If you don’t know, Belle is the female protagonist in Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s 30th Animated Feature Film. As may have been noticed, she is by far my favourite Disney Princess and deserves a whole post to herself.
She was the first Princess who saved her prince, breaking from the stereotype of the helpless princess figure, who gets herself into trouble and (in some cases literally) lies around waiting for help. In my books, this pretty much makes her the best princess ever, because she is the one to fight and kill her bad guy, is somehow involved with the dispersal of an invading force (they were there, and then they were not) and manages to completely transform a monster in a surprisingly short amount of time. She has been acclaimed for not wanting to settle with marriage and for having a strong, independent attitude.
And, she reads.
So yeah, pretty much the best princess there is.
She was voiced by Paige O’Hara, a stage actress who auditioned the role after seeing the film mentioned in a New York Times article, and noticed they were looking for Broadway actresses. She received a call on her birthday, letting her know she had got the part. O’Hara was even involved with the production process, requesting that she and Robby Benson (the voice of the Beast) be allowed to record their scenes together, instead of separately. This was a costly and time consuming decision, but ultimately only worked in the film’s favour.
Very famously, Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. This was a place it held by itself until 2009 when Up was nominated.
In 1994, Belle’s role was reprised on Broadway, becoming a hit musical. It was Disney’s first animated film to be adapted into a stage musical. Belle was played by Susan Egan, who would later go on to voice Megara in Disney’s Hercules. The Broadway show lasted until 1997 and (as of Aug 2011) is Broadway’s 8th longest running production. The show then moved to London in 1997. It won the Olivier award for Best New Musical in 1998 and in 1999, John Barrowman went on to play the Beast.
The show came to Australia in 1995 and featured Hugh Jackman (he played Wolverine) as Gaston.
All in all, I think you can see why I love Belle and Beauty and the Beast so much.