Beauty and the Beast (Disney song)
|"Beauty and the Beast"|
|Single by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson|
|from the album Beauty and the Beast: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Released||November 16, 1991|
|Format||CD single, cassette single, vinyl single|
The Power Station
(New York City, NY)
The Plant Recording Studios
|Peabo Bryson singles chronology|
"Beauty and the Beast" is a song written by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken for Walt Disney Pictures’ 30th animated feature film Beauty and the Beast (1991). The film's theme song, the Broadway-inspired ballad was originally recorded by British-American actress Angela Lansbury in her role as the voice of Mrs. Potts, and essentially describes the burgeoning romantic relationship between main characters Belle and the Beast. Additionally, the song's lyrics imply that the feeling of love is both timeless and ageless – a "tale as old as time". "Beauty and the Beast" was subsequently recorded as a pop duet by Canadian singer Celine Dion and American singer Peabo Bryson, which was released as the sole single from the film's soundtrack album on November 16, 1991.
Despite her extensive acting and singing experience, Lansbury was initially hesitant to record "Beauty and the Beast" because she felt that it did not suit her aging singing voice, but ultimately recorded the song in one take. To promote the film, Disney decided to release "Beauty and the Beast" as a single, and first recruited solely Dion to record a pop version of it. However, worrying that the then-obscure Canadian singer would not attract a sufficient United States audience on her own, the studio subsequently hired the more prominent Bryson as her duet partner. At first Dion was also hesitant to record "Beauty and the Beast" because she had just recently been fired from recording the theme song of An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991). First heard during the film's end credits, the single was produced by Walter Afanasieff and arranged by Robbie Buchanan, and also included on Dion's second English-language studio album. The single was accompanied by a music video, directed by Dominic Orlando.
Both the film and single versions of "Beauty and the Beast" were very successful, garnering both a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as Grammy Awards for Best Song Written for Visual Media and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Lansbury's performance was lauded by both film and music critics. Meanwhile, despite mixed reviews, the Dion-Bryson version became an international success, peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to returning Disney songs to the pop charts after a thirty-year hiatus, the success of "Beauty and the Beast" also established Dion as a bankable recording artist during the 1990s. "Beauty and the Beast" was the first Disney song to undergo a complete pop transformation; numerous songs would follow suit, with several artists releasing pop renditions of Disney songs throughout the decade.
Beauty and the Beast was among the first animated films to use computer animation, a relatively new technology at the time which was featured prominently throughout the film's "ballroom sequence", during which Belle and the Beast dance to the title song. The scene has been lauded for both its visuals and innovative use of computer animation, which ultimately paved the way for the successful computer-animated films of Pixar Animation Studios. Considered to be one of Disney's best songs, "Beauty and the Beast" has since been covered by several artists. In 2004, the American Film Institute recognized "Beauty and the Beast" as one of the greatest songs in film history, ranking it at number 62.
- 1 Writing and recording
- 2 Context and "ballroom sequence"
- 3 Composition and lyrical interpretation
- 4 Reception
- 5 Chart performance
- 6 Music video
- 7 Live performances
- 8 Covers and use in media
- 9 Impact and legacy
- 10 Formats and track listings
- 11 Charts and certifications
- 12 See also
- 13 References
Writing and recording
"Beauty and the Beast" was written by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken in 1990. The songwriters had envisioned the song as "the height of simplicity", and specifically drew influence from Broadway music. Due to Ashman's ailment, pre-production was relocated to a hotel in Fishkill, New York near Ashman's residence to accommodate the lyricist. Out of all the songs he has written, Menken believes that he spent the most time composing "Beauty and the Beast". The track was first recorded by English actress Angela Lansbury, who voices the character Mrs. Potts, an enchanted teapot. The songwriters first introduced "Beauty and the Beast" to Lansbury via a demo recording, which was accompanied by a note asking her if she would be interested in singing it. Although a seasoned film and theatre performer who had previously done her own singing for Disney in the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Lansbury, who was accustomed to singing more uptempo songs, was hesitant to record the ballad because she was unfamiliar with the style in which it was written, which she considered rock music. Although she admitted the song was "lovely," Lansbury worried that her aging singing voice was not particularly strong enough to record "Beauty and the Beast", specifically expressing concern about sustaining its longer notes. Questioning the songwriters' choice in her, Lansbury suggested that they recruit someone else, to which they responded that she simply "sing the song the way [she] envisioned it."
On October 6, 1990, "Beauty and the Beast" was recorded in a studio in New York with a live orchestra because the songwriters preferred to record everyone together as opposed to having the singers and instrumentalists record separately. However, on the day of Lansbury's recording session, the actress' flight was delayed due to a bomb threat, forcing an emergency landing in Las Vegas. Unaware of her whereabouts, the filmmakers had considered rescheduling the session until Lansbury finally telephoned the studio upon arriving safely in New York, reassuring them that she was on her way. At the behest of one of the directors, Lansbury recorded a demo of the song for them to use as back up in the event that no one else was available to sing it on her behalf, or no character other than Mrs. Potts was deemed suitable. Ultimately, Lansbury's version, which was recorded in one take, wound up being the one used in the final film. For her performance, Lansbury imitated a cockney accent. Producer Don Hahn recalled that the actress simply "sang 'Beauty and the Beast' from beginning to end and just nailed it. We picked up a couple of lines here and there, but essentially that one take is what we used for the movie." Lansbury's performance moved everyone in the studio to tears; the actress believes that recording the song helped her gain perspective on Mrs. Potts' role in the film.
