Scripts that Work: Beauty and the Beast

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With its recent re-release in theaters, and several directors, including Guillermo Del Toro, crafting adult versions, Beauty and the Beast is having a cultural reawakening. Though the 3D effects are stunning, the truly amazing element in animated Disney version is the script, which continues to resonate 20 years after the film was released. Read on to find out why.


There’s not a moment wasted

This script might be the tightest thing since… well, since something very tight. There isn’t a single moment that’s not dedicated to either plot advancement or character development, and most of the time, the dialogue does both. It’s perfectly structured, with the midpoint shift even marked with a song (“Something There”). It flies through a timespan of only a couple of days, but because the main characters are well-developed and dynamic, it is completely believable that they would fall in love during this time period. It’s enough to convince anyone that no movie should be longer than an hour and a half. 

It’s not afraid of the darker elements

Beauty and the Beast is occasionally criticized for making the Beast too abusive to Belle and her father at the beginning of the film, but I think it’s one of the elements that makes the movie so strong. Beast has real issues that he must overcome, and even more so, Belle has to really look inside him to see his inner sensitivity and humanity. There are also many glimpses of the Beast’s human side early in the film (look for his self-conscious face rubbing when he’s upset Belle). The script doesn’t sanitize the story for children, and the dark elements make the Beast’s subsequent transformation, and the thematic message conveyed by the lynch mob at the end, all the more effective and meaningful. 

The themes are universal

It’s written into the theme song – Tale as Old as Time. This story continues to work because there is a universal element – the transformative power of love – that people in all cultures and time periods can appreciate. Setting it in 18th century France only adds to the universal appeal, because it will always be in the past and never become dated. It’ll be interesting to see the updated versions (which may or may not be set in modern times) and how audiences respond.

The 3D effects aside, Beauty and the Beast is worth revisiting for any screenwriter looking for an example of a tightly-crafted, pitch-perfect, memorable script that succeeds on all levels.