This month’s Attitude Magazine installment takes on Disney’s reimagined Beauty and the Beast. Director Bill Condon takes a moment to highlight composer Howard Ashman, who created the music for Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, who passed away before the latter film was released.
“Disney had been developing Beauty and the Beast for decades,” Condon explains. “But there was a specific version they were working on developing in the Eighties.”
“On the heels of The Little Mermaid they showed it to [composer] Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Ashman had just found out he had Aids, and it was his idea, not only to make it into a musical but also to make Beast one of the two central characters; until then it had mostly been Belle’s story that they had been telling.
Condon continues: “And specifically for him it was a metaphor for Aids. He was cursed and this curse had brought sorrow on all those people who loved him and maybe there was a chance for a miracle and a way for the curse to be lifted. It was a very concrete thing that he was doing.”
Tragically, Ashman passed away on 14 March 1991, just four days after the first screening of the original film. He would go on to win two posthumous Grammy Awards, but his real legacy would be the lasting effect on the Beauty and the Beast story – one that will be relaunched into the public consciousness when Disney’s live-action remake hits screens on 17 March.
As well as Ashman’s story and news that the upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake will break historic ground with Disney’s first gay character on film, Attitude’s April issue also sees the film’s leads, Watson and Stevens, discuss the underlying queer sensibility which helped make 1991’s cartoon iteration resonate so profoundly with many gay men. (via Attitude)
This isn’t the first Disney film that transformed into an AIDS metaphor. The original Broadway version of Stephen Sondheim‘s Into The Woods was a very unabashed symbol of the AIDS crisis in the 80s. Ignore ACT I, but when the female giant in ACT II attacks the little village, killing half of the cast, all the characters exclaim that there is nothing to do about their approaching death. The parallels between the decimation of the characters lives to the gay communities terror are agonizingly evident.
Now that we know the deeper truth behind the Beast’s suffering, you can go into Beauty and the Beast on March 17th with a queer lens and define what it means to you!