Since its summer trailer teaser, I’ve been waiting anxiously for more details on the 2017 adaptation of the Disney animated tale, Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and co-starring Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) as the Beast and Luke Evans (The Hobbit) as Gaston. Set to release on March 17, 2017, this classic story takes a much-needed modern turn by giving the leading lady more substance, updating the original costumes, and filming on a UK-based set .

Belle’s Backstory

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Emma Watson explains that since Belle was never really given a backstory in the animated movie, it only made sense to give her more dimension and an explanation as to why she never quite fit in, “other than she liked books. Also what is she doing with her time?’ So, we created a backstory for her, which was that she had invented a kind of washing machine, so that, instead of doing laundry, she could sit and use that time to read instead. So, yeah, we made Belle an inventor.”

Beauty and the Beast Brings Belle to Life with Updated Twists

Belle’s Backstory

In Disney’s version, Belle’s father, Maurice, an eccentric inventor creates gadgets and machines in his workshop; as he sets out to sell his wood-chopping machine, he ends up seeking shelter and becoming imprisoned in the Beast’s castle. In the updated version, Belle shares her father’s talents and affinity for inventing – with Belle as the creator and her father as her helper and constructor, the two work together on music boxes.

Image Credit: Laurie Sparham
Image Credit: Laurie Sparham

Also, according to the EW interview, the music boxes also serve as an outlet for Belle’s desire to travel; with an absent mother and overprotective father, Belle is unable to fulfill her wishes to see the world, so the music boxes represent the various countries she longs to visit.

Finally, it seems a Disney female lead actually has something of substance to her.


While Disney’s animated film is set in France (because the story is based on a French fairy tale), the live-action 2017 version is filmed in the UK with British actress Emma Watson as the protagonist.

EW photo credit
EW photo credit

The Dress

In the final scene of the movie, Belle and Beast dance together to ‘Tale as Old as Time’, as she floats around the ballroom in her iconic yellow gown, symbolizing how their love is timeless, as the couple learned to truly accept and embrace their differences. The gown, custom made by Jacqueline Durran (designer of “Pride & Prejudice,” “Atonement,” and “Anna Karenina”) has been praised, especially by Watson herself, saying the dress was “utterly whimsical, and magical.”


Watson actually worked closely with Durran to capture the meaning, beauty, magic, and whimsical nature of that romantic scene. After testing a variety of fabrics, Durran opted for a silk organza with a satin finish and gave the gown its shape, in some areas with a cage, but mostly from layers upon layers of organza that allowed for light, airy fullness.

Disney’s dress was much fussier and formal, which didn’t fit the updated remake’s version of Belle, who is an active woman.


However, the updated dress and other changes have mixed reviews from the public. Fans have flocked to social media sharing their opinions on the changes, especially the dress and casting of Watson.

“This dress is a joke nothing the same it looks like a dress from the Halloween express store. And no gloves either there’s nothing original about this ballgown dress from the classic movie design. This is just another opposite look to the previous Cinderella movie. Garbage. …I’m extremely disappointed…and beauty and the beast is my all time favorite including belle being my favorite princess they ruined her on real time screen.”

Beauty and the Beast

“This doesn’t look very good. The trailer looked amazing, & I originally wanted to see this, but the dress looks off, Emma Watson doesn’t look very much like Belle in the pictures, & Beast, Lumiere, & Cogsworth have HUMAN FACES?! Are you kidding me?!”


“Ugh. What were they thinking with these designs? Belle, Beast, Enchanted Objects, all of them look awful. This shouldn’t have been that hard. The new Cinderella did a wonderful job in that department. This looks like bad direct-to-video material.”


“I wish Emma Watson had no say in the dress! No corset! No off the shoulder sleeves! And no pick ups! I blames Emma, off you seen the other movies this costume designer won Oscars for she could have done better! It seems she was restrained with her designs! It’s beautiful but NOT BELLE!”

Response to Critics

The purpose of a remake is not to be an exact replica – what would the point of that be? I already love the updates to Belle’s character in the 2017 version; they adhere to Belle’s intellectual nature of the Disney version but gives her more depth and explanation to her intellect and uniqueness.


Emma Watson is a perfect cast for this Belle, with her beauty not to be over-shined by her intelligence, air of seriousness, and grace. Also, to adhere to the story’s origins, the setting is a small town in France – from what I can see of the updated dress, this gown looks more appropriate not only for Belle’s true character but the setting and time period.

I don’t like the idea that once a ‘normal’ girl becomes a princess that she all of a sudden changes completely.

  • Belle is different from the other girls in town – she cares about books, inventions, has an active imagination, and dreams of traveling the world, not becoming a wife or princess or showing off for Gaston.
  • She is a smart, free-thinking woman who is unconcerned with appearances (her own, the other towns-girls, and Gaston), until, of course, she is challenged with seeing the true spirit behind the Beast’s unconventional look.
  • Her ability to see the truth in someone past appearances is reflected in this new dress, which is still beautiful but much more subdued than Disney’s ornate, over-the-top version.

Overall, I love and appreciate the understated, updated version of Belle’s gown.

So what’s your take on the changes? How do you like Watson cast for Belle and the changes to her character and dress?

All Image Credits: Laurie Sparham