Learn more about Belle, Disney Princess and Disney Renaissance icon, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the iconic 1991 film, Beauty and the Beast.
This month marks 30 whole years since the debut of one of Disney’s most revered films ever, Beauty and the Beast.
Naturally, it only makes sense for our next Disney Princess profile to shine a spotlight on that beauty (but a funny girl), none other than Belle herself.
Disney’s Princess Belle may be best known for her inaugural film, but with Christmas around the corner, we can’t help but binge Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. And if you’re like us and can’t get enough Disney Christmas, make sure to subscribe to our monthly print magazine by Nov. 30 to make our special keepsake Christmas issue your very first.
Belle is my favorite Disney character ever, and there are countless reasons why, so we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair, and ask you to be our guest as we explore who this ambitious bookworm really is.
The History of Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was adapted from the 1740 fairy tale of the same name (also known as La Belle et la Bête) by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (later abridged in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont).
Got a thing for fairy tales? Get our collectible Once Upon a Time copy of WDW Magazine while supplies last.
Walt Disney first set his sights on turning the tale into a Disney film in the 1930s and again in the 1950s, but it never came to be.
As enchanting as it would have been to have Beauty and the Beast in the era of Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I am glad it was released later in the 1990s, known as the Disney Renaissance period. (Get your full Disney animation history here.)
Why, you ask? Two names. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. These Disney Legends created the music and lyrics for this film. Without those incredibly moving songs, Beauty and the Beast wouldn’t be what it is, and we have Menken and Ashman to thank for that.
Sadly, Ashman passed away from AIDS in March 1991, eight months before Beauty and the Beast’s cinematic release. In the documentary Howard on Disney+, Alan Menken recalls writing songs for the film with Ashman at the hospital on a keyboard he brought into Ashman’s hospital room.
Clearly, the pair knew they had something extremely special with this project, and nothing was going to stop them from creating that magic.
After the film’s release on November 22, 1991, it received countless accolades from critics and viewers alike and went on to be the first animated film in history to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
After beating out hundreds of hopefuls, (including Jodi Benson, who had very recently voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid), Disney Legend Paige O’Hara was selected to lend the voice to the titular character.
Belle: Disney Princess Strengths
While other Disney Princess characters are surrounded by animals, dwarfs, and fish folk who adore their female protagonists unequivocally, Belle’s tale literally opens with a sweeping, 5-minute number, sung by hundreds of villagers about how they don’t like her. (Yeeesh. Awkward.)
They jeer that “it’s a pity and a sin she doesn’t quite fit in.” The village remarks that Belle’s outer beauty is undeniable, yet they treat her as an outcast.
But here’s the thing about Belle … she never lets other people’s criticisms affect her. She embraces her uniqueness and doesn’t pigeonhole herself into being meek or acquiescent.
Her strength is her quiet confidence. She is fully cognizant of what the villagers say about her (and her eccentric father, Maurice), but she doesn’t meet their retorts with bitterness or self-pity. She remains a class act and is continuously kind to everyone.
It’s Belle’s confidence that shows that she does not need a man to have a happily ever after. She refuses Gaston’s advances and boldly announces her escape when Beast lashes out at her, charging swiftly out of the castle on her horse.
Belle doesn’t need saving. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Belle is the hero and rescues Beast not once, but twice (not to mention in doing so, she also saves all the enchanted objects in the castle). And she chooses to do so because she wants to. As a Disney Princess, Belle is top-tier.
Another strength of Belle’s is her intelligence. A natural-born bibliophile, Belle is drawn to learning through reading. With all her books that she so cherishes, Belle’s quest for knowledge gives her an open mind and the perception to comprehend things beyond her village.
But perhaps my most favorite strength of Belle’s, which is why I’ve saved it for last, is her compassion. While she’s not afraid to stand up for herself (she holds her own against both Gaston and Beast when they try to domineer her), Belle is, at her core, a truly benevolent person.
She sees potential and goodness in people, when others are quick to judge. Everyone in the village writes Maurice off as “crazy”. Belle calls him a genius, and even helps with his inventions.
When the villagers receive proof that Beast is, in fact, very real, they immediately cry that he’s a dangerous, horrible monster. Belle replies that really, he’s kind and gentle.
She falls in love with Beast, as flawed and messy as he is, because she can see his inner beauty (which is quite the juxtaposition from the townsfolk, who only had favorable things to say about Belle when they spoke of her outer beauty).
Belle: Disney Princess Motivations
Belle possesses a vivid imagination and is motivated by her larger-than-life ambitions. At a time when women were expected to know their place, accept their lot in life, marry, mother children, and singlehandedly complete all the household chores (and according to Gaston, still have time to rub his feet), Belle breaks the mold and lets her imagination run free.
She dreams of adventure in the great wide somewhere and yearns for more than her provincial life. Even when the arrogant town “hero,” Gaston, wants to marry her (which would vastly raise her social, and likely financial, status), Belle emphatically protests that she will not be “his little wife.”
