‘Beauty and the Beast’: How Much Has Belle Changed in the Live Action Remake?

Belle from Beauty and the Beast is one of the most beloved Disney characters. The bookish beauty refuses to adhere to social norms and would prefer to stick to her individualistic values. But how much has Belle changed in the Live-Action remake? How does Emma Watson’s portrayal of the character differ from the original version in the animated classic?

Emma Watson
Emma Watson | Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

Belle is partially based on this iconic literary character

It’s common for Disney protagonists to consider themselves “outsiders.” Yet Belle is perhaps the most relatable outcast because she isn’t locked up in a tower by her evil stepmother or stuck in the ocean when she prefers to be on land. For Belle, it’s her personality that separates her from the rest of the town’s people. Belle can’t relate to the small-minded people in her village because they share significantly different values and interests.

And according to Cosmopolitan, Belle is based on a literary character who has a similar difference in values compared to the rest of her peers. That character is Jo March, from Little Women. Like Belle, Jo is an outspoken dreamer who loves to get lost in the pages of her books.

And who better to cast for the role of Belle than Watson, who advocates for reading? But how has her character in the 2017 live-action film changed from the original animated version?

The most significant difference between Belle in the live-action remake and Belle in the animated film

Emma Watson, Who Stars As Belle In Disney's Beauty And The Beast, Shares Her Love Of Books With Children From The NY Film Society For Kids At Lincoln Center's Beale Theater
Emma Watson, who stars as Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, shares her love of books with children from The NY Film Society for Kids | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

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According to the director of the 2017 film, Bill Condon, one of the most significant changes in Watson’s version of Belle is that she becomes more of an activist. In the original movie, Belle focuses on her own needs by reading as much as possible despite society scolding her for it.

But in the newer version starring Watson, she goes out of her way to teach young girls that it’s important to read.

“[Reading] defined Belle in the original movie,” Condon says (via The LA Times.)

“What I’m proud of in our movie is that [Belle’s] also becomes an activist 25 years later,” Condon adds. “That she not only has a private interest in [reading], but she wants to share it and figure out how to help other little girls discover books too.”

How Belle was made into a more feminist character in the animated Disney film

According to Linda Woolverton, who was assigned to do rewrites for Beauty and the Beast, she had made several changes to Belle’s character to make her more liberating for women.

“One of my big things with the character was showing her love of adventure,” said Woolverton. “That’s why in the scene where her father goes off to collect his prize money, you see her at home sticking pins in a map, marking off all the places she wants to visit when they get the money. That day I showed up, they (the male Disney animators) had thrown out the map business, and she was shown baking a ‘Welcome home, Papa!’ cake in the kitchen. Animation is a collaborative process, so it was more a matter of saying, ‘Well, guys, that’s not in her character. She wouldn’t even know how to bake.’”

“They also had her crying too much when she was in the Beast’s castle,” Woolverton reports. “She cried all the time. I said, ‘Guys, I don’t think she would cry this much…I thought she’d be looking for a way out, or she’d be intrigued that she was living in an enchanted castle.”