Original Belle Paige O’Hara Talks Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Emma Watson’s Interpretation

Paige OHara Belle Beauty and the Beast

Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST animated classic marks its 25th Anniversary with a Special Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack, and to celebrate CineMovie spoke with the original Belle Paige O’Hara who reveals fun behind the scenes moments and her inside knowledge of the new live version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST starring Emma Watson as Belle.

Paige O’Hara was acting on Broadway when Disney started searching for their new animated princess, Belle. O’Hara says Disney wanted a trained singer and actress to voice Belle, and they went looking for a Broadway performer.  After winning over the producers, O’Hara spent the next two years in and out of the recording studio.

Behind the scenes, O’Hara says Disney faced a dilemma during the production. She originally did a voice track, but the script later changed.

“All they do is go to dinner and fight. How do you fill in all that time?”

Once the story was worked out, she returned to voice new dialogue at the Disney studio in Burbank.

O’Hara went on to voice Belle in four follow-up movies up until 1999. O’Hara was later replaced as the voice of Belle because her voice changed, according to the 60-year-old actress.  

The 1991 Disney movie introduced a different type of Disney princess. The animated female character represented a stronger woman than earlier princess like Snow White and Cinderella?  

“She was a modern day liberal woman. She wasn’t interested in finding a man. She was more interested in an adventure. She’s definitely not like the others. Love happened but it’s not something she wanted.”

She also refers to Belle as headstrong, very driven, very compassionate and patient. She most admired her love for her father and her need to rescue him. She appreciates her selflessness and realizes how “poignant” that scene is to her more so now that when she was in her 30s when she recorded the voice.

O’Hara tells CineMovie she added a little flavor to the good-natured Belle.  

“She's got to lose her temper sometimes. She's human and they let me scream at him a couple of times.”

The no-nonsense Bella may be the reason why she’s a favorite among many Disney fans. How will Emma Watson’s Belle be more contemporary from Paige O’Hara’s animated version?

Emma Watson Beauty and Beast image 2016

Paige O’Hara is not involved in the new live action BEAUTY AND THE BEAST but she does have insider information through iconic Disney producer Don Hahn.

“It’s going to be sensational. What I'm hearing from Don, he's such a perfectionist... if he's happy then I know it's going to be good.”

She adds she's a fan of Emma Watson calling her “adorable, quirky and smart.” She has faith Watson will bring a similar joy to the role for fans. Given BEAUTY AND THE BEAST live version comes at a time when women want stronger roles for female characters, how will Belle be treated in this modern version?  O’Hara doesn’t know exactly how she can be updated since the animated version was a modern woman, but she does have the inside track.   

“There’s only so far you can go. I do understand there are some contemporary scenes, but I’m not sure what they’re doing since it’s very secretive. I do hear it’s very similar. My friends at Disney who have seen it, say they stick very closely to the original.”

Aside from lending her voice to Belle in the animated versions, Paige O’Hara is now a permanent fixture of the Mickey Mouse Club. She’s an official Disney artist, and her portraits of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST characters are beautiful from what she saw on her smart phone during the interview.

Get to know Paige O’Hara further with a documentary on the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 25th Edition Blu-ray. Disney spent three days with Mrs. O’Hara reliving her time as Belle, footage of her original recordings and what her life has been ever since, including a display of her artwork as an official Disney artists.

Paige OHara Beauty and the Beast Recording Session

Paige O’Hara continues being a Disney fan, and she's treated like a princess when she visits Disneyland with her lifetime pass.  

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 25th Anniversary Edition is now available on Digital download and on Blu-ray Combo Pack.

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