To the studio's surprise, Beauty and the Beast received three Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song. Concerned that this would divide votes and ultimately result in a draw, Disney decided to promote the film's title song ahead of its co-nominees "Belle" and "Be Our Guest" by releasing "Beauty and the Beast" as a single; Ashman and Menken had intentionally written the song so that it could potentially experience success outside of Beauty and the Beast. Thus, "Beauty and the Beast" became the first Disney song to be arranged into a pop version of itself and played over its film's end credits. Menken referred to this feat as a "turning point" in his career because it was also the first time one of his compositions had undergone such a transformation. Producer Walter Afanasieff was hired to produce the pop version of the song, while both he and musician Robbie Buchanan arranged it. The instrumentals were recorded first at the Californian studio The Plant Recording Studios, vocals were later added at The Power Station in New York, while mixing was completed at The Record Plant in Los Angeles. Menken explained that Afanasieff "molded [the song] into something very different than I ever intended," appreciating the fact that the producer "made it his own." Actress Paige O'Hara, who voices Belle in the film, had initially expressed interest in recording the pop version of "Beauty and the Beast", but Disney executives ultimately dismissed her voice as "too Broadway." Unable to afford to hire a "big singer" at the time, Disney settled upon Canadian singer Celine Dion. Although Dion had amassed success throughout Canada, she was relatively unknown to the American audience at the time, thus the studio doubted that she would make much of an impact in the United States on her own and subsequently recruited American singer Peabo Bryson, who was a more well-known artist at the time, to record the song alongside her in the form of a duet. A consistent presence on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart since 1975, Bryson had already established himself in the United States, and was known for his penchant for duets with artists like Roberta Flack.
Disney contacted Dion's manager René Angélil about having her record "Beauty and the Beast" while the singer was on tour in England. Having enjoyed Dion's previous albums, Menken personally wrote the singer a letter of approval. At first Dion was hesitant to commit due to prior unsuccessful experiences with the film industry; she had just recently been fired from recording "Dreams to Dream" from the animated film An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991) in favor of American singer Linda Ronstadt, the latter of whom had previously recorded the very successful theme song of An American Tail (1986) with James Ingram. Naturally, Ronstadt was producer Steven Spielberg's first choice, who declined at first; the singer only agreed to record "Dreams to Dream" after first hearing Dion's rendition of it. Devastated by her abrupt termination, Angélil had to steadily convince his client to record "Beauty and the Beast", by which she was eventually moved enough to sing after being exposed to Lansbury's rendition. Born and raised in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, Dion had just barely begun to learn English at the time. Attributing her involvement in the single to the relevant parties, in the liner notes for her 1992 album Céline Dion the singer would later write: "thank you to [Walt Disney Pictures President of Music] Chris Montan and [music executive] Glen Brunman for involving me in Beauty and the Beast". Meanwhile, Bryson became involved with the song via Walt Disney Records Senior Vice President Jay Landers, who was friends with Montan. The Dion-Bryson version of "Beauty and the Beast" was released on November 16, 1991, and was coupled with the Menken-composed instrumental piece The Beast Lets Belle Go as the B side. Released on the Sony Music Entertainment label Columbia Records, the single's copyright is owned by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution (Walt Disney Music and Wonderland Music). The only single from the film's soundtrack, the song appears alongside Lansbury's original on the album.
Context and "ballroom sequence"
The scene in Beauty and the Beast during which the song is heard is believed to be the film's most romantic because it is the moment Belle and the Beast's love for each other is finally established. Set in the ballroom of the Beast's castle, "Beauty and the Beast" is performed by Mrs. Potts, an enchanted teapot, midway through the film, who is explaining the concept of love to her young teacup son Chip, referring to the emotion as "a tale as old as time". Bill Gibron of PopMatters wrote that Mrs. Potts' "fragile voice ... sets the tone" as "our earnest heroine, Belle, begins to fall for her capture". Femalefirst believes that the song "represents the moment Beast decides he wants to tell Belle he is in love with her," while Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum referred to the scene as the "centerpiece that brings Beauty and her Beast together." Writing for The Globe and Mail, Jennie Punter reviewed it as the scene in which "romance finally blossoms." Ellison Estefan of Estefan Films believes that "Beauty and the Beast" "adds another dimension to the characters as they continue to fall deeply in love with each other." Analyzing the significance of the scene, Steven D. Greydanus of Decent Films Guide observed, "The difficulty with which Belle and the Beast hesitantly slowly open up to one another ... does credit both to the emotional depths of the fairy tale and the strange mystery and magic of courtship." Explaining the song's purpose, director Kirk Wise described the scene as "the culmination of their relationship," while producer Don Han pegged it as "the bonding moment of the film when the two main characters finally get together." Considered "An early example" of "a pronounced use of height and of vertical movement in sets and settings, in virtual camera movement ... and in the actions of characters" by author Sheldon Hall of Epics, Spectacles and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History, Beauty and the Beast was one of the first feature-length animated films to use computer-generated imagery, which is explored prominently throughout the film's "elaborate" ballroom sequence. According to Wise, the scene had long been envisioned as having "more of a live action feel" to it than the rest of the film, an idea that originated from story artists Brenda Chapman and Roger Allers, who were the first to suggest that a portion of the ballroom be built using computers. Light Science: Physics and the Visual Arts author Thomas D. Rossing believes that the filmmakers wanted to achieve "a moving perspective that would follow the dancers around the room, giving visual expression to the soaring emotions of the scene." CGI supervisor Jim Hillin was then personally hired by Hahn to design and oversee the scene's graphics. However, because the computer-animated medium was so unfamiliar at the time, at one point the filmmakers had deliberated having Belle and the Beast simply dance in complete darkness – except for a single spotlight – had the project been unsuccessful; they jokingly referred to this alternative concept as the "Ice Capades" version.
