Prior to 1992, animated films were never taken seriously by the Academy Awards. There were many popular animated films but they never seemed to break through into mainstream acceptance during awards season. Beauty and the Beast changed it all.
Having been nominated and won multiple critics’ awards, including a win for Best Picture at the Golden Globes for musical/comedy, Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The animated musical from Walt Disney Pictures was standing alongside such heavy weight movies like The Silence of the Lambs, Bugsy, J.F.K, and The Prince of Tides.
Don Hahn who was the nominated producer for Beauty and the Beast was in the same group as Barbara Streisand, Warren Beatty, and Oliver Stone. I remember watching and seeing an animated version of Beast and Belle presenting an award at this Oscars. I didn’t get the value of this one Best Picture nomination, but it would have repercussions down the road.
Beauty and the Beast lost to The Silence of the Lambs, much like every other nominee who went up against The Silence of the Lambs that year. Beauty and the Beast was part of that 90’s re-emergence of Disney animated films that brought us The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Though they would never make it to the top of the Oscars, Beauty and the Beast did because it’s quality story with excellent characters allowed viewers to look past the fact that they were animated, and made you believe in them.
It would take a decade before a separate category for animated features was created. The first winner was Shrek, another movie that had a quality story with strong intelligent characters that are misunderstood, much like Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast broke the mold of what was acceptable in Hollywood at awards time. Its Best Picture nomination was a sign of what would come, and by the new millennium, animated films would no longer be thought of just as kid movies. A well written intelligent movie with talented actors could also be animated.
In 2009 and 2010, Best Animated Oscar winners Up and Toy Story 3 were also nominated for Best Picture, thanks in large part to the Academy Awards expanding the Best Picture nominee list from five to ten movies. Each of these movies could have easily won the Best Picture award, but their nomination was not as momentous as Beauty and the Beast. By 2009, animated movies were being lauded with praise and big name stars like Tom Hanks were contributing their voices to these movies.
Beauty and the Beast was one of five nominees in 1992 and they did not have any major star voices to market the movie on. Beauty and the Beast had to rely on its narrative and visuals, and it succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations.