‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’ turns 25, voice talent shares experience

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beauty-and-the-beastPreston Barta // Editor

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Disney’s beloved animated classic BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

On Tuesday, the studio will be pulling back the curtain to release a special anniversary edition of the Academy Award-winning film. The Blu-ray and DVD reissue will contain three versions of the film (the theatrical release, a sing-along and an extended cut) and a slew of bonus features that include recording sessions with the voice talents and a peek at Walt Disney’s early development of the timeless story.

Gaston (Richard White) admiring himself next to Le Fou (Jesse Corti). Photo courtesy of Disney.

Gaston (Richard White) admiring himself next to Le Fou (Jesse Corti). Courtesy of Disney.

One of the voices that make up BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’s memorable characters is Jesse Corti (FROZEN, ZOOTOPIA), who voices Gaston’s minion Le Fou.

Corti stopped in Dallas recently on a promotional tour to share his magical journey to the House of Mouse, what it was like to embody his character, and what lessons the film taught him and continues to teach our youth.

Corti, 61, moved to America from Venezuela when he was five years old. He was first taken by the magical world of Disney when he visited “the happiest place on Earth” shortly after his stateside arrival.

“When I grew up, I saw films such as FANTASIA (1940) and LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955). But my first real introduction to Disney came from a visit to Disneyland,” Corti recalled. “I saw a person dressed up as Captain Hook with the alligator from PETER PAN, which both frightened and excited me.”

From there, Corti uncovered his talents by singing in the local church’s choir and acting in passion plays in New York. His discovery of voice acting, however, was a happy accident.

“My first Broadway show was EL BRAVO. There was a gentleman who would lead the show and leave rehearsals without permission. He drove a motorcycle, so every now and then I would drive him around Manhattan to his job in my car,” Corti remembered. “I never asked what he did for a living, but one day he told me: voiceovers.”

His friend recognized that rare spark and encouraged Corti to try his hand in voice acting.

“I would never tell someone to do it the way I did it,” Corti quipped. “I was very fortunate, but I also trained and had been singing since a young age. I just, as the saying goes, happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was also very naive.”

Fast forward a few years and you would hear Corti’s voice in television series such as GARGOYLES, BONKERS and AAAHH!! REAL MONSTERS. But 1991’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was, of course, his breakthrough performance.

The 25th Anniversary Edition of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Courtesy of Disney.

The 25th Anniversary Edition of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Courtesy of Disney.

“When I met with the filmmakers for the first time, Le Fou was drawn as a big character, nearly towering the main antagonist Gaston (voiced by Richard White),” Corti said. “I was short and [White] was tall, so I decided to take the character in a different direction by using a high voice. I figured I had nothing to lose.”

When Corti auditioned with this idea in mind, the filmmakers never told him to stop. He continued and everyone loved it, leading the animators to build Le Fou’s look around Corti’s voice and appearance.

“I had long hair at the time and wore it in a ponytail because I was doing LES MISÉRABLES on Broadway. I was able to bring a lot of myself to Le Fou; I just had to work within the boundaries,” Corti said.

Today, even after a quarter century, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST shows no signs of lost magic. Whether it’s the enchanted rose, the mirror that can show you anything you desire, or the act of falling in love, the film taught us many things we still carry with us each day.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST plays today, tomorrow and forever,” Corti said. “It’s not just about princesses and falling in love for the sake of falling in love; it’s about people working out differences and helping each other.”

Win a digital copy of the anniversary edition by entering our contest here.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.