First rendered as a simple cube, the ballroom was "designed as a production set on a computer," making it the first fully dimensional computer-generated color background. Unlike Disney's previous CGI experiments, Beauty and the Beast's ballroom was much more detailed and required animators to work exclusively with computers to compose, animate and color the scene. According to Hillin, the use of computers allowed for theatrical lighting and "sweeping" perspectives, which ultimately introduced live-action techniques to animation. To make the scene a "special moment" for the characters, a "virtual camera" was used to allow the animators to create the illusion of tracking, panning and zooming that "establish[es] the mood and helps us to experience what the characters themselves are feeling." The camera first follows Belle and the Beast as they enter the ballroom before panning around the ballroom and finally refocusing on the characters. In his book Basics Animation 02: Digital Animation, author Andrew Chong wrote that "The sweeping camera move with a constantly shifting perspective during the ballroom sequence was a composition of traditionally drawn elements for the characters with digitally animated scenery." Several computer animators, layout artists, art directors and background artists combined their efforts to achieve the scene's end results; the ballroom's official dimensions read 72 feet high, 184 feet long and 126 feet wide. The space also houses 28 windows and a dome that measures 86 by 61 feet. The dome's mural was first hand-painted then texture-mapped into the background using a computer. Each element was carefully constructed individually. Timothy Wegner described the finished ballroom in his book Image Lab as "huge and elegant" in which "the walls are decorated with elaborate moldings, Corinthian columns, and hundreds of candles."
Writing for Combustible Celluloid, Jeffrey M. Anderson believes that "The animators understood that the new technology couldn't be used to represent organic beings, so they simply used it for backgrounds; i.e. the swirling, spinning ballroom during the 'Beauty and the Beast' dance number." Early on, Belle and the Beast were crudely represented by computer-animated "stand-ins" to choreograph their dance, described by Wise as box and egg-shaped, while the ballroom was little more than a "chicken wire" frame at the time. Andrew Osmond, author of 100 Animated Feature Films, described this crude version of the characters as "wire frames moving in staccato." Because Belle and the Beast are so "interconnected" during the scene, both characters were animated solely by Belle's supervising animator James Baxter; the Beast's supervising animator Glen Keane eventually traced over Baxter's work. Baxter first prepared himself by studying ballet dancers and taking lessons. At one point, both he and Keane plotted out their respective characters' routine themselves under the instruction of a dance coach. Throughout the scene and the entire film, Belle moves with a ballerina's turnout. Created by Pixar, a software named CAPS – Computer Animation Production System – allowed the animators to paint Belle and the Beast using computers as opposed to the more conventional and time-consuming method of painting characters by hand. Adhering to the room's blue and gold color palette, "Belle’s gold dress compliments the Beast’s gold trim on his attire and gold is also the primary color of the ballroom itself" while "The Beast wears royal blue, which match his eyes, the evening sky, the curtains that drape the columns in the ballroom, and even the tiles on the floor, which are integrated with gold," as observed by Interiors. The Los Angeles Times film critic Charles Solomon observed that Belle looks "liveliest and prettiest" during this scene. Meanwhile, Julia Alexander of Movie Mezzanine wrote that "The elegance of their costumes against the background of a golden hall and a star filled sky adds to the whimsical romanticism of the movie." The entire sequence took several months to complete, much of which was spent syncing the traditionally animated couple with their computer-animated environment, which otherwise would have been virtually impossible had the filmmakers chosen a more traditional route. Armen Karaoghlanian of Interiors summarized the scene and cinematography in detail:
In their dance together, Belle familiarizes the Beast with the waltz and as soon he feels comfortable, he gracefully moves her across the floor. In this instance, Belle and the Beast move toward the camera, as we pan up and into the 3D chandelier. In the next shot, the camera slowly drops from the ceiling as we once again move alongside the 3D chandelier. This adds depth to the scene, as the chandelier is placed at the forefront of the image and Belle and the Beast are in the distance. This shot continues as we move down below and gracefully move around them. The Beast then sways Belle around and near the camera, once again providing us with an illusion that a camera is following these characters around in an actual ballroom. In a wide shot of Belle and the Beast dancing, the camera begins dollying back as Mrs. Potts and Chip appear in the frame. These beautiful compositions and camera movements show us how space functions within an animated feature film.— Armen Karaoghlanian of Interiors
At the time many non-Disney animators were "stunned" and "marveled" at the studio "pushing the envelope", however in truth some animators at Disney considered the scene "a miserable failure" as "in one swoop, it took the audience out of the moment and showed off the technology". Nevertheless, DreamWorks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg has deemed the sequence Beauty and the Beast's "wowie moment"; the part of the film where "you see what's on the screen and go, `Wow-IEE'". Describing the scene as "an early experiment in computer animation," Josh Larsen of Larsen on Film observed that the ballroom sequence features "the camera swooping in and around to provide an expansive sense of space that 3-D still isn’t able to capture." In her book The Beautiful Ache, author Leigh McLeroy wrote that the scene represents "one of those strange moments where love creeps in against all odds and insists on staying put." Audiences tend to remember the ballroom sequence as "the one in which Belle and the Beast share a romantic dance as the camera files and spins around them." In Moviepilot's Chris Lucas' opinion, "The ballroom scene remains the one that truly symbolizes their adoration for each other."
Composition and lyrical interpretation
According to the song's official sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Walt Disney Music Publishing, the original film version of "Beauty and the Beast" performed by Angela Lansbury was written in the key of G-flat major at a tempo of 84 beats per minute, spanning two minutes and forty-six seconds in length. An "eloquent" rock-influenced pop song with a "calm," "sweet" and "lilting" melody, Stephen Whitty of NJ.com pegged "Beauty and the Beast" as a "Broadway ballad." Roger Ebert described the song's melody as "haunting," while Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum referred to it as a "lullaby." The Disney Song Encyclopedia author Thomas S. Hischak described Menken's melody as "flowing." BuzzFeed's Aylin Zafar received the song as "Tender and warm." Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Gene Siskel described Lansbury's voice, which spans two octaves from B♭3 to E♭5 on the recording, as "richly textured," performed in a "calm, motherly" tone. Instrumentally, "Beauty and the Beast" features several chord changes and heavy woodwinds. While describing the song as "a lullaby crooned by a loving grandmother," GamesRadar observed that "Beauty and the Beast" features a key change during which "the music swells, and then the orchestra subsides to leave just trembling violins." Describing the ballad as "soaring," TV Guide compared "Beauty and the Beast" to "Shall We Dance" from the musical The King and I.
