As the song goes, Beauty and the BeastBelle was very different from the rest of her Disney Princess fans when the classic animated film was shown in 1991. An independent, bookish young woman from a rural village, Belle (played by Paige O’Hara) stood in stark contrast to more. glamorous royals like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.
But according to Emily Zemler’s new book, Disney Princess: Over the Tiarathe Beauty and the Beast animators – led by James Baxter and Mark Henn – initially envisioned a character that bore a closer resemblance to a glamorous member of Hollywood royalty.
“She looked like Angelina Jolie – very beautiful,” O’Hara says in the book about the initial concept art for her alter ego. “I didn’t see how anyone would agree with that person. You’d look at her and put her on a pedestal. Mark and James changed her look. She was a little too perfect.”
For the record, it is unlikely that Jolie was the direct inspiration for Belle. The Oscar that won Girl in star was only a teenager when Beauty and the Beast was in production, and did not make her feature film debut until the 1993s Game Cyborg 2. In Zemler’s book, Baxter says that he and Henn initially thought Belle was “more European and her lips fuller, [and] eyebrows a little darker” – traits that are definitely identified with Jolie Over the Tiarahowever, among the famous people who were the reference points for the animators were Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn and O’Hara herself.
“The animators created a lot of concept art and a lot of sketches to find the best ones,” Zemler confirms to Yahoo Entertainment via email. “You can see in the sketches how much Belle has evolved. Paige O’Hara recalled early versions of Belle like Angelina Jolie, but that’s simply Paige’s point of view. None of the animators mentioned I cite Jolie as an inspiration for Belle.”
As a pre-production on Beauty and the Beast forward, Baxter and Henn finally agreed with their star that Belle had the potential to be a transformative Disney Princess and revised their image of her accordingly. “I knew this was going to change the perception of Disney Princesses,” O’Hara says in the book. “Belle was the first person who wasn’t looking for a man. She wanted to see the world and all the places she’d read about in books.”
Ultimately, Belle changed the face of Disney Princesses, directly influencing the way later characters like Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan were written – not to mention drawn. “Belle opened the doors to what could be considered a Disney Princess even wider, welcoming a wider fan base with her,” says Zemler. “Her representation, in character and appearance, inspired those who did Aladdin Make Jasmine more adventurous and spirited. It had a ripple effect.”
That emphasis on spirit and adventure carried over to the live-action adaptations of many classic Disney cartoons, including upcoming versions of The Little Mermaid and White snow, with Halle Bailey and Rachel Zegler, respectively. (Emma Watson played Belle in the 2017 film version Beauty and the Beastbut the character has been portrayed by various performers on stage and screen as well.)
“In 1937, the cartoon [Snow White and the Seven Dwarves] There was so much focus on her finding true love, and that’s not her intention at all in this movie,” Zegler told Yahoo Entertainment at D23 last month. “Maybe she finds love. Maybe she will find friendship. But what’s really important is that she finds her own voice.”
For Zemler, Belle’s lasting legacy has less to do with her looks and more to do with her attitude. “I have always admired Belle’s spirit and her love of books,” says the author. “Sometimes we think of a classic princess as blonde and maybe a little shallow, but Belle undercuts the traditional cliches. She is a devoted daughter, a kind friend and she understands the world by reading books. In that way, she is someone who enough. of us involved or aspiring to be.”
Beauty and the Beast currently streaming on Disney+; Disney Princess: Over the Tiara now available at most booksellers, including Amazon.