BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D
Song as Old as Rhyme
"Beauty and the Beast" features six great songs by the award-winning team of
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.
The songwriters became involved at the most fundamental stage and had a major
influence on the final structure of
the story. Their work on this film reflects a sophistication and unity with the
material that has seldom been achieved
in the medium before.
When the decision was made to turn "Beauty and the Beast" into a musical in late
1989, the filmmakers turned to
Howard Ashman to help them accomplish this. The producer, directors and
screenwriter met with him frequently in
the months that followed and sought his expert advice on how to restructure the
"Howard taught me that the moments for songs are when the characters just have
to burst into song; there's just
nothing else they can do, because their emotions are so extreme," says
Woolverton. "He had a real genius for
knowing when and where to place songs and he knew that a song can leap you much
further into the plot than any
dialogue possibly could."
"Howard and Alan are brilliant at taking a piece of story that works well in the
script and turning it into a musical
moment that works so much better," elaborates Hahn. "Usually it's a turning
point, a heightened dramatic moment
or a comedic scene. They are able to musicalize the story without letting it
screech to a halt."
According to Menken, "One of the first things Howard and I did when we began
working on this project was to sit
down and toss around some musical ideas. He usually had a basic idea of the
style of song he wanted to write and
sometimes even a title or some completed lyrics. Then he would ask what
the music might sound like if we were going to write a certain kind of song
and I would sit at the piano and let fly. Howard had the ability to find what
he liked and then write to it. We had a kind of shorthand between us, and we
each shared a background of loving musicals and growing up with many of the
The film's opening musical number is called simply "Belle," and it introduces
the viewer to the heroine and her burning desire for adventure and romance.
For the melody Menken combined classical, baroque and French influences to
capture the mood and energy of the morning in this small provincial village.
According to David Friedman, who arranged the vocals and conducted the
songs, "'Belle' is like the â€˜Pastoral Symphony' with the entire town waking
up. It has classicality about it and is very symphonic in structure. We used a
62-piece orchestra with a lot of strings. Most of the orchestra members were
from the New York Philharmonic, and never has such an orchestra played on
Broadway. It was a thrilling and amazing experience."
Lyrically, "Belle" fits in with Ashman's theory that practically every musical
ever written has a moment where "the leading lady sits down on something -
in 'Brigadoon' it's a tree stump; in 'Little Shop of Horrors' it's a trash can -
and sings about what she wants most in life. We borrowed this classic rule
of Broadway musical construction for 'Part of Your World' in 'The Little
The song "Gaston" is a brawling barroom waltz, which provides insights into
the personality of the song's title character. Sung by Le Fou and other Gaston
admirers, including of course Gaston himself, the tune serves as an important
moment in the film as it reveals the scheming, darker side of this previously
"Be Our Guest," a bright, cheery song in the French music hall tradition
delivered in grand style by Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and a chorus of
dancing plates, silverware and other objects, is one of the musical highlights
the film. Producer Don Hahn describes it as "Busby Berkeley, Esther Williams
and Maurice Chevalier crashing the kitchen."
"This song was written basically to fill a situation in a story, first and
says Menken. "Our heads were filled with all the wonderful images that could
be provided by the animators, and as usual they exceeded our expectations."
Director Gary Trousdale points out that "Be Our Guest" was originally intended
to be sung to Maurice. "The song
had already been recorded and the sequence partially animated when we decided
that it would be more meaningful
if it was directed towards Belle," says Trousdale. "After all, she is one of the
two main characters and the story
revolves around her coming to the castle. We had to bring Jerry Orbach and all
the other vocal talents back into the
studio to change all references to gender that appeared in the original
"Beauty and the Beast"
Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Just a little change
Small, to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared
Beauty and the Beast
Ever just the same
Ever a surprise
Ever as before
Ever just as sure
As the sun will rise
Tale as old as time
Tune as old as song
Bittersweet and strange
Finding you can change
Learning you were wrong
Certain as the sun
Rising in the east
Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast.
- Lyrics by Howard Ashman
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