Film Genre 2000: New Critical Essays author Wheeler W. Dixon expressed that the song's lyrics are about the couple's "implicit promise of regeneration through love." 29 lines long, "Beauty and the Beast" is a love song about a couple's gradual transformation from friends into "something more." The film's theme song, its lyrics essentially "capture the essence of the film" by describing the relationship between the film's two main characters, while specifically addressing ways in which the two have managed to change each other for the better by overcoming their fear of "learning to bend," "change a little" and in the end finally accepting their mistakes. According to Jake Cole of Not Just Movies, the first stanza begins "in earnest, and the subtlety of it has the ironic effect of being overpowering." Beginning with Lansbury singing the lyrics "Tale as old as time, true as it can be," JoBlo.com wrote that the song "offers a sure sign of romance between the Beauty and her Beast." R.L. Shaffer of IGN identified "Beauty and the Beast" as a "tear-jerking poetic ballad." Meanwhile, Songfacts believes that "The message of the song is that a couple can be 'as old as time' no matter how different they are." According to Chris Lucas of Moviepilot, Ashman's lyrics describe the couple's "hesitation and surprise at falling in love unexpectedly," while author Thomas S. Hischak wrote in The Disney Song Encyclopedia that the song's "simple but affecting" lyrics are "about how two tentative hearts are united in love." Featuring the lyrics "Barely even friends, then somebody bends, unexpectedly," Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune believes that the song "makes the case for all lovers to look past their partners' faults and into their hearts," while Cole believes that "Ashman goes for the truth ... we don't know we're in love until we spend time with someone and unforced adjustments make the pieces fall into place." The Emperor's Old Groove: Decolonizing Disney's Magic Kingdom author Brenda Ayres cited the song as an "[indicator] that a reciprocal power relationship has developed between Belle and the Beast...confirm[ing] 'his transformation, her legitimacy, and their powerful unity." According to the lyricist's official website, "Beauty and the Beast" summarizes the way in which "Belle tames the beast and finds the happy ending she has dreamed about." The Meanings of "Beauty and the Beast": A Handbook author Jerry Griswold believes that the song's opening lyrics "tale as old as time" allude to the fact that Belle's story is an ancient, timeless one "deliberately situated within the context of other traditional tales;" hers is simply "the newest incarnation" of it. According to Griswold, the song essentially suggests that the fairy tale continues to be constantly "told and retold." The Translation of the Songs in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast": an example of Manipulation author Lucía Loureiro Porto agrees that although "Beauty and the Beast" "does not tell any story, it is made of phrases that imply that love is as old a feeling as mankind." According to Perry Seibert of AllMovie, "Beauty and the Beast" is "as sappy as Ashman ever got as a lyricist." Seibert believes that the song "acknowledges its own banality ... without minimizing or mocking its inherently sweet description of true love." Reflecting upon Ashman's death, Roger Moore of the Chicago Tribune believes that the song "was [Ashman's] farewell to love and life and imagination."
Transposed to the higher key of F major at a slower 72 beats per minute, the Dion-Bryson version of "Beauty and the Beast" is, according to Filmtracks.com, a "conservatively-rendered pop song." that features an electric oboe, keyboard, Synclavier, and acoustic guitar. According to Molly Lambert of Grantland, the track is "a sweeping downtempo ... ballad" that evokes the "early ’90s gossamer high-tech style." According to the Chicago Tribune's Brad Webber, Dion and Bryson's vocals are "resonant and multiflavored." The song's "jazzy" instrumentation relies on heavy drums that contrast with the rest of the soundtrack. In this arrangement, the opening lyrics "Tale as old as time" are preceded by Dion singing "Ooh." Longer than the original, the pop version lasts four minutes and three seconds.
The original film version of "Beauty and the Beast" performed by Lansbury continues to be constantly lauded by both film and music critics alike. Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised "Beauty and the Beast", describing it as "a glorious ballad" while dubbing it Ashman and Menken's "biggest triumph." Beliefnet called the song "stirring," while Hal Hinson of The Washington Post considers it to be among the film's best. Roger Moore of the Chicago Tribune referred to "Beauty and the Beast" as a "brilliant and poignant" song that "can move you to tears," while James Berardinelli of ReelViews cited it among the film's "memorable" songs. Anthony Quinn of The Independent highlighted "Beauty and the Beast" as the film's best song. Quinn went on to praise Lansbury's performance, describing it as "magnificently sung," while the Deseret News' Chris Hicks called the song "beautiful." Simon Brew of Den of Geek specifically praised the lyrics "bittersweet and strange, finding you can change," while describing the song as "superb." Lansbury's vocals have also been singled out for praise. Slant Magazine's Jaime N. Christley wrote that Lansbury "delivers the film's title tune, gooey treacle that it is, like nobody's business." Describing the song as "beautiful," the Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel wrote that "Beauty and the Beast" is "performed poignantly by the richly textured voice of Angela Lansbury." Similarly, PopMatters' Bill Gibron penned, "the moment Angela Lansbury’s trite teapot steps up to sing the title song, all dry eye bets are off." The New York Post's Lou Lumenick wrote that "Beauty and the Beast" was "unforgettably delivered by Angela Lansbury." Aylin Zara of BuzzFeed believes that Lansbury's version is superior to the single, penning, "Though the commercial pop version of 'Beauty and the Beast,' sung by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson, is great, the film version — performed by Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts — is even better. Tender and warm ... it tugs at all the right heartstrings to get your eyes a little misty." However, Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich admitted to having preferred "Be Our Guest" and "Belle" over "Beauty and the Beast".
