‘Beauty and the Beast’ at 30: Stars Reflect on Disney Animated Film’s Legacy

The voices of Belle, the Beast, Gaston and more speak to The Hollywood Reporter about their memories and what it means to be involved with the acclaimed 1991 movie.

Disney’s 1991 animated take on Beauty and the Beast, celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, spawned a Broadway musical and a live-action remake and earned nearly $425 million at the global box office as well as a special place in the hearts of fans and the film’s voice cast.

Paige O’Hara, who voices Belle, recalled recording the Broadway soundtrack with fellow castmember Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts).

“We all had tears in our eyes,” O’Hara tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And that was, I think, one of the most amazing moments of my career, being able to be there with Angela.”

The award-winning soundtrack is one of the many reasons why the beloved movie stands the test of time. The fact that it was the first animated film to land a best-picture Oscar nomination doesn’t hurt either. But what really makes Beauty and the Beast stand out, according to its cast, is that parts of the story continue to be relevant today, and it paved the way for stronger, more independent princesses who were allowed to be more than just women looking for Prince Charming.

“Paige, herself, as Belle, gave [women] permission to be intellectual, to read, to put reading above other things, and [showed them] that that was OK,” says Richard White, who voices Gaston.

O’Hara echoes that sentiment, saying, “If it weren’t for Belle and Ariel, there wouldn’t have been a Mulan. Princesses just keep getting stronger and better, and they don’t have to have a man to find happiness. The Beast happened, but she wasn’t looking for him, that’s for sure.”

For Bradley Pierce, who voices Chip, there are lessons young viewers can take away from the animated feature.

“Even though Gaston seemed perfect, and the Beast seemed completely horrible on the outside, look at who they were on the inside,” he tells THR. “They were the opposite of that. Gaston was a deeply damaged person, and so is the Beast in his own life, but the Beast was capable of love outside of himself, and Gaston was not.”

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Beauty and the Beast, O’Hara, White, Pierce, Robby Benson (the Beast) and JoAnne Worley (the Wardrobe) open up about what the acclaimed film means to them and why it’s endured.

O’Hara: [I think about] just what an amazing ride it has been and how it changed my life. I’m a theater person, not a film person, but the fact that it’s still so known now and so popular, it just blows my mind when I think about it, when I do Comic-Con or whenever I meet people at conventions or I do a concert. We have four generations of fans now. In the beginning, it was usually just kids and their moms, now it’s kids, their kids, their grandkids, grandparents. It’s just overwhelming. I’m very humbled by it, actually.

Benson: I’ve been involved in so many wonderful projects, that Beauty and the Beast is very much like one of those projects, you just think of [the people you worked with as] your family. Jeffrey Katzenberg is a genius. [Producer] Don Hahn is a genius. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, our directors, are true geniuses. [Animator] Glen Keane, if you look at his artwork, it’s mind boggling. To be around these artists who were drawing and animating was thrilling to me. Working with [composer] Alan Menken, it’s just absurd how amazing these people were. Linda Woolverton, our writer, I don’t know if she gets the credit she deserves. [Lyricist] Howard Ashman should always get the credit he deserves. These people were just remarkable to work with. You can work a lifetime, and I would say there are a handful of projects that you hold so dear to your heart, and Beauty and the Beast is in that handful.

White: Probably [I think about] my fellow participants, Robby and Paige, Don Hahn and the people that we worked with together, as much as anything else. There have been enough publicity things and so on and so forth that we’ve, over the years, spent some time together and gotten to know each other and it’s been delightful.

Pierce: The first thing that comes to mind is just how beautifully done the film was, how well that team came together and put together such a masterpiece of animation. It was kind of the transition between classic Disney and modern Disney, and it’s amazing to have been a part of that.

Worley: It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

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The voices of Belle, the Beast, Gaston and more speak to The Hollywood Reporter about their memories and what it means to be involved with the acclaimed 1991 movie. Disney’s 1991 animated take on Beauty and the Beast, celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, spawned a Broadway musical and a live-action remake and earned nearly…

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