beast’ is about love,” Menken said of the film’s legacy 25 years later. “It really is so fully about love and acceptance.”
The songwriters joined Menken in a piano sing-along in celebration of the classic movie's 25th anniversary. Enjoy their renditions of classic "Beauty and the Beast" songs.
'Be Our Guest'
'Tale As Old As Time'
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