Attack of the Three-Dimensional Disney Character.

So there’s the vanilla damsels in distress of early Disney films, like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. And there’s the first independent princess, Belle, “who enjoyed reading and learning, and who lived her life according to her standards”.

But there’s a new kind of three dimensional Disney character, in the form of the villain.

Now, The Beast from Beauty & the Beast isn’t exactly new (he’s pushing 20 years old), but seeing the process the Disney animators went through to create him in Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairytales (there’s also some featurettes on the DVD, which has been re-released from the vault) reveals just how complex a character he is.

Incorporating features from a buffalo, bear, gorilla, lion, boar and wolf, but with gentle cows ears, ensures The Beast doesn’t come across as completely horrible.

Both in the exhibition and in the curator’s talk I attended, it was mentioned that despite his ugly exterior, the Beast had to have attributes (both physicalthe aforementioned cows ears, and blue eyesand personality-wise) that a beautiful woman of Belle’s integrity, intelligence and courage could fall in love with. (It could be argued that there are some classic abusive relationship markers in Belle and the Beast’s union, but more to come on that next week.)

Elsewhere, in the upcoming Tangled, which is also featured in Dreams Come True, Mother Gothel, Rapunzel’s keeper, is the movie’s villain. However, she and Rapunzel share a more complicated relationship than that of Snow White and the Evil Queen, Cinderella and her evil stepmother, or Aurora and Maleficent (whose appearance was based on Katharine Hepburn, FYI), in that the animators wanted Mother Gothel to be “believable for Rapunzel to love”. God knows I’ve had my fair share of love-hate with my mother, so I think this movie will be quite relatable in that respect.

Can’t wait to see it in January!

Related: You Can Ring My Belle.

Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Female Characters Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

Elsewhere: [Overthinking It] Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad for Women.

[Overthinking It] Why Weak Male Characters Are Bad for Women.

You Can Ring My Belle.

From Disney’s Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairytales:

“Arthur Rackham, the famed British illustrator of children’s fairytale books, said that there is no doubt that ‘we should be behaving ourselves very differently if Beauty had never been united to her Beast.’

“In Belle, Disney had its first independent female character, one who enjoyed reading and learning, and who lived her life according to her standards. Longing for substance in her life, she shunned the vacuous Gaston, over whom all the other ladies in town swooned. Belle’s genuine selflessness also distinguished her from the other women in town, including, most particularly, the ladies who pursued Gaston.

“While anyone else would have been overcome with fear, Belle’s devotion to her father gave her the courage to stay alone with the fearsome Beast in his remote castle.

“Her strong will earned the respect and devotion of the Beast.”

While some would say the Beast is the Disney equivalent to an emotionally abusive boyfriend (watch this space), this description of Belle shows that you have to love yourself before someone else will.

Plus, it proves that Belle is the most bitchin’ of the Disney princesses.

Related: Drug of Choice: The Disney Heroine.

Women in Fiction: My Favourite Fictional Females.

Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

The Representation of Trees in the World of Walt Disney.