“Beauty and the Beast“ is a song written by lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken for Walt Disney Pictures’ 30th animated feature film Beauty and the Beast (1991). The film’s theme song, the Broadway-inspired ballad was first recorded by British-American actress Angela Lansbury in her role as the voice of the character Mrs. Potts, and essentially describes the relationship between its two main characters Belle and the Beast, specifically how the couple has learned to accept their differences and in turn change each other for the better. Additionally, the song’s lyrics imply that the feeling of love is as timeless and ageless as a “tale as old as time”. “Beauty and the Beast” was subsequently recorded as a pop duet by Canadian singer Celine Dion and American singer Peabo Bryson, and released as the only single from the film’s soundtrack on November 16, 1991.
Lansbury was initially hesitant to record “Beauty and the Beast” because she felt that it was not suitable for her aging singing voice, but ultimately completed the song in one take. In order to promote the film, Disney decided to release “Beauty and the Beast” as a single, and first recruited solely Dion to record a radio-friendly version of it. However, the studio was concerned that the then-relatively obscure singer would not attract a large enough audience in the United States on her own, so they hired the more prominent Bryson to be her duet partner. At first Dion was also hesitant to record “Beauty and the Beast” because she had just recently been fired from recording the theme song of the animated film An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991). First heard during the film’s end credits, the single was produced by Walter Afanasieff who also arranged it with Robbie Buchanan, and included on Dion’s self-titled album. The single was accompanied by a music video. Directed by Dominic Orlando, it combined footage of the singers recording the song at The Power Station with excerpts from the film.