The Untold Story of the Song: Beauty and the Beast

After finishing with their animated feature, The Little Mermaid, Walt Disney’s animation department turned their attention to their Beauty and the Beastnext project.

Menken and Ashman
Menken and Ashman

In 1987, they decided to adapt the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast into their next animated feature film.

The Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, ordered the script be re-written in the style of a Broadway musical, similar to The Little Mermaid.

Lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, Disney veterans having just completed the score for The Little Mermaid, were hired to write the songs.

The title song would be used to express the relationship between the two main characters.  The song was written as the film’s theme song.

Actress Angela Lansbury {best known for the long running Jessica Fletcher on Murder,  She Wrote}, who provided the voice of Mrs. Potts in the film, stated to the press that the song was originally written “in the style of a rock song.”

Angela Lansbury
Angela Lansbury

Landsbury was unfamiliar with this style and was told by Ashman and Menken to  “to sing the song the way [she] envisioned it”.  She recorded the song in one take.

Menken considered Beauty and the Beast” a “turning point” in his career, explaining that it was the first time one of his compositions was re-arranged for such a purpose. ”  The movie was such a hit it later came out with a Christmas special.

Canadian singer Celine Dion, then an unknown to American audiences, also recorded the song with Peabo Bryson.

Both the Landsbury and Dion-Bryson versions were released on the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack.

Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson
Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson

Celine Dion also released the song on her second English language studio album, which was self titled.

The song was well received and won several awards and accolades, including the Golden Globe, Academy Award for Best Original Song and Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

The single, hit number nine on the US Billboard 100.

Celine Dion
Celine Dion

The song also had international success, which skyrocketed Dion’s musical career and established her as an international star.

Numerous other performers and musicians have performed and recorded the song over the years.

The song also appears in the stage musical of Beauty and the Beast, which premiered in 1993.

 

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