An early example of fantasy TV, the 80s Beauty And The Beast show still holds a special place in the hearts of fans today. And you’ll never guess who had a hand in bringing the show to life.
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The general tale of Beauty and the Beast, which was supposedly based on a true story, has been softened by Disney over the decades, in storybooks, in animation and in live-action form. The story starts with a tale as old as time and ends with a happily ever after.
In the Disney representation of the Beast, he is a prince who had such a greedy heart that a sorceress cursed him and his castle to transform, him into a beast, and his castle dwellers into furniture. The curse would be lifted if the beast was able to find true love before the last petal of his enchanted rose fell from the stalk.
The general idea of how he looks is some kind of amalgamation or chimaera of different animals, like the head of a buffalo, the Torso of a bear, the brow of a gorilla, the teeth and jaws of a lion, the legs and tail of a wolf, and the tusks of a wild boar. For anyone to fall in love with him they would have to appreciate his inner beauty, and there would have to be some inner beauty for someone else to find.
Not all interpretations are this way.
80s TV Interpretation of Beauty and the Beast
For fans who didn’t quite know what they were looking for, they might have missed the television series from the 80s based on the tale of Beauty and the Beast, which predates the Disney movie by about four years or so. The TV show was a daring interpretation of the classic story that was a pretty weird take on the tale when you dug a little deeper.
The only similarity between the TV show and the Disney adaptation was that there was a man who looked more like a monster than a human, a beast, who had a close relationship with a beautiful woman. That’s it.
The 80s Beauty And The Beast series aired for three seasons starring Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton as the lead actors before being cancelled in 1990, but the concept was never given up or sold. They rebooted the series starring Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan in 2012, but it also only aired until 2016 before it was cancelled again.
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Beauty and the Beast With A Twist
Instead of resembling any kind of fairy tale, the 80s Beauty And The Beast show was more of a fantasy-fuelled Law & Order spinoff and was pretty horrifying when you looked past the fantasy aspects. The series was set in present-day New York City (present for when it was made, so the 1980s) rather than the usual quaint European hamlet we see, oh and there’s no singing. The pair of eventual lovers meet in Central Park after Catherine Chandler, an attorney (so beauty and brains) is mugged. Vincent the untamed but sensitive beast rescues her, but instead of taking her to a hospital, he takes her to an underground world called the “World Below”.
During their time in the World Below, Vincent nurses Catherine back to help, and keeps her there for a couple of weeks before even thinking about letting her leave and return to the “World Above”. Vincent brings Catherine to see ‘Father’, the patriarch of the underground community, who is also Vincent’s adoptive dad. It turns out that Father was a physician who was blacklisted and feeling exiled from the world above, he entered into the subterranean life after finding the growing community of outcasts living beneath the city. This in and of itself is a metaphor, the two worlds living side by side (or more accurately as above so below).
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Vincent is more of a half man, half lion than a true beast in the 80s Beauty And The Beast TV show. This is possible because the idea of the chimaera beast hadn’t been invented yet (as the show aired 4 years before the Disney adaptation), or because they didn’t want their beast to look too unrealistic while Ron Perlam acted emotively and physically. As a result, the designers based his look on a lion as opposed to any other kind of beast, and he tuned out more cat-like than terrifying.
Unlike in most stories involving the beast, he never receives a magic transformation back into a human but stays in his mystical makeup for the whole run of the series. Either this is because the writers were worried that if they resolved the beast situation, they would have nothing left to write about, but also because it told the true moral of the story of Beauty and the Beast. Beauty is only skin deep. What matters the most is what is on the inside. Perhaps when he realises this, what transforms is his life and his mindset, instead of just his physical form. Keeping Vincent’s beastly visage proves even more that what matters most is inner beauty.
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George R.R. Martin
This might come as slightly unlikely news, but the author of A Song of Ice and Fire which inspired game of Thrones worked on the 80s Beauty And The Beast the whole time while the show was running. At first, he was working as a writer on Beauty and the Beast before being promoted to a supervising producer on the project. Although he was proud of his contribution and happy with the quality of the show, he shared in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone that there were far too many limitations on the media for him to truly enjoy it.
“There were constant limitations. It wore me down. There were battles over censorship, how [sensual] things could be, whether a scene was too “politically charged,” how [harsh] things could be. Don’t want to disturb anyone. We got into that fight on Beauty and the Beast. The Beast [slayed] people. That was the point of the character. He was a beast. But CBS didn’t want blood, or for the beast to [hurt] people. They wanted us to show him picking up someone and throwing them across the room, and that they would get up and run away. ‘Oh my God, horrible monster!’ It was ludicrous. The character had to remain likeable.”
Imagine what George R.R. Martin could do now if he could get his hands on this concept again and make it with a studio that will work with him on his penchant for violence, intimacy and aggression.
Tell us, do you think George R.R. Martin should reboot the 80s Beauty and the Beast TV show?