The Walt Disney version of Beauty of the Beast and the classic text by Madame Leprince de Beaumont
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‘Fairy tales, folk tales and fables are about human behaviour in a world of magic. ‘ This was written by E. Cook, a book called ‘The Ordinary and the Fabulous’ published by Cambridge University Press in 1976. I think that Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s version and Disney’s both use this as their framework for their stories. In this essay, my main line of argument is that Disney has aimed for a romantic comedy animation genre, with their target audiences being families, whereas Madame Leprince de Beaumont has aimed to make it a romance and with a generally explicit message, her target audience being upper class girls learning lessons in life.
Here is an extract from ‘Breaking the Magic Spell’ be Jack Zipes, Published by Heinemann in 1979: ‘De Beaumont’s tale was thus one of the first fairy tales written expressly for children, and we must not forget that it was first published within a book where a governess tells different kinds of lessons and to a group of girls in her charge… Beauty and the Beast originated as a sex-specific tale intended to inculcate good sense and good manners into little girls.
This is contrasted by this quote by Walt Disney: ‘I don’t make pictures for children, at least not just for children… he important thing… is the family. ‘ I also think that Disney allows our thoughts and feelings towards characters change, for example, in Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s version the Beast, although was portrayed to be ghastly, had a good natured, peaceful side, whereas, in my view, in the Disney version, the Beast was given a bad name from the start, where he was turned into a beast as a punishment for being a spoiled, selfish Prince. One of the most obvious character differences between the character in the story and the same character in the film is the father figure.
In the original text, the father is originally very rich and later, becomes poor: ‘There was… a very rich merchant… the merchant lost his whole fortune. ‘ In the film, although we (the audience), are not told directly that he is poor, we realise almost immediately that he is, because of his over-worn clothes, his not-so-well-kept donkey, his shabby house etc. I think the most clear adaptation of the original text, Disney have made concerning the father figure is his profession – the father figure in the original text is a highly successful merchant (until things start to go wrong), who obviously is good at his job.
The Disney version moves the father figure’s profession n the other direction where he is seen as an inventor. In this case the father is not very god at it – we only see the father make one invention actually work and there is a great deal of uselessness about it. The father in the original is a highly respected man (when he was rich) but the town’s people in the film are not at all fond of the father because of his ‘stupid’ and ‘wacky’ inventions. There is a difference in first impressions between the two versions.
In the original text version, we are introduced to the father’s character via such phrases as: ‘Very rich merchant’ and ‘Man of sense. ‘ We are introduced to the father in the Disney version by seeing an invention blow up; his trousers fall down and his underwear come into visibility. The father in the film is overall stupid but has quite a sweet personality but the father in the original is vulnerable and at the mercy of events – for example he lost his fortune ‘all at once’ – without a question of why?
Another obvious difference is that of the names – in the film, the father is called Maurice and in the original text, he has no definite name and is referred to as the Merchant. There are some parts of the original father figure’s character, that Disney haven’t adapted like the fact both characters have a strong relationship with Belle/Beauty. I think that the reason Disney have made Maurice to Be Stupid is so that he can provide humour. I think that he can provide humour. I think that Disney haven’t made him at the mercy of events, is so that children do not ask question such as ‘Why is he poor.
The reason Disney have made the father an inventor is so that they can convey his stupidity further and it would seem like a ‘fun job’ to a child. I think that Disney have given the father a name is so that characters can refer to him using ‘Maurice. ‘ The reason they have not changed the father’s affection is, in my opinion, to show that beneath his useless exterior, lays a kind hearted man. I think that this reflects my line of argument since we think highly of him in the original text whereas he’s stupid in the Disney version and Disney have also tried to make us laugh.
Peripheral characters play an important role in both versions of the story. Disney have changed the role of these, taken some out and added a few in. The first characters, I will be comparing are the Beast’s Servants, Gaston’s Servant (Lefou) and Beauty’s sisters (from the text). The Beast’s servants provide running commentary on the relationship between the Beast and Belle. Lefou provides a commentary on what Gaston will do next. The sisters provide a negative commentary on Beauty’s life: ‘In what is this little creature better than us that she shall be so much happier. The Beast’s servants and Lefou give us humour whereas; I think that if the sisters were in the play, they would be hated. The Beast’s servants and Lefou are both a mechanism of telling whether their masters are happy or sad, for example when the Beast is in a calm state and is vulnerable, the servants give him advice, but when he’s angry, they try to keep their distance. As a result of the enchantress’s spell, everybody who lived in the enchanted castle was turned into an object apart from the prince, who obviously was turned into the Beast.