|“||By far the songwriters' biggest triumph is the title song, which becomes even more impressive in view of the not-very-promising assignment to create a 'Beauty and the Beast theme song. But the result is a glorious ballad, one that is performed in two versions, as both a top-40 style duet heard over the closing credits and a sweet, lilting solo sung by Ms. Lansbury during the film's most meltingly lovely scene. For the latter, which also shows off the film's dynamic use of computer-generated animation, the viewer would be well advised to bring a hanky.||”|
Meanwhile, critical reception towards the Dion-Bryson single has been mixed. Filmtracks.com wrote that Dion's performance "made many fans wish that she had been given it as a solo." Arion Berger of Entertainment Weekly praised Dion's vocals, describing "Beauty and the Beast" as "a perfect showcase for what she's best at." Describing the duet as "extremely effective," Sputnikmusic's Irving Tan extolled their rendition, writing, "As the entirety of the film's poignancy is hinged on the chemistry between Bryson and Dion, having the pair pull their assignment off beautifully is ultimately a fantastic conclusion to events." Jeff Benjamin of Fuse described the song as "a fantastic duet." Contrarily, the Chicago Tribune's Brad Webber disliked the song, panning it as a "sickly sweet, by-the-book ... standard" that "belie[s] [Dion's] talent" by exhibiting "forcefully resonant and multiflavored vocals." Critics tended to prefer Lansbury's rendition; while praising the film version, Spin's Andrew Unterberger dismissed the single as "unbearably cloying." Similarly, Kristian Lin of Fort Worth Weekly panned the pop version while complimenting Lansbury's performance, advising audience members to "Clear out of the theater before Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson butcher the title song over the end credits," while Consequence of Sound's Dan Caffrey felt that "It’s a shame that the most globally known version of 'Beauty and the Beast' is the one sang by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson as opposed to the one sung by" Lansbury. The Star's Michael Cheang accused the single of being "over-wrought."
The "ballroom sequence" during which Belle and the Beast dance to "Beauty and the Beast" continues to garner significant acclaim for its use of computer-generated imagery; Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly referred to it as the film's "centerpiece." Writing for The Seattle Times, Candice Russel cited the scene as an "irresistible highlight," while The Globe and Mail's Jennie Punter called it "glorious." David Parkinson of Radio Times wrote that the ballroom sequence is where the film's use of CGI is "seen to best advantage." The Chicago Tribune's Dave Kehr praised both layout artist Lisa Keene and computer animator Jim Hillin's combined efforts on the scene, recognizing it as the film's "most impressive setting." When the film was re-released in 3D in January 2012, Annlee Ellingson of Paste appreciated the scene's treatment, calling it "positively vertiginous." Mike Scott of The Times-Picayune extolled it as a "gorgeous, and memorable" scene that "still stands out as one of the film's more dazzling." Also receptive, Joanna Berry of The National wrote that "the ballroom sequence now seems to sparkle even more." While Boxoffice's Todd Gilchrist's response towards the film's 3D transformation was mixed, the critic admitted that "the times when the animators use computer animation to render the backgrounds" such as during "the dance sequence between Belle and Beast ... are effective, immersive and maybe even memorable." On the contrary, Chris Hicks of the Deseret News felt that "Today, the ballroom sequence no longer feels fresh and new after so many recent computer-animated 3-D efforts, but that doesn't diminish the power of its gorgeous design." Although James Berardinelli of ReelViews had originally reviewed the sequence as "the best scene in the movie" because the camera is "frequently on the move, soaring and zooming as it circles characters and imitates tracking shots," he felt that the 3D conversion "diminishes the romance and emotion of the ballroom dance."
To viewers at the time, the computer effects in this climactic sequence were astonishing. This "singular sequence...was constantly referenced as one of the reasons" why the film was nominated for an Academy award. The Beauty and the Beast ballroom sequence "thematized marriage in the dance" by illustrating a "nuptial rehearsal" which contrasts the "now" (3D animation) with "then" (2D animation) in a "successful marriage of character and set". The Studios After the Studios explains: "This chronological fusion was itself classicised by Mrs Potts' song: she turns a moment of industrial novelty into balance".
Awards and recognition
"Beauty and the Beast" has won several awards. The song won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song at the 49th Golden Globe Awards in January 1992. The following March, "Beauty and the Beast" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 64th Academy Awards. The award was posthumous in Ashman's case, who died of AIDS on March 14, 1991, eight months before the film's release. Menken acknowledged Ashman in his acceptance speech, thanking Lansbury, Dion, Bryson, and Afanasieff for their musical contributions. Representing Ashman was his long-time domestic partner, William "Bill" Lauch, who accepted the award. The following year, "Beauty and the Beast" garnered two wins out of eight nominations at the 35th Grammy Awards, one for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television, the other for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals. Additionally, the song was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, but lost both to Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven". An instrumental version arranged and conducted by Richard S. Kaufman won the 1993 Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. This rendition was performed by the Nurenberg Symphony Orchestra for the album Symphonic Hollywood, under the record company Varese Sarabande. The James Galway instrumental movie version performed by The Galway Pops Orchestra and featured on the album Galway at the Movies was nominated in 1994 for the Best Pop Instrumental Performance Grammy. In Canada, "Beauty and the Beast" won a Juno Award for Single of the Year, beating Dion's own "If You Asked Me To". In 1993, "Beauty and the Beast" also won an ASCAP Film and Television Music Award and ASCAP Pop Award for most performed song in the United States.
