Beauty and the Beast (Disney song)

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"Beauty and the Beast"
Single by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson
from the album Beauty and the Beast: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Celine Dion
Released November 1991 (1991-11)
Format CD single, cassette single, vinyl single
Recorded October 1991
Right Track Recording
(New York City, NY)
The Plant Recording Studios
(Sausalito, California)
Genre
Length 4:04
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Walter Afanasieff
Celine Dion singles chronology
"L'amour existe encore"
(1991)
"Beauty and the Beast"
(1991)
"Je danse dans ma tête"
(1992)
Music video
"Beauty and the Beast" on YouTube

"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 and rock-inspired ballad was originally recorded by English actress Angela Lansbury as the voice of the character Mrs. Potts, and essentially conveys the relationship between main characters Belle and the Beast. The song was later recorded as a pop duet by Canadian singer Celine Dion and American singer Peabo Bryson, and released as the only single from the film's soundtrack album on November 16, 1991.

Despite her experience in film, theatre and music, Lansbury was initially hesitant to record "Beauty and the Beast" because she felt that it did not suit her singing voice well, but ultimately recorded it in one take. To further 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, fearing that the relatively unknown Canadian singer would not draw a large enough audience in the United States, the studio subsequently hired Bryson to serve as her duet partner. Dion was also hesitant to sing the song at first because she had just recently been fired from recording the theme of An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. First heard during the film's end credits, the single was produced by Walter Afanasieff and additionally included on Dion's second English-language studio album. A music video, directed by Dominic Orlando, was also released.

Both the original and commercial versions of the song were successful. While Lansbury's performance was lauded by film critics and garnered both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media, the Dion-Bryson version, which was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals while garnering a mixed reception, became an international success on the pop and adult contemporary charts, as well as one of Dion’s earliest hits in the United States when it peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to allowing Disney songs to return to the pop charts after a thirty-year absence, the success of "Beauty and the Beast" also established Dion as a bankable recording artist during the 1990s.

Beauty and the Beast was one of the first animated films to use computer-generated imagery, which is featured prominently throughout the film's "ballroom sequence," during which Belle and the Beast dance to the film's title song. The scene has been extolled for both its visual appearance and innovative use of computer animation, which ultimately paved the way for the successful computer-animated films of Pixar Animation Studios, specifically Toy Story (1995). Considered to be one of Disney's best songs, "Beauty and the Beast" has since been covered by several artists, among them music group Jump 5, actress Paige O'Hara – who famously voices Belle in the film – singer Harry Belafonte, and singer Jordin Sparks. 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; the song has since been ranked highly on several countdown lists.

Writing and recording[edit]

"Beauty and the Beast" was written by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken in 1990.[1] The songwriters had envisioned the song as "the height of simplicity,"[2] and specifically drew influence from Broadway music.[3] Due to Ashman's failing health, pre-production of Beauty and the Beast was relocated to a hotel in Fishkill, New York near Ashman's residence to accommodate the lyricist; the majority of the film's music was written out of the hotel's conference room.[4] Out of all the songs he has written throughout his career, Menken believes that he spent the most time composing "Beauty and the Beast".[2] The song was first recorded by English actress Angela Lansbury, who provides the voice of the character Mrs. Potts, a teapot. Although a seasoned film and theatre actress and singer who had previously done her own singing for Disney in the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971),[5] Lansbury, who was accustomed to performing more uptempo songs,[6] was hesitant to record "Beauty and the Beast" because she was unfamiliar with the style in which it was written, which she considered rock music.[7] Although she thought the song was "lovely,"[8] Lansbury also felt that her aging singing voice was not particularly strong enough to record "Beauty and the Beast",[9] specifically expressing concern about sustaining its longer notes.[10] Questioning the songwriters' choice in her,[11] Lansbury suggested that they recruit someone else, to which they responded that she simply "sing the song the way [she] envisioned it."[7]

At first English actress Angela Lansbury was hesitant to record "Beauty and the Beast" because it had been written in a style with which she was unfamiliar; she ultimately recorded the song in one take.