The technique Disney used on all of the Beast’s servants is anthropomorphism so that the objects were allowed a personality. There are many, many examples of this technique throughout the film. The main example of anthropomorphism is that all of the characters speak. Chip is a teapot, with Chip they use very effective ways of making him look human, like the way he has a spout for a nose, they way he has a bath by being washed with the other dished and cutlery and the way he has a cupboard for a bedroom.
Disney have also applied similar techniques on Cogsworth, for example his handles are his arms, the place where the two clock hands meet is his nose and he treats his pendulum as a private part of his body. The ways in which anthropomorphism have been applied to Mrs. Potts are having a spout for a nose and have a handle for her arm. Examples of these techniques being applied to Lumiere are that he has candlestick holders for arm, smaller candles than himself for hands and when he is hot or under threat, he does not sweat, but instead, his wax melts.
Also the characters have appropriate names, for example, Cogsworth is a clock and clocks work using cogs, Lumiere means light in French and he is a candle, and Mrs. Potts is a teapot. Using Disney’s anthropomorphism techniques, the audience can tell what the characters would have been like before the enchantress put the spell on the castle. I imagined Cogsworth to be of average height, wear glasses, wear a brown suit of some sort, be quite old and slightly chubby.
I expected Lumiere to be tall, thin, wear a light coloured suit, have a French ‘quiff’ or some other French hairstyle, speak with an even stronger French accent and to be romantic. I pictured Mrs. Potts to be short, reasonably plump, have red cheeks, have grey hair tied back in a ponytail and to wear and apron of some kind. I had Chip in my mind as a young, short, thin, boy with blonde or ginger coloured hair and a lot of freckles. This reflects my line of argument because the Beast’s servant are there to make us laugh and we didn’t see that in the story.
Peripheral characters that only feature in the film or the text a little often have quite a lasting effect, like the villagers in both versions. The villagers in the film last the entire length of the film whereas the villagers from the text only last a short while. There are many differences between the two. The villagers in the movie think that Belle is strange but the villagers in the text absolutely adore Beauty: ‘Everybody admired her and called her ‘The Little Beauty. ” The villagers in the film think that Maurice is a ‘crackpot. ‘ The villagers in the text counter this by seeing the Merchant as a ‘man of sense. The villagers in the Disney version love Gaston whereas the villagers in Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s version hate the sisters: ‘They do not deserve to be pitied’ With an even shorter role than the villagers in the text, are the three brothers. The three brothers all wanted to go and kill the Beast just like the villagers in the film. I think that the reason that Disney chose not to include the brothers in the film is because they wouldn’t fit in – Gaston leads the villagers to attack the Beast – this would distract from Gaston and allow the focus from Gaston would be taken away.
In my opinion, the largest difference between Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s and Disney’s version is the addition of a major character in the film – it was he who hired an asylum to kill Maurice, it was he who rounded up all the villagers to kill the Beast and it was he who took over the sisters of making Beauty’s life a misery and doing the same to Belle. As the title of the essay is telling me to compare the portrayal of characters between the two texts, I found it hard with Gaston since he only starred in the film. The sisters however, only starred in the text.
Since Gaston has replace sisters, I will be comparing the two. Gaston claims he loves Belle but it is clear that he is only after her looks and doesn’t want her to have a mind of her own, but the sisters absolutely despise Beauty. I think that both Gaston, and the sisters are both full of themselves. All the villagers love Gaston but anybody and every body hate the Sisters. I also think that both subjects tease Beauty but they do it in different ways – Gaston does it by taking her book and not giving it her back but the sisters give her verbal abuse.
Both characters are not good readers – this is shown in the Disney version when Gaston is baffled hen looking at a book with only text and no pictures, it is shown in the text when the Sisters would rather go to the ball than read like Beauty. I think that Gaston is quite sexist whereas I think that the sisters would be in a sense, feminists because they make it clear that ‘they would never marry, unless they could meet with a duke or an earl. ‘ Both characters have tendencies to be troublemakers – the obvious example of Gaston showing this part of his personality is when he leads the villagers to kill the Beast.
An example of the sisters showing the same is when they ‘endeavour to detain her above a week and perhaps the silly monster will be so enraged at her for breaking her word that he will devour her. ‘ A theory states that Gaston is the Beast’s alter-ego, this becomes clearer and clearer as the film progresses – at first we see how they both move in the same way, then their facial expressions become similar, later we see how they use their servants the same and finally we see the similarities in their chairs. The following is an extract from ‘Sight and Sound’ and it reflects the theory: The Disney cartoon has doubled the traditional plot by adding a second Beat, Gaston, who personifies another side of the rampant hunk in need of civilising. ‘ As previously described, in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, they have decided to exclude the sisters and replace them with Gaston. There are many reasons and explanations to why Disney did this; I have tried to identify a few. Disney may have wanted to make a link between Gaston and the Beast to strengthen the force of evil – they would have found this hard if they used the sisters.
