When Disney's Beauty and the Beast hit theaters in 1991, it became a massive hit and a cultural touchstone, presenting a female protagonist with self-determination, a complex love story, a morally ambiguous antagonist that served as a commentary on male Disney heroes of the past, and one of the most beloved soundtracks in movie history. The film ended up raking in $425 million at the box office and became the first animated film to ever be nominated for best picture at the Oscars.
All that being said, the movie contains a number of glaring plotholes and lingering questions that have taunted fans since its release - including the Prince's age when he was cursed, the nature and rules of the curse itself, why none of the townsfolk remember a giant castle just on the outskirts of their tiny village, or how Chip could exist. Did Mrs. Potts give birth to him in the form of a pot? How does a pot give birth, or get pregnant for that matter?
In an effort to answer these questions and explain the discrepancies, fans have spent years analyzing and over-analyzing the beloved film for clues to form very complex theories, some of which seem surprisingly convincing. Here's a look at the most fascinating Beauty and the Beast fan theories that make a whole lot of sense when you really think about them.
Tumblr user Petitetiaras believes that the makers of Beauty and the Beast intentionally suggested a connection between their film and Aladdin, foreshadowing the film a year before it hit screens in 1992.
When Belle goes to her local bookshop-library to return a book she's already read multiple times, she lovingly describes the plot and says it features "far off places, daring... fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise." As Petitetiaras points out, the setting of Aladdin, Agrabah, counts as a "far off place," the film features plenty of people trying to end Aladdin with sabers, the Genie and Jafar cast magic spells all day, and Aladdin literally poses as a "prince in disguise" when he woos Jasmine as Prince Ali.
Since many fans agree that the Prince may have been a child when he was cursed, this leaves the glaring plothole of the portrait that the Beast rips apart with his claws. The painting clearly depicts the Prince as an adult. Redditor u/MOverTheHeart explains:
There’s a simple explanation: magic. If the entire castle is cursed, why not also the painting?
What would be a worse punishment for Beast than to be transformed into a beast? Being transformed into a beast and having a cursed portrait of himself that ages as he does. This would be a constant reminder of his mistake and show him what he would look like if he was still a human.
One of the biggest questions that Beauty and the Beast fans have had concerns the Prince's age when he was cursed by the enchantress and turned into the Beast. The curse states he will remain a beast until his "21st year." Writer Jenna Guillaume interprets this to mean his 21st birthday. Considering that Lumiere and Cogsworth later say they've been "rusting" for 10 years, the Prince must have been only 10 or 11 years old when the enchantress placed him under her spell.
Furthermore, Guillaume points out that 1997 direct-to-video sequel, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, essentially confirms that the Prince was a preteen child.
According to a fan theory from Imgur user MaiBhalsych, Beauty and the Beast is all about the pain and emotional trauma of social ostracization and the effects of bigotry and prejudice on a societal scale. The theory argues that the moral of the movie is "so much deeper than a standard 'be yourself' message." MaiBhalsych explains:
Gaston demonstrates that bullies are rewarded and beloved by society as long as they possess a certain set of characteristics, while nice people who don’t are ostracized. The love story between Belle and the Beast is about them finding solace in each other after society rejects them both.
Notice how the Beast reacts when the whole town comes for him. He’s not angry, he’s sad. He’s tired. And he almost gives up because he has nothing to live for. But then he sees that Belle has come back for him. In the original fairy tale, the Beast asks Belle to marry him every night, and the spell is broken when she accepts. In the Disney movie, he waits for her to love him, because he cannot love himself. That’s how badly being ostracized from society and told that you’re a monster all your life can mess with your head and make you stop seeing yourself as human.