On October 6, 1990,[1] "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 musicians record separately.[12] 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.[13] 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.[12] 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.[5][14] Ultimately, Lansbury's version, which was recorded in one take, wound up being the one used included in the final film.[15] 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."[16] Lansbury's performance moved everyone in the studio to tears;[17] the actress explained that recording the song ultimately helped her gain perspective on the significance of Mrs. Potts' role in the film overall.[18]

Ashman and Menken had intentionally written the song so that it could potentially "have a life outside" of Beauty and the Beast.[2] "Beauty and the Beast" marked the first time that a Disney song would be arranged into a pop version of itself and played over its end credits.[19] Menken referred to this feat as a "turning point" in his musical career because it was the first time that one of his songs was professionally re-arranged for such a purpose. Producer Walter Afanasieff was hired to produce the pop version of the song while Robbie Buchanan arranged the composition.[20] The former watched the unfinished version first for inspiration;[21] Menken later explained that Afanasieff "molded it into something very different than I ever intended," appreciating the fact that the producer "made it his own."[22] To the filmmakers' surprise, Beauty and the Beast received three separate Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song. Concerned that this would ultimately divide votes and result in a draw, Disney decided to promote the film's title song as opposed to its fellow nominees "Belle" and "Be Our Guest" by releasing "Beauty and the Beast" as a single.[4] Initially, Belle voice actress Paige O Hara expressed interest in performing the pop version of the song soon after the project was announced, however Disney executives saw her as a "legit Broadway person" and felt she did not fit what they were looking for.[23] Because the studio was unable afford a "big singer" at the time, Disney recruited Canadian singer Celine Dion.[9] Although Dion had amassed success throughout Canada, she was relatively unknown to the American audience at the time, thus the studio feared that she would fail to make much of an impact in the United States on her own and subsequently hired American singer Peabo Bryson, who was a more prominent artist at the time, to record the song alongside her as a duet.[9]

Disney contacted Dion's manager René Angélil about having her record "Beauty and the Beast" while the singer was on tour England.[24] Having enjoyed Dion's previous recordings, Menken personally wrote her a letter of approval.[25] At first Dion was hesitant to commit due to prior unsuccessful experiences within the film industry; she had just recently been fired from the opportunity to sing "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 was producer Steven Spielberg's first choice, and only signed on to record "Dreams to Dream" after first hearing Dion sing it. Devastated after being abruptly removed from the project, it took some steady coaxing from Angélil to finally convince his client to record "Beauty and the Beast", by which she was eventually moved enough to perform after listening to Lansbury's performance.[24] Born and raised in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, Dion had just barely begun to learn English at the time.[26] Meanwhile, Bryson became involved with the song via Walt Disney Records Senior Vice President Jay Landers, who was friends with Walt Disney Pictures President of Music Chris Montan.[27] The Dion-Bryson version of "Beauty and the Beast" was released on November 16, 1991 as the only single from the film's soundtrack, on which it appears alongside Lansbury's original.[28]

Context and "ballroom sequence"[edit]

The scene in Beauty and the Beast during which the song is heard, according to Mrs. Potts stage actress Beth Fowler, is "[Belle and the Beast are] dancing for the first time and I'm there with Chip in the cart and he doesn't understand what love is all about and I'm trying to tell him";[29] at the conclusion she sends Chip off to bed while the couple pursue their relationship on the balcony. It is believed to be the film's most romantic because it is "the moment in the film when Belle and the Beast establish their love for one another."[30] 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, referring to Belle and the Beast's love story as "a tale as old as time."[31] Bill Gibron of PopMatters wrote that Mrs. Potts' "fragile voice ... sets the tone" as "our earnest heroine, Belle, begins to fall for her capture, the domineering and horrific Beast."[32] Writing that the "Beast dresses his best to impress" Belle, Femalefirst believes that the song "represents the moment Beast decides he wants to tell Belle he is in love with her."[33] According to Chris Lucas of Moviepilot, Mrs. Potts narrates "their hesitation and surprise at falling in love unexpectedly" while "Belle and Beast dance around the ballroom staring rapturously into each others eyes."[34] The Chicago Tribune's Dave Kehr identified it as the scene in which they "first fall in love as they dance,"[35] while Entertainment Weekly‍ '​s Lisa Schwarzbaum referred to the scene as the "romantic ballroom centerpiece that brings Beauty and her Beast together."[36] Writing for The Globe and Mail, Jennie Punter reviewed it as the scene in which "romance finally blossoms."[37] 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."[38] 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."[39] Explaining the song's purpose, director Kirk Wise described the scene as "the culmination of their relationship,"[40] while producer Don Han pegged it as "the bonding moment of the film when the two main characters finally get together."[41] 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,[42] Beauty and the Beast was one of the first feature-length animated films to employ computer-generated imagery,[43][44][45] which is explored prominently throughout the film's "elaborate" ballroom sequence.[46] 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.[47] 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."[48] CGI supervisor Jim Hillin was then personally hired by Hahn to design and oversee the graphics of the scene.[49] However, because the computer-animated medium was so primitive and unfamiliar at the time,[44] 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.[30] The filmmakers jokingly referred to this alternative plan as the "Ice Capades" version.[50]

