PARADE | There’s something about Beauty and the Beast and its story of true love and courage that’s made it beloved for generations, especially since Disney brought the 1700s French fairy tale to the big screen as a sweeping animated movie musical in 1991.
This week, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star—as the Beauty and the Beast—in a brand-new Disney version combining live actors, real settings and eye-popping computer animation.
The anticipation has been mounting since the project was first announced: More advance tickets for this Beauty and the Beast have been sold than for any other family film in history, according to online ticket vendor Fandango. As fans count down the days to March 17, they’ve been streaming advance soundtrack tunes, such as Ariana Grande and John Legend’s new version of the movie’s theme song.
In addition to Ariana Grande and John Legend performing the new film’s signature song, Céline Dion (who originally performed the Grammy-winning duet “Beauty and the Beast” with Peabo Bryson in 1991) performs a new original song, “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” composed by Alan Menken, one of the writers of the original score.
Some of Howard Ashman’s original lyrics from the songs “Gaston” and “Beauty and the Beast” that weren’t used in 1991 have been added back. The brokenhearted Beast sings a new ballad, “Evermore,” after releasing Belle from the castle to rejoin her father.
Ewan McGregor (Lumière) sings the extravagant “Be Our Guest.” And Belle gets a new song too. “It’s only a verse and a little bit of a chorus, but it’s very beautiful,” Emma Watson says. “We expand a bit on Belle’s past and see the story of her life before she goes to the castle. It’s a really lovely extra detail that wasn’t in the original.”
The 1991 Beauty and the Beast was the first animated feature to receive an Academy Award nomination for best picture. (It actually won two Oscars, for original song and original score.) That set the bar high for the new version, which was carefully reimagined to honor and expand on its predecessor.
The tale of Beauty and the Beast endures because it’s universally appealing, says the new film’s Oscar-winning director, Bill Condon, 61, whose résumé includes Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters and two movies in the Twilight franchise. “The idea of looking beyond the surface of things and finding the beauty underneath is one of the film’s legacies,” he says.
For Stevens, 34, who was Downton Abbey’s Matthew Crawley, the process of retelling a well-known, centuries-old tale—and embodying the Beast—was magical.
“It’s an alchemical process,” he says. “The original was a landmark film that contains a lot of the big questions about our identities, who we are, what we’re afraid of and what parts of our nature we should act on. It covers big themes and it’s able to contain some big ideas in a beautiful setting.”
The film doesn’t radically depart from the animated version, Condon says, “but it does resolve some intriguing questions left unanswered in the first. It gives you more, specifically where the Beast and Belle fall in love.”
The love story was only part of the attraction for Watson, 26. “The original was romantic, but in a way that didn’t feel contrived the way other fairy tales sometimes are,” she says.
Besides being a love story with a feminist bent, “it’s an action movie with huge amounts of stunts, wolf-fighting, horse-riding, guns and swordfights,” Watson says. “It’s also a romantic drama. And then there’s music and dance on top of that. On the other hand, it’s a comedy too. The comic timing of characters like Cogsworth and Lumière and Mrs. Potts—it’s just hysterical.”
“I think this version might be funnier than the original because of Josh Gad and Kevin Kline,” says Gugu Mbatha-Raw, 33, who plays Plumette, the castle’s maid who becomes a feather duster. “They’re a really funny double act!”
Mbatha-Raw also admires Belle’s spirit. “I loved that she was smart and bookish and didn’t fit in with the village,” she says. “She wasn’t privileged. She knew her own mind. I thought that was cool.”
Condon believes Beauty and the Beast will always be cool. In the end, it’s the weaving of the old and new in this beloved story that will captivate audiences, he says.
“People introduced the animated film to their own children, and the musical is still being performed all over the world. We’ve always had Beauty and the Beast around us, but that’s also because people remain so drawn to it.”
It is, indeed, a tale as old as time.
Beauty and the Beast was shot in the United Kingdom over the course of four months. The adaptation sets the story in mid-18th-century France so every set, prop and costume is sumptuously authentic to that era. Some details:
- The ballroom features 12,000 square feet of faux marble and 10 glass chandeliers modeled on actual chandeliers from Versailles.
- 1,500 red roses and 8,700 candles (or 104,400 inches of wax) were used as set decoration.
- The enchanted forest took 15 weeks to complete. It featured live trees, hedges, a frozen lake and 20,000 icicles.
While promoting Beauty and The Beast in South Korea, Emma Watson and her movie co-stars Luke Evans and Josh Gad sat down for a Q&A on V LIVE. The videos have been recently uploaded into Youtube and you can watch it bellow!
As you know, yesterday Emma attended the Paris photocall for Beauty and the Beast. A video from the press conference that took place after the photocall has been released and you can watch it bellow!
This past Sunday (February 19), Emma and her Beauty and The Beast co-stars and director were at a presentation of the movie in Paris. While no photos have yet been released, a video from the presentation has and you can watch it bellow!
Meet Belle in this new clip form Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, in theatres in 3D March 17!
Go behind the scenes with the Emma Watson, director Bill Condon, and the rest of the cast of Beauty and the Beast and see how they brought the tale as old as time to life in a whole new way.