- “Now, it's no wonder that her name means 'beauty'
Her looks have got no parallel.
But behind that fair façade,
I'm afraid she's rather odd
very different from the rest of us...
She's nothing like the rest of us,
Yes, diff'rent from the rest of us is Belle!”
- ―Lyrics from the townsfolk in "Belle"
Belle is the female protagonist of Disney's 1991 animated feature film, Beauty and the Beast. She is the only daughter of Maurice, an inventor with whom she resides in a small, French village. Amongst the townsfolk, Belle is labeled an outcast because of her free-spirit. She is also a proud bibliophile, her favorite genres being fantasy and adventure. Belle's passion for fantastical stories, coupled with her outcast status, has left her yearning for a life of adventure outside of her small village. She unexpectedly gets her wish when she becomes prisoner to a Beast in order to save her father's life.
Belle is also the fifth official member of the Disney Princess line-up.
- Far-off places, daring sword fights, a prince in disguise, Belle longs for so much more than a "normal life" in this small, provincial town - a town where girls don't aspire to more than marrying well. Still, adventure is the last thing on her mind when she rides her horse, Philippe, into the forest to find her beloved father, who is missing. Thinking only of her father, she makes a bargain with a Beast who holds her father captive in his castle. Though the Beast now holds the key to Belle's prison, he doesn't have the key to her heart, and her yearning spirit won't be kept prisoner. But after he risks his own life to save hers, she begins to see past his appearance. She realizes that deep inside him there might be something more than she - or he - has ever dreamed.
When production first started on Beauty and the Beast, Belle's characterization was initially slightly closer to that of the original tale, being slightly timid yet also caring. In the first draft, she also had to contend with two elder sisters who, similar to in the original tale, utterly hated her because she got more attention than them, especially regarding potential suitors. In the second draft, she largely retained the traits from the first draft, although she also had a sister named Clarice (whom, unlike her sisters in the first draft, genuinely cared for Belle's well being) as well as a snobbish aunt named Marguerite (who would have been the movie's equivalent of Belle's wicked sisters from the original tale and first draft). However, after the 1989 storyboard reel was presented, then-Disney Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg ordered for it to be rewritten from scratch, both due to viewing it as too dark and dramatic, and because he envisioned a Broadway-like film with a "feminist twist" to the original tale. To accomplish this, he hired Linda Woolverton, who at the time had just started film screenwriting and her only other experience with Disney was writing some episodes of their various Saturday Morning cartoons. Woolverton based Belle on Katharine Hepburn's role of Jo March from the film adaptation of the book, "Little Women", and avoided using the Jean Cocteau film as a template for Belle and the film, even going as far as to avoid seeing the film. She also gave Belle a love of literature to show her open-mindedness. She also made sure to make Belle a feminist in order to have her stand apart from Ariel in The Little Mermaid, as she didn't want "another insipid princess", taking notes from the women's movement to create her character. Paige O'Hara requested that Belle, similar to Jerry Orbach's handling of Lumiere in the same film, possess a French accent, although unlike Orbach, Disney refused the request.
Hardly noticing things going on around her in town, she longs for romance and adventure.
Belle has gained a significant amount of intelligence over the years due to her love of books, which have provided her with an elevated vocabulary, an active imagination, and an open mind. She is very confident and outspoken in her opinions and seldom likes being told what to do. Despite all this, she doesn't have very many friends. Her smarts and free-thinking attitude make her stand out from her fellow townspeople, who regard her as a little odd behind her beauty.
Belle appears less concerned about her or others' appearances and is able to look past appearances into their personality. This is how Belle manages to break the Beast's curse and bring love and laughter to the castle.
Belle is somewhat a free woman for her time and resists being mistreated, undermined, humiliated, demeaned, or controlled by anyone, especially and specifically Gaston. She does not appear to be receptive to Gaston's description of a marriage together, such as having 6-7 sons or rubbing his feet. Even when agreeing to the live under the Beast's control, she acts independently.
