Disney's characterization of Belle was heavily based on Katherine Hepburn's portrayal of Jo March in the 1933 "Little Women" film.
Rather than draw inspiration from the traditional French fairy tale, "La Belle et la Bête," Belle's creators instead turned to another book-loving heroine, Jo March, for pointers. The result? A way more spirited and less passive characterization.
Her physical appearance was inspired by Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music" and Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz."
Yup, totally see it.
Additional inspirations include Vivien Leigh, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and artist Edgar Degas' ballerinas. Clearly, the animators were going for a graceful look here.
And the same animation reference model for Belle also modeled for Ariel.
Sherri Stoner served as the animation model first for Ariel and then for Belle, and several of her mannerisms (like Ariel's lip-biting) made it into the films. She went on to become a writer and producer for 1990s animated shows like "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Animaniacs," for which she voiced Slappy Squirrel.
It's not the only thing Belle shares in common with other Disney princesses.
Have you ever thought Belle and the prince's dance at the end of the movie looked familiar? If so, you're right — it's actually reused animation from "Sleeping Beauty."
The color of Belle's dress was a super intentional choice.
She's the only one in her "poor provincial town" to wear blue, which is meant to symbolize her originality. Classic hipster move, Belle.
And that wisp of hair that's always falling in her face was also pointed.
That seemingly random wisp of hair was actually meant to show Belle wasn't perfect. Which is kind of a stretch, Disney, but it was 1991. So we'll take it.
She's the second Disney princess not to be of royal descent.
How Princess Di/Kate Middleton of Disney to prove commoners can be princesses too, amirite?
In Disney's "Sing Me a Story with Belle" live-action series, Belle was the owner and manager of the village bookshop.
The series ran from 1995 to 1999, and proved Belle hadn't lost her love for reading or settled into domestic obscurity. Woohoo!
For the American Film Institute's "100 Years of Heroes and Villains" list, Belle was the only animated heroine to be nominated.
Though she sadly didn't make it into the final ranking of 50 heroes — only eight women did. This list was published in 2003, so hopefully the next 100 years will include many, many more heroines.
And apparently, we owe a lot to the movie's screenwriter, Linda Woolverton, for Belle's feminist traits.
"Beauty and the Beast" was Woolverton's first film as a screenwriter, and the decision to bring her on board was considered controversial. In a 1992 interview, she spoke about Disney's intention in hiring her.
"They knew I had a feminist sensibility and they were at ease that the same accusations leveled against '(The Little) Mermaid' (like Ariel forsaking her family and heritage for a man) wouldn't happen with 'Beauty and the Beast,'" she said. "I never took part in marches. I just knew I wanted to go out, very much like Belle, and do things myself. I thought I was smart enough to be able to do that."
She was behind the decision to cut scenes showing Belle "crying too much" and baking a cake.
"They had her crying too much when she was in the Beast's castle. She cried all the time," Woolverton said. "I said, 'Guys, I don't think she would cry this much. I mean, I wouldn't 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."
She also convinced Disney's male animators to cut a scene showing Belle baking her father a "welcome home" cake, arguing it was out of character and that Belle actually "wouldn't even know how to bake."
And she also intended for "Beauty and the Beast" to provide a positive example to girls AND boys.
"I feel really good about creating a character who is a positive role model for young girls, and boys, too," she said in the same 1992 interview. "To Gaston, Belle wasn't a person; she was a possession. And I think it's great for little boys to see that Beauty doesn't choose him. Not only can they look at Gaston as an example of how not to treat women, but they can hopefully be taught by the Beast, a macho guy who is comfortable with his feelings and gentleness. He could teach a lot of men, in fact, about sensitivity."
RIGHT ON, SISTER.