Tale as Old as Time – with a Feminist Twist

Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast created a seminal moment, becoming the first Disney film to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Screenplay.

Even now, 25 years after the animated film’s release in 1991, it still attracts many nostalgic fans, and the full length trailer of the live action remake garnered a stunning 127.6 million views in just 24 hours, outdoing the record set by Fifty Shades Darker.

The excitement is also in no small part due to who’s playing Belle: Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame.

Chosen to play the feisty and independent Belle partly because of her own gender equality activism (UN ambassador for women), Emma’s version of Belle also takes on new facets, such as a career (inventor like her father) and an interest in bringing the joy of reading to young girls. Compared to other Disney princesses like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty who had decidedly more traditional roles – aka doing housework and being catatonically passive – you can see why this reboot has some folks excited.

The tale’s feminist roots can be traced all the way back to the 1991 Disney classic. Production of the animated film took place at the same time as the women’s liberation movement in the US, and its writer, Linda Woolverton, is a feminist and the first woman to write a Disney animated film.

Her final version of Belle was also a process of struggle and compromise. Linda’s scenes were often rewritten to reflect more familiar gender tropes – for example one scene she wrote of Belle planning her future travels somehow morphed into her decorating a cake in the storyboard. Her current reading habit was found as a compromise between the two.

Beauty and the Beast will feature veterans like Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, and Ewan McGregor, alongside Dan Stevens (the Beast) and the villain Gaston (Luke Evans).

The film will premiere in Singapore on March 16, 2017.

And here is its much-celebrated trailer.