I've always been a Disney girl. Growing up, Belle was one of my favorite princesses. As a kid, I had a prop box full of things like a fake rose in a vase, my old Dorothy Halloween costume (it looked enough like Belle's blue dress to me), and a stuffed My Little Pony tied to a stick that I would pull out whenever I wanted to play. I had recorded Beauty and the Beast off the TV onto a cassette tape and written out every line of Belle's (and the prompt beforehand) with my pink, purple, and blue Lisa Frank pens (the third color for the song lyrics, the others for the aforementioned two line types). I recently found that notebook, too, and can't bring myself to throw it away! I would become Belle in my room back before I even knew what "acting" or "stage theatre" was. Belle had brown hair like me and read a lot the way I did and her name also started with a "B." I loved Belle. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
Today, I still hold a soft spot for the character; several figurines of her (and Ariel, my other favorite) adorn my dresser. The moment I laid eyes on Tale as Old as Time: The Art and Making of Beauty and the Beast at my local B&N, I knew I had to have it. Its looks alone drew me over to it. The cover is purple--my favorite color--and has the scene of Belle and Beast dancing. The rose is etched in gold on the back cover. Not only that, the movie just re-released on Blu-Ray, meaning interest in the movie is once again at an all-time high. Disney knew I would want this gorgeous tome. The only drawback is the fact that the retail price is $40, which is pretty steep if a good sale isn't going on. The money is worth it, though, because every page is high-quality and the photographs are vivid and full.
This book is like looking into a little piece of history. If you like documentaries like A Pixar Story (on the Wall-E DVD and on TV sometimes) or Waking Sleeping Beauty (on DVD Nov. 30), you'll love this book. It's a written documentary. Every chapter uses a line from one of the song's many songs, which is genius in and of itself. The book begins by talking about the legend of Beauty and the Beast and quickly moves into preliminary work on how Disney began creating its own version. There are sketches of early versions that reveal a very different look at the world we've come to know and love. If these plans had gone ahead, the movie wouldn't be what it is today.
Looking at early artwork made me feel privileged. How often do we get to see everything a studio scraps before coming up with the final, polished version? I especially loved the close-up of what went into creating the beast. He was re-tooled so many times, and I never really thought about WHAT kind of creature he was before. Beast is a true hybrid; he borrows his body parts from so many different animals. (A preview of early Beast concepts and a look into character artist Glen Keane's thought-process is available in the Fall issue of Disney 23 magazine [the one with Tangled on the cover), which may still be at your local magazine stand.)
The book is also full of fun, little-known facts about our beloved movie. For example, if you didn't watch all of the bonuses that came with your Enchanted DVD, you may not know that the Disney Studios ran out of time and money when they were making Beauty and the Beast. Rather than turn in something bad or rushed that was obvious to the audience, they recycled artwork from earlier movies such as Sleeping Beauty and Bambi. The famous waltz scene at the end of both movies is an exact duplicate. The original cells from SB were copied and the images were adjusted to feature Belle and Beast (In fact, you can see a really good side-by-side comparison here). The deer at the beginning of the movie are from Bambi (as are the deer from The Fox and the Hound).
There is so much wonderful information in this art book. It's a true treasure for all Disney connoisseurs and a rare look at the inner workings that led to one of the all-time greatest animated movies ever made.