How Mamoru Hosoda’s “Belle” Compares To “Magnificence And The Beast”

NOTE: This item is NOT wanted to say which one is better. It is a comparison piece and highlights certain similarities and differences between the two films. Both films are great and deserve to be seen.

With Studio Chizu’s latest film Belle in North American theaters for a limited time thanks to GKids, things are looking great so far with a $2 million opening weekend (which is good for most foreign films) and has been well received by both critics and filmmakers also praised by critics fans alike.

Directed by Studio Ghibli alumni Mamoru Hosoda, known for films like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Wolf Children and The Boy and his Beast, the film was developed by his production company Studio Chizu with some assistance from Cartoon Saloon for the backgrounds . The best way to experience the film is probably in the cinema, since there is more emphasis on picture and sound.

The film is a modern interpretation of the classic French fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. Our main character, Shozu Naito, is a clumsy Japanese high school girl who used to sing but lost her confidence when her mother died. In a new virtual world called “U” and creates an alter ego named Bell, who is later renamed Belle.

In this reality, she can sing again and becomes an instant internet sensation. While a concert is being held, it is interrupted by a user named “Dragon”, sometimes called the Beast, as he is fleeing a group of Salt-appointed moderators called the Justices, who want to uncover his true identity as they see him as a threat . Belle sympathizes with him and tries to find out who he really is.

I have seen this film multiple times. I love the music and the graphics and it has a very unique take on the classic fairy tale. I personally prefer the Japanese language with English subtitles, but that’s just my opinion.

But after repeated viewing, I noticed some striking similarities to one of my personal favorites, the 1991 Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, and felt like sharing them here.


One thing that definitely struck me was that some of the character designs for the avatars in U were very Disney-esque. This is most likely due to the fact that South Korean character designer and Disney veteran Jin Kim designed the main character, as well as a few others.

His work on films like Frozen, Moana and Tangled cannot be underestimated but the similarities to his earlier work are there as Belle at times resembles a pink haired Elsa or Anna.

Next are some similarities with the story. I’m a big fan of the original fairy tale. I’ve read it multiple times and seen dozens of different versions. However, Belle has a number of elements that are clearly associated with the 1991 Disney film.

The female lead is a social misfit compared to her peers, her mother has passed away, the beast has a cast of non-humanoid servants who call him master, the beast has a secret room with a broken portrait hanging on the wall, The beast scares away the heroine just to save her from danger and takes her back to his castle, there is a main opponent who “wants to kill the beast”, there is an attack on the beast’s castle and the main heroine helps, save the beast near the end.

But another big similarity, and the most obvious to me at least, was that a number of shots were very similar to the 1991 film. I haven’t been able to collect every shot since the film is still in theaters, but below are a handful of examples I’ve been able to piece together. If you watch the film, you can definitely tell that some scenes are inspired by the Disney classic:

But that’s not necessarily “stealing,” as some might call it. It’s clearly meant to pay homage to the iconic film that inspired it. The film DUTLICH has many differences.

The film is set in modern times and the main character is a high school student. She has an alter ego who is a famous singer, she has several boyfriends and has a crush. The main villain is an internet moderator, the beast is actually a 14 year old boy who lives with his younger brother and abusive father. Our main heroine doesn’t end up with the Beast, at least not romantically, and probably starts dating her crush. But the BIGGEST difference is the attitude. We spend a lot of time in the virtual world with different visual styles and take an interest in different characters in it while trying to figure out who the beast’s secret identity is. A superb retelling of the classic story, this film cements Mamoru Hosoda as one of Japan’s foremost directors.

But that raises a good question. What’s the difference between paying homage to something or blatant theft?

Disney, of course, has been accused of theft for decades with controversies like Kimba the White Lion / The Lion King, The Thief and the Shoemaker / Aladdin and Nadia: The Mystery of the Blue Waters / Atlantis: The Lost Empire, although there is plenty of evidence to the contrary suggest. But of course we also have the Pixar-Dreamworks rivalry. It’s a subject to be discussed, but I won’t go into it further.

Belle is an amazing movie with amazing music and graphics, a virtual reality world and an intriguing mystery story. It’s definitely a great reimagining of Beauty and the Beast. I highly recommend watching it before it leaves theaters.

Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, idiosyncratic, fan-run news blog covering Disney and Universal theme parks, themed entertainment and related pop culture from a consumer perspective. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors, or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no affiliation with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, or any other company we report on.

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