Disney animator James Baxter synced his 2D animation of the dancing pair to the perspective changes in the computer-generated environment in this Beauty and the Beast ballroom sequence, which was principally designed by Scott F. Johnston.[51]

First rendered as a simple cube,[30] the ballroom was "designed as a production set on a computer, becoming the first computer-generated color background that was both animated and fully dimensional."[30] Unlike Disney's previous CGI experiments, Beauty and the Beast's ballroom was much more detailed[52] and required animators to work "exclusively within a computer environment to digitally compose, animate and color the scene."[53] According to Hillin, the use of computers allowed for theatrical lighting and "sweeping" perspectives, which ultimately introduced live-action techniques to animation.[41] To make the scene a "special moment" for the characters,[54] a "virtual camera" allowed the animators to create the illusion of tracking, panning and zooming[53] that "establish[es] the mood and helps us to experience what the characters themselves are feeling."[41] The camera first follows Belle and the Beast as they enter the ballroom before panning around the ballroom and finally refocusing on the characters.[55] 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."[56] Several computer animators, layout artists, art directors and background artists combined their efforts to achieve the scene's end results; the ballroom's dimensions read, "72-foot ceilings, a length of 184 feet from door to door, and a width of 126 feet. There are 28 wall window sections around the room and a dome that is 86 feet by 61 feet," while "The mural in the dome was hand painted and then texture-mapped into the background with the help of a computer." Each element was carefully constructed individually.[57] 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."[58] Architectural designer Mehruss Jon Ahi and filmmaker Armen Karaoghlanian created a floorplan of the ballroom, which was published in the Daily Mail.[59]

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."[60] Early on, Belle and the Beast were crudely represented by computer-animated "stand-ins" to choreograph their dance, described by Wise as "these box and egg sort of things," while the ballroom was little more than a "chicken wire" frame at the time.[47] Andrew Osmond, author of 100 Animated Feature Films, described this crude version of the characters as "wire frames moving in staccato."[61] Because Belle and the Beast are so "interconnected" during the scene, both characters were animated solely by Belle's supervising animator James Baxter;[41] the Beast's supervising animator Glen Keane eventually traced over Baxter's work.[62] Baxter first prepared himself by studying ballet dancers and taking lessons.[41] At one point, both he and Keane plotted out their respective characters' routine themselves under the instruction of a dance coach.[62] Throughout the scene and the entire film, Belle moves with a ballerina's turnout.[63] 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 method of painting characters by hand.[64] According to Chong, CAPS "replaced many of the traditional roles. Rather than physical trace and paint, pencil animation on paper was scanned so that the lines could be 'inked' digitally. Color was then applied to the file rather than painted on a cel."[56] 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.[30] 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."[65] The entire sequence took several months to complete, much of which was spent syncing the traditionally animated couple with their computer-animated environment,[66] which otherwise would have been virtually impossible had the filmmakers chosen a more traditional route.[56][67] The Los Angeles Times film critic Charles Solomon observed that Belle is "liveliest and prettiest" when the character "waltzes with Beast in his marble ballroom."[68] Armen Karaoghlanian of Interiors summarized the scene and cinematography in detail:[30]

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

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."[69] 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."[70] 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."[71] In Moviepilot's Chris Lucas' opinion, "The ballroom scene remains the one that truly symbolizes their adoration for each other."[34]

Music and lyrics[edit]

The bridge and verse of the film version, featuring Angela Lansbury.

