beauty and the beastBe our guest, be our guest
Put your knowledge to the test
There's some trivia you may know
But you might not know the rest
It's a treat, it's a feast,
Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'
Now the movie's turning 20
We've come up with factoids plenty
Chip 'n' Dale, Jean Cocteau,
They're connected, don't you know
As are Jackie Chan and Pixar -- you impressed?
Sure, these lyrics may be trash, man
(We're so sorry, Howard Ashman)
But be our guest, read the rest, be our guest!

1. 'Beauty and the Beast' was more than 50 years in the making. It was one of the first fairy tales Walt Disney tried to adapt after the success of his first animated feature, 1937's 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' but his writers couldn't get a handle on the story.

2. Before the Disney cartoon, the most famous film version of 'Beauty and the Beast' was the 1946 live-action film by Jean Cocteau. From this classic French film, the Disney version would borrow the ideas of a rival suitor for Belle and household objects in the Beast's castle coming to life.

3. Starting in 1987, Disney storyboard artists spent two years working on a version of the tale, only to have Disney studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg scrap their work and start from scratch. The new directive: make a movie like Disney's recent success 'The Little Mermaid,' a Broadway-style musical with a strong heroine

4. To that end, Katzenberg enlisted the 'Mermaid' songwriting team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Ashman was dying of AIDS at the time and couldn't travel far, so much of the story's development took place at a Residence Inn in Fishkill, New York, not far from where the lyricist lived.

5. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton landed the job despite having written only a few scripts for Disney cartoon series 'Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers.' She made a point of making Belle an unusual Disney heroine: she wasn't a princess, she liked books, she was independent, and she had no interest in marrying the handsomest eligible male around (the vain, macho Gaston).

6. Katzenberg also hired relative neophytes Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale to direct; their previous major credit had been a short called 'Cranium Command,' a film commissioned for an attraction at Disney's EPCOT Center.

7. Another unlikely hire: Robby Benson, the dreamy-eyed, soft-spoken actor best known for playing sensitive teen leads in movies like 'Ice Castles' and 'The Chosen.' But in his audition, he summoned up a dark, rumbling voice that was perfect for the Beast. "There's a rage and torment in this character I've never been asked to use before," he told Entertainment Weekly.

8. Benson's booming bellow was his own, but the Beast's howls were enhanced electronically, mixed with the sounds of growling panthers and lions.

9. For the other leads, Belle and Gaston, Disney went with seasoned Broadway performers Paige O'Hara and Richard White.

10. Even the well-known veteran movie and TV character actors who played the Beast's servants-turned-knickknacks were performers with a Broadway background -- Jerry Orbach (Lumiere), Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts), and David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth).

11. As Chip, the teacup who is Mrs. Potts' son, Bradley Michael Pierce, initially had just one line of dialogue, but the boy so impressed the filmmakers that they expanded his part and cut out the role of a mute music box.

12. Years before 'Toy Story,' 'Beauty' marked one of Disney's first collaborations with Pixar, which lent its computer-animation software to the sequence where Belle and the Beast dance to the title ballad. The software allowed the animators to create a 360-degree ballroom set as the camera appeared to twirl around the dancing couple. Critics singled out the sequence as a highlight of the film, and its success helped convince Disney to make the leap into full-length computer-animated features.

13. Ashman was 40 when he died in March 1991, eight months before the release of the completed film, which he never got to see. He'd also been at work with Menken on lyrics for the next Disney cartoon feature, 'Aladdin.' Those songs would be completed by lyricist Tim Rice.

14. Upon its release in November 1991, the film was hailed as an instant success. Frank Rich, the New York Times' powerful theater critic, asserted that it was a better musical than anything he'd seen on Broadway that year. Audiences made it the first animated feature to earn more than $100 million at the box office. By the end of its six-month run in theaters, it had earned $146 million in the U.S. and Canada. It was the third highest-grossing movie of 1991 (after 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' and 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves').
'Beauty and the Beast' - Original Trailer
15. 'Beauty' became the first animated film ever to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was also the last, until Disney/Pixar's 'Up' 18 years later.

16. 'Beauty' did win two Oscars, for its musical score and for Best Original Song, for the title tune.

17. The Celine Dion-Peabo Bryson version of the song, heard over the end credits, became a top 10 hit single in the U.S. and in the U.K.

18. When the film was released in Chinese-language markets, the Beast's speaking and singing voices were dubbed by Jackie Chan.

19. Inspired by Frank Rich's comment, Disney developed 'Beauty' into the first of many Broadway musicals based on its animated features. It opened in 1994 and ran for 5,464 performances, making it the eighth longest-running show in Broadway history. After 13 years, Disney closed the show in 2007 only because it didn't want 'Beauty' stealing the thunder of its new princess-themed musical, 'The Little Mermaid.'

20. The film's spinoffs include two straight-to-video "midquels" (sequels that take place amid the sequence of events of the original film): 'Belle's Enchanted Christmas' and 'Belle's Magical World.' Other spinoffs include a live-action TV series ('Sing Me a Story with Belle') and six video games.

21. A 2002 IMAX re-release included a new sequence built around a song, 'Human Again,' that had been deleted from the original film.

22. Woolverton went on to co-write Disney's 'The Lion King' and 'Mulan,' and she wrote the studio's huge 2010 blockbuster version of 'Alice in Wonderland.'

23. Wise and Trousdale went on to work on such Disney features as 'The Lion King,' 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame,' and 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire.'

24. O'Hara turned up (along with several other actresses best known for voicing Disney cartoon heroines) in 2007's 'Enchanted.' She appeared as a soap opera actress on TV, in a scene echoing the one where Belle tends to the Beast's wounds. Her character's name was Angela, an apparent reference to 'Beauty and the Beast' co-star Angela Lansbury.

25. In the wake of the success in September of the 3D re-release of 'The Lion King,' 'Beauty and the Beast' will be re-released in 3D in theaters on January 13.

[Photo: Disney]

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