The reason they chose Gaston over the Sisters may have been because Romances usually go down well with it’s target audience. It also could be that Belle’s relationship with her father wouldn’t be as strong, which would affect the way Belle takes Maurice’s place in the Beast’s castle. Some may say that Disney have followed the original plot but just missed out the beginning so another point that may have affected Disney’s decision is that the sisters would bring the start in to the film. At one point in the play, Disney make various references and echoes to Macbeth.
One example is when Gaston persuades the villagers to kill the Beast and tells them: ‘Screw your courage to the sticking place’ which is also said in Macbeth when Lady Macbeth is persuading Macbeth to kill King Duncan. Another example is when, after all the villagers’ s and the Beast’s Servants’ little fights comes the major fight between Gaston and the Beast who fight to the bitter end. This echoes Macbeth because there are many petty fights and then there is the final frontier between Macduff and Macbeth.
I think that the reason Disney have done this is to appeal to the adult audience. Disney have used various animation techniques on Gaston. The technical codes used are camera-angles being close-ups when he is angry. There is one example of this at the start when we see Gaston through the spy hole, we see a very unsavoury view of his face. It is also noticeable that he constantly looks in the mirror.
The following is an extract, which can be used to describe Gaston’s character: ‘… The villains are those who use words to exploit, transfix, inculcate and destroy for their benefit. They have not respect nor consideration for nature and other human beings and they actually seek to abuse magic be preventing change and causing everything to be transfixed according to their interests. ‘ This was taken from ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ volume 12 No. 2 December 19888 by Jack Zipes. By looking at the title of both versions, it is obvious to see how the main characters are Beauty (Belle in the film) and the Beast.
Although the Disney version kept some aspects of Beauty, they also changed some of her. The difference that is easiest to tell, is the name difference – in the Disney version, she is called Belle and in Madame Leprince de Beaumont she is called Beauty. I think Disney might have changed her name to emphasise the French setting and maybe children wouldn’t believe that someone would be called Beauty. Belle is thought of as strange in the film. An example of this is when at the start of the film, people gossip about ‘different’ she is to the rest of the villagers.
In the text however, she is like by everyone: ‘Everybody admired her and called her ‘The Little Beauty. ” I think that the reason Disney made this alteration was to keep the focus on Belle, to allow her to seem like the ‘modern woman,’ and so that she dos not fall into the same stereotype as Gaston who hates the Beast because he is a Beast. Belle sings of her dreams of breaking away from her provincial life and town as described in the opening scene, whereas Beauty seems content with whatever she is given: I must try to make myself without a fortune. ‘ I think that Disney have changed this, is for the same reason as before. Although there are differences, there are also similarities. In both versions she loves her father and books. Also, Belle and Beauty are both attractive. Belle and Beauty are both hated or irritated by someone. The sisters hate beauty. This reflected in the film, when we see how Gaston annoys Belle. Although performed in different ways, both sacrifice themselves for their father’s sake.
I think that the reason Disney have altered Beauty’s character is to portray her as the ’20th Century woman’ (as it was then), and making slight adjustments must have seemed the right way of going about doing this effectively. They have kept some aspects of her character to keep to the original plot. Animation techniques, these decide the ways in which Belle is conveyed. Disney use techniques like making her seem pleasant when she plays with animals at the start. This would appeal to the younger audience because many children like animals and animals are also featured in many cartoons as humorous characters.
Belle is as attractive as an animation can be. To make Belle look even more innocent, she has wide appealing eyes. We can see how happy Belle is by the way she walks because she doesn’t, but instead she skips. In the Beast’s case, we also see differences. This time, the Beast in the film may or may not appear similar in the original text, since we are given very little description from Madame Leprince de Beaumont’s version apart from the fact that he’s scary and ugly which is what one would come to expect anyway: ‘Frightful Beast. In Disney’s version of the tale, the father is treated badly and sent to a prison cell. In the original text version, the opposite happens because up until the time where the father steals a rose, he is treated with great car and hospitality. Disney have the Beast as being bad tempered and at times, nasty towards Belle. This is shown when the Beast shouts abuse at Belle through bedroom door for not coming to dinner with him. This is different to the original text because it shows the Beast to be kind and sweet hearted.
This reflects my line of argument because we think of the Beast differently in the film to the text. There are differences in the near-deaths in both cases. In the film, the Beast nearly dies after being in a fight with Gaston, whereas in the text, the Beast tries to starve himself. Both near-fatalities were brought to halt when Beauty/Belle tells the Beast she loves him. I think that the changes made, were done so to make the Beast look as scary as possible. Not only are the changes needed to achieve their aim but also various animation techniques.