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, which the website describes as a "Lyrically, moderately slow ballad" with Broadway influences, was written in the key of G-flat major at a tempo of 84 beats per minute,[72] spanning two minutes and forty-six seconds in length.[28] An "eloquent simpl[e]"[73] rock-influenced[7] pop song with a "calm,"[74] "sweet" and "lilting" melody,[75] Stephen Whitty of NJ.com pegged "Beauty and the Beast" as a "Broadway ballad."[76] Roger Ebert described the song's melody as "haunting,"[77] while Entertainment Weekly‍ '​s Lisa Schwarzbaum referred to it as a "lullaby"[36] – "soulful and moving in a way that defies all cynicism."[60] The Disney Song Encyclopedia author Thomas S. Hischak described Menken's melody as "flowing."[78] BuzzFeed's Aylin Zafar received the song as "Tender and warm."[79] Writing for the Chicago Tribune, Gene Siskel described Lansbury's voice, which spans two octaves from B♭3 to E♭5 on the recording,[72] as "richly textured,"[80] performed in a "calm, motherly" tone.[81] On the song's instrumentation, which was provided by a live orchestra,[13] Spin writer Andrew Unterberger wrote that "Beauty and the Beast" features "big chord changes and with no shortage off (sic) woodwinds."[82] While describing the song as "a lullaby crooned by a loving grandmother," GamesRadar similarly 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."[83] Describing the ballad as "soaring," TV Guide compared "Beauty and the Beast" to "Shall We Dance" from the musical The King and I.[84]

29 lines long,[85] "Beauty and the Beast" is a love song about "about going from friends to something more."[86][87] The film's theme song,[88] its lyrics essentially "capture the essence of the film"[89] by describing the relationship between the film's two main characters Belle and the Beast, and specifically addresses ways in which the two have managed to change each other for the better. 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."[85] Beginning with Lansbury singing the lyrics "Tale as old as time, true as it can be,"[72] JoBlo.com wrote that the song "offers a sure sign of romance between the Beauty and her Beast."[90] R.L. Shaffer of IGN identified "Beauty and the Beast" as a "tear-jerking poetic ballad."[91] 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."[92] According to Chris Lucas of Moviepilot, Ashman's lyrics describe the couple's "hesitation and surprise at falling in love unexpectedly,"[34] 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."[78] Featuring the lyrics "Barely even friends, then somebody bends, unexpectedly,"[93] 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,"[80] 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."[85] 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."[94] 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."[95] 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."[96]

The intro to the single version, featuring Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson.

Transposed to the higher key of F major at a "moderately slow" tempo of 72 beats per minute,[97] the Dion-Bryson version of "Beauty and the Beast" is, according to Filmtracks.com, a "conservatively-rendered pop song."[34][98] According to Molly Lambert of Grantland, the track is "a sweeping downtempo ... ballad" that evokes the "early ’90s gossamer high-tech style."[99] The song also incorporates adult contemporary influences.[97][100] According to the Chicago Tribune's Brad Webber, Dion and Bryson's vocals are "resonant and multiflavored."[101] The song's "jazzy" instrumentation relies on heavy drums that contrast with the rest of the soundtrack.[102] In this arrangement, the lyrics "Tale as old as time" are preceded by Dion singing "Ooh."[97] Longer than the original, the pop version lasts four minutes and three seconds.[103]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The original film version of "Beauty and the Beast" performed by Lansbury has garnered widespread acclaim from 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."[104] Beliefnet called the song "stirring,"[105] while Hal Hinson of The Washington Post considers it to be among the film's best.[106] Roger Moore of the Chicago Tribune referred to "Beauty and the Beast" as a song that "can move you to tears,"[107] while James Berardinelli of ReelViews called it "memorable."[108] 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,"[109] while the Deseret News‍ '​ Chris Hicks called the song "beautiful."[110] Simon Brew of Den of Geek specifically praised the lyrics "bittersweet and strange, finding you can change," while describing the song as "superb."[111] 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."[112] 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."[80] 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."[113] The New York Post‍ '​s Lou Lumenick wrote that "Beauty and the Beast" was "unforgettably delivered by Angela Lansbury."[114] Aylin Zafar 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."[79] Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich preferred "Be Our Guest" and "Belle" to "Beauty and the Beast".[26]

