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    ‘Beauty and the Beast’ TV special fetes 30th anniversary

    LOS ANGELES (AP) – When it hit theatres in 1991, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast captured audiences, critics and, later, a best picture Oscar nomination – a first for any animated movie. A TV special celebrating the 30th anniversary of that nomination hopes to bring something new to a tale as old as time.

    Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration will combine animation and new live-action performances. This fresh take comes with a diverse cast led by Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer HER as the bookish Belle, opposite Josh Groban’s Beast.

    The supporting players include Martin Short as candelabra Lumiere, Shania Twain as Mrs Potts, David Alan Grier as Cogsworth and Rizwan Manji as LeFou.

    Executive producer Jon M Chu, also the director of movies like Crazy Rich Asians and the upcoming Wicked adaptation, said he wasn’t trying to make a statement by casting HER, who is Black and Filipina, as a character who is white in the cartoon.

    “It didn’t hit me until we announced it really. And then everybody (said) how much they were appreciative of that or brought that to light and I was like ‘Oh yeah, that is really cool.’ But honestly that wasn’t what led it,” Chu told The Associated Press.

    HER and Josh Groban, cast members in ‘Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration’ pose together at the premiere of the ABC television special at Carondelet House in Los Angeles. PHOTO: AP

    To say Chu is a Beauty and the Beast fan would be an understatement. Obsessed as a kid with Disney animation, he saw it opening weekend in a San Jose theatre more than once.

    He spoke with pride when describing the merchandise still in his possession and in its original packaging – two Belle dolls, a Beast doll and a toy magic mirror. But it didn’t really click how much work went into the film until he saw a screener from when it was up for the Oscars that included unfinished footage with pencil animations and storyboards.

    “That’s when I realised, ‘Oh, this is made by human beings, like, people thought of this idea and then just drew it on a piece of paper and then made it come to life,’” he said. “So that’s what we really want to do in this special is pay tribute, of course, to the 30th anniversary, but really to creativity.”

    Long impressed with the R&B star’s singing and ability to play musical instruments, Chu wasn’t sure if HER would agree to be Belle, though.

    Turns out he had nothing to worry about.

    “She’s a bigger Beauty and the Beast Disney fan than I am,” Chu said of the singer born Gabriella Wilson.

    It’s been 25 years since pop singer Brandy played a Black Cinderella in an adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which also aired on ABC.

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