Disney’s 1991 cartoon hit, after all, was nominated for four music category Oscars — original songs “Belle,” “Be Our Guest” and the title track, the latter of which won the statuette, as did Alan Menken’s original score — and provided the sonic foundation for a successful Broadway musical.So it was a no-brainer to bring Menken back to do the new film’s score and compose three new songs with the stage show’s lyricist, Tim Rice. A big part of re-imagining “Beauty and the Beast” as a live-action movie was figuring out what to do with the soundtrack. (Howard Ashman, the wordsmith who, with Menken, was instrumental to the Disney animated musical renaissance begun with “The Little Mermaid,” “Beast” and “Aladdin,” succumbed to AIDS months before his second cartoon feature was released.)
“This was the first successful one in a long time; the audience could accept the conventions because it was animated. The new film’s director, Bill Condon, a lifelong fan of musicals who previously brought “Dreamgirls” to the screen, wanted this “Beauty” to echo some of Hollywood’s most memorable production numbers with state-of-the-art special effects pizzazz.“When the animated movie opened, it had been a desert for movie musicals; the genre was basically dead,” Condon points out. But actually, if you look at it, it was very inspired by previous movie musicals.
The new ditties are “Evermore,” an emotional ballad Dan Stevens’ Beast sings when he’s convinced he’s lost Belle forever; “Days in the Sun,” a melancholy remembrance of freer and/or more human pasts sung by Stevens, Belle player Emma Watson and the actors who voice all the anthropomorphic household objects; and “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” in which Belle’s father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), drops hints about the family’s origins.In addition, Ashman lyrics not heard in the cartoon have been added to the live version’s renditions of “Gaston” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
I love Ravel and Satie and French music in general, so it was an opportunity for me to add some color.“And then there was going to be an emphasis on more backstory for the main characters,” Menken continues. “We wanted to emphasize more the 18th century, make it feel more grounded in period. The songs that were in the animated movie are still the basic tent poles of the live action, though.” “Those are decisions that affected where the new songs might go. “We wanted to open things up musically,” Menken says about the new, people-starring “Beast” movie. And we wanted it to feel more French, which was certainly big in influencing what I was going to write musically.