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15 Enchanting Facts About Beauty and the Beast

March 16, 2017
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Walt Disney Studios

As the new Beauty and the Beast—starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens—readies for its big-screen premiere, the tale as old as time is ready to enchant a new generation of audiences. Before you check out the live-action update, here are a few facts about the 1991 Disney classic.

1. WALT DISNEY CONSIDERED REMAKING THE FAIRY TALE AS FAR BACK AS THE 1930S.

Walt Disney liked to take his time mulling things over, and while he was pondering Beauty and the Beast, a live-action version of the movie was released by French filmmaker Jean Cocteau. Perhaps not wanting to release an animated version of a movie that had just been released, Disney tabled the idea.

2. A NON-MUSICAL VERSION WAS COMMISSIONED IN THE LATE 1980S.

In the late '80s, Disney hired British animator Roger Purdum to direct a non-musical version of Beauty and the Beast, with Linda Woolverton writing the script. But the company wasn't happy with the result of 10 weeks of storyboarding (which you can see here)—the story was too dark and depressing.

"In the middle of our process, The Little Mermaid premiered, and that changed everything," Woolverton told the Los Angeles Times. "[T]he concept of the musical, the Broadway musical brought to animation by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. So I was flown to Disney in Florida to meet with Howard. Howard and I just clicked. ... In a hotel room in Fishkill, New York, Howard and I pretty much conjured up this version of Beauty and the Beast. Howard and I never clashed. I was his student. He taught me everything I know about musicals."

3. JACKIE CHAN CONTRIBUTED TO AN INTERNATIONAL VERSION.

Jackie Chan dubbed the Beast’s voice for the Chinese translation of the movie—including the singing. Here he is performing the title track in Mandarin with Sarah Chen:

4. "HUMAN AGAIN" WAS CUT FROM THE ORIGINAL MOVIE.

The song “Human Again” was cut from the original movie, in part because it added 11 minutes to the film, and partially because it created a problem with the passage of time. "[W]e kept asking, 'Well what? Is Maurice wondering around in the woods all this time? Is Gaston just sitting around in a tavern drinking beer after beer growing a long white beard?,'" co-director Kirk Wise said. "We couldn't quite figure out what to do with the other characters during this time that Belle's at the castle and keep the motor of the story running." In recent years, the whole sequence has been included on DVD and Blu-ray extras. In case you don’t have either of those sitting around your house, check out part of it here:

5. THREE OF ITS TUNES EARNED "BEST ORIGINAL SONG" OSCAR NOMINATIONS.

Many people remember that the title song from Beauty and the Beast took home the “Best Original Song” Oscar in 1992, but it was just one of three songs nominated from the movie. But “Belle,” the opening song, and “Be Our Guest” were also up for an Oscar. Must have been rough to be the writers of the other two songs in that category: “When You’re Alone” from Hook and “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

6. THE CO-DIRECTOR STARTED HIS CAREER DRAWING CARICATURES.

Co-director Kirk Wise started his career drawing caricatures for tourists—but not Disney tourists. While attending art school, Wise made extra money by working at Universal Studios.

7. THE BEAST IS A MASH-UP OF VARIOUS ANIMALS.

He’s got the mane of a lion, the beard and head of a buffalo, the brow of a gorilla, the eyes of a human, the tusks of a wild boar, the body of a bear, and the legs and tail of a wolf ... and a little something extra. Animator Glen Keane claims that “Beast actually has a rainbow bum, but nobody knows that but Belle.”

8. ONE ANIMATOR WISHED THAT THE BEAST STAYED A BEAST.

Keane wished that the Beast had stayed a Beast instead of transforming into his princely human form. To help bridge the gap, he penned a funny line for Belle to say at the end: “I had them record Belle saying, ‘Do you think you could grow a beard?’ It was a good idea. It’s not in the movie. We should have put it in there.”

9. ANGELA LANSBURY SAID THE DEMO MUSIC WAS A LITTLE TOO ROCK 'N' ROLL.

When Angela Lansbury heard the demo of "Beauty and the Beast," it was "kind of a rock song," she told The Huffington Post. "I told them, 'This is a sweet message, but this really isn't my style. Are you sure you want me to do this?' They told me to sing the song the way I envisioned it, so that's what I did. I created it the way a little English teapot would sing the song."

Producer Don Hahn said that Lansbury "went into the booth and sang 'Beauty and the Beast' from beginning to end and just nailed it. We picked up a couple of lines here and there, but essentially that one take is what we used for the movie."

10. THERE'S A SLY REFERENCE TO DISNEYLAND.

You have to squint to see it, but when Maurice gets lost in the woods toward the beginning of the movie, one of the road signs he finds points the way toward Anaheim—which is home to Disneyland.

Walt Disney Studios

11. THE POSTER WAS DESIGNED BY A MASTER OF THE ART.

John Alvin, the artist who created Beauty and the Beast's iconic movie poster, also designed the posters for some other films you might be familiar with, including E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Gremlins, The Lion King, The Color Purple, and Blazing Saddles.

12. BELLE MADE A CAMEO IN THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

Fittingly, she has her nose in a book. You can also see brief appearances by Pumbaa from The Lion King and Magic Carpet from Aladdin. It’s hard to spot Pumbaa—and tragic, as he appears to have been slaughtered—but both directors have confirmed all three cameos.

