Although a beloved TV show goes on for years and
Emma Watson was cast this week as Belle in Disney’s upcoming live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, part of Disney’s series of live-action reimaginings of its animated fairy tales that includes Maleficient and Cinderella. Watson had previously been attached to an adaptation of the classic story from Guillermo del Toro, and, according to Watson, this version from Disney will feature the music and lyrics of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman from 1991’s animated classic.
As a fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast” has never really laid low in the cultural consciousness, taking many forms in pop culture including Disney’s internationally successful Broadway musical and the movie’s three direct-to-video sequels. Beauty and the Beast originates to mid-eighteenth century France first with Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s La Belle et la Bête in 1740 with the most well-known written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. The original story looks quite a bit different from the Disneyfied version we know today: in Villeneuve’s tale, the prince was left in the care of an evil enchantress by his mother, who went off to defend her kingdom from war when the king died. (The prince was cursed by the enchantress when he resisted her attempts to seduce him.) In Beaumont’s tale, Beauty’s sisters plot to have her eaten alive by the Beast.
Here are six adaptations of the tale as old as time–each with their own differing characters, plots, kinds of beasts, and levels of problematic Stockholm syndrome.
- La Belle et la Bête (1946). Directed by French poet Jean Cocteau, this surrealist fantasy takes the story of true love taming a savage, lonely heart seriously and portrays it with lavish visuals and dreamlike effects. The film inspired Stevie Nicks’ 1983 ballad “Beauty and the Beast” and Philip Glass’ opera to be performed simultaneous to the movie.
- La Belle et la Bête (2014). Set in the 1800s, the French fairy tale epic features Lea Seydoux as Belle and Vincent Cassell as the Beast in a plot closer to the original story and reminiscent of Cocteau’s 1946 version, though it received mixed reviews.
- Beastly (2011), based on the 2007 novel by Alex Flinn. Set in present-day New York City, Mary-Kate Olsen plays a witch who curses Alex Pettyfer’s modern-day prince-of-his-high-school Kyle Kingson with the words “Embrace the suck.” (Lindsay Lohan turned down the role Olsen took.) After Kyle is magically transformed into a bald, scarred, and tattooed “beast,” he becomes a recluse and is tutored by a blind, Matt Murdock-looking Neil Patrick Harris. After girl-from-school Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) witnesses a murder, Kyle shelters and eventually falls for her.
- Beauty and the Beast (1987-1989). The cult CBS series set half between modern New York and a subterranean monster world focused on the romance between a lion-looking noble beast played by Ron Perlman and a New York district attorney played by Linda Hamilton. A Song of Ice and Fire writer George R. R. Martin wrote and produced on the show.
- Beauty and the Beast (2012-present). In the romance-procedural CW series, a dashing doctor (Jay Ryan) enlists in the military and becomes the lone survivor of a supersoldier program that makes him Hulk-style transform into a human but beastly-behaving creature (with a tiny scar). Kristin Kreuk plays an NYPD detective who’s saved by the creature, and they later develop a relationship.
- Beauty and the Beast: A Dark Tale (2009). This gory Australian medieval-set B-movie follows Belle, a warrior, when she teams up with a former king, now an Orc-looking swamp creature beast suspected of murdering villagers. They hunt down the bad CG troll actually responsible.