The American Film Institute ranked "Beauty and the Beast" 62nd on the organization's list of the 100 greatest songs in film history. "Beauty and the Beast" is one of only four songs from Disney animated films to have appeared on the list. When BuzzFeed organized "The Definitive Ranking Of The 102 Best Animated Disney Songs" list, "Beauty and the Beast" was placed at number four, while the same website ranked the ballad Disney's fifth greatest love song. Similarly, "Beauty and the Beast" is the fourth greatest Disney song according to M. "Beauty and the Beast" finished 14th on GamesRadar's "30 best Disney songs in history" ranking. On the website's list of the "Top 25 Disney Songs", IGN ranked "Beauty and the Beast" 22nd. While Broadway.com ranked the song the second greatest Academy Award-winning Disney song, Spin placed "Beauty and the Beast" at number 30 on the magazine's ranking of "Every Oscar Winner for Best Original Song". On her list of the "11 Highest-Charting Songs From Disney Movies", author Nicole James of Fuse wrote that the Dion-Bryson version "cracked the Top 10, going to No. 9 on the charts (but No. 1 in our hearts)." The same website included the pop version on its "Top 20 Disney Songs by Pop Stars" list. Awarding the Dion-Bryson version an 'A' grade, Grantland ranked the song second in its article "Counting Down the Top 10 in … KIDS MUSIC!".
Total Film ranked the scene ninth on its list of the "50 Greatest Disney Movie Moments". In Den of Geek's article "Top 12 most memorable dance scenes in films", the ballroom sequence was ranked fifth. GamesRadar also included the scene on the website's "50 Greatest Movie Dance Sequences", with author Kim Sheehan lauding it as "more moving and romantic than most live-action dances." Oh No They Didn't ranked the song 2nd in its The Top 25 Disney Songs of All Time article, writing of its "vintage feel...brimming with life and originality", the "surprising effectiveness" of Lansbury's performance, and the "captivating on-screen animation". The song was listed 8th is Metro's article Ranked – the top 20 Disney songs ever, with writer Duncan Lindsay commenting "...this dance sequence with Angela Lansbury’s gorgeous tones was one of Disney’s most romantic. What a song."
"Beauty and the Beast" performed considerably well on charts around the world. The song became Dion's second single to land within the top-10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number nine. The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary chart. In Canada, "Beauty and the Beast" peaked at number two. Outside of North America, the song peaked within the top ten in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, while peaking within the top twenty in Australia, Netherlands and Ireland. The song sold over a million copies worldwide.
Directed by Dominic Orlando, and follows a simple format. It begins with a closeup of Dion performing the song's opening lines "Tale as old as time/True as it can be" in a large room that resembles a recording studio. Bryson soon enters the room to join Dion, completing song's first verse. Closeups and wideshots of the two singers are infused with scenes from the movie, which are simultaneously being played overhead on a large screen. A large orchestra surrounds Bryson and Dion as they perform their respective roles, alternating between verse and chorus, melody and harmony, until the song ends and the music video fades out. The video was included in the Platinum Edition and in the Diamond Edition of the film of the same name.
At the 1992 Oscars, Angela Lansbury, Celine Dion, and Peabo Bryson sang a composite of both versions from the film, backed by dancers dressed as Belle and the Beast. Celine and Peabo also duetted at the Grammys, World Music Awards, AMA's, Wogan, The Tonight Show, and Top of the Pops later that year. The duo reunited in 1996 to perform the song for the television special Oprah in Disneyland. Each of the 3 respective artists have performed the song in concerts later in their careers, outside the context of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. For example, Lansbury sang it at the 2002 Christmas concert with Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Similarly, Dion and Bryson duetted at the JT Super Producers 94 tribute concert to David Foster, and as part of Dion's 1994-95 The Colour of My Love Tour, though they have also often sung with different duet partners. Dion has sung with Tommy Körberg, Brian McKnight, Terry Bradford, Maurice Davis, Barnev Valsaint, and Rene Froger among others; Peabo has sung with Coko and Regine Velasquez.
Covers and use in media
In 1993, jazz singer Chris Connor covered "Beauty and the Beast" for her album My Funny Valentine. In 1998, O'Hara recorded a version of "Beauty and the Beast" for her album Dream with Me. This marked the first time O'Hara had ever recorded the song, although she has covered it live several times. Billboard reviewed O'Hara's performance positively, writing that the actress provides each song with "the right youthful and gentle touch." In 2000, singer Kenny Loggins covered the song on his children's music album More Songs from Pooh Corner. In 2002, music group Jump5 covered "Beauty and the Beast" for the Walt Disney Records compilation album Disneymania; a music video was released later that year and included as a bonus feature on the film's Platinum Edition DVD re-release, Beauty and the Beast: Special Edition. Belonging to a segment known as "Chip’s Fun and Games - For the Young at Heart", the music video features the group performing their "bouncy" teen pop rendition of the song interpolated with scenes from the film. Lauren Duca of The Huffington Post described the group's uptempo cover as "ridiculously '90s pop". Meanwhile, musical duo H & Claire covered the song for the film's Platinum Edition re-release in the United Kingdom, which Betty Clarke of The Guardian dismissed as a "boring" rendition.
On the country-themed compilation album The Best of Country Sing the Best of Disney (2006), "Beauty and the Beast" was covered by country band Diamond Rio. To support the film's Diamond Edition re-release, in 2010 singer Jordin Sparks recorded an R&B version of "Beauty and the Beast", which was released on iTunes in September. A music video directed by Philip Andelman was included on the re-release as a bonus feature, part of the disc's "Music and More" segment. The video depicts Sparks performing "Beauty and the Beast" in a castle. In 2011, Sparks performed her rendition of the song live at the 30th anniversary of the televised Independence Day concert "A Capitol Fourth". The cover is believed to have initiated the singer's gradual transition from music to film. The compilation album Eurobeat Disney (2010) features a Eurobeat cover by singer Domino. In 2014, actors Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio covered "Beauty and the Beast" for the television special Backstage with Disney on Broadway: Celebrating 20 Years, which documents the development of eight of Disney's Broadway musicals. Both known for their roles in the television musical drama Nashville, Bowen, a fan of the film, arranged the cover herself to satisfy the documentary producers' vision, who "were looking for performers who could offer unexpected interpretations of the [musicals'] familiar tunes." Hilary Lewis of The Hollywood Reporter observed that Bowen and Palladio's rendition "is more stripped down" than the stage, Lansbury and Dion-Bryson versions. We Love Disney (2014) features a cover by operatic pop vocal group Sole Mio (2014).
