Thrilling romantic stories have always made a great theme for cartoons, as their dramatic chain of events and happy endings appeal to children of all ages. Beauty and the Beast is one of those emotional fairytales, transposed into a painstakingly constructed Disney animation. The story is a perfect symbol a forbidden love that crosses all imaginable boundaries, based only on an intellectual and spiritual bond.
It all starts when a spell is cast by a witch on a prince and his servants, turning him into a beast and them into household objects, until the prince could win the love of a beautiful woman. That woman is Belle, who leaves in a nearby village and ends up captive in the Beast’s castle, which is when Gaston, an arrogant young man brings a mob to the castle to free her. Belle falls in love with the Beast and in the final confrontation, both Gaston and the Beast die, only for the Beast to be revived by Belle’s pledge of love and turned back into a prince.
A French peasant, Belle is a highly literate young woman, who enjoys losing herself in fiction and has an unrestrained imagination. She is perceived as a rebel, surrounded by a community which frowns upon the idea of women reading and having a mind of their own, a thought shared by the young man who courts her, Gaston. She is blessed with a rare physical beauty but fails to recognize it, as she puts no emphasis on the outer shell of a person. She has a very strong personality and doesn’t hold back when it comes to speaking her mind and defending herself or others.
The Beast’s personality, or the way it transpires to others, suffers a complete transformation due to his romantic interest for Belle. Before she wakes that passion in him, he is bitter, frustrated and discouraged, which is why he imprisons her in the first place, when she trades her freedom for the one of his father. As their relationship evolves and he realizes he has a chance to win her heart despite his condition, he becomes more refined, which shows in his manners as well as his attire. He charms Belle with his gallantry and self-sacrifice, when he saves her from a pack of wolves and is wounded in the process, which is when they initially start to bond.
Gaston, for a change, has an utterly opposite attitude towards Belle, and although he is fond of her and asks for her hand in marriage three times, it’s only her external beauty he admires, as he as no respect for her intellectual and spiritual values. He is a mediocre, patronizing, misogynistic exponent of his milieu, who thinks he can impress by his social status. He is considered successful and handsome, and revered by the local community, which generates more arrogance. His usual pass-times involve alcohol, fighting and hunting, or a combination of the three. Disney portrays him as having virtually no moral qualities.
In addition to being an enthralling love story, Beauty and the Beast is a perfect example of the difference between appearances and essence.