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."[98] Arion Berger of Entertainment Weekly praised Dion's vocals, describing "Beauty and the Beast" as "a perfect showcase for what she's best at."[115] 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."[116] Jeff Benjamin of Fuse described the song as "a fantastic duet."[117] On the contrary, 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."[101] Critics tended to prefer Lansbury's rendition; while lauding the film version, Spin‍ '​s Andrew Unterberger panned the single as "unbearably cloying."[82] Similarly, Kristian Lin of Fort Worth Weekly panned the pop version while praising 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,"[118] 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.[119] The Star's Michael Cheang dismissed the single as "over-wrought," writing that Lansbury's "rendition blows" it "out of the castle."[81]

The "ballroom sequence" during which Belle and the Beast dance to "Beauty and the Beast" has been widely acclaimed for its use of CGI,[120][121] with Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly dubbing it the film's "centerpiece."[36] Writing for The Seattle Times, Candice Russel cited the scene as an "irresistible highlight,"[122] while The Globe and Mail‍ '​s Jennie Punter described it as "glorious."[37] David Parkinson of Radio Times wrote that the film's use of computer animation is "seen to best advantage during the ballroom ... sequences."[123] The Chicago Tribune's Dave Kehr praised both layout artist Lisa Keene and computer animator Jim Hillin's work on the sequence, writing, "The single most impressive setting in the film ... yields dazzlingly deep and precise perspectives."[35] When the film was re-released in 3D in January 2012, Annlee Ellingson of Paste appreciated the scene's treatment, calling it "positively vertiginous."[124] 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."[125] Also receptive, Joanna Berry of The National wrote that "the ballroom sequence now seems to sparkle even more."[126] 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".[127] This hybrid of 2D and 3D would later come to be known as "tradigital animation" by DreamWorks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, however as opposed to later films like Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), in this case "the 3-D ballroom sequence in Beauty and the Beast sticks out from the rest of the movie."[128] Nevertheless, he has deemed the ballroom sequence as Beauty and the Beast's "wowie moment"; the part of the film where "you see what's on the screen and go, `Wow-IEE'".[129] 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."[130] 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."[131] 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."[108]

Awards and recognition[edit]

"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.[132] The following March, "Beauty and the Beast" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 64th Academy Awards.[133] The award was posthumous in Ashman's case, who died of AIDS on March 14, 1991,[134][135] eight months before the film's release.[136] Menken acknowledged Ashman in his acceptance speech, thanking Lansbury, Dion, Bryson, and Afanasieff for their musical contributions.[133] Representing Ashman was his long-time domestic partner, William "Bill" Lauch, who accepted the award.[133] The following year, "Beauty and the Beast" garnered two wins out of eight[137] nominations at the 35th Grammy Awards, one for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television,[138] the other for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals.[138][139][140] Additionally, the song was nominated for Record of the Year[137][141] and Song of the Year,[137][141] but lost both to Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven".[142] 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.[143] The James Galway instrumental movie version performed by The Galway Pops Orchestra and featured on the album Galway at the Movies[144] was nominated in 1994 for the Best Pop Instrumental Performance Grammy.[145] In Canada, "Beauty and the Beast" won a Juno Award for Single of the Year, beating Dion's own "If You Asked Me To".[146] 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.[147][148]

The American Film Institute ranked "Beauty and the Beast" 62nd on the organization's list of the 100 greatest songs in film history.[149] "Beauty and the Beast" is the third of only four songs from animated Disney films to have been included on the list.[150] When BuzzFeed organized "The Definitive Ranking Of The 102 Best Animated Disney Songs" list, "Beauty and the Beast" was placed at number four,[79] while the same website ranked the ballad Disney's fifth greatest love song.[151] Similarly, "Beauty and the Beast" is the fourth greatest Disney song according to M.[93] "Beauty and the Beast" finished 14th on GamesRadar's "30 best Disney songs in history" ranking.[83] On the website's list of the "Top 25 Disney Songs", IGN ranked "Beauty and the Beast" 22nd.[11] While Broadway.com ranked the song the second greatest Academy Award-winning Disney song,[17] Spin placed "Beauty and the Beast" at number 30 on the magazine's ranking of "Every Oscar Winner for Best Original Song".[82] 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)."[152] The same website included the pop version on its "Top 20 Disney Songs by Pop Stars" list.[117] Awarding the Dion-Bryson version an 'A' grade, Grantland ranked the song second in its article "Counting Down the Top 10 in … KIDS MUSIC!".[99]

Total Film ranked the scene ninth on its list of the "50 Greatest Disney Movie Moments".[153] In Den of Geek's article "Top 12 most memorable dance scenes in films", the ballroom sequence was ranked fifth.[154] 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."[155] 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".[156] 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."[157]

Chart performance[edit]

"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.[158] 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.[159]

Music video[edit]

Directed by Dominic Orlando,[160] 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.