The song appears in the Broadway musical adaptation of the film, which premiered in 1994. Originally covered live by actress Beth Fowler as Mrs. Potts, "Beauty and the Beast" was included on the Original Broadway Cast Recording of the musical, again performed by Fowler. While critical reception towards the musical ranged from negative to mixed, John Simon of New York commended Fowler for "manag[ing] to heat up and brighten [her] material". Within the realm of reality television talent competitions, "Beauty and the Beast" was covered on The Voice Australia by contestants Lionel Cole and Sabrina Batshon in 2014. Candice Barnes of The Sydney Morning Herald reviewed that the "song suited Sabrina best" while it was "too high" for Cole, in the end accusing both contestants of "destroying one of the best loved Disney songs with their vocal gymnastics."
In 1998, a version of the song, called "Beauty and the Bees", was made for the 3D movie It's Tough to be a Bug!'s queue at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney California Adventure Park. The song, written by Bruce Broughton and George Wilkins, was released on the album The Legacy Collection: Disneyland.
Impact and legacy
The popularity of "Beauty and the Beast" is believed to have been partially responsible for the success of the film overall. Andrew Unterberger of Spin believes that the song "set the template for the quivering love theme in ’90s Disney movies", while Disney.com considers it to be among the studio's most romantic songs. "Beauty and the Beast" was the first Disney song to undergo a complete pop transformation for commercial reasons. After the success of Disney's The Little Mermaid revived the Disney musical in 1989, Gary Trust of Billboard determined that "Once Beauty and the Beast followed in 1991 ... Disney was dominating charts like never before". Notably, the single ended a thirty year-long absence of Disney chart hits between the 1960s and 1990s, and inspired several hit singles to follow since then; popular recording artists such as Elton John, Vanessa Williams, Michael Bolton, Christina Aguilera, and Phil Collins each experienced varying degrees of success with pop renditions of Disney songs throughout the decade. Writing for Sputnikmusic, Irving Tan wrote that "Although the number's 1992 Academy Award for Best Original Song is something of an old chestnut at this point, it still bears some worth repeating - mainly as it is very likely the most famous of all the feature theme songs ever commissioned by Walt Disney Studios."
Bill Gibron of PopMatters believes that "Beauty and the Beast" "proved that the pen and ink designs that drove the company for nearly 80 years could transcend the genre and turn into something seminal ... something special ... something sensational." The ballroom sequence that the song accompanies continues to be held in high regard as "the much-touted achievement of early '90s Disney." Famous for its "seamless combination of volumetric depth ... and gracefully waltzing animated characters", the scene is now viewed by film critics as a classic, iconic moment in the history of animation. Gaye Birch of Den of Geek pegged the scene as a Disney "landmark" because "The sweeping camera and changing perspectives, accomplished through CGI, were visually impressive in a way we hadn't experienced in a Disney movie before then," while Rick DeMott of Animation World Network referred to it as "groundbreaking". Huw Evans of Bournemouth University argues that the scene is "quite possibly the best piece of animation done on any feature film." On the scene's pioneering use of computer-generated imagery, Annie Ellingson of Paste wrote that the ballroom sequence was "innovative at the time for compositing hand-drawn characters on a computer-generated backdrop to enable dramatic sweeping camera moves." Similarly, Empire's Helen O'Hara believes that it is an "important sequence" that "paved the way for the new digital style of animation." Mike Scott of The Times-Picayune holds the scene responsible for the success of the computer-animated films of Pixar Animation Studios. Scott elaborated, "when 'Beauty & the Beast' was first released in 1991, Pixar Animation Studios was still just a small-potatoes, mostly experimental upstart," continuing, "the warm reaction to that single scene would serve as a major springboard for the computer-animation industry -- and a major blow to hand-drawn animation." In his 1995 review of Toy Story, film critic Roger Ebert encouraged audiences to revisit Beauty and the Beast's ballroom sequence to better understand the newer film's technological achievements. Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation author Tom Sito wrote that the scene "made many skeptics in Hollywood begin to look at CG seriously," inspiring studio executives, who were originally "hostile to the idea of computers," to pursue the new art form. Architectural designer Mehruss Jon Ahi and filmmaker Armen Karaoghlanian created a floorplan of the ballroom, which was published in the Daily Mail. Additionally, the scene is held in high regard as a dance sequence. The Houston Press' Adam Castaneda praised it as "one of the finest dance sequences in the history of film," while ASIFA-Hollywood pegged the scene as "game-changing" in its "use of movement in contemporary animation." This hybrid of 2D and 3D would later come to be known as "tradigital animation" by Jeffrey Katzenberg; the DreamWorks executive negatively compared the film's integration of animation techniques with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) as in his opinion "the 3-D ballroom sequence in Beauty and the Beast sticks out from the rest of the movie."
