Beauty and the Beast- Comparing the Disney Movie & the Ballet

In a black and white illustration, Beauty pulls back the Beast's fur to reveal a handsome prince.
Beauty and the Beast– Andrew Lang

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will present Beauty and the Beast at the Benedum Center from February 16-25. This whimsical, imaginative work with charming characters and challenging choreography has turned a classic fairytale into an enchanting storybook ballet. Audiences of all ages will delight in this ballet as it illustrates that “there is often more than what meets the eye.

It’s a tale as old as time, but how close is PBT’s Beauty and the Beast ballet to the story of which most people are accustomed?

PBT performs a ballet adaptation of Beauty and the Beast choreographed in 1958 by Lew Christensen, an influential dancer and choreographer who worked with the famed George Balanchine and served as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet for 32 years.

While maintaining similar characteristics to the widely-known Walt Disney Pictures Beauty and the Beast, Christensen’s version was choreographed before the movie was produced and shares more of a likeness to earlier published versions of the beloved story.

A History of Beauty and the Beast

1740: There are fairytales from cultures all over the world that share elements of the Beauty and the Beast story. However, the first known publication of this specific tale (La Belle et la Bête) was written in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

A blue book cover featuring fairies and other magical characters
The Blue Fairy Book– Andrew Lang

1756: Villeneuve’s lengthy version was abridged, rewritten, and published by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

1889: Scottish poet and novelist Andrew Lang published the Fairy Book series, a collection of 12 volumes of traditional fairy tales. In the first of these volumes, The Blue Fairy Book, he published “Beauty and the Beast,” alongside classic tales like “Hansel and Gretel,” “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Forty Thieves,” and “Snow-White and Rose-Red.”

1958: Lew Christensen choreographed a brand new ballet in celebration of San Francisco Ballet’s 25th anniversary, set to orchestrations by famed composer Tchaikovsky. Praised as “the most delightful, imaginative, enchanting and accomplished ballet production to grace the Opera House stage,” by the San Francisco News, this ballet has been revived numerous times over the past 65 years by ballet companies like PBT.

A movie poster featuring the silhouette of Beauty and her Beast
Beauty and the Beast movie poster- Walt Disney Pictures

1991: Walt Disney Pictures released the animated film that has become famous around the world. The movie was wildly successful, winning the 1991 Golden Globe Award for “Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy” and the Academy Awards for both “Best Original Score” and “Best Original Song” for its titular song.

1994: Beauty and the Beast became Disney’s first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical.

2017: Walt Disney Pictures produced a live-action remake starring Emma Watson.

Since Villeneuve’s 1740 publication, there have been hundreds of books, movies, stage productions and TV shows adapting the story.


Comparing the Versions

Story Elements  The 1991 Disney Movie The PBT Ballet
Beauty’s Capture  After wandering into the Beast’s castle and making himself at home, Belle’s father is imprisoned. Belle offers to stay as the Beast’s captive in exchange for her father’s freedom. Beauty’s father picks a rose from the Beast’s garden for his daughter. In anger, the Beast holds Beauty captive and banishes her father.
Characters in the Castle A curse on the castle has transformed the staff into enchanted household objects like clocks, teapots and candlesticks. These characters become Belle’s friends.  Beauty is comforted and entertained by enchanted flowers, caryatids (statues), simians (monkeys), and bluebirds in the enchanted castle and gardens.
Villians Belle is pursued by the boorish Gaston, who later challenges the Beast for Belle’s affection. Beauty has multiple jealous sisters at home who envy the beautiful gifts the Beast has given her.
The Beast’s Death In a fight to the death with Gaston, the Beast is fatally stabbed. Upon his death, Belle admits her love for him and his curse breaks, bringing him back to life as a handsome prince. Terrified of the Beast and  longing for her family, Beauty flees the castle. Grief-stricken, the Beast dies of a broken heart. After returning home, Beauty realizes her affection for the Beast, and returns to the castle to find him lifeless. Heartbroken, Beauty sobs, now knowing that she loves him. The Beast stirs and tears away his clothes and fur to reveal a handsome prince.


We know you’ll be enchanted by PBT’s Beauty and the Beast! Showcasing the transformative power of love, the ballet is completed with stunning choreography, gorgeous costumes, and spectacular sets. Join us at the Benedum Center from February 16-25!