Release date reflects the date of general release to the public. This film went into limited release the week before the general release, with shows in Los Angeles and New York. Additional, sneak-peek shows were given at the Lincoln Theater at Disneyland on November 13, 1991.
The story had always been one Disney wanted to do, starting story work on project in both the 30's and the 50's, but he always found it too challenging. During production on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the Disney studio brought back the Beauty and the Beast project and asked Richard Williams, who had directed the animated portions of Roger Rabbit, to direct. Williams declined in favor of continuing work on his long-gestating project The Thief and the Cobbler, but recommenced English animation director Richard Purdum. In an unusual move, Disney CEO Michael Eisner brought in Linda Woolverton as a writer for the project.
The first version was a non-musical version set in Victorian France. In 1989, Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg decided it was not working and ordered a complete restart to make it more like their recently successful The Little Mermaid project. Richard Purdum resigned the project, and was replaced by Disney newcomers Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale. The songwriting team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who had been such an important part of The Little Mermaid team, returned to add the music to the project.
Because of time lost in pre-production on the non-musical version, animation was restricted to two years- about half- the time needed for a film of this stature. The use of the CAPS coloring system helped with this tighter schedule, and added to the artistic pallet of the film. Colors were richer, self-inked lines became the norm, and a vastly more opulent color design was achieved. The CAPS system also allowed shots that could have never been achieved before, specifically the long crane and tracking shot at the top of the ballroom scene.
From the grand to the sublime, the new CAPS system touched the film. Delicate shading was now possible on moving characters, in a precision never before possible (compare the blush on Snow White's checks to Belles... subtle, but impressive). The light of candles or fires could now be modeled on characters, bringing a level of life-likeness unseen in any previous animated film. The tools available to the animators had been opened wide up, and they took advantage of their new freedom.
As in The Little Mermaid, the music was instrumental in moving the story along. In a very Broadway-like manner, the story unfolded in a series of production numbers which added to the ability of the animators to move the story along.
The film was an instant and monster hit. Produced for 25 million, the film brought in over 145 million in North America on its first release. Beauty and the Beast received six nominations for Academy Awards that year, and became the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. The film was instrumental in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opening up a new category for Best Animated Feature in the annual Oscar competitions. Beauty and the Beast did not win best picture that year, but it did win two other Oscars for Best Music, Song (Beauty and the Beast) and Best Music, Original Score.
But all the success of Beauty and the Beast was also bittersweet; lyricist Howard Ashman died of AIDS six months before the films release. The film was dedicated to him in the closing credits crawl with these words: "To our friend, Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice, and a beast his soul. We will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman: 1950–1991."
On December 16, 2002, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced that Beauty and The Beast was one of 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant motion pictures that he selected to be added to the National Film Registry.
A sequence containing the song "Human Again," written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman for the original movie, was initially cut. It debuted in the Broadway version of the film to great success. This encouraged the filmmakers to restore the sequence to the movie.
Beauty and the Beast set an all-time record for video sales, according to The Guinness Book of Records. However, this was soon eclipsed by such other Disney animated features as "Aladdin."
The first Academy Award nomination for producer Don Hahn.
This was the 30th film in the official Disney list of animated films.
Beauty And The Beast Production Information
Hand Drawn / Computer Assisted Animation.
Foreign Language Title: "La Belle Et La Bęte (French)."
- Sep 29, 1991- New York Film Festival Work In Progress Preview
- Nov 13, 1991- Sneak-Peek at Lincoln Theater at Disneyland
- Nov 15, 1991- Limited Release (New York, Los Angeles)
- Nov 22, 1991- General Theatrical Release
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