The original 'Beauty and the Beast' cartoon was a metaphor for AIDS

Coverage of Disney's live action reboot of Beauty and the Beast has shed light on an interesting fact about the original 1991 cartoon: the film was actually an elaborate metaphor for AIDS.

During a sit-down with Attitudemagazine, Bill Condon — who directed the remake — discussed how the animated feature's lyricist, Howard Ashman, had HIV, and saw himself reflected in the film's material.

Presented with the initial story ideas, which mostly centered around spirited bibliophile Belle and her plight, Ashman allegedly pushed for the story take a more sympathetic look at her romantic interest, the titular Beast.

"Ashman had just found out he had AIDS, and it was his idea, not only to make it into a musical but also to make Beast one of the two central characters," Condon said. "Until then it had mostly been Belle's story that they had been telling."

See photos from the recent "Beauty and the Beast" film launch:

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'Beauty and the Beast' launch event: See the looks!
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'Beauty and the Beast' launch event: See the looks!
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Emma Watson attends UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Emma Watson attends UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Emma Thompson attends UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Dan Stevens attends UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Josh Gad attends UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Stanley Tucci attends UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Audra Mcdonald attends the UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Luke Evans attends UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Sir Ian McKellen attends UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Nathan Mack attends the UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Pixie Lott attends the UK Premiere of 'Beauty And The Beast' at Odeon Leicester Square on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Ellise Chappell attends the UK Premiere of 'Beauty And The Beast' at Odeon Leicester Square on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Hattie Morahan attends the UK Premiere of 'Beauty And The Beast' at Odeon Leicester Square on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Emma Watson and Dan Stevens attend UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Joe Maher/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: (L) Stanley Tucci and Luke Evans attend the UK launch event for 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: Luke Evans attends UK launch event for Disney's 'Beauty And The Beast' at Spencer House on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Disney)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23: (L-R) Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman, Hattie Morahan, Nathan Mack Josh Gad, Luke Evans, Emma Watson Dan Stevens, Bill Condon, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Sir Ian McKellen and Audra McDonald attend the UK Premiere of 'Beauty And The Beast' at Odeon Leicester Square on February 23, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
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"Specifically for him it was a metaphor for AIDS," he continued. "He was cursed and this curse had brought sorrow on all those people who loved him and maybe there was a chance for a miracle and a way for the curse to be lifted. It was a very concrete thing that he was doing."

Ashman died from complications related to AIDS on March 14, 1991, just four days after the film's first screening. He was remembered as one of the first openly gay men in show business. But while Disney's track record on representing gay men — the population that accounts for most HIV diagnoses — has been far from perfect, small indicators of progress can be found if you look hard enough.

In the same Attitude interview, Condon announced that LeFou — the sidekick of Beauty and the Beast's villain Gaston — will be gay in the live action film, a first for Disney. The news also comes the same week that Disney XD aired its first same-sex kiss on an episode of its cartoon, Star vs. the Forces of Evil.


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