Disney Executives have recalled their memories of hearing about 1991’s Beauty and the Beast’s groundbreaking Oscar nomination for Best Picture
Disney executives recall their memories of hearing about 1991’s Beauty and the Beast’s groundbreaking Oscar nomination. Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast is one of the iconic “Disney Renaissance” films that were released between 1989 and 1999. The movie tells the story of a prince cursed to take the form of a monster unless he can end the spell by finding true love. Beauty and the Beast was helmed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and starred Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson and Angela Lansbury. Today, Beauty and the Beast is considered to be one of the most iconic Disney films of all time, having since been turned into a hit Broadway musical, as well as receiving a live action adaptation in 2017 starring Emma Watson.
Beauty and the Beast also marks a major milestone for both Disney animation, and the film industry in general. Upon its release, Beauty and the Beast became the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year at the Academy Awards. At the time, only two Disney films had ever been nominated in the category: Mary Poppins and Dead Poets Society (both live-action). The nomination was especially impressive, as the category for Best Animated Feature did not exist yet, so it was rare that animated films were recognized for anything at the Oscars other than their music (for which Beauty and the Beast was indeed nominated for four times in one year). This unexpected nomination surprised no one more than the filmmakers who worked on the movie.
In a recent article from THR, the team behind Beauty and the Beast have recalled their memories of the historic nomination ahead of the 2022 Academy Awards. Disney’s West Coast publicity director Arlene Ludwig remembers being the only one who was actually at the Oscar Nominations event, and she actually “let out a shriek” when Beauty and the Beast was announced. The film’s producer Don Hahn claims to have thrown his coffee in the air when he heard the news on the radio. Distribution president Dick Cook also heard the news on the radio, while co-director Wise claims to have jumped on his couch in his underwear and whooped (like Tom Cruise in Risky Business). Others have claimed that the Disney offices essentially turned into a bar that morning. See their full quotes below:
“If I remember correctly, I was the only one from Disney who was actually there. I’ll never forget when they announced it. They do it alphabetically, so I think it was the first nominee, and I let out a shriek — I got such a thrill that sort of went through me. There was a wonderful response from the rest of the crowd, too [which cheered].” – Ludwig
“I got up to hear the nominations and made a cup of coffee. I was sitting there in my underwear and heard “Beauty and the Beast” and threw my coffee up in the air and screamed.” – Hahn
“I heard it on the radio that morning. It was a giant moment for everyone.” – Cook
“I pulled a Tom Cruise — I was in my underwear and jumped up on the couch and whooped loudly.” – Wise
“On the way to work, I stopped at a liquor store and picked up a couple of bottles of champagne and some orange juice for mimosas. I got to work and they were way ahead of me. The secretary’s desk was a bar at that point.” – Trousdale
“We were all in the hallways around Don Hahn’s office just sort of staring at each other like, ‘Oh. My. God.'” – Brenda Chapman
Of course, all of these reactions are understandable. So much work was put into making Beauty and the Beast a very special film, and then it went on to make history. Beauty and the Beast still stands as somewhat of an anomaly today. Since its nomination, only two other animated films have been nominated in the Best Picture category: 2009’s Up and 2010’s Toy Story 3. Of course, in 2002 the Best Animated Feature category was introduced, and it is rare that an animated movie makes the cross into the Best Picture nominations.
Ultimately, Beauty and the Beast still stands as a milestone for animated films today, and it is all thanks to the hard work of the film’s creators. Beauty and the Beast paved the way for animated movies to make a difference and be taken seriously as pieces of art and it’s very clear why. Today, the film is still regarded as a classic, and even with other adaptations of the classic story coming after it, 1991’s Beauty and the Beast is still thought by many to be the quintessential telling of this tale.
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