WARNING: The following article contains SPOILERS for Beauty and the Beast
Movie fans have had years to enjoy Beauty and The Beast for its many small details and references to other Walt Disney classics, but 2016 brings the tale as old as time to live action – and finds new ways to layer in extra secrets. Whether it’s references to the original, other Disney movies, or the story upon which Disney based their first rendition. Fans aren’t likely to catch them on their first viewing (if ever), but that’s why we’re here to offer a rundown and explanation of them all.
Director Bill Condon made no secret of the fact that prior Hollywood musicals, famous choreographers and songs would be visible influences, and didn’t disappoint. There are almost as many easter eggs and homages tied to classic musicals as Disney favorites, but take our word for it: doing the homework to appreciate them all will be worth the effort.
Needless to say there will be SPOILERS in our list of Beauty & The Beast: Disney Easter Eggs & Trivia.
10. Opening Castle
The easter eggs start even before the movie itself, with the high medieval fantasy of the Beauty and the Beast clearly a perfect match for the brand of whimsy and fairy tale upon which Disneyworld and Disneyland are based. That point is illustrated in the opening title card for Walt Disney Pictures, usually an animated flight across the company’s park and showing its famous castle in silhouette. But this time around, things are a bit different.
It’s the Beast‘s castle that’s used for that same sequence, showing its unforgettable towers against the night sky before the signatures swirl of light preceding the Walt Disney text arrives. It’s a unique touch that Disney has rolled out for a select few pictures in the past, so Beauty and the Beast is in fine company.
9. Prince Ali’s Elephant
In the Disney original, Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline) was an inventor – in the modern version, that’s Belle’s specialty, with her father instead a relentless artisan. His workshop is worthy of an animated Disney feature with its many trinkets and small details, all of which are worth a close look to see the Disney nods at play. Chief among them, a small elephant adorned with a miniature palace.
It’s a nod to the story of Aladdin and one of its more memorable scenes, when the title hero (disguised as ‘Prince Ali’) makes his grand entrance into Agrabah atop a massive elephant. The elephant on Maurice’s table is far more intricate and royal then the transformed Abu would ever allow, but the palace is a dead ringer for the Sultan and Jasmine’s home in the same movie.
8. The Town of Villeneuve
It seems only a matter of time until Disney makes a full-scale version of Belle’s hometown for fans to visit, since it’s as quaint and idyllic as any other Disney hamlet or town. The inspiration for the village comes from the real town of Conques in Southern France, but its name goes back much farther. Though it’s unnamed in the animated story, the 2016 release reveals the name of the village to be Villeneuve – named for “Beauty and the Beast” author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. That’s a fitting tribute to the author whose tale of a lovely maiden and a cursed beast were the direct story upon which Disney’s original was based.
The origins of the story itself go back a few millennia, but the French author made it a modern hit… and the name of the village isn’t the only nod. For starters, the French title – “La Belle et la Bête” – appears even before the film’s official title, and a number of plot details changed from the original story for Disney’s animated tale are changed back this time around.
7. A Fishy Menu
As mentioned before, director Bill Condon made it his mission to write split-second love letters to some of the greatest choreographers and musicals a fan could hope for, and the musical numbers are home to most of them. Granted, they’re often delivered in blink-and-you-miss-it details or shot composition. “Be Our Guest” has a few, including a playful (but easy to miss) nod to Disney’s The Little Mermaid. It comes when Lumière sings that Belle should open her menu, and it’s revealed that the menu will include “Les Poissons.”
It doesn’t seem all that significant since “les poissons” simply means “fish” in French, but to a Disney fan, that’s a term forever linked with Mermaid, and the chef who looks forward to a meal of fish with such enthusiasm, he crafts a song with that same title.
6. Agrabah Palace Cameo
As soon as Belle meets the inhabitants of the Beast’s castle, it’s clear that Cogsworth is nowhere near as enthusiastic as Lumière when it comes to regaling their guest with music and dancing… but he eventually comes around. When he does, he arrives on the stage with gusto, bursting forth from a palace in a turban. Again, the palace should be spotted immediately by longtime Disney fans as a recreation of the same one featured so prominently in Aladdin.