Belle is also one of the first in the Disney Princess lineup to be motivated by familial love over romantic love. Maurice is the only person Belle has in the world, and the bond between this pair is unbreakable.
While Belle is deeply passionate about the world she envisions for herself, Belle’s loyalty to her family is even more important to her.
Belle’s dedication to her father knows no bounds. She can even sense from home that something is wrong, so she finds her way to a castle she’s neer seen before, locates Maurice, and then voluntarily sacrifices every single one of her dreams, as well as her freedom, so that her father can go free. If that’s not valiant, I don’t know what is!
Princess Belle in the Disney Parks and at Sea
With Belle being arguably one of the most beloved Disney characters of all time, you won’t have to go too far in any park to find her. Belle can be found in every Disney Park on land and on Disney Cruise Line.
In Walt Disney World, you can currently catch this lovely mademoiselle in her epic yellow ball gown throughout the day in the The Royal Princess Processional, one of the Magic Kingdom Cavalcades.
For a little festive, limited-time magic, Belle is additionally appearing in the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, in her stunning velvet Christmas gown (my favorite dress of hers!). This is a separately ticketed event, which is on select nights as part of Disney Very Merriest After Hours.
Belle and Christmas just go together: Get our special Disney World Christmas keepsake issue when you subscribe to WDW Magazine by Nov. 30!
You can channel your inner bookworm and thespian at the same time, helping Belle tell the tale of her love story with Beast at Enchanted Tales with Belle, also at Magic Kingdom in Fantasyland.
While Belle doesn’t appear here, I would be remiss to not mention Be Our Guest Restaurant, also in Magic Kingdom. You won’t see Belle, but you’ll certainly feel like her as you step foot in this glistening locale with impeccable details straight out of Beauty and the Beast.
The theming is so accurate, it brings a tear to the eye every time I visit.
OK fine, several tears. I sobbed more than I should have the first time I saw the restaurant in person. More than one Cast Member might have approached me asking if I was okay.
At EPCOT in the World Showcase, find Belle greeting guests just outside the France Pavilion. Also in France at EPCOT, you can catch the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, which is a pre-recorded 15-minute film.
In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll find Belle, Beast, and all her friends at Beauty & the Beast: Live on Stage, a 30-minute mini-musical regaling audience members with the classic tale. The show has only just returned after a long hiatus due to the pandemic, so make sure you get a guaranteed seat with a Genie+ selection for the show.
For a tres chic evening of cocktails, caviar, and more, visit the Beauty and the Beast-inspired Enchanted Rose Lounge, found at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
Throughout the other Disney Parks, while she appears in all of them, most notably, Belle, Beast’s castle, and their story are brought to life in Tokyo Disneyland, where the new Beauty and the Beast expansion has been open for a little over a year.
Read more about the enchanting Beauty and the Beast area at Tokyo Disneyland by grabbing our Once Upon a Time issue!
At sea, Belle can be found aboard all Disney Cruise Line ships. On the Disney Dream, guests are treated to a 90-minute musical production of Beauty and the Beast, complete with beautifully inspired details taken from the Disney’s 2017 live-action adaptation of the film.
Disney Princess Belle: 8 Fast Facts
Here are some facts about Belle and this beautiful movie:
- The runtime of Beauty and the Beast is 84 minutes, and the film is most well-known for its title song, “Beauty and the Beast,” as well as its large ensemble songs such as “Belle” and “Be Our Guest.”
- The cast boasts impressive voice talents such as Paige O’Hara, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, Robby Benson, and David Ogden Stiers.
- Beauty and the Beast was succeeded by its 1997 straight-to-video sequel, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. (followed later on by Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World and Belle’s Tales of Friendship in 1998 and 1999, respectively).
- Disney Theatrical Productions (also known as Disney on Broadway) was founded in 1993, and their first musical stage adaptation created for Broadway was Beauty and the Beast, which opened in April 1994 to immense success.
- Original Broadway Belle actress Susan Egan is part of the Ultimate Princess Celebration and one of the lead performers of Disney Princess – The Concert, which tours throughout the United States in 2022.
- The inspiration for Disney’s version of Belle was taken from Katherine Hepburn’s portrayal of Jo in the 1933 film, Little Women. Belle’s physical likeness was inspired by actresses Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Vivien Leigh.
- Throughout the movie, Belle has a wisp of hair that occasionally falls into her eyes. This was, in part, due to Paige O’Hara’s own mannerisms while recording her lines for Belle, when she would brush her hair out of her eyes. It was also a detail intentionally put in the movie, as screenwriter Linda Woolverton wanted to use this minute detail to show that Belle was not perfect.
- Belle and Beast are the only two characters in the movie who wear the color blue. This was also done intentionally, to represent the two characters’ ostracization and misfit statuses.
What Do You Love About Belle?
I could go on for ages about all of Belle’s wonderful qualities and why I love her so much, but it’s time to hear from you! What is it that you love most about Belle, and why?
Also in the Disney Princess Profile series: