A tale as old as time. With time – a tale can change, and the times are changing. In the past, Disney movies wouldn’t touch sexuality or any subject that would be considered risqué, with a ten-foot pole. Welcome to the 21st century Disney, you’ve come a long way! What better way to showcase this forward thinking than recreating a classic, as they did with their iconic and beloved, Beauty and the Beast.
The story remains the same, still true to the original that we have always known and loved. A scholarly young woman with a love for books, still hoping there’s more to life than what her small and provincial hometown offers. Her nimble-minded father lost in the woods on his trip to the city, found and held captive in a castle by a beast. Our heroine rushing to save him, volunteering to take his place in exile, if the beast lets him go. A compelling candlestick, a finicky clock, and a tender teapot with a young son (teacup) named Chip, magically running the castle as servants and cook. All the while masterminding a ‘love match’ with their beleaguered prince with the new ‘prisoner’ Belle. A conceited prince, transformed into a beast, who must find true love before the last rose petal falls if the spell is to be reversed. A spell cast by a wicked witch who has transformed this palace and everyone who lived in it, into a dreary nightmare.
The screenwriters stayed true to the story but included more details, fleshing out more of the backstory. You get to see the story of Belle’s mom, and you get more details into why exactly the prince got turned into a beast. But what’s really life changing and forward thinking in this remake, besides the fact this film is not animated but an actual live-action film, is it features an openly gay character and an interracial kiss.
The director of the film, Bill Condon, who is openly gay, talked about the character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, and stated, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day, wants to kiss Gaston. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings.” Disney thickens the pot of diversity even more by including the first ever live-action interracial kiss with two different couples in the film.
Cadenza – the piano, (a new character in the film) played by Stanley Tucci, and Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe from the original animated film, played by Audra McDonald, share a kiss that will forever go down in history as the first interracial kiss in a live-action Disney film. But wait, there’s more! There is a second interracial kiss that is shared between the lively candlestick, Lumiere, played by Ewan McGregor, and his feather dusting darling, Plumette, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
According to the New York Times, the film cost $300 million dollars to make and is reported to earn over 1 billion dollars at the box office. We would call that smashing expectations! But this Beauty and the Beast is special in more ways than just earnings.
Disney decided to embrace the way things are now and not the way they were back in 1991, when gay couples and interracial kissing would have been considered too taboo to show on film. By taking a film as beloved as Beauty and the Beast, then adding these modern characters and themes to it, Disney didn’t just step into the 21st century, it jumped in with both feet. Disney is synonymous with dreams coming true, and this film follows that theme for everyone and anyone.
Forever, a tale as old as time. With a slightly different rhyme. Beauty and the Beast.
-Haley Corkery │ Public Relations Specialist