The original 'Beauty and the Beast' cartoon was a metaphor for AIDS

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Coverage of Disney's live action reboot of Beauty and the Beast has shed light on an interesting fact about the original 1991 cartoon: the film was actually an elaborate metaphor for AIDS. 

During a sit-down with Attitude magazine, Bill Condon — who directed the remake — discussed how the animated feature's lyricist, Howard Ashman, had AIDS, and saw himself reflected in the film's material. 

Presented with the initial story ideas, which mostly centered around spirited bibliophile Belle and her plight, Ashman allegedly pushed for the story take a more sympathetic look at her romantic interest, the titular Beast.

Ashman, left, with composer Marvin Hamlisch in 1986.
Source: 
Nancy Kaye/AP

"Ashman had just found out he had AIDS, and it was his idea, not only to make it into a musical but also to make Beast one of the two central characters," Condon said. "Until then it had mostly been Belle's story that they had been telling."

"Specifically for him it was a metaphor for AIDS," he continued. "He was cursed and this curse had brought sorrow on all those people who loved him and maybe there was a chance for a miracle and a way for the curse to be lifted. It was a very concrete thing that he was doing."

Ashman died from complications related to AIDS on March 14, 1991, just four days after the film's first screening. He was remembered as one of the first openly gay men in show business. But while Disney's track record on representing gay men — the population that accounts for most HIV diagnoses — has been far from perfect, small indicators of progress can be found if you look hard enough. 

In the same Attitude interview, Condon announced that LeFou — the sidekick of Beauty and the Beast's villain Gaston — will be gay in the live action film, a first for Disney. The news also comes the same week that Disney XD aired its first same-sex kiss on an episode of its cartoon Star vs. the Forces of Evil.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Brianna Provenzano

Brianna is a staff writer at Mic, covering breaking news. Send tips/inquiries to brianna@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Charleena Lyles was a "powerful lady" — until she faced Seattle's flawed criminal justice system

Like Charleena Lyles, women who experience mental health instabilities have been more likely than men to encounter a criminal justice system that is ill-equipped to treat them.

NFL players donate $20,000 to youth football team that was punished for national anthem protest

"We wanted to make sure that we sent those kids the message that it's OK to stand up for what you believe in," Malcolm Jenkins said.

10 things you might have recently missed in the movement for social justice

From Charleena Lyles and Nabra Hassanen to acquittals and vigils, the last few days haven't been easy to keep up with.

Judge declares mistrial in retrial of officer who fatally shot Samuel DuBose

The jury spent five days deliberating Ray Tensing's fate.

University of Missouri to revoke Bill Cosby's honorary degree

The president of Mizzou said Cosby's actions were not in line with the university's core beliefs.

The Movement for Black Lives responds to recent claims of a fractured coalition

"We make no assumptions that everyone and everything within our movement is perfect — far from it," organizers said.

Charleena Lyles was a "powerful lady" — until she faced Seattle's flawed criminal justice system

Like Charleena Lyles, women who experience mental health instabilities have been more likely than men to encounter a criminal justice system that is ill-equipped to treat them.

NFL players donate $20,000 to youth football team that was punished for national anthem protest

"We wanted to make sure that we sent those kids the message that it's OK to stand up for what you believe in," Malcolm Jenkins said.

10 things you might have recently missed in the movement for social justice

From Charleena Lyles and Nabra Hassanen to acquittals and vigils, the last few days haven't been easy to keep up with.

Judge declares mistrial in retrial of officer who fatally shot Samuel DuBose

The jury spent five days deliberating Ray Tensing's fate.

University of Missouri to revoke Bill Cosby's honorary degree

The president of Mizzou said Cosby's actions were not in line with the university's core beliefs.

The Movement for Black Lives responds to recent claims of a fractured coalition

"We make no assumptions that everyone and everything within our movement is perfect — far from it," organizers said.