Here’s Why ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Features a Flashback to Belle’s Mother

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Disney

One of the things that’s different about the new Beauty and the Beast — other than the fact that it’s live-action — is that it’s 45 minutes longer than the original animated movie. There are a few new additions: expanded characters, three completely new songs, and some extended flashbacks. One of these flashbacks is an answer to one mystery die-hard Beauty and the Beast fans have been asking since 1991: What happened to Belle’s mother?

It’s not a happy story. [Be warned: SPOILERS from here on out.]

Belle’s (Emma Watson) father Maurice (Kevin Kline) doesn‘t like to talk about her mother, which causes something of a rift between the two. Belle hardly knew her as a child and doesn’t remember much — so when the Beast (Dan Stevens) shows her his magical book that can take any human to anywhere in the world, and Belle chooses “the Paris of my childhood.” When she and the Beast explore her childhood home, they find a beak-shaped plague doctor mask, which prompts a flashback to Belle’s mother urging her father to take her away so that they’d survive the illness that ultimately kills her, which is how they end up in the “poor provincial town.”

This addition, plus a bit of the Beast’s backstory, was made by director Bill Condon. When The Hollywood Reporter asked Condon why he decided to put them in, he answered:

Something that you have to do in a live-action version as opposed to the animated version is fill in the blanks. They're both outsiders, but how did Belle wind up being so different from everybody else in a town where nobody understands her, and how did the Beast become the person who earned that curse? That's the stuff we started to fill in, and it was those questions that led to the new songs — all of which center on those ideas.

Producer David Hoberman also explained to THR why they settled on such a gruesome fate for Belle’s mother: “The mom had to have died somehow. We went through many incarnations of ideas, but we also wanted to be truthful to the period. The plague seemed like a natural fit.”

It certainly fits Beauty and the Beast’s vaguely historical version of France, and adds a little bit more depth and emotion to Belle’s relationships with her dad and with the Beast, who sees all this play out. But does the story really need all this added backstory? We’ll find out when Beauty and the Beast hits theaters tomorrow, March 17.

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