Live performances[edit]

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.[161] Celine and Peabo also duetted at the Grammys,[162] World Music Awards,[163] AMA's,[164][165] the Wogan show,[166] The Tonight Show,[167] and Top of the Pops[168] later that year. The duo reunited in 1996 to perform the song for the television special Oprah in Disneyland.[169] 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.[170] Similarly, Dion and Bryson duetted at the JT Super Producers 94 tribute concert to David Foster,[171] and as part of Dion's 1994-5 The Colour of My Love Tour,[172] though they have also often sung with different duet partners. Dion has sung with Tommy Körberg,[173] Brian McKnight,[174] Terry Bradford,[175] Maurice Davis,[176] Barnev Valsaint,[177] and Rene Froger[178] among others; Peabo has sung with Coko[179] and Regine Velasquez.[180]

Paige O'Hara performed the song during original promotion of the film[181] and the 2009 NFFC,[182] and as part of a Beauty and the Beast medley the 2011 D23 Expo[183] She also released a cover on her album Dream With Me.[184] Jodie Benson performed it as part of a medley at Tow[185] It is Elsa voice actor Idina Menzel's favourite Disney song because when she was a wedding singer, it was a common request and it sparked her desire to be in a Disney film.[186]

Covers and usage in media[edit]

In 1998, American actress Paige O'Hara, who voices Belle in the film, recorded a version of "Beauty and the Beast" for her album Dream with Me.[187] This marked the first time O'Hara had ever recorded the song,[188] although she has performed it live several times.[189] Billboard reviewed O'Hara's performance positively, writing that the actress provides each song with "the right youthful and gentle touch."[190]

Former Steps members Claire Richards and Ian "H" Watkins (together known as H & Claire) released a cover of the song in a double-A single with All Out of Love to coincide with the 2002 re-release of the film. UKMix said "unfortunately it doesn't compare to the classic"[191] while The Guardian called it "boring".[192]

To support the film's Diamond Edition DVD/Blu-ray re-release, in 2010 American singer Jordin Sparks recorded an R&B version of "Beauty and the Beast",[193] which was released on iTunes in September.[194] A music video directed by Philip Andelman was included on the re-release as a bonus feature,[195] part of the disc's "Music and More" segment.[196] The video depicts Sparks performing "Beauty and the Beast" in a castle.[193] In 2011, Sparks performed her rendition of the song live at the 30th anniversary of the televised Independence Day concert "A Capitol Fourth".[197] The cover is believed to have initiated the singer's gradual transition from music to film.[198]

The song appears in the Broadway musical adaptation of the film, which premiered in 1994.[199] Originally covered live by American actress Beth Fowler as Mrs. Potts,[200] "Beauty and the Beast" was included on the Original Broadway Cast Recording of the musical, again performed by Fowler.[201][202] While critical reception towards the musical, the Broadway treatment of its songs and cast ranged from negative to mixed, John Simon of New York commended Fowler for "manag[ing] to heat up and brighten [her] material."[203] Fowler's rendition is also featured on the compilation album Broadway Today (2003).[204]

The song was featured in the cast albums of various productions of the Beauty and the Beast stage musical, such as the Original London Cast Recording,[205] Italian recording,[206] and Japanese recording,[207] while also being placed into Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage. The single version has been re-recorded in various languages using local pop stars such as Jackie Chan & Sarah Chen (Chinese),[208] Patrick Fiori & Julie Zenatti (French),[209] and Gino Paoli & Amanda Sandrell (Italian),[210] while the film version was performed by Mrs Potts from around the world such as in French[211] and Hebrew.[212] The film and Dion-Bryson versions have been placed onto the various compilation albums including: The Music of Disney: A Legacy in Song,[213] Disney's Superstar Hits,[214] Ultimate Disney Princess, Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic, Now That's What I Call Disney, The Best Disney Album in the World ...Ever!, and Super Hits. It has been included in the Disney Theatrical show On The Record as part of a mash-up with Something There. It was placed into Disney Magic, Disney's Fantillusion and Light Magic.

