American actress and singer Paige O'Hara was performing on Broadway when she first read about Disney's then-upcoming animated project Beauty and the Beast in an article in The New York Times.  Familiar with O'Hara's Broadway stint as Ellie May Chipley in the musical Show Boat; Ashman had already been eyeing O'Hara for the part. " Critics continue to debate over whether Belle or the Beast is the film's protagonist.  According to Scott Huver of People, the character's "popularity remains a force to be reckoned with" even 25 years after the film's release.
 Baxter studied the art of French impressionist Edgar Degas, a painter known for his portraits of ballerinas, whose work inspired the animator to incorporate "graceful, swan-like movements" into Belle's performance. " The Atlantic's Lindsay Lowe echoed Nusair's sentiment, citing Belle as the character responsible for ending Disney's "history of ... docile heroines. Animated by James Baxter and Mark Henn, the former of whom based the character's graceful gait on those of impressionist Edgar Degas' ballerinas, Belle's European facial features were inspired by those of British actresses Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn.  Originally, the marketing department ordered that Belles' dress be pink to cater to the female audience, but art director Brian McEntee convinced studio to make the dress gold in order to make her to distinguish her from other Disney Princess, specifically Aurora's from Sleeping Beauty (1959). " Common Sense Media hailed Belle as "one of Disney's smartest, most independent heroines. in order to return the focus of the story to Belle. Now Fort Lauderdale's Paige O'hara Takes On A Very Different Role In A Film About Chappaquiddick", "Interview With Paige O'Hara, The Voice Of Belle In "Beauty and the Beast, "Beauty And The Beast: Paige O'Hara Interview", "More than 20 years after 'Beauty and the Beast', Paige O'Hara still remembered as voice of Disney princess", "Beauty and the Beast's Animated Belle, Paige O'Hara Says Emma Watson's Casting Is 'Genius, "Paige O'Hara talks giving Belle voice for Beauty and the Beast", "How we made: Don Hahn and Paige O'Hara on, "SPOTLIGHT ON BEAUTY & THE BEAST 3D: Paige O'Hara", "The Real Women Behind Disney Princesses", "Gofobo Interview: Paige O'Hara (Belle) from Beauty & The Beast 3D", "Interview: Paige O'Hara On 'Beauty And The Beast 3D, "Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle, on being part of 'Beauty and the Beast, "Paige O'Hara, Belle — Disney Princesses Then and Now", "Wreck-It Ralph 2 Is Bringing The Original Disney Princesses Back", "Pixar's new 'Brave' is fueled by girl power", "Disney's Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary: The Story Behind Belle's Ball Gown and More Secrets You Never Knew", "8 things you never knew about 'Beauty and the Beast, "Animator James Baxter puts imagination in motion", "Meet the Disney Animator Who Helped Create Some of Your Favorite Princesses: Mark Henn", "The Princess And The Frog's Supervising Animator Mark Henn – Part 2: The "Disney Decade, "Disney Artist Mark Henn – The Man Behind the Princesses", "57 Things You Never Knew About Disney Princesses", "50 Epic Things You Didn't Know About Disney Princesses", "Belle's 'Beauty and the Beast' gown was supposed to look totally different", "15 Surprising Facts About Your Fave Disney Princesses", "Beauty and the Beast 3D: Still a Great Film, and a Tangled Short, Too!
Belle has garnered widespread acclaim from film critics who appreciated the character's bravery, intelligence and independence. However, the song was ultimately so well-received that it has been included in the musical ever since. , In January 2015, Emma Watson announced that she would be portraying Belle in a live-action version of the film, which was released in 2017.
" TV Guide wrote that "The familiar narrative is strengthened by the independent, self-assured character of Belle," concluding, "Unlike Disney heroines from Snow White through Ariel, Belle is smart, knows what she wants, and doesn't spend her time pining away for the love of a handsome prince. One of the character's few negative reviews was written by Ethan Alter of Television Without Pity, who opined: [T]he movie ... present[ed] audiences with a willful female protagonist that was firmly in control of her romantic destiny and regularly placed reading books above chasing after boys. " Meanwhile, Stylist ranked Belle among the most feminist Disney characters, describing her as an "incredibly intelligent" woman who "doesn't stand for a man who considers her as just a piece of meat ... she wants someone who loves her for her mind too. Writing for the University of Central Florida, Faith Dickens felt that after Belle's introduction, the character becomes little more than "a vehicle for exploring the Beast's dilemmas," while her initial pining for adventure is replaced by romance.
" Meanwhile, Bustle's Mary Grace Garis also commended Belle's aspirations and love of reading, but criticized her relationship with the Beast, concluding, "Though the ’90s showed a move toward princesses wanting to buck conventions and free themselves from their fathers (or the town misogynist) the endgame is the still the same, elaborating, "When the movie ends, they’re still solidly with a man, their dreams of adventure abandoned.
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