WARNING: This will contain spoilers for both the animated and live action films.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the classic Disney princess stories; a young Belle chooses to take her father’s place as prisoner of the Beast – who is a cursed prince. This story is so classic that Disney decided to convert their original animated film to a live-action version in 2017, which starred Emma Watson. Obviously, there will be differences between the live-action and animated films, partially due to the fact that there are limitations to what CGI can do well. However, were these differences big enough to change the plot? Did these changes make the remake better or worse? Well, stay tuned while we dive into some key differences in the films.
Let’s start easy: the costumes. Belle’s blue dress is actually very similar in both films, though the live-action film version does have more detail. However, Belle’s yellow dress certainly has many more differences. After looking at French gown fashions from the 1800s (the film took place between 1790-1880), I feel that the animated dress is actually more historically accurate overall, specifically being most similar to French dresses in 1860.
So, why did Disney decide to make this one specific detail less historically accurate?
More Historical Accuracy Questions
Let’s dive into some more of the historical inaccuracies in the film. While overall the film feels more French, I am left with a few questions: the prince and many of his guests in the first scene are seen wearing very dramatic makeup (more info can be found here).
However, this sort of makeup went out of fashion in the 1780s. In the animated film’s introduction song, it says that the rose “bloom until his 21st year”. If we assume this is the same for the live-action film, we can gather that the life-action film took place no later than 1811. But, since Belle’s animated dress is most accurate to the 1860s, does this mean that the films take place during different times? I don’t believe this to be the case, I simply think that the film isn’t very historically accurate. However, I do think that the addition of the cliché French wigs, makeup, and clothing really aided in establishing that this takes place in France. Furthermore, there are many more French words thrown into the dialogue, which aids with the French feeling as well.
More About the Opening Scene
Let’s talk a bit more about the intro scene in both films: in the animated version, Beast’s tale of becoming Beast is told through stained glass windows and a voice-over.
I do believe that this was an incredibly beautiful way to tell the story, but this method was also changed in the live-action version. In the live-action version, the beginning story is told through normal acting. However, this scene also features the dramatic makeup I mentioned earlier. Why do I point this out? Well, I believe that in the animated film they chose to make the intro scene a stained-glass piece to make Beast’s human form a surprise. I believe that this same reason is the reason why Beast’s princely form had makeup on. We can see evidence of this in both films when Beast is transformed into his human self; he is changed by the magic but we don’t see his entire body changing, only his hands, feet, and eyes. When he’s left on his feet, he has his back turned to the camera and turns around after he processes that he’s human again and that’s when his face is revealed.
Let’s talk about the curse. In the animated film, Beast and his castle are cursed by the sorceress, who disappears immediately after cursing the prince. There aren’t any intermediary consequences, all that happens is that Beast and the staff are waiting for their 21 years to be up. What this doesn’t explain is why the townspeople don’t remember that there’s a massive castle and a prince. What do they think happened? This is all changed in the live-action version. The sorceress is a character named Agathe who is somewhat involved through the entire plot.
With each petal that falls from the rose the castle crumbles more and the staff become more inanimate. Beast is turned into his human self by Agathe after the petals fall, while in the animated version he is simply magically healed. Part of Agathe’s curse says that the Beast, staff, and castle will be forgotten by the townspeople, which does solve the small plot hole in the animated version. However, an even larger plot hole is created due to this: when the townspeople suddenly remember the castle dwellers, Cogsworth’s wife and Mrs. Pott’s husband rush to greet their spouses.
However, if 25 years have passed, why do they all look similar in age? Does this mean that the townspeople don’t age? If so, why haven’t Belle and her father noticed?
One change made in the live-action film that I adore is the rose that Belle’s father is incarcerated for: this is the reason Belle’s father is taken in the original book. Belle requests “a rose. Like the one in the painting,” referencing a paining of her late mother. I also quite like the addition of roses throughout the plot, since it is very reminiscent of the story.
Now for my favorite change in the live-action film: Beast’s character. First off, it is explained that Beast is the way he is because his father abused him. As we move through the film, we can see that Beast is much less prone to his fits of anger and starts showing emotion. In the animated movie, Beast isn’t much of a reader and just lets Belle read to him. However, we can see in the live-action film that Beast is just as much of a bookworm as Belle.
There is a scene where Belle is quoting Shakespeare and Beast finishes the quote. Belle mentions that her favorite play is “Romeo and Juliet” and Beast scoffs since he doesn’t like romance, which shows how he’s very cynical and doesn’t necessarily believe in romance. However, a few scenes later, Belle catches him reading “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table”, which she points out is practically a romance due to Guinivere and Lancelot’s arc. Beast reluctantly agrees, which shows how he’s transitioned into a bit of a romantic. And the best part of Beast’s development? Well, his new song!
This song, titled “Evermore”, tells how Beast will always love Belle even as she leaves him. He mourns the loss of the life he could have had with her and reflects on how he changed from a spoiled prince to the man he is. The best thing? It’s obvious that Beast doesn’t regret letting Belle in, even though it hurts so much, which truly shows the peak of his character arc.
Six More Changes (Brief Edition)
There are many more changes made that I won’t go in depth to but will still leave with you.
Firstly, Gaston appears as much more of a villain in the live-action film.
Secondly, in the live-action film LaFou isn’t as much of a brainless follower and is much more skeptical of Gaston and even develops a conscience.
Thirdly, Belle’s house is no longer in the country but in the village square.
Fourthly, the triplet girls have a new design.
Fifthly, Belle’s father is an inventor in the animated film while he is an artist in the live-action film.
Sixthly, Belle’s fathers is fascinated by the staff in the original film but is frightened of them in the live-action film.
There are many, many differences between the two films, and I encourage you to find them! I personally noticed at least two Harry Potter references – do you see those too? Which film do you think is better? Which film do you think is more accurate?
That’s all for now. Next time we will be looking at Mulan, so stay tuned!