Why Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ may have originally resembled Angelina Jolie

like the song goes, Beauty and the Beast ‘s Belle was very different fromthe rest of her Disney Princess forbearers when the animated classic gracedmovie screens in 1991. A bookish and independent young woman from a ruralvillage, Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara) stood in marked contrast to moreglamorous royals like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

But according to Emily Zemler’s new book, Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara_the _Beauty and the Beast animators — led by James Baxter and Mark Henn —originally envisioned a character who more closely resembled a glamorousmember of Hollywood royalty.

“She kind of looked like Angelina Jolie — very beautiful,” O’Hara remarks inthe book about the initial concept art for her alter ego. “I didn’t see howanybody would identify with that person. You’d look at her and put her on apedestal. Mark and James changed the look of her. She was a little tooperfect.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 27: Angelina Jolie attends theLONDON, ENGLAND- OCTOBER 27: Angelina Jolie attends the

Angelina Jolie attends the UK Eternals premiere in London in Oct. 2021.(Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

For the record, it’s unlikely that Jolie was the direct inspiration for Belle.The Oscar-winning Girl Interrupted star was only a teenager when Beauty andthe Beast was in production, and didn’t make her feature film debut until1993’s Cyborg 2. In Zemler’s book, Baxter says that he and Henn initiallyenvisioned Belle as being “more European-looking with fuller lips, [and] alittle bit darker eyebrows” — characteristics that are certainly identifiedwith Jolie. According to Beyond the Tiara though, the celebrities that didserve as reference points for the animators included Elizabeth Taylor, NatalieWood, Audrey Hepburn and O’Hara herself.

“The animators created a lot of concept artwork and dozens of sketches to findthe best fit,” Zemler confirms to Yahoo Entertainment via email. “You can seein the sketches how much Belle evolved. Paige O’Hara recalled early versionsof Belle looking like Angelina Jolie, but that is simply Paige’s perception.None of the animators I spoke with mentioned Jolie as an inspiration forBelle.”

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As pre-production on Beauty and the Beast continued, Baxter and Henneventually came to agree with their star that Belle had the potential to be atransformative Disney Princess and revised their image of her accordingly. “Iknew this was going to change the view of Disney Princesses,” O’Hara says inthe book. “Belle was the first one not looking for a man. She wanted to seethe world and all the places she’d read about in books.”

Emma Watson played Belle in the 2017 live action adaptation of the Disneyanimated film.  (Photo: Laurie Sparham/Walt Disney Pictures/Courtesy EverettCollection)Emma Watsonplayed Belle in the 2017 live action adaptation of the Disney animated film.(Photo: Laurie Sparham/Walt Disney Pictures/Courtesy EverettCollection)

Emma Watson played Belle in the 2017 live action adaptation of the Disneyanimated film. (Photo: Laurie Sparham/Walt Disney Pictures/Courtesy EverettCollection)

Belle did ultimately change the face of Disney Princesses, directly impactingthe way subsequent characters like Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan were written— not to mention drawn. “Belle opened the doors to who could be considered aDisney Princess even wider, welcoming a broader fanbase in with her,” Zemlersays. “Her representation, both in character and in appearance, encouragedthose making aladdin to make Jasmine more adventurous and spirited. It had aripple effect.”

That emphasis on spirit and adventure carried over into the live actionadaptations of many classic Disney cartoons, including upcoming versions of_The Little Mermaid_ and Snow White , starring Halle Bailey and RachelZegler, respectively. (Emma Watson played Belle in the 2017 film version of_Beauty and the Beast_ but the character has also been portrayed by a varietyof diverse performers on stage and screen.)

“In 1937, the cartoon [ Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ] was so focused onher finding true love, and it’s not even in her mind at all in this film,”Zegler told Yahoo Entertainment at D23 last month. “Maybe she finds love.Maybe she finds friendship. But what’s really important is that she finds herown voice.”

For Zemler, Belle’s lasting legacy has less to do with her looks and more todo with her attitude. “I’ve always admired Belle’s spirit and her love ofbooks,” the author says. “Sometimes we think of a classic princess as blondand perhaps somewhat shallow, but Belle undercuts those traditional cliches.She is a devoted daughter, a kind friend and she understands the world throughreading books. In that way, she’s someone to whom a lot of us relate to oraspire to be.”

Beauty and the Beast is currently streaming on Disney+; ** DisneyPrincess: Beyond the Tiara is available now at most major booksellers,including Amazon.**