When the Beast is angry we see him make short swift movements and also Disney apply cropping – only his face and the fire are in the picture (this is an example of representational code), also when he is angry, they use close-ups to bring his face close to the camera allowing him to look frightening. Another example of a representational code is when the Beast is calmer like when Belle is healing the Beast’s wounds, they allow the fire to be a lot more distant than before. When the father first enters the castle, Disney use a wide range of animation techniques.
The technical codes are the eerie setting and the large size of the castle, the audio codes used are having Maurice’s footsteps echo and having eerie music playing in the background. There were various audio codes in use when the Beast’s face first came into the light – these are in the form of dramatic music. When Belle escaped from the castle, the audio code used is very racy music. When the Beast and Belle play together, the Beast’s eyes become a lot more innocent, I feel that this is hinting at a certain aspect of his character, and is an example of a representational code.
When the Beast and Belle are dancing, we see the Beast in human clothes, innocent looking face, with a human haircut, a deep, calm, romantic voice and a slight resemblance to Gaston. This is another example of anthropomorphism. When Belle comes to the enchanted castle to tell the Beast of her love for him, the Beast reaches for her hand, we see how miniscule Belle’s hands are compared to the Beast’s. I think that the area in the film where Disney have concentrated most of its attention, is at the start and at the end of the film.
I think that the reason Disney have done this was to create first and lasting impressions of the movie. The first section of the film consists not of animations, but instead, a series of still pictures. The first being a picture of a prince painted onto a stained glass window, accompanied by the voice of a wise, old man, acting as a narrator. There follows a sequence of more of these, all viewed through the same stained glass window, including the Prince being very cold hearted towards what seemed to bean ageing woman at his doorstep.
After a few more still pictures, we find out the woman is a beautiful enchantress and so the prince proposes and a few later the Prince is turned into a Beast and we are told the moral of the story: ‘Beauty is only skin deep. ‘ After this, we are also told the importance of the rose, which is that the Beast must find true love before all of the rose’s petals fall off. I think that the purpose of the opening sequence prior to the title of Beauty and the Beast is to allow the audience to know that it is going to end happily – since we know what the Beast has to do and Beauty will obviously be the character he falls in love with.
This also lays the foundations for a classical narrative structure. I think that the younger audience would find this most appealing because children generally like things to work out well. Where there is a beginning, very often it has to end somewhere. Disney have put just as much emphasis, if not more, on the ending as the beginning. Just in time, before the last petal of the rose falls, Belle tells the Beast she loves him. Immediately we see the Beast turn back into the original prince as well as dazzling effects.
Technical codes used were brightly coloured lighting, a zoomed out camera angle, and special effects. In my opinion both characters’ motivations have driven them to success – the Beast wanted to be a prince again and Belle wanted to break away from her provincial life. To complete the romantic ending Belle and the Beast kiss and at the same time, fireworks are lit. There are similarities to the beginning of the film because there is an old wise man providing commentary at the beginning and in the ending Mrs. Potts answered Chip’s question: ‘Are they going to live happily ever after. ‘
By saying ‘Of course. ‘ Also we started off the film through the stained glass window with a picture of a prince and at the end we see the same window but with Belle painted on as well. A fairy tale is not such because the author said so, it is made up of various ingredients which make it such a thing. I do not know id Disney did it deliberately, but Disney includes more aspects of a fairy tale than the original text. As well as those ingredients described, Disney also chose to not use some of them.
We found that a lot of fairy tales do not have a definite geographical area where the tale is set, Disney have not strictly kept to this, since it is clear that it is set in France, but we aren’t told where. Disney have chose use the most typical of aspects of fairy tale, which is that everyone looks ‘perfect. ‘ Other ‘ingredients’ that Disney have used are the spell to be broken, the good triumphing over evil, love conquering all, the evil character nearly getting what they want but getting foiled at the end, the power of three (for example there are three women who love Gaston), and the man always gets the woman.
As my line of argument states, Disney have a different target audience (families) to Madame Leprince de Beaumont (young girls) and to appeal to their target audiences, they must adapt and alter certain characters and thus changing our thoughts and feelings towards them in different way. They have done this in different ways and for different reasons concerning each character. Maurice was funny and made the family laugh. Peripheral characters provide running commentary on all the main characters and also provide humour. Gaston has replaced the sisters because Disney felt he was a better source of evil.
Belle has been modified so that she is more of the modern woman. The Beast has been more effective in being scary. We also see someone who only appreciated face value (Gaston) and someone who has learned his lesson in doing the same (the Beast) come face to face. There are many examples of strong usage of animation techniques throughout the play. Here is an extract from the Beauty and the Beast web site: ‘Computer – generated imagery was used in several parts of the film. ‘ I think overall, Disney made the necessary changes to accommodate their different target audience.