Beauty and the Beast star Paige O’Hara claims Mulan wouldn’t exist without Belle, although Mulan predates the original fairy tale by a millennium.
The beauty and the Beast The star, Paige O’Hara, says the film’s heroine, Belle, paved the way for future female protagonists in Disney animated films such as Mulan. Disney’s point of view The beauty and the Beast, which is based on the 18th century French fairy tale of the same name, debuted in 1991 and gained critical and commercial acclaim. The film became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards. While the film failed to secure the coveted Best Picture award, it did manage to secure wins for Best Original Music and Best Original Song.
Since its release, Disney’s The beauty and the Beast was praised for its portrayal of Belle. Critics point out that she is the first of the Disney Princesses to break free from many of the problematic tropes that beset previous Princesses in Disney’s fairytale canon. Throughout the film, Belle subverts archetypal expectations by showing agency over her actions, even being the prisoner of the Beast. Meanwhile, Gaston (Richard White), who displays all of the attributes of a typical fairytale prince, ultimately becomes the main antagonist at the end of the film.
O’Hara, who voices Belle in the film, recently made a bold statement about the character’s legacy in an interview with THR. The actress says that “If it weren’t for Belle […] there would have been no Mulan “, stressing that she does not have “you have to have a man to find happiness.” Check out his full comments below:
Without Belle and Ariel, there wouldn’t have been a Mulan. Princesses keep getting stronger and better, and they don’t need to have a man to find happiness. The Beast arrived, but she wasn’t looking for him, that’s for sure.
In recent years, Disney’s animated princesses have strayed widely from outdated, sexist tropes. The studio as a whole appears to be moving towards more progressive representations of women and other marginalized groups. That said, there’s still a frequent pullback to on-screen portrayals of LBGTQIA + characters, as with the recent Marvel Studios film, Eternals. As with any deep-rooted problem, there is always more work that can be done.
As for O’Hara’s comments, while she’s probably speaking strictly from the point of view of the Disney canon movie, it’s worth mentioning that the original Mulan’s Ballad – on which the 1998 film Mulan is based – even before the original 18th century The beauty and the Beast fairy tale of more than a millennium; scholars generally agree that the story of a female soldier named Hua Mulan began to circulate between the 4th and 6th centuries AD in China. Contrary to his statement, Mulan would have in fact existed even though Disney The beauty and the Beast had not been published – but perhaps not in animated form. Even though the intent of O’Hara’s statements seems obvious on paper, such clarifications are necessary for the sake of posterity.
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