Something very special occurred in November of 1991. Although I can’t remember that period for myself–being exactly 1 year old at the time–a movie came out that changed my life forever. It told a story that was “as old as time,” and featured a collection of characters, songs, sights, and sounds, that would take a permanent residence in my heart and shape me into the person I am today. And it just so happens that the movie in question is celebrating its 25th anniversary. I’m talking about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
I, like many of you that could be reading this, was a kid that got teased a lot in my past. From my vampire-shaped teeth to my imperfect grasp of the English language, everything about me seemed “wrong” by the standards of my peers. And, as you can guess, their ability to proclaim all of my flaws on a daily basis didn’t help me in the long run. I gained the curse of body image issues, among a few other personal problems, that ultimately made me ask one specific question – “Who could ever love someone like me?”. Even when I would be in a relationship that felt secure and non-judgmental, there would be something that would hit that negative chunk of my heart, and make me want to run away to my lonely internal castle in the dark woods.
Like many kids at that age, we latch onto fictional characters that understand the struggles of our youth. For me, The Beast was and still is that character. I wanted to be his friend but also have him protect me because we understood each other’s problems. I was never a princess under some curse, but I was constantly judged for my differences and wanted to be loved for what made me, well, me.
From then on my tastes and interests were heavily linked to my love of this movie, and the history of this character. You honestly can play a round of “Six Degrees of Beauty and the Beast” and find multiple connections to the film throughout my journey from child to nerdy adult. My favorite TV show (Gargoyles) has heavy themes related to the fairy tale/movie throughout, even going as far as to have Elisa dance in Belle’s ballroom dress in the Halloween episode. I discovered my favorite artist, animator Glen Keane, through his work on the Disney film as the supervising animator for The Beast. Ironically my favorite composer, Alan Menken, also worked on the movie and won an Oscar for it. And Ron Perlman, the man I’ve always considered my number one celebrity crush, starred in both the 80’s Beauty and the Beast TV series and Hellboy, which share themes of the story as well. I could keep going, but your brain would more than likely explode.
Even with all this nerdy goodness that Beauty and the Beast has brought me, the most important gift the film gave me is nothing more than one simple word: Comfort. When I was that sad, depressed kid in the corner, this movie was there for me to both escape and embrace the optimistic wonder it showed. It motivated me to one day produce something that I felt was just as beautiful – whether it be a piece of art I create or just something in my life in general. It gave me hope that I could find someone that would bring the best out in me, and make me break my own curses of insecurity in my physical appearance and other aspects. It was and will always be there for me, in the best and worst of times – which is what a beloved movie should always do.
So with all that, I must say: Happy 25th Anniversary, Beauty and the Beast. Thank you to director’s Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, along with Producer Don Hahn – you all worked tirelessly on this movie that no one seemed to have a lot of hope in, but you never gave up on it. To the cast, including Robby Benson and Paige O’Hara – thank you for giving all of your vocal power into these icon characters. To the animators – like Glen Keane and James Baxter – thank you for bringing to life this incredible visual world that brings a tear to my eye with every frame. And, to Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, thank you for giving the world your beautiful music and storytelling. You and all the other talented folks that poured their heart and souls into this movie created something that has deeply touched me, and many kids for generations to come.
If you are curious to hear the thoughts of the team that worked on Beauty and the Beast, you should watch this video of them celebrating the anniversary of the film at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater:
What are your thoughts on Beauty and the Beast? Are you excited about the new live action film? Are you planning on celebrating the actual anniversary in November? What are your memories from the movie? Comment below with all your feels.