"Beauty and the Beast" not only changed movie history -- it is the only animated film to receive an Oscar® nomination for Best Picture -- it also changed the lives of those who made it. The tenth anniversary of this "tale as old as time," celebrated with a special edition, seems like the perfect time to catch up with the actors whose voices helped to bring Belle and Beast to life.
Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle, recalls the 1991 premiere of "Beauty and the Beast." "We had no idea how truly great the film was until we were sitting in the audience at the premiere," says the actress. "We were nervous. Then all of the New York film critics stood up and cheered. It was really something."
O'Hara is excited about the new version of the film. "It's better than ever," she says. "With the enormity of the screen and the new 'Human Again' scene -- which was songwriter Howard Ashman's favorite song -- I had tears rolling down my face. It's so beautiful."
O'Hara has kept busy the past decade, performing onstage in such roles as Nellie Forbush in "South Pacific" and Fantine in "Les Miserables," starring in Las Vegas with the Radio City Rockettes in "The Great Radio City Spectacular," and recording albums. Her latest is a collection of lullabies called "Dream with Me." At the end of the year, she'll tour in "From Belle to Broadway," a musical revue of Disney and Broadway tunes.
"I've been lucky to always work as a Broadway actress, but the magnitude of the people that know your name after something like this ...," says O'Hara. "It has been wonderful to utilize being Belle to help my work with children's charities, such as the Ronald McDonald House."
While kids are delighted to meet O'Hara, they don't always have quite the same reaction when encountering Robby Benson. "Usually when their parents tell them that I'm the Beast, they become afraid," says Benson. "The challenge over the years has become how to make them feel that the Beast is this good guy; he's just a bit confused in his honest and true search for love."
Love is a topic Benson pursues often in his writing of plays, songs, and movies. An admitted "obnoxious romantic," Benson is currently writing a musical, "Open Heart."
"It's a very honest, funny love story. And we are lucky enough to have Peter Schneider [former chairman of The Walt Disney Studios] as our producer. He wanted to go back to his roots in theater, just like I did."
The musical, which opened on Broadway in March 2004, stars Benson and his wife, Karla DeVito. "My wife and I met on Broadway, starring together in 'The Pirates of Penzance,' so it would be really neat to open it together," says Benson.
Benson, who gained fame at a young age as a film star in the movies "One on One," "Ode to Billie Joe," and "Ice Castles," has been behind the camera lately, directing episodes of such television shows as "Friends," "Ellen," and "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," in addition to writing and scoring films.
"What's important to me is putting something down on paper that is eventually on the screen or stage; something that moves you in the audience -- makes you laugh, makes you cry, and you'll think about it ten years from now."
From Disney Insider