Monday, November 22, 2021

Happy 30th Anniversary, Belle!

(Guest Post by David)

I LOVE the Disney Princesses! They are my gal pals! This is not a secret among those who know me really well. I admire and am inspired by Snow White’s resilience, the self-respect of Jasmine, Tiana’s values, and the courage of Anna, among others. Of course there is a beginning with every love, and mine with the Princesses began with the “girl [who’s village thought she was] strange, no question. Dazed and distracted, can’t you tell? Never part of any crowd. Cause her head’s up on some cloud. No denying she’s a funny girl that Belle.” 

On November 22, 1991, Walt Disney Pictures 30th animated feature film, Beauty and the Beast premiered in theaters in the United States. When I saw this breathtaking masterpiece, I immediately fell in love with the story, music, and Disney movie animation. While some of my family members’ favorite characters were the short tempered but lovable Beast or the endearing enchanted objects, I on the other hand was drawn to the young woman who didn’t feel she belonged in her community. 

I was a painfully shy, socially awkward 12 year old with crooked teeth in 1991. I was short, not athletically gifted, and uninterested in sports, scouting, or most other things that my same age male peers liked. I preferred solitary imaginative play, toys, singing, watching cartoons (Disney Afternoon was a daily staple), and only interacting with those with whom I trusted. Because of my personality, interests, and hobbies, I didn’t feel like I fit in with other preteens. Due to childhood bullying, I believed I was weird, different, and unacceptable. 

It was at this time in my life that I was introduced to Belle on the big screen. I saw a woman who LOVES to read, yearns for more than the daily monotony of village life, and cares more about people’s character than their appearance. In addition, she wished that “for once it might be grand to have someone understand […] [she wants] so much more…” In contrast, the townspeople seemed uninterested in knowing more than what their daily routines required, seemed content with society’s hierarchy that favored the popular and punished those that don’t “quite fit in,” and quickly didn’t “like what […] [they didn’t] understand.” Watching how she was treated by the villagers, I related to Belle. While not fully aware of it at the time, Belle was the first character from any movie studio and film medium that I ever identified with. I felt like someone (albeit a fictional animated person) went through the same thing I was. And from that time forward, a bond was formed and a love of Disney heroines (long before the Princesses became a franchise) was born. 

In the ensuing years and the introduction of successive beloved Disney Princesses, Belle continues to be one of my top-tier favorites. I am continually inspired by her self-confidence, sacrifices, and determination to be who she knows she is. Her inner goodness and compassion radiate outward, truly making Belle beautiful. And these are qualities I try to live by in my life. 

In the autumn of 2018 at Salt Lake City FanX, I had the exciting opportunity to meet Paige O’Hara, the actress whose vocal performance brought Belle to life. In our brief interaction, I shared that Belle is one of my favorite Disney Princesses, and that the character has helped me over the years. In response, Miss O’Hara expressed that she was glad, and that many people over the years have told her similar things, of how much Belle has meant to them. 

Today is November 22, 2021: 30 years since the original release of Beauty and the Beast. In celebration of this milestone, I want to say “Happy 30th Anniversary, Belle! May you continue to inspire (as you have me) generations to come!”

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