Impact and legacy[edit]

The popularity of "Beauty and the Beast" is believed to have been partially responsible for the overall success of the film.[215] Andrew Unterberger of Spin believes that the song "set the template for the quivering love theme in ’90s Disney movies,"[82] while Disney.com ranks it among "The Most Romantic Disney Songs".[216] "Beauty and the Beast" was the first song from a Disney film to undergo a complete pop transformation for commercial purposes.[19] After the success of Disney's The Little Mermaid revived the Disney musical in 1989,[217] Gary Trust of Billboard determined that "Once Beauty and the Beast followed in 1991, with Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson taking its theme into the Billboard Hot 100's top 10, Disney was dominating charts like never before."[218] 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.[218] 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."[116] Roger Moore of The Chicago Tribune said that "it has always seemed as if the glorious and poignant title song was [Ashman's] farewell to love and life and imagination".[219]

Bill Gibron of PopMatters believes that the song "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."[32] The ballroom sequence in particular is held in high regard as "the much-touted achievement of early '90s Disney."[220] Famous for its "seamless combination of volumetric depth ... and gracefully waltzing animated characters,"[221] the song's ballroom sequence is now regarded by film critics as a classic, iconic moment in animation history.[222][223] Gaye Birch of Den of Geek described the scene as "a landmark ... for Disney" beause "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 and make it a very memorable sequence for animation."[154] According to IGN, the sequence remains Beauty and the Beast's "most recognizable scene,"[67] while Rick DeMott of Animation World Network referred to it as "groundbreaking."[224] Huw Evans of Bournemouth University argued that the scene is "quite possibly the best piece of animation done on any feature film" and "arguably the best use of mixed animation methods in any Disney feature animation."[225] Film4 believes that the scene "introduced audiences to the potential of computer animation."[226] On the sequence's pioneering use of CGI, Annie Ellingson of Paste wrote that Beauty and the Beast was "innovative at the time for compositing hand-drawn characters on a computer-generated backdrop to enable dramatic sweeping camera moves."[124] Similarly, Empire‍ '​s Helen O'Hara believes that the scene "paved the way for the new digital style of animation."[227] Mike Scott of The Times-Picayune holds it 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." Scott concluded, "Just eight (sic)[228] years later, Pixar introduced a historic film of its own, the computer-animated, feature-length Toy Story. Game changed, just like that."[125] 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 latter film's technological achievements.[229] Moving Innovation: A History of Computer Animation author Tom Sito wrote that it "made many skeptics in Hollywood begin to look at CG seriously,"[66] inspiring studio executives, who were originally "hostile to the idea of computers," to further pursue the new art form.[230] Additionally, the scene is also held in high regard as a dance sequence. The Houston Press' Adam Castaneda extolled it as "one of the finest dance sequences in the history of film,"[231] while ASIFA-Hollywood pegged it as "game-changing" in its "use of movement in contemporary animation."[232]

Virtually unknown prior to its release, the success of "Beauty and the Beast" is responsible for establishing the career of Canadian singer Celine Dion.

The album Beauty and the Beast: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack remains best remembered for spawning the Dion-Bryson single.[233] Prior to the release of "Beauty and the Beast", Dion's fame had been mostly limited to her native Canada.[4][234] 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.[235] Before recording "Beauty and the Beast", Dion had been involved with the animated film An American Tail: Fievel Goes West and was slated to record its theme song "Dreams to Dream", from which she was eventually fired in favor of singer Linda Ronstadt. Both released the same year, the success of Dion's "Beauty and the Beast" ultimately wound up eclipsing the success of Ronstadt's song.[24] 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."[26] Biography.com refers to "Beauty and the Beast" as Dion's "real breakthrough into pop music stardom."[236] According to Lifetime, the song "cemented her international success,"[237] while People wrote that the singer went "global with her 1992 duet with Peabo Bryson."[238] The commercial performance of "Beauty and the Beast" ultimately earned Dion a $10 million five-album recording contract with Sony Music International;[25] "Beauty and the Beast" was subsequently included on Dion's 1992 self-titled album.[239] American musician Prince was so moved by Dion's performance on "Beauty and the Beast" that he wrote a song for her to include on the album, entitled "With This Tear".[25] Only her second English album, Celine Dion went on to become the singer's first gold album, having sold over 12 million copies internationally.[236] According to Filmtracks.com, "Beauty and the Beast" offered "a glimpse at a forthcoming mega-movie song presence for Celine Dion,"[98] who has since gone on to record the theme songs of several blockbuster films, notably "When I Fall in Love" from Sleepless in Seattle (1993), "Because You Loved Me" from Up Close & Personal (1996) and, most famously, "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic (1997).[234] "Beauty and the Beast" has since been included on several of Dion's greatest hits albums.[100][240] The singer has since returned to Disney as a special guest to host segments on certain Beauty and the Beast re-releases.[241]