Beauty and the Beast: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack continues to be best remembered for spawning the Dion-Bryson single. Prior to the release of "Beauty and the Beast", Dion's fame had been limited to her native Canada; the song is believed to have introduced Dion to the United States market, ultimately establishing the singer as an international recording artist during the 1990s. Before agreeing to record "Beauty and the Beast", Dion had been musically involved with the animated film An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, from which she was abruptly fired in favor of the more popular Linda Ronstadt. Both released around the same time, the success of Dion's song ultimately eclipsed Ronstadt's "Dreams to Dream". Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Darren Franich observed that "Dion was very young and had basically just learned English" at the time, joking, "hiring her to sing 'Beauty and the Beast' in 1991 is the equivalent of investing heavy in Google in, well, 1991." Biography.com refers to "Beauty and the Beast" as Dion's "real breakthrough into pop music stardom." According to Lifetime, the song "cemented her international success," while People wrote that this is when the singer truly went "global." The commercial success of "Beauty and the Beast" ultimately earned Dion a $10 million recording contract with Sony Music International. Subsequently, "Beauty and the Beast" was included on Dion's 1992 self-titled album. American musician Prince was so moved by Dion's performance of "Beauty and the Beast" that he wrote a song for her to include on the album. Only her second English-language album, Celine Dion went on to become the singer's first gold album, selling over 12 million copies worldwide. According to Filmtracks.com, "Beauty and the Beast" offered "a glimpse at a forthcoming mega-movie song presence for Celine Dion." The singer has since recorded the theme songs of several blockbuster films, including "When I Fall in Love" from Sleepless in Seattle (1993), "Because You Loved Me" from Up Close & Personal (1996) and her signature song "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic (1997). She reunited with her duet partner on the 1994 David Foster single Love Lights the World, which featured additional vocals from Color Me Badd. "Beauty and the Beast" has since been included on several of Dion's greatest hits albums, while the singer herself has occasionally returned to Disney as a special guest to host segments on some Beauty and the Beast re-releases. Dion recalls that in the wake of the success of "Beauty and the Beast", children and young fans who did not know her name would simply refer to her as "Beauty and the Beast".>
In addition to "launch[ing] Bryson into mainstream status," the singer has since returned to Disney on two occasions to record the theme songs of the studio's animated films Aladdin (1992), "A Whole New World", and the holiday-themed sequel to Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997), "As Long as There's Christmas", both of which are duets. Like Dion, the song was included on many of his own compilation albums, including Super Hits (2000). Meanwhile, producer Afanasieff went on to produce several Disney singles, including "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, for which he reunited with Bryson, and "Go the Distance" from Hercules (1997). In 2004, Bryson was forced by the International Revenue Service to auction off several of his belongings in order to help repay the singer's $1.2 million tax dept, among them his two only Grammy Awards for "Beauty and the Beast" and "A Whole New World". While the latter single's Grammy was purchased by a friend of Bryson and gifted back to the singer, Bryson's Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals trophy for "Beauty and the Beast" was ultimately sold to a stranger for $15,500.
Both the song's film and single versions have been included on several compilation albums released by Disney, including The Music of Disney: A Legacy in Song (1992), Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic (1995), Disney's Superstar Hits (2004), Ultimate Disney Princess (2006), The Best Disney Album in the World ...Ever! (2006), and Now That's What I Call Disney (2011). In 2005, actress and singer Julie Andrews, a Disney Legend, included Lansbury's rendition of "Beauty and the Beast" on her album Julie Andrews Selects Her Favorite Disney Songs, although she does not cover the song herself; the album is a simply compilation of Andrews' favourite Disney songs.
The pilot episode of the animated TV series The Critic featured a minute-long "musical lampoon" of the Beauty and the Beast ballroom sequence and song entitled "Beauty and King Dork", written and composed by The Simpsons writer Jeff Martin. In the context of the episode, the unappealing protagonist Jay Sherman falls in love with a beautiful actress named Valerie, and this song is performed as they dance in his apartment where they are serenaded by a sentient vacuum cleaner and toilet. AnimatedViews deemed it "a spot-on rendition" due to its use of singing furniture and "lavish" CGI-animated backgrounds. Hollywood.com listed it in its article The Best Parodies of Disney Songs from Cartoons, writing " It’s a quick one, but the inclusion of singing dust busters, a Mork and Mindy reference, and Jay Sherman’s attempts to cover up the embarrassing lyrics make for one of the best gags on the list." It was TelevisionWithoutPity's "favorite musical number" from the series. Slant Magazine saw it as a "gut-busting parody". CantStopTheMovies said the "nice scene" was "a bit crass" due to the singing toilet, yet had mostly "pretty great" lyrics.
In Disney's fantasy film Enchanted (2007), the Jon McLaughlin ballad "So Close" serves as a "deliberate" reference to both the song and scene. Because director Kevin Lima had always wanted to recreate the cinematography exhibited in Beauty and the Beast's ballroom sequence in live-action, an entire dance sequence was filmed to accommodate his vision. In addition to being composed by Alan Menken, one-half of "Beauty and the Beast"'s songwriters, "So Close" was arranged by Robbie Buchanan, who arranged the Dion-Bryson single.
In a duet with Jimmy Fallon, American singer Ariana Grande impersonated Dion while performing "Beauty and the Beast" live on the comedian's late-night talk show in 2015. M Magazine deemed it "amazing", while 2DayFM said "the singing is so good it gave me goosebumps". SugarScape deemed it "pretty hilarious and surprisingly pretty much spot on". Billboard said the duo "put their own spin" on the song, and that she "nailed her Celine impression". NineMSN called it a "pitch-perfect rendition", while Access Hollywood said she belted out the song like a diva.
The ballroom sequence was parodied in an episode of Family Guy.
Formats and track listings
- 3", 7", 12", cassette, CD single (World)
- "Beauty and the Beast" – 3:57
- "The Beast Lets Belle Go" (Instrumental) – 2:19
- CD maxi single (Canada)
- "Beauty and the Beast" – 3:57
- "The Beast Lets Belle Go" (Instrumental) – 2:19
- "Des mots qui sonnent" – 3:56
- "Délivre-moi" (Live) – 4:19
- Promotional CD single (US)
- "Beauty and the Beast" (Radio Edit) – 3:30
Charts and certifications
Certifications and sales
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