Add in the turban matching that worn by Aladdin himself, and it would appear that the studio is wasting no time in shifting viewers of their live action adaptations onto the idea of seeing Jasmine, Abu, Genie and friends a similar re-imagining. As if they needed the encouragement.
5. Lumiere’s Chicago Moment
It wouldn’t be overstating things to say that in the world of modern musicals on stage and screen, the shadow of choreographer Bob Fosse looms large. The mastermind behind production like All That Jazz, Cabaret, and Chicago mean his choreography and style is practically synonymous with mainstream jazz classics. No surprise then that Condon finds a way to offer a tribute to the master, once again during “Be Our Guest.”
Few would have ever dreamed of seeing Lumière written into a Fosse hit, but as his shadow spreads during a strut in the same dance number, it culminates in a single backlit pose – lifted right out of Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango.” The number sees a group of convicted murderers justifying their actions, dripping with attitude, and set to the unforgettable visuals of prison bars and slinky silhouettes against a similarly backlit stage. Oddly, Lumière pulls it off effortlessly.
4. The Sound of Music
The director of Beauty and the Beast may credit the recent success of La La Land for creating interest in new musicals, but it’s less likely that those same people will go all the way back to watch some of the genre’s best. Especially when musicals like The Sound of Music are so omnipresent and regularly riffed-upon. So frequently, in fact, that the scenes of Belle atop a green countryside, blue dress and all, taking in her surroundings may seem familiar… even if you can’t explain exactly why.
It’s a fairly clear homage to Julie Andrews’s performance of “The Sound of Music,” the title song of the 1965 film. Even if Belle’s sightseeing walk isn’t set to quite as memorable a Hollywood classic.
3. Le Fou Builds a Snowman
Animated Disney movies are rarely subtle when it comes to bullies and their hangers-on, and Gaston’s underling LeFou is a prime example. In the animated movie, LeFou is as small in ambition as he is in stature: a tiny, energetic, easily flustered follower of Gaston, seeking his approval and attention wherever possible. He’s faithfully adapted into live action by actor Josh Gad, with an updated take on the character changing those homoerotic scenes of devotion into an overt nod towards homosexuality. But the casting itself is one weird twist of fate.
Sure, Josh Gad’s previous roles make him the perfect encapsulation of LeFou’s rabid excitability. But the original Beauty and the Beast features a key scene in which LeFou disguises himself as a snowman… the other Disney role Josh Gad previously made famous in Frozen. It’s not intentional, but as far as strange Disney coincidences go, it may be a hard one to top in future rewatches.
2. A Tribute To Walt
The line between the Beast and his home is blurred intentionally, with his fall from luxury to isolation embodied in the grand ballroom explicitly. The movie opens with a massive party of potential wives for Prince Adam, set in a version of the ballroom that seems almost too fantastic to believe. By the time Belle happens upon the castle, the ballroom has been frozen over to reflect the coldness and harsh demeanor of Adam turned Beast. And of course, the return of love to his life brings the ballroom back to its former glory one piece at a time.
There’s one piece within the ballroom that sees over every step of the journey, although most viewers may never notice. We speak of the “WD” emblazoned upon the middle of the floor, part of a larger pattern and design. Those initials stand for Walt Disney, the man whose vision led to the creation and rise of the studio bearing his name. He may not have lived to see this classic adapted for a new generation of moviegoers, but his presence is noted, regardless.
1. A Beard For The Beast?
Finding the perfect design that would make Beast both terrifying and likable wasn’t easy – a fact we learned back when interviewing Beauty and the Beast animator Glen Keane, supervising animator on Disney’s first Best Picture nominee. The work and time clearly paid off, but Keane made a point of one thing he always wished he could’ve changed about the movie. For all the energy put into the transformation of the Beast back to the human prince in the movie’s climax, he couldn’t escape the truth that the Beast – whom the audience, by then, loved – was gone. Handsome prince, sure… but in is mind, the Beast should have stayed the Beast.
In fact, Keane explained, he went so far as having the actors record an addition button to the final scene, with Belle asking the prince if he thought he could “grow a beard.” It’s the kind of line that would have only improved with time, and more and more viewers realized that Belle falling in love with the Beast was kind of the whole point. Thankfully, the live action film makes Keane’s wish come true.