Belle willingly listens to, takes advice from, and admires her father Maurice since, throughout most of her life, he's the only person who has believed in her unconditionally. She also considers the opinions and directions of the Beast, because, like Maurice, he is able to treat her as an equal (the Beast eventually learned how throughout the course of the film). She also seemed to have a good relationship with the bookseller, presumably because of his encouraging her to pursue her love of literature.
She is quite resolute when it comes to stating and upholding her opinions and maintaining her ideas. Even though Belle says that she dreams of adventure, she also states that she wishes for a friend who accepts her for who she is. This is because everyone in town criticizes her for doing her own thing and can't understand her, which makes her feel like she can't fit in. However, despite this, even when people gave her a hard time, she never changed, but came to a better understanding of herself. This made the biggest difference when she broke the spell and charmed the Beast just by being herself.
The Disney comic New Adventures of Beauty and the Beast, set a few years before the events of the first film, implies that despite her love of fairy tales, Belle herself didn't believe in the supernatural, as when trying to explore a certain part of the Black Forest before encountering an owl, she mentioned in her thoughts she knew there weren't any mythical creatures in there.
Belle is quite witty and is able to use this trait to her advantage and outsmart people. When in an argument with the Beast, Belle was able to hold her ground and challenge each of the Beast's points with a cunning comeback, such as "If you hadn't frightened me I wouldn't have run away" or "You should learn to control your temper". Each of these statements left the Beast stunned and at a loss for words. Belle managed to think of these comebacks without much thought or hesitation. When Lumiere and Cogsworth were attempting to lead Belle's curiosity away from the West Wing, she challenged them by saying the West Wing wouldn't be forbidden if the Beast wasn't hiding something in it, also briefly stunning them. Belle's logic may also have helped her save Maurice by realizing that something was going on in the castle that she wanted to find out. Soon, in the West Wing, she is almost able to discover the true identity of the Beast, though she briefly forgets it in the end.
Belle has a strong sense of character and is able to use this trait in a variety of ways, often to her own advantage. On Belle's first night in the castle, following the "Be Our Guest" sequence, she develops an urge to explore the castle and asks for a guide. Observing Cogsworth's "authoritative" personality, she immediately knows that Cogsworth would be the best candidate. At first, Cogsworth is quite reluctant to the idea, but when Belle says she is sure he knows everything about the castle, he agrees. Similarly, she also has a strong sense of deductive reasoning, as she deduced from the animate objects' interactions that the castle in which she was imprisoned was enchanted without anyone telling her beforehand.
She is also implied to have deduced Gaston's true role in locking Maurice up. This, however, was contradicted when she exposed the Beast's existence to a congregated mob despite the high likelihood that they would turn and kill the Beast due to their current emotional state, as well as being shocked by Gaston and the villagers doing exactly that.
Belle's personality transforms throughout the film. At first, she frequently dreams about a life of adventure and romance, not realizing that sometimes adventures might take a turn for the worse. As Belle begins to spend more time with the Beast and their relationship blossoms into a strong friendship, she begins to fall in love with him without realizing it.
Belle is known throughout the village for her beauty, with one villager commenting that it has no parallel, but although she knows it, she isn't vain or concerned about her looks. She is only too aware that her fellow citizens think of her as "odd" and "peculiar". Belle pays very little attention or concern to her appearance, unlike the very much rude and conceited Gaston.
Belle has long brown hair, most often tied back in a low ponytail with a blue ribbon, and possesses captivating hazel eyes, full pink lips, rosy cheeks, a heart-shaped face, and a sculpted figure. One of her more distinct features are the strands of hair that are constantly slipping loose from her ponytail and falling in front of her face - she is often seen brushing them back into place when nervous or trying to be polite.
