When we developed Beauty and the Beast, we knew it was one of the last great fairytales. We also knew that Walt Disney looked at the story and couldn’t crack it. After an earlier version of the film developed by Richard Purdum was scrapped, two young story artists, Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale were drafted to develop a musical version of Beauty. Kirk and Gary worked with an amazing story team, all of whom became directors in later years: Chris Sanders, Brenda Chapman, Kelly Asbury, Roger Allers, Joe Ranft, and writer Linda Wolverton.
Songwriters Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who had just won Oscars for their work on The Little Mermaid, stopped work on their next project, Aladdin, to write the song score for Beauty. But Ashman’s tragic death from AIDS in March of 1991 meant he never saw the finished film.
Critics and audiences alike embraced Beauty and the Beast. Grossing $403 million worldwide, it is ranked as the third highest grossing film of 1991. The film also inspired two sequels and a Tony-winning Broadway musical of the same name.
Produced by Don Hahn, Beauty and the Beast is the first animated film ever nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Picture. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman won Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song. It also shares the record for most nominations by an animated film with Disney/Pixar’s Wall-E.