This edited post was originally published in full on The 4th Wall, a blog about dramaturgy run by the BYU Department of Theatre and Media Arts. We’ve partnered with the cast and crew of an upcoming BYU musical production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to examine the history behind this classic fairy tale and it’s depictions ranging from the Broadway stage to the television in your living room. In this blog we’ll show the overlap between our data from television history and BYU dramaturg Kasey Kopp’s research for the upcoming stage production.
As we observed earlier, the story of Beauty and her Beast has been around for centuries. This week, we will chart the progression of the story from a simple French fairy tale published in the 18th century, to a full fledged movie musical blockbuster and Broadway musical. The following is a timeline that tracks significant adaptations of this tale as old as time and events that have lead up to the creation of this historic piece of film and musical theater.
1756: Beaumont publishes her version of the tale in France.
1946: Jean Cocetau’s film, La belle et la bete, is released. It is the most successful and well known film incarnation prior to the release of the animated Disney film in 1991. It introduced a handsome suitor for Belle, who she rejects as rude and conceited. It also included human arms that supported candelabras in the opulent castle!
1987: Beauty and the Beast, a television series adapted from the tale, is broadcast from 1987 to 1989. The story centered around the relationship between Catherine, an attorney living in New York City, and Vincent, a “beast” with a lion-like face, who dwells in the tunnels under the city. After two seasons, the series was cancelled when ratings fell after the actress playing Catherine left the show.
1989-1991: Production of Beauty and the Beast is completed during a “compressed timeline” over a period of two years rather than the traditional four-year “Disney Feature Animation production schedule.” This reduced time frame is due to loss of production time spent developing an earlier, non musical version of the film.
November 1991: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is released to widespread critical acclaim. It is the first animated film to earn more than $100 million at the box office; it eventually grosses over $425 million worldwide.
April 18, 1994: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens on Broadway at the Palace Theatre with Terrence Mann and Susan Egan in the lead roles. Although the show receives mixed reviews, it is a box office success, setting records almost immediately. It is nominated for nine Tony Awards and wins for Best Costume Design.
November 1995: The first of three national tours is launched. At the time of the tour, it was the largest touring production in the U.S., requiring 27 semi tractor trailer trucks to transport the show between cities. Over the course of these three tours, about 5.5 million people saw the Disney musical in over 90 cities in North America. The success of the North American tour leads Disney to announce international productions.
1999: The Broadway production transfers to the smaller Lunt-Fontanne theatre. Despite minor revisions, the production remains ultimately the same. When Toni Braxton took on the role of Belle in 1998, a new song was added: “A Change in Me.” After Braxton left the role, the song remained in the script.
2002: The 1991 film is restored and re-released in IMAX theaters. The Library of Congress deems Beauty and the Beast a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” film and selects it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
July 29, 2007: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast closes on Broadway after 13 years and playing 5,461 performances. As of this writing, it is the ninth longest running musical on Broadway. As of 2007, it had grossed over $1.4 billion worldwide.
Spring 2015: Disney announces a live-action adaptation is in the works starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles. The film will be based on the Broadway musical and classic animated film and is set for release in 2017.
Fall 2015: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will make it’s debut at BYU on November 19th, receiving a non-traditional staging and featuring a diverse, musically-talented ensemble that will bring this tale to life as you’ve never seen it before.
Thanks to Kasey for the excellent timeline. In-between the high-profile productions Kasey mentioned, we’ve collected data on the many Beauty and the Beast stories that have shown up in television shows like the Looney Tunes in the 1930s and 1940s, Shirley Temple’s Storybook in the 1950s, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in the 1960s, and several recent adaptations. Some of the newer incarnations of the story are reality competition shows (Beauty and the Geek), loose adaptations of the 1980s series (Beauty & the Beast airing on The CW and another pilot in the works with ABC), and as a main character in ABC’s Once Upon A Time.
We are working towards a complete list of adaptations of the Beauty and the Beast story, thematic repurposing of the story in individual episodes, or even appearances by the characters in different shows. For our database to collect each of these unique categories we assigned a special number to anything related to Beauty and the Beast in our database (that number, which we call the ATU number, in this case is 425C). To see our current list (and to contribute any occurrences we’ve missed) head to the “Searchable Teleography” page on our sister website and search for 425C.