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Belle (Disney song) facts for kids

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"Belle"
Song by Paige O'Hara and Richard White
from the album Beauty and the Beast: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Released October 29, 1991
Recorded 1991
Length 5:09
Label Walt Disney
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Alan Menken
  • Howard Ashman

"Belle" is a song written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman for Walt Disney Pictures' 30th animated feature film Beauty and the Beast (1991). Originally recorded by American actress and singer Paige O'Hara and American actor Richard White, "Belle", a mid-tempo French and classical music-inspired song, incorporates both Broadway and musical theatre elements. The film's first song and opening number, "Belle" appears during Beauty and the Beast as a large scale operetta-style production number that introduces the film's heroine Belle, considered a book-loving nonconformist by the townspeople of the village, who has grown weary of the provincial life in which she is supposed to live, and Gaston, the film's narcissistic villain who wishes to desire her hand in marriage despite Belle's repeated rejections.

"Belle" has been universally acclaimed by film and music critics. Musically, the song has been compared to various musical numbers from the musical films West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), as well as the Broadway musicals Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me. At the 64th Academy Awards in 1992, "Belle" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, but ultimately lost to the film's title song. The song was similarly featured in the Broadway musical based on the film, originally performed by American actress and singer Susan Egan.

Background

Context and composition

"[T]hrough the ... song "Belle" ... we learn that [Belle is] smart as well as beautiful, and longs to do something spectacular with her life rather than simply marry some local simpleton. The local simpleton, the brawny, square-jawed Gaston ... decides to marry her anyway and enlists the help of his pipsqueak sidekick Le Fou."
— Film critic Jeffrey M. Anderson of Combustible Celluloid summarizing the scene in which the song appears.

Hoping to write a song that would successfully "portray [Belle] in a world that is so protected and safe", Ashman and Menken drew inspiration from a story-telling style that is often reserved for traditional operettas. As Beauty and the Beast's opening number, "Belle", a "pivotal moment...in the narrative", plays a significant role in the film by introducing both the film's heroine, Belle, after whom the song is named, and Gaston, the film's villain. While Belle, a book-loving and intelligent nonconformist who has grown frustrated with her predictable village life, longs for an adventure similar to the ones she reads about in her books, Gaston is a narcissistic hunter who seeks her hand in marriage. In roughly five minutes, the song explains both Belle and Gaston's roles in Beauty and the Beast to the audience. The song also voices the opinions of the townsfolk and "sets up the overall theme and foreshadows what makes the town so oppressive to [Belle]"; while the villagers award Belle high praise for her doubtless Beauty, they see her as odd because of her love of books and ridicule her for her non-conformity. However, they appraise Gaston for his looks and masculinity.

According to Irving Tan of Sputnikmusic, "Belle" is an "idyllic, orchestra-driven" musical number, written in the style of a traditional operetta. The song begins slowly with Belle performing a down-tempo solo about a typical morning in her village before several other villagers and patrons join her when she sings "bonjour." After this, "Belle" adopts a faster pace, becoming a "rhythmically driven tune" several patrons perform at various times throughout the musical number. Eventually, the song features a counter melody performed by Belle, who lovingly recalls a story she is reading about a beautiful young woman and a handsome prince, followed by Gaston performing the faster melody joined by the Bimbettes, who fawn over the character. Finally, in a Broadway-style climax, the song concludes with virtually every villager singing together. Commonly regarded as the film's "I Want" song, "Belle" offers its protagonist an opportunity to "expresses her yearnings". Described by Filmtracks.com as a "snare-tapping song", "Belle" is, according to sheet music originally published by Walt Disney Music Publishing, a Broadway-inspired and musical theatre-influenced song, performed at a moderate "pastorally" tempo of 80 beats per minute in the key of D major. Combined, O'Hara's soprano and White's baritone vocal ranges span approximately two octaves, from the low note of A3, sung by White, to the high note G5, sung by O'Hara. Additionally, actors Alec Murphy, Mary Kay Bergman and Kath Soucie's vocals are also featured on the track. In total, "Belle" runs a length of five minutes and nine seconds.

Accolades and legacy

Alongside "Be Our Guest" and "Beauty and the Beast", "Belle" was one of the three Beauty and the Beast songs that received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song at the 64th Academy Awards in 1992. "Belle" ultimately lost to the film's title and theme song. According to producer Don Hahn, Disney was actually hoping that the award would go to "Beauty and the Beast" and promoted the song heavily, spending significantly less money and attention on "Belle". Oh No They Didn't ranked "Belle" at number twenty in its article "The Top 25 Disney Songs of All Time".

"Belle" is often considered one of Disney's most underrated songs. In 2014, the New York Post included the song among "The best (and the most underrated) Disney songs," with author Gregory E. Miller deeming it "a musical-theater classic."

"Belle" is heavily parodied in the animated musical film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) through its opening number, "Mountain Town". Filmtracks.com described the parody as "a delightful introductory piece". Amy Keating Rogers, a writer working on the animated television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, mentioned she was influenced by the song as she wrote "Pinkie the Party Planner", the first musical number that appears in the musical-intensive episode "Pinkie Pride".

Live performances and cover versions

O'Hara first performed "Belle" live at the 64th Academy Awards ceremony in 1992, at which the song was nominated for Best Original Song. In spite of the fact that the producers of the telecast wanted well-known "pop stars" to perform the song at the ceremony, Disney executives Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg were adamant that "Belle" be performed by the original artist by whom it was recorded. The producers also gave O'Hara the option to lip-synch the song. However, she opted to perform it live instead. O'Hara was also forced to wear a rendition of Belle's blue and white costume from the film, of which she was harshly critical because she felt that it was "much too frilly", and Belle is supposed to dress "much simpler." She likened the costume to something that the fairy tale character Little Bo Peep would wear. O'Hara admitted that she was very nervous before her performance. However, actress Angela Lansbury, who provided the voice of the character Mrs. Potts in the film and was to perform "Beauty and the Beast" at the ceremony, comforted her by telling her, "Paige, if I sang like you I wouldn't be nervous."

In August 2011, O'Hara performed an abridged version of "Belle" live during the Disney Legends awards ceremony, at which O'Hara was also a recipient. The performance was a Beauty and the Beast medley, during which O'Hara musically combined "Belle" with "Beauty and the Beast" and "Be Our Guest".

In the 2017 live-action adaptation, the song is performed by Emma Watson, Luke Evans, and ensemble.

(on Disney's official channel)
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