2015-2016 Season,  Beauty and the Beast

Just A Little Change, Small To Say The Least

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

As we observed last week, the story of Beauty and her Beast has been around for centuries. This week, we will chart the progression of the story from a simple French fairy tale published in the 18th century, to a full fledged movie musical blockbuster and Broadway musical. The following is a timeline that tracks significant adaptations of this tale as old as time and events that have lead up to the creation of this historic piece of film and musical theater.

Painting of Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Painting of Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont

1756: Beaumont publishes her version of the tale in France.

1938: Walt Disney releases its first full length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  

1946: Jean Cocetau’s film, La belle et la bete, is released. It is the most successful and well known film incarnation prior to the release of the animated Disney film in 1991. It introduced a handsome suitor for Belle, who she rejects as rude and conceited. It also included human arms that supported candelabras in the opulent castle!

A still image from Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête was made in 1946, starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as the Beaut.
A still image from Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête was made in 1946, starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as the Beaut.
Promotional poster for the second season of Beauty and the Beast
Promotional poster for the second season of Beauty and the Beast

1987: Beauty and the Beast, a television series adapted from the tale, is broadcast from 1987 to 1989. The story centered around the relationship between Catherine, an attorney living in New York City, and Vincent, a “beast” with a lion-like face, who dwells in the tunnels under the city. After two seasons, the series was cancelled when ratings fell after the actress playing Catherine left the show.

1989: The success of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, a cartoon musical based on the Hans  Christian Andersen story, heralds a period known as the “Disney Renaissance.” Executives turn to adapt Beaumont’s 18th century French fairy tale. It is revealed that Walt wanted to animate the piece back in the 1950’s but the animators and storytellers felt the piece too challenging to adapt and shelved the project.

1989-1991: Production of Beauty and the Beast is completed during a “compressed timeline” over a period of two years rather than the traditional four-year “Disney Feature Animation production schedule.”  This reduced time frame is due to loss of production time spent developing an earlier, non musical version of the film.

September 1991: Although still not complete, the film is screened at the New York Film Festival and received a standing ovation at its conclusion.

A poster from the 1991 release of the film.
A poster from the 1991 release of the film.

November 1991: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is released to widespread critical acclaim. It is the first animated film to earn more than $100 million at the box office; it eventually grosses over $425 million worldwide.

1992: Beauty becomes the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Despite losing the category, it wins two Academy Awards–Best Original Song (title song) and Best Original Score. It also wins the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy.

November 1993: Disney executives move forward to establish a presence on Broadway and chose Beauty and the Beast as their first venture. Beauty and the Beast premiered in a joint production of Theatre Under The Stars and Disney Theatricals at the Music Hall, Houston, Texas.

A poster for the original Broadway production which opened in 1994.
A poster for the original Broadway production which opened in 1994.

April 18, 1994: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens on Broadway at the Palace Theatre with Terrence Mann and Susan Egan in the lead roles. Although the show receives mixed reviews, it is a box office success, setting records almost immediately. It is nominated for nine Tony Awards and wins for Best Costume Design.

November 1995: The first of three national tours is launched. At the time of the tour, it was the largest touring production in the U.S., requiring 27 semi tractor trailer trucks to transport the show between cities. Over the course of these three tours, about 5.5 million people saw the Disney musical in over 90 cities in North America. The success of the North American tour leads Disney to announce international productions.

1995-2015 Over the course of twenty years, Disney opens productions of Beauty around the globe. From Helsinki to Seoul, and Johannesburg to Moscow, the musical has been performed around the world in a total of 14 countries and in 116 cities, seen and enjoyed by millions.

1999: The Broadway production transfers to the smaller Lunt-Fontanne theatre. Despite minor revisions, the production remains ultimately the same. When Toni Braxton took on the role of Belle in 1998, a new song was added: “A Change in Me.” After Braxton left the role, the song remained in the script.

2002: The 1991 film is restored and re-released in IMAX theaters. The Library of Congress deems Beauty and the Beast a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” film and selects it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Promotional poster for the final Broadway cast.
Promotional poster for the final Broadway cast.

July 29, 2007: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast closes on Broadway after 13 years and playing 5,461  performances. As of this writing, it is the ninth longest running musical on Broadway. As of 2007, it had grossed over $1.4 billion worldwide.

Spring 2015: Disney announces a live-action adaptation is in the works starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles. The film will be based on the Broadway musical and classic animated film and is set for release in 2017.

Fall 2015: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will make it’s debut at BYU on November 19th, receiving a non-traditional staging and featuring a diverse, musically-talented ensemble that will bring this tale to life as you’ve never seen it before.

Tune in next week when we sit down with the director, George Nelson, to learn about his vision for the piece and what we can expect from this staging!

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