The 'Hamilton' creator, Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz, Robert Lopez, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez reflect on the animated classic’s legacy as it turns 25

By Jessica Derschowitz
September 01, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Disney

As Belle would say, isn’t this amazing?

Beauty and the Beast is celebrating its 25th anniversary later this year, and to mark the occasion a “Be Our Guest”-worthy lineup of musical titans gathered to reflect on the 1991 animated classic and its legacy.

Perhaps no film of its era had a larger impact on animated movies than Beauty did. That film — along with its 1989 predecessor The Little ­Mermaid — resurrected Disney animation, introduced the “princess movie” to a new generation, and revived the musical as an art form. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Beauty, there might never have been a Frozen or a Hamilton. “So many musicals have tried to chase that formula — the sidekicks, the bad guys,” Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda says. “But Beauty and the Beast did it at its pinnacle. It’s the best it’s ever been done.”

Adds Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Frozen), “The film opens with this sense of a very large, very epic tale … and then it irises down to a tiny little flute in a tiny little town. And I think that contrast, without realizing it, we did that for Frozen.”

EW caught up with Alan Menken (the legendary composer behind Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and more), Stephen Schwartz, Anderson-Lopez and her husband/Frozen collaborator Robert Lopez, and Miranda (who carries the Disney torch next with the upcoming Moana) as they filmed a bonus feature for a special anniversary edition rerelease of Beauty and the Beast. In an exclusive clip from that gathering — which, naturally, took place around a piano — the quintet discusses the film’s iconic opening number, which was revolutionary in how it brought musical theater-type storytelling to an animated film. “‘Belle’ was the song that broke it all open,” Menken says. “We really wanted to write this like a real Broadway musical.”

In the clip, Miranda brings up his favorite part of that song (“Can we nerd out for a second?” he asks the group), which is when Belle gushes over her favorite part of the book she’s reading, and foreshadows her own adventures to come in the process. “Her favorite book is actually the story she’s going to live,” he added later. “So there’s this crazy bit of foreshadowing that’s happening, but it’s also that interrupting your thought to say how excited you are, is the kind of sophisticated, character-revealing lyric writing that [lyricist and Menken collaborator] Howard Ashman was so good at.”

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Beauty and the Beast went on to be the first animated feature to get an Oscar nomination for best picture, opened the stage door for Disney musicals on Broadway, and is set to enchant viewers all over again with a live-action remake coming next year. A quarter-century later, its legacy is stronger than ever.

More from the “Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration” bonus feature can be found on the Beauty and the Beast Signature Collection edition, out on digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere on Sept. 6 and Blu-ray/DVD on Sept. 20. And for more from Menken & Co., pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, or buy it here — and subscribe now for exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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