Throughout the film, Belle wears various outfits depending on the occasion:
Her primary outfit is a medium-length blue sleeveless dress with a white long-sleeved button-up shirt underneath, a white apron on her waist, a white petticoat, and brown ballet flats on her feet. Her hair is tied in a low ponytail adorned with a medium blue ribbon. When she goes to the Beast's castle, she wears a dark blue cloak. Belle's hair is loose twice in the film, the first time when the ribbon on her ponytail is torn off by one of the wolves, and second when she removes the ribbon before finding the Beast during his fight with Gaston.
The day that Belle was gifted the castle's library, she was wearing a green dress (similar to the color scheme of Ariel from The Little Mermaid) with a matching hair ribbon, a white petticoat underneath the dress and black ballet flats, and outside when she was tending to Phillipe and Sultan she added her traditional dark blue cloak.
When she was reading to the Beast, Belle wore a pink/rose dress (similar to Aurora's from Sleeping Beauty) with a matching hair ribbon, a white petticoat, and red ballet flats and when she was outside teaching the Beast to feed the birds she added a red cloak with white fur trim.
Her most elaborate and iconic dress is a golden ball gown with a simply designed bodice, wrapped off-the-shoulder sleeves, long yellow opera gloves matching her outfit, a gold wide-hemmed floor-length skirt made of 8 triangular panels and a multiple-layered white petticoat with a scalloped edging on the hemline, and yellow high-heeled shoes. This is the dress she wears while sharing her first dance with the Beast in the "Beauty and the Beast" sequence, and their second dance after the curse is broken. With this outfit, she wears some of her hair in a neat bun, but the majority of it trails down her neck in a beautiful, flowing motion resembling a ponytail.
In Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, Belle wears a long red winter coat with a white fur collar, belt, and folded sleeves while wearing her primary outfit. At the end of the film, set after the curse was broken, Belle wears a deep red rose dress which resembles the color of a red rose with a matching deep red hair ribbon, a light yellow lining connected to her bodice and the end of her dress skirt, a white petticoat, and deep red high-heeled shoes.
- Peak-Human Agility: Belle displays a few notable athletic abilities despite having spent her life in the village. She is able to ride her horse Philippe at quite stunning speeds with ease and skill, such as in the Black Forest when she managed to outrun the wolves for a time and even causing one wolf to veer into a tree. During the opening song, while reading her new book, she also managed to effortlessly sweep aside a water downpour from gutters that was about to hit her, deflecting it onto a nearby signpost, all without even looking up from her book, implying that she was keenly aware of her surroundings.
- Peak-Human Strength: Despite her slim figure, Belle seems to have considerable strength. She may have lifted the Beast, as evidenced by the Beast being placed onto Philippe's back, although this was never shown on-screen. Later on, she was able to pull the Beast up onto a balcony. In addition, she also was revealed to have rescued her father from the elements and presumably place him onto Philippe while he was still unconscious. Both the Beast and Maurice are each presumed to weigh considerably more than Belle, making her rescue of them quite a feat.
- Peak-Human Stamina: Belle also appears to have tireless reserves of stamina and considerable resilience to cold likely due to her young age, able to survive fording icy water for a short period of time (in Enchanted Christmas she proved to be a capable swimmer when she rescued Chip), and she is able to walk back to the castle having given her cloak and Philippe over to the injured Beast after the wolves were driven off. In the Marvel Comics serial, she even managed to withstand the cold long enough to tell Chip about how she and her father went to the fair and won first prize before passing out just as Beast ultimately managed to trace her location via holly bushels hitting him when she let go of them.
Differences from the source material
- "Beauty" or "Little Beauty" was just a nickname, not her actual name. Her actual name was never mentioned.
- Beauty had (besides three brothers) two older sisters in the original story. According to screenwriter Linda Woolverton, she had removed Belle's sisters to keep focus on Belle's strained relationship with Gaston, as well as to avoid confusion with Drizella and Anastasia Tremaine from Cinderella.
- She at one point lived in a mansion, her father being a wealthy merchant before he lost all his fortune at sea. Then the family had to move and live in a small farmhouse. Early development in the film had originally intended to use this backstory, but it ended up cut.
