As the Walt Disney Family Museum remains closed, it continues to provide some amazing virtual experiences for members and guests alike. I have now participated in a few of the “Happily Ever After Hours” events, and I absolutely love them! It’s a unique experience for all ages, and a great look at what is offered when the museum is open. Also, these events are FREE! It can’t get any better than that, right?
Last weeks’ “Happily Ever After Hours” was with Belle herself, the one and only Paige O’Hara! After listening to all of the stories she had to tell, it’s clear how alike she and Belle really are. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about Paige before going into this talk, but I was surprised by how much I found out about her. With that, I thought I’d share about Paige O’Hara and some of the wonderful facts and stories she had to share!
Beauty and the Beast
Paige started out doing Broadway shows, and got her start in Showboat in 1983. When Disney was casting for Beauty and the Beast, they were looking for Broadway actors, based off of their musical talents. Paige auditioned and got the role, but really wasn’t looking to get into voice acting. She had a few voice acting roles outside of her role as Belle over the years, as she went back to theater as well as concert performing.
The role was a dream though, as she saw so many similarities between herself and Belle; it was the perfect pairing. She also noted that of the Disney princesses, Belle is actually the oldest, which I did not know! The film took over 2 years to record, as it went through a number of revisions, she actually recorded all of her lines in the first day. Her favorite line of Belle’s is “Gaston, you are positively primeval,” which she even quoted for us in her perfect, Belle voice.
Paige loved working with the cast, as well as the incredible musical talents of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. She explained that so much of Beauty and the Beast was how Howard told the story through music. The entire story began to form around his musical ideas. Although Howard wouldn’t live to see the completed film, it was truly a dedication to him and was finished in his memory. Paige mentioned that Howard’s favorite song was “Human Again,” which was sadly cut from the original version of the film, but has made its way into recent releases and stage adaptations of Beauty and the Beast.
Prior to Beauty and the Beast, Paige was a huge Angela Lansbury fan, and would often sneak into the show Gypsy after intermission just to be able to see Angela perform. She said it was so wonderful to work with Angela, and she was incredible. On the day that Angela was to record the song “Beauty and the Beast,” she had been traveling all night, had no sleep, and wasn’t feeling well, yet she still recorded the title song to perfection in one take.
Although Paige didn’t venture too much into film or television, she did make a brief cameo in the 2007 film, Enchanted. You can find her on the tv screen as Nathaniel is watching a soap opera in the hotel. She mentioned that shortly before filming, her scene partner became ill. Oddly enough, Johnny Depp offered to fill in, since it was a short scene. Sadly, the timing didn’t quite work out, but it would have been entertaining if he too had a cameo in Enchanted!
Paige, the artist
What most people probably don’t know about Paige is that she is a gifted artist! I had seen some of her work, but didn’t realize she had been painting from a very early age. Her art pursuit started when she was 17, and would often sell her art on the streets of New York to make rent while trying to pursue her Broadway career. Now, she is a Disney Fine Artist and does many pieces based off of Beauty and the Beast. Paige even done paintings of other Disney princesses! She now paints full time, and you can find her work available for purchase at paigeohara.net. You can see below that she had some of her work on display.
A couple of other fun tidbits about Paige is that she also played Peter Pan at the Hollywood Bowl about 20 years ago! My roommate, Annie, and I weren’t sure if we heard her correctly, so we looked it up and found a picture! And while Paige voiced Belle in the Beauty and the Beast, her husband played Beast in an LA stage production for three years!
Lastly, it was interesting to find out that not only is Paige a huge basketball fan, but she was really good friends with Kobe Bryant before his passing. The two met at an animation awards ceremony a few years ago, when Kobe was working with Glen Keane on the animated short “Dear Basketball”. Paige’s husband went up to Kobe, as she was too nervous to say hi. Kobe asked who his wife was, and when he said, “Paige O’Hara,” Kobe’s response was “BELLE?!” From there, they formed a friendship, and Paige worked on some voiceover projects with Kobe and even did a Beauty and the Beast painting for him. She said that Kobe was a storyteller, and was very inspired by Walt Disney. He wanted to follow in those footsteps and tell stories after he retired from basketball. Although it’s heartbreaking that he has passed, it was sweet to see the friendship that the two had.
Keep an eye out for my next article about another “Happily Ever After Hours” event, featuring Ashley Eckstein and Bret Iwan!