Beauty and the Beast may be a tale as old as time, but the tradition of updating classic stories for a new generation is almost as old. Disney’s live-action remake starring Emma Watson as Belle succeeds in keeping the structure of the 1991 animated version intact while adding in new subplots and songs. Screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos must have also perused the Internet while penning their script, because the new Beauty and the Beast fills in over a dozen plot holes left by the animated film.
In fact, four years ago I myself had twelve questions that needed answering. As of today, every single one of them now has one. In honor of that achievement, here’s a look at how Disney updated one of their most successful family films by adding a mere half an hour to the runtime.
WARNING: Minor spoilers for Beauty and the Beast beyond this point.
#1: We finally kind of know who the Beast is.
The 1991 film glosses over establishing who the Beast is because it doesn’t really matter. The Prince doesn’t even get a name. To this day, he doesn’t have a canonical one, though most agree it’s Adam due to the Disney wiki. But what you can get away with in a children’s cartoon doesn’t fly in live-action. While Dan Stevens’ version still never gets a name, we at least know now that he is indeed the child of the French king, though it’s still not clear if the Beast is the heir or the spare.
#2: Disney fixed the Enchantress being a jerk to a child.
Using numbers and ages given within the animated classic, you can conclude the Prince was approximately ten years old when the Enchantress cursed him and his entire castle for breaking the rules and letting strangers in the house. The new film sidesteps this entirely by having the Prince be a haughty and hedonistic adult. It’s far more satisfying to see a rich manchild punished for judging by appearances than wondering how a decade as a mythological creature would warp the psyche of a teenager.
#3: Belle no longer lets Gaston into her home.
Belle borderline hates Gaston in both versions of the Disney film, so it never made any sense why she wouldn’t just pretend to not be home when he came knocking on her door with another unwanted marriage proposal. Watson’s Belle is instead accosted outside her home — made possible by the fact the film has Belle and her father living in town instead of on a farm. Having Belle retreat inside her home and shut the door in Gaston’s face is a small, but welcome, change.
#4: No, not every inanimate object in the castle is alive.
Instead of the faceless utensils, flatware, and other assorted items being lesser servants, the castle is simply imbued with magic. It’s never explained how Lumière or Garderobe can tap into this ability, but “it’s magic” is a less traumatizing answer than “all those napkins are scullery maids.”
#5: The time-traveling portrait now makes sense.
In a world where the Prince was transformed before puberty even hit, the destroyed portrait Belle finds in the West Wing makes no sense. How could the Beast have been painted as an adult when he’s been cursed since before his balls dropped? Having the Prince be an adult when the Enchantress visits resolves this issue. As an added wink to the original plot hole, the portrait the Beast destroys is now a family one in which he is a child.
#6: The Beast explains why the enchanted rose is “no touchy.”
Belle’s discovery of the magic rose is one of the more memorable scenes in the animated Beauty and the Beast, but the movie does little to explain why the Beast freaks out so badly when she removes the glass. Turns out, “enchanted” is not the same as “indestructible.” The Beast doesn’t have the rose under glass for looks, but to protect it from a stray wind or nudge that would loose another petal and bring the curse closer to becoming permanent.
#7: Belle does not have insane upper body strength.
After the Beast saves Belle’s life in the 1991 version, she somehow manages to get his unconscious body onto her horse, making her the She-Hulk of Rococo France. As amusing as it would’ve been to see Emma Watson heft the Beast into the saddle, the film instead has her telling the injured Beast he has to help her help him by at least standing up.
#8: Chip’s existence no longer breaks the time/space continuum.
Originally, Chip makes no sense. The servants have been cursed for ten years but there is no way Chip is that old. So that implies either the help is trapped at the age they were when the enchantment took hold, or somehow Mrs. Potts managed to get it on with someone and give birth to a cup. Multiple cups, since the entire cupboard is full of Chips’ “brothers and sisters.” The new version fixes this by having the curse be fairly quick-acting. The castle has been under the spell for years, but only a few. An exact number is never given, but probably no more than three or four. Roses, even enchanted ones, wilt fast.
#9: Belle is no longer an idiot when it comes to figuring out Beast is royalty.
When the Beast transforms into his human self at the end of the 1991 film, he declares to Belle “It’s me!” at which point Belle is suspicious until she recognizes his eyes are the same. The live-action Belle is no fool. Both the Beast and the servants make sure she realizes the castle is under a spell and everyone in there used to be a person. The line “True, that he’s no Prince Charming” is also now sung with an inflection implying the Beast’s personality and not that Belle literally thinks he isn’t royal.
#10: We now know where Belle’s clothes come from.
The magical garderobe. Duh.
#11: The Beast doesn’t spiral into a suicidal depression in the two hours Belle is gone.
She still could’ve told him that she’d return after saving her father from ignorant villagers, but at least in the new version the Beast gets to sing a forlorn love song instead of just smashing and roaring his man pain away.
#12: There’s a good explanation for why the villagers didn’t know the castle was there.
It always seemed strange that the Beast’s castle was within chorus walking distance from the village, yet no one knew it was there. The live-action screenwriters must have agreed, because now the opening monologue states the Enchantress’ spell included erasing the Beast, his servants, and the castle from the memory of any who knew them. In addition, the castle is hidden from sight behind a magical barrier, and the wolves keep the inhabitants in and any wayward travelers out.
BONUS: Beauty and the Beast gives explanations for many other questionable choices from the animated film. The servants are cursed for turning a blind eye while the King corrupted and abused the Prince. The Stockholm Syndrome element of Belle’s confinement is lessened by having the servants be honest about their cursed predicament (if not what would break the spell). Belle’s chooses to stay both to try and help them and to tend to the Beast’s wounds which are more serious and leave him bedridden. By giving the Beast and Belle similar origin stories about the loss of the mother, allowing the Beast to be well-read and intelligent, and condensing her confinement to about a week, it makes Belle feel less coerced into loving her captor. Other changes of note: Belle is now an inventor in her own right, her father taught her how to ballroom dance, the village “bookstore” is a handful of books which makes the Beast’s library even more impressive, and the Enchantress plays a far larger role.