Acclaimed songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman are generally credited with launching the renaissance of Disney Animation with their animated classic The Little Mermaid in 1989.  For Beauty and the Beast, Linda Woolverton, a young TV writer new to the world of musicals, was chosen to write the screenplay and work closely with lyricist Ashman, an intimidating figure and a master of the musical form.

Ashman and Woolverton had a shared vision of a Disney heroine who was a reader and a thinker, a young woman who was not longing for a prince. She is an avid reader who wears glasses, makes active choices for herself and doesn’t rely on her looks, her charm or a sword to fulfill her aspirations. “This was a new concept, and we had to do some convincing to create the Belle we all know,” said Woolverton.

Thomas Schumacher, Producer and President at Disney Theatrical Productions, says Belle means a great deal to the young women of today, and the original fans, now grown women, running things and leading others. “I don’t think we were aware of how meaningful Belle was – or how strongly she conveys the fundamental truth that educated women are powerful role models.”

Currently starring in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Shubshri Kandiah has a love of books in common with her character Belle.

“Belle has always been one of my favourite Disney characters. She is a dreamer and fiercely intelligent. Her love for books and the power of story is something we both believe in,” says Kandiah.  

Shubshri Kandiah’s Favourite Books:

Favourite childhood book: They Came on Viking Ships by Jackie French 

Favourite teen book: Anything written by Nicholas Sparks

Currently on my bedside table: The Survivors by Jane Harper 

Book that changed the way I think: The Good People by Hannah Kent 

Book that everyone should read: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 

Book that inspired me: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Book Week is held 19th – 25th August 2023.  This year’s theme is Read, Grow, Inspire.

Head to Booktopia to celebrate Book Week.

About book writer Linda Woolverton

Linda Woolverton launched her career as a writer with two young adult novels before she began writing Saturday morning animated television shows. That eventually led her to writing her first animated feature, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Upon its release in 1991, the film won the Golden Globe for the Best Comedy/Musical and became the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Picture.

Woolverton then wrote the screenplay for The Lion King animated feature for which she shares screenplay credit. She then rewrote the script for Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey as well as contributing to the animated feature Mulan.

She went on to adapt the script of Beauty and the Beast for the Broadway stage and received the Tony Award® nomination for Best Book of a Musical in 1994. Woolverton was also awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Beauty and the Beast for Best New Musical in the UK. Beauty and the Beast ran in New York between 1994 and 2007, becoming the sixth longest running show in Broadway history.

Woolverton also wrote the book for Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical Aida which ran for five years at the Palace Theatre.

In 2008, Linda received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Writers Guild of America-Animation Writers Caucus for her longtime work in the field of animation.

Woolverton’s script for Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp, was released in March of 2010. The film grossed over one billion dollars worldwide and she became the first female screenwriter with a sole credit on a billion-dollar film.

Woolverton went on to write the screenplay for Disney’s Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. The film was released in May of 2014 and became a worldwide success. Woolverton wrote the sequel to Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass and shares a credit on the Maleficent sequel, Mistress of All Evil. She also wrote the screenplay for an animated musical fantasy for Skydance Media. Woolverton is currently adapting the Eloise books by Kay Thompson for a live action film as well as working on her third young adult novel.