- In the original tale, Belle didn't mind that she lived a boring life as a peasant after moving to the country (while her sisters constantly complained about it), while in the Disney film, it's the exact opposite, as she expressed boredom towards the provincial life in the opening song.
- The Beast received Beauty graciously and informed her that she was mistress of the castle and that he was her servant. They would hold lengthy conversations and he would give her lavish clothing and every night ask her to marry him, but she would always decline.
- In the original story, her father sold her off to the Beast, due to her sisters refusing the Beast. In the movie, Belle volunteered to be taken prisoner for Maurice's freedom, with Maurice being unwilling to let Belle make that sacrifice.
- While looking upon a mirror soon after her arrival, Beauty sees a vision of her father returning back home.
- While in the castle, Beauty would dream of a handsome prince asking her to marry him. Belle became convinced that the Beast was holding the prince captive somewhere in the castle. She looked but never found him.
- Beauty asks to see her family again and promises to return in 8 days time.
- Beauty returns to the castle because she finds out that the Beast is dying from a broken heart in her much longer absence which was achieved by the Beast's instructions to place her ring on a table when she wanted to return.
- At the end of the story, she and the Beast get married and the sisters are punished by a fairy in Beauty's dreams to become statues for the malice in their hearts, but are to return back to their present shape after they recognize their faults. Something similar occurs in the 1988 draft, although her sisters are instead turned into animals, alongside Belle's suitors.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures: Belle
- Belle's name means "beautiful" in French (not "beauty" which is said "beauté" in French). Her complete surname in the tale is "La belle enfant" ("The Beautiful Child").
- Belle's movements maintain an air of elegance. This was at the request of the story writers and producers of Beauty and the Beast, where they studied the movements of ballerinas during the course of Belle's development. Like ballerinas, Belle walks diligently and swiftly on her toes no matter what types of shoes she is wearing or where she is located. She can subconsciously navigate her way through a crowded street while reading, without colliding with any other people or objects (although having several near-misses), at one point even deflecting water that was about to pour on top of her while she was reading without once looking up.
- Susan Egan, who voiced Megara in Hercules, originated the role of Belle in Broadway's Beauty and the Beast.
- Belle's eyes were originally going to be gray, but in the final cut, they were hazel. Belle is currently the only official Disney Princess to have hazel eyes.
- In the New Fantasyland, Belle's cottage shows a picture of her reading with her mother―a beautiful woman with wavy, light brown hair, blue eyes, and wearing a pink dress. One wall in the cottage also has height marks up until her 18th birthday, suggesting she may be 18 years old during the films. Based on this painting, her mother, when she was still alive, probably looked exactly like Belle but with lighter hair, and blue eyes.
- The New Fantasyland attraction also implied with the height wall that Belle may have been born in the village, which contradicted a theory stemmed from a brief lyric in the opening song, that implied that Belle and her father had moved to the village some time prior to the events of the original film.
- The book Belle viewed as her favorite was also shown in the attraction to be "le Songe d'une femme" (lit. "the dream of a woman"), as a possible nod to Sleeping Beauty. It also revealed that, at least by the events of the movie, she had at least two copies of Sleeping Beauty: The one her mom read to her when she was a child (thus explaining why it was her favorite, as well as why she loved reading), and the other being the book she got from the bookstore during the opening song.
- In addition, James Baxter, Belle's supervising animator, mentioned that Belle was "a few years older than Ariel," implying that Belle was at least 18 years old as Ariel is stated to be 16 in her own movie.
- Before Paige O'Hara got the role of Belle, the producers first considered Jodi Benson, who was best known as the voice of Ariel, to voice Belle. Benson, however, did voice Belle in Disney's House of Mouse.
- Belle is the only Disney Princess with a singing voice to not sing her film's main theme song during the film itself (Mrs. Potts, a supporting character, sings the song instead). Although, Paige O'Hara individually recorded her own version of Beauty and the Beast and performed it several times live, outside the film itself.
