It may be a “tale as old as time,” but the upcoming live-action remake of Disney’s beloved 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast sounds like it is making a concerted effort to appeal to today’s modern world far more than its Oscar-winning counterpart.
In fact, we’ve now learned director Bill Condon’s new film will include Disney’s first gay character.
Considering the studio’s focus on family-friendly productions, this marks a big step toward progress for the studio, but it’s far from the first indication that Disney is actively revamping its creative direction. Just last year, Zootopia surprised moviegoers with its bold metaphor for racism, and Moana attempted to break down the walls of diversity by featuring a voice cast almost entirely comprised of Polynesian actors, in keeping with the film’s setting.
Even Frozen deliberately undermined outdated conventions of fairy tale storytelling. With this in mind, the inclusion of a gay character in the live-action Beauty and the Beast seems like a logical progression.
Condon recently spoke with U.K. magazine Attitude about the decision to include a subplot which reveals the sexuality of LeFou, Gaston’s long-suffering sidekick played in the new film by Frozen‘s Josh Gad.
“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston.
“He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
Not only does the change seem to fit the themes of Beauty and the Beast – which hinges on two characters who feel as if they are viewed as strange and different by those around them – but it also serves as a tribute to lyricist Howard Ashman. Ashman collaborated with composer Alan Menken on the music for Disney’s animated version of Beauty and the Beast, but died from AIDS-related complications before it reached theaters.
Moreover, this change to LeFou’s sexuality is actually a plausible reading of the 1991 film. Fans may recall how LeFou is hopelessly devoted to Gaston, despite his constant abuse. It’s not a stretch that he harbors feeling for him, and in fact, such an addition lends greater depth to a character who is otherwise strictly there for comic relief.
Hopefully, more adjustments like this one – and the film’s renewed focus on the nature of Belle’s feelings toward the Beast – will only add relevance to what is already among the most popular releases in Disney history.
We’ll find out when Beauty and the Beast arrives in theaters on March 17.
Robert Yaniz Jr.
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