10 Things You May Not Know About Belle

by | Mar 5, 2018 | Lists and Trivia

  1. The character of Belle was based on that of Beauty, the eldest daughter and main character from the 1740 fairy tale La Belle et la Bête written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Contrary to what you might think, “Belle” does not mean “Beauty” in French, which would be in keeping with her inspirational namesake, but instead means “beautiful.” (The French word for “beauty” is “beauté.”) In the original tale, her full name was “La belle enfant” (“The Beautiful Child”).
  2. Belle’s supervising animators were James Baxter and Mark Henn, who had both previously worked on the character of Ariel. However, her persona was created by Linda Woolverton, who wrote the film’s screenplay. Inspiration for the character came from such varied sources as Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, and Grace Kelly, though Woolverton primarily based the character on Katharine Hepburn’s performance as Jo March in the film Little Women (1933). Belle’s look was inspired by the ballerinas of impressionist Edgar Degas, as well as the facial features of Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn.
  3. Belle is often singled out as the strongest and most independent of the Disney Princesses, being among the first of a new generation of independent film heroines. She has become so iconic that she is the only animated heroine to have been nominated for the American Film Institute’s Greatest Heroes in Film ranking.
  4. She is the fifth of the Disney Princesses, and is generally regarded to be the oldest of the princesses, albeit at the “ripe old age” of 20!
  5. She is also the second Disney Princess not to be born of royal descent (after Cinderella, Tiana would later follow suit). Whether by sheer coincidence or design, all three of the princesses who marry into royalty have worn opera gloves!
  6. Walt Disney had made several attempts to adapt the story into one of the studio’s earliest animated feature films throughout the 1930s and 1950s. Unfortunately, the task of bringing the static plot and characters to life proved to be too daunting, and the sequence of Belle/Beauty being imprisoned was deemed to be too intense for a family film. In 1989, Jeffrey Katzenberg resurrected the concept, but reimagined it as a Broadway-style musical. Like Ariel, he wanted Belle to be a strong heroine with a feminist twist.
  7. Jodi Benson, who had previously voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid, was considered for the part, but it was eventually decided that she sounded too young. Director Kirk Wise set about looking for someone who, in his words, could “create a character completely with her voice.” Paige O’Hara, who was performing on Broadway when she heard about the upcoming film, insisted that her agent arrange for an audition. As it turns out, she already had a supporter in the form of lyricist Howard Ashman (who wrote the songs for the film along with composer Alan Menken), who was familiar with O’Hara’s performance in the musical Show Boat. Even so, she ended up auditioning for the role five times, competing against 500 other hopefuls. At one audition, she performed the part in a higher voice, mimicking that of Snow White, but the filmmakers asked her to use her regular voice instead. It wasn’t until after her fifth audition that she received a call from Disney, on her birthday no less, informing her that she had won the part.
  8. Belle was recently brought to life in the 2017 live-action version of the animated classic, and was portrayed by Emma Watson, best know for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series.
  9. Belle also made an appearance in the ABC drama Once Upon a Time, where she was portrayed by Emilie de Ravin (best known for her roles as Tess Harding in Roswell and Claire Littleton on the ABC drama Lost).
  10. Belle can frequently be found in the France pavilion in Epcot (often in the company of the Beast), and for a time you could see the Beast’s rose encased in glass in one of the pavilion’s shops. Though the rose was removed during an extensive renovation, it can now be found in the Magic Kingdom at Bonjour! Village Gifts in Fantasyland, as well as the nearby Be Our Guest Restaurant. But if you look closely in the France pavilion, you can still find a tribute to the beloved film in one of the books on the shelves; La Belle et la Bête.