- In Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World, Belle tells the Beast the Cinderella fairy tale during the first segment.
- In the beginning of the original 1989 storyline, found on the Diamond Edition DVD, Belle's birthday is celebrated, and the cake reads "Happy 17th Birthday Belle", providing evidence that she is 17 in the movie, or at least that she was originally planned to be 17.
- Belle was nominated for AFI's 100 Year...100 Hero and Villain list, one of the three animated heroes and one of three Disney animated heroes, along with Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and Buzz Lightyear. Unfortunately, none of them made the cut.
- A costume of Belle, as well as the rest of the Disney Princesses (excluding Mulan and Pocahontas), has been released on the video game Little Big Planet 2 as downloadable content from the PlayStation Store.
- In the comic adaptation of the film, Belle wears her pinny more often and her ponytail like Gaston's stays intact even though it's raining.
- One poster for the film for some reason showed Belle in a pink-and-purple dress resembling Rapunzel's.
- In the Gargoyles episode "Eye of the Beholder", Elisa Maza dresses up as Belle for Halloween and shares a relationship with Goliath, similar to Belle's relationship with the Beast. However, Goliath is a beast turned into a human, unlike the Beast, whose circumstance is the polar opposite.
- In the climax of The Haunted Mansion, Elizabeth Henshaw's ghost appears in a golden dress with opera gloves similar to that of Belle's iconic ensemble. Her love interest Master Gracey is dressed in a blue jacket with gold trim similar to that of the Beast's outfit.
- Paige O'Hara, the first voice actor for Belle, does fan artwork of Belle on her official website and sells the artwork.
- The books Belle has read are Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, and Romeo and Juliet (the last of which is only in "Human Again" on the Special Edition). She was also shown to have read the tale of Cinderella in Belle's Magical World. In the musical (and in storyboard), she has also read King Arthur.
- In The Enchanted Christmas, the book that Belle wrote and wrapped together was the original tale for Beauty and the Beast.
- Contrary to popular belief, it's not made clear whether Belle was actually born a peasant, as she implies that she wasn't born in her home village in the opening song, but rather moved there. In addition, her owning books at her cottage implied that she is, or at least was, considerably wealthy (as back in the time period of the film, books were considerably expensive).
- In the musical, specifically the song "No Matter What" one of the lyrics had Maurice stating "You are your mother's daughter; therefore you are class ... creme de la creme", implying that Belle was part of the social upper class. This was also supported by Belle having a portrait of her and her mom in the Enchanted Tales of Belle attraction.
- Similarly, it was never stated where Belle had moved from other than it presumably being another location in France. The book "Belle's Discovery" as well as the live-action remake would later state that she had originally lived in Paris.
- Belle originally had a younger sister named Clarice as well as an aunt named Marguerite, the latter of whom acted as a secondary antagonist.
- Belle being carried by the Prince near the end of the film is a reference to the poster of It's a Wonderful Life where George Bailey holds his wife.
- Belle's blue peasant outfit closely resembles the one worn by an extra during the third act of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), though this is almost certainly coincidence.
- In the activity book Wedding Wishes, Belle ended up tossing the bouquet to the Bimbettes.
- Belle is the only main character in her village who wears blue. The animators wanted to accentuate how out of place she seems, so they paid extra close attention to her wardrobe, making sure that Belle would be the only member of the town to wear blue, whilst the other townsfolk sported more rustic and earthy colors such as red, green, orange, gray, and brown.
- The green and rose dresses Belle wears can be briefly seen stored on the left side of the Wardrobe and displayed to Belle during her first night of captivity when she was asked to join the Beast for dinner.
- In the fifth issue of Marvel Comics, when Belle rejects Gaston in the flashback and the triplets enviously note Gaston's obsession with Belle, they state that she doesn't even go to dances at the village. This was a subtle reference to the original tale, where Beauty preferred to stay at home reading good books, which often got her mocked by her sisters, who by contrast liked to go to balls, public walks, and plays.
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