Beauty and the Beast (1991 – Animated) Beat Sheet
Animation Screenplay by: Linda Wolverton
Story by: Brenda Chapman & Christopher Sanders & Burny Mattinson & Kevin Harkey & Brian Pimental & Bruce Woodside & Joe Ranft & Tom Ellery & Kelly Asbury & Robert Lence
Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Genre: Buddy Love (Forbidden Love)
Opening Image: A beautiful forest reveals a castle buried deep within as the scene moves toward the stained-glass windows.
Set-Up: The windows tell the tale of a spoiled prince who was greeted by a beggar woman. When the prince dismissed her because of her looks, she revealed herself to be an enchantress and put a spell on him, turning him into a Beast (voice: Robby Benson), to teach him that beauty is found within. He concealed himself, using only a magical mirror to view the outside world. In his castle, a single rose blooms until his 21st year—if he can learn to love and find someone to love him, the spell will be reversed. If not, he will be a Beast forever, a clear case of stasis=death.
In a small French town, Belle (voice: Paige O’Hara) is also stuck in a stasis=death moment. As she goes about her daily life in her thesis world, she sings about wanting more than “this provincial life.” While it is clear that everyone in the town knows her and adores her, they also think she is strange because she is always reading and imagining. We are also introduced to town hunk Gaston (voice: Richard White). Even though every woman in town swoons over him, he desires only Belle and intends to wed her.
Theme Stated: While the theme is stated early on with the enchantress’s spell (beauty is found within), this is also reflected through Belle’s song: she desires to find something deeper in her life, and it is by looking deeper at the Beast that she will find what she truly needs.
Catalyst: At 11 minutes, Belle’s father Maurice (voice: Rex Everhart) leaves for the fair to show off his invention, a machine that chops wood automatically. His journey will force Belle to make her own journey soon.
Debate: When Maurice gets lost and his horse runs away, he is pursued by wolves. He finds refuge in the Beast’s castle, but he soon finds himself as the Beast’s prisoner. Back in the town, Gaston tries to woo Belle—is she destined to remain in the town even though she wants more? When Maurice’s horse arrives without him, Belle rushes out to find him. She arrives at the castle and finds her father, but when the Beast confronts her, she pleads, “I’ll do anything” to save him, including taking his place.
Break into Two: At 26 minutes, the Beast takes Belle to her room and invites her to dinner (though it is more of a demand). She has entered her antithesis world.
B Story: Belle’s relationship with the Beast will form the B Story. In this Buddy Love story, both characters will pass through the Transformation Machine and will change. The Beast is an incomplete hero, and Belle is his counterpart; the curse placed upon him is the complication that the two must overcome.
Fun and Games: Back in the town, after Belle’s dismissal of Gaston, his friends build him up by singing his praises, reinforcing his ideas that the two should be together. Back at the castle, Belle refuses to come for dinner, angering the Beast. Later at night, in this upside-down version of her life, the household items sing to Belle as they serve her dinner, welcoming her to “be our guest.” Now, feeling confident, Belle explores the rest of the castle.
Midpoint: At 46 minutes, Belle sneaks into the forbidden west wing. It is there that she sees the enchanted rose. A and B Stories cross as she finds the torn tapestry of the prince, momentarily getting a glimpse of his true self. When the Beast finds her there, he flies into a rage, banishing her. This is his “coming out party,” and the rose is a reminder of the time clocks. The stakes are raised in this false defeat for the Beast, as he loses all he thought he wanted.
Bad Guys Close In: Outside, wolves pursue Belle, threatening to overtake her, but the Beast arrives and defends her, sustaining wounds. As Belle treats him, she becomes bolder, not afraid anymore. Meanwhile, Gaston plots with the asylum doctor; they will take Maurice away as a lunatic in order to blackmail Belle into marrying Gaston. Unfortunately for them, Maurice has left to find Belle. Meanwhile, the Beast begins to struggle with his own internal bad guys. He is used to being feared and isolated, but he begins to show a conscience and caring. The household items realize this, singing about how “there’s something there that wasn’t there before.”
As a kind gesture, he shows Belle the castle’s library, certainly a welcome contrast to the village library’s bookshelves that Belle had long since exhausted. Though their inner bad guys are present, as they are “both a little scared, neither one prepared,” the two share a ballroom dance. Still, the bad guys of fate loom near, as Belle hasn’t shown that she actually loves the Beast. She wants to care, but her inner bad guys show themselves as she worries about her father. The Beast shows her the mirror, allowing Belle to find him, cold and lost while searching for her. The Beast frees her from being his prisoner.
All Is Lost: At just over an hour, all is lost for the Beast. Just as the Midpoint showed a false defeat, the Beast faces a false victory; he has finally learned to love, but Belle is gone without showing love for him in return. The spell will not be broken; he will remain a Beast forever. It’s the whiff of death for his humanity.
Belle brings her father back to the town, greeted by Gaston and the townspeople who want to take him away as he raves about the Beast. Belle proves his innocence by showing everyone the Beast in the mirror. Now, there is a literal whiff of death for the Beast as Gaston incites rage amongst the townspeople.
Dark Night of the Soul: At the castle, the Beast is aware of the approaching mob, but he just wants to let them come; he feels no hope with his counterpart gone. Belle wants to go save the Beast, realizing that she cares. The theme resonates loudly as she realizes that there is more to her life when she is with the Beast, that beauty is found within.
Break Into Three: Gaston and townspeople approach the castle to kill the beast. Belle, with the help of stowaway cup Chip, escapes the cellar and enters her synthesis world.
Finale: Gaston and the mob storm the castle as Belle races close behind. Gaston attacks the Beast, who waits for death, but in a high tower surprise, he sees Belle below. Renewed with hope, the Beast subdues Gaston. The Beast is about to drop Gaston to his death when he begs, “I’ll do anything,” an echo of Belle’s words to him. The Beast digs, deep down and is determined not to be a beast at heart. He frees Gaston, who then stabs him before plummeting to his death below. Belle, digging deep down herself, says that she loves the Beast. The last rose petal falls, but not before the magic is restored. The Beast is turned back into a prince, and all the household items regain their human forms.
Final Image: As the prince and Belle dance in the beautiful castle, the scene pulls back to show another image of a stained-glass window: this one of Belle and the prince, finally whole in their love for each other.
- Allen Hahn
Your breakdown of the story line for the animated film is, itself, enchanting. Thank you for penning this. As an aspiring script writer, this sort of reading is like water to a dying rose.
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Thank you for this insight Cory… best wishes… DianaB