13. BELLE ISN’T THE ONLY BEAUTY AND THE BEAST CHARACTER THAT POPS UP IN OTHER MOVIES.

The Beast can momentarily be seen in Aladdin as one of the animal stacking toys the Sultan plays with.

14. THERE'S A NON-MUSICAL VERSION.

An earlier version of the movie contained no music. It also gave Belle a little sister named Clarice and a cat named Charley.

15. AUDIENCES WERE SUPPOSED TO SEE THE SEQUENCE WHERE THE YOUNG PRINCE IS TURNED INTO THE BEAST.

The sorceress would chase the prince through the castle hurling magic at him, hitting servants and accidentally turning them into objects instead. Eventually, she hits her target and turns him into an animalistic creature. She leaves, and we see the young Beast looking out from the castle windows, screaming for her to come back and fix him. Wise nixed the sequence. He later said, “The only thing that I could see in my head was this Eddie Munster kid in a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit.”

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This Week's Best Amazon Deals You Can Still Get
April 30, 2017
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As a recurring feature, we share some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. These items were the ones that were the most popular with our readers this week, and they’re still available.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers (including Amazon) and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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Warner Bros., IStock
History
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When the FBI Went After Mad Magazine
April 29, 2017
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Warner Bros., IStock

In a memo dated November 30, 1957, an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified as “A. Jones” raised an issue of critical importance: "Several complaints to the Bureau have been made concerning the 'Mad' comic book [sic], which at one time presented the horror of war to readers."

Attached to the document were pages taken from a recent issue of Mad that featured a tongue-in-cheek game about draft dodging. Players who earned such status were advised to write to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and request a membership card certifying themselves as a “full-fledged draft dodger.” At least three readers, the agent reported, did exactly that.

Mad, of course, was the wildly popular satirical magazine that was reaching upwards of a million readers every other month. Published by William Gaines, who had already gotten into some trouble with Congress when he was called to testify about his gruesome horror comics in 1954, Mad lampooned everyone and everything. But in name-checking the notoriously humorless Hoover, Gaines had invited the wrong kind of attention.

The memo got several facts incorrect: Mad had switched from a comic book to a magazine format in 1955, and it was Gaines’ E.C. Comics that had “presented the horror of war” in other titles. Despite getting these crucial pieces of information wrong, Jones didn’t hesitate to editorialize: "It is also of interest to note that…it is rather unfunny.”

The agent recommended the Bureau’s New York offices “make contact” with Mad’s headquarters to “advise them of our displeasure” and to make sure “that there be no repetition of such misuse of the Director’s name.”

Less than a week later, the Feds entered the hallowed hallways patrolled by Alfred E. Neuman. Their New York office would later report to Hoover directly that they had met with John Putnam, the magazine’s art director. (Conveniently, Gaines was not in that day.) Putnam told the agents he regretted the magazine using Hoover’s name and that nothing malicious was intended:

Putnam said that the use of the membership card and the name and address of the Director at the end of the game was referred to in their business as a 'gag' or 'kicker' in the same way that a comedian like Bob Hope or Milton Berle might use it.

Putnam swore that Mad would never again take Hoover’s name in vain; Gaines sent off a letter of sincere apology to the Director.

The Smoking Gun

Just two years later, in January 1960, Agent A. Jones was forced to file a second notice about the shenanigans at Mad. A recent issue had made not one, but two derogatory mentions of Hoover, including one in which he is blatantly and disrespectfully portrayed as being associated with a vacuum cleaner, “The Honorable J. Edgar Electrolux”:  

Obviously, Gaines was insincere in this promise…and has again placed the Director in a position of ridicule…it is felt we should contact Gaines…and firmly and severely admonish them concerning our displeasure…

It was by now clear Mad was not only polluting young minds, but that Gaines had absolutely no regard for the honorable Hoover’s position.

In June 1961, the FBI’s worst fears had been realized. Detailing an investigation into a Seattle-area extortion attempt led to the following:

Investigation … resulted in gaining admissions from the victim’s 12-year-old son and an 11-year-old companion that they had gotten the idea of preparing an extortion letter after reading the June issue of 'Mad' magazine.   

Working in concert with the Buffalo field office, the FBI determined another letter had been sent by a young boy demanding money in the style of a recent issue’s extortion advice. And there was a third under review that was sent to the agent of some professional wrestlers.

Mad was quickly becoming the scourge of the federal government. The FBI suggested the magazine be brought to the attention of the Attorney General for “instructing [readers] to deliberately violate the Federal Law.” They tried reaching out to Gaines, who was on vacation. (Time and again, Gaines simply not being in the office when called upon seemed to confound the FBI.)

Agent A. Jones, having exhausted all attempts to reason with these irresponsible anarchists, filed one last memo:

Despite assurances, they have continued to publish slurring remarks about the Bureau. In view of this situation, it was deemed useless to protest all such irresponsible remarks to a magazine of this poor judgment and capriciousness … we will have to wait and see if our action will result in increased discretion by this publication.

Poor A. Jones was unable to put an end to Mad’s reign of terror. But the magazine redeemed itself somewhat. In the 1970s, when the Bureau was trying to suppress the influence of the Ku Klux Klan, an agent suggested they copy and distribute a sticker from the magazine that read, “Support Mental Illness—Join the Klan!”

Hoover said no.

Additional Sources:
The Smoking Gun.

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