Celine Dion has noted the cultural impact of her performance by citing "cute" situations where "little kids who didn't know my name would say 'good bye Beauty and the Beast'".[242] Similarly Angela Lansbury, who had previous played many "despicable" characters throughout her Broadway career, noted that in the aftermath of her film role as Mrs Potts, children no longer hid behind their parents in fear when around her, and instead treated her like a heroine.[243] Meanwhile, producer Walter Afanasieff would go on to produce several singles for Disney soundtracks, including "A Whole New World" from Aladdin (1992) and "Go the Distance" from Hercules (1997).[244] The song "launched Peabo Bryson into mainstream status";[245] notably he returned Disney to sing the theme song for their next animated film Aladdin ("A Whole New World") with Regina Belle, and Beauty and the Beast's 1997 sequel The Enchanted Christmas ("As Long as There's Christmas") with Roberta Flack.[246] In 2004, Bryson was forced by the International Revenue Service (IRS) to auction off several of his possessions in order to help pay the singer's $1.2 million tax dept, among the items his two sole Grammy Awards for "Beauty and the Beast" and "A Whole New World".[247] While "A Whole New World"'s Grammy was purchased by a family friend and gifted back to the singer, Bryson's trophy for "Beauty and the Beast" was ultimately sold to a stranger for $15, 500.[248]

The song So Close from the 2007 Disney film Enchanted was "deliberately meant to evoke" Beauty and the Beast; director Kevin Lima planned to recreate the famous camera movement live. This led to the writers adding a dance break into the movie.[249]

Parodies[edit]

The song has been parodied and referenced both visually and musically in many forms. This Beauty and King Dork sequence is from the pilot of The Critic.

The pilot episode of the animated TV series The Critic featured a minute-long "musical lampoon"[250] of the Beauty and the Beast ballroom sequence and song entitled "Beauty and King Dork", written and composed by The Simpsons writer Jeff Martin.[251] 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 singing toilet.[252] AnimatedViews deemed it "a spot-on rendition" due to its use of singing furniture and "lavish" CGI-animated backgrounds.[253] 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."[254] It was TelevisionWithoutPity's "favorite musical number" from the series.[255] Slant Magazine saw it as a "gut-busting parody".[256] CantStopTheMovies said the "nice scene" was "a bit crass" due to the singing toilet, yet had mostly "pretty great" lyrics.[257]

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.[258] M Magazine deemed it "amazing",[259] while 2DayFM said "the singing is so good it gave me goosebumps".[260] SugarScape deemed it "pretty hilarious and surprisingly pretty much spot on".[261] Billboard said the duo "put their own spin" on the song, and that she "nailed her Celine impression".[262] NineMSN called it a "pitch-perfect rendition",[263] while Access Hollywood said she belted out the song like a diva.[264]

The ballroom sequence was parodied in an episode of Family Guy.[265]

Formats and track listings[edit]

  • 3", 7", 12", cassette, CD single (World)
  1. "Beauty and the Beast" – 3:57
  2. "The Beast Lets Belle Go" (Instrumental) – 2:19
  • CD maxi single (Canada)
  1. "Beauty and the Beast" – 3:57
  2. "The Beast Lets Belle Go" (Instrumental) – 2:19
  3. "Des mots qui sonnent" – 3:56
  4. "Délivre-moi" (Live) – 4:19
  • Promotional CD single (US)
  1. "Beauty and the Beast" (Radio Edit) – 3:30

Charts and certifications[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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