Paige O’Hara is nothing like the rest of us—in the best way possible.
O’Hara’s voice is the sound of the inventor’s daughter in Beauty and the Beast. But before her tale was as old as time as the voice of Disney’s animated Belle, O’Hara forged a career on Broadway in musicals like Show Boat as Ellie, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (understudying multiple roles and eventually taking over as Edwin Drood/Alice Nutting), and Les Misérables as Fantine. Yet it was the bookish Disney princess that would immortalize her voice.
But that’s not how recording Belle began. “The first day I went into record, I started trying to make it higher and younger and [lyricist] Howard Ashman said, ‘What are you doing? We want your voice. Belle is you.’”
Twenty-eight years later, O’Hara sounds just the same—as proven in Disney’s new special “Alan Menken and His Leading Ladies,” available on the Walt Disney Signature Collection release of The Little Mermaid. O’Hara joined composer Menken, original Ariel Jodi Benson, and three other Disney divas—Judy Kuhn, Lillias White, and Donna Murphy—to look back on the legacy of their iconic characters and the music they canonized.
In an exclusive interview with Playbill (watch above), O’Hara recalls what it was like to work with Menken and Ashman, and the brilliance of Beauty and the Beast.
In the entirety of the film, her favorite line is: “‘I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell,‘” she recites from the “Belle” reprise. “They admit they got the idea from Sound of Music—of course they did, they have good taste. But it’s a great moment where [Belle] wants to break loose out of this little town and explore the world—not looking for a man—just explore the world.”
She also shared Ashman’s favorite moment: “People should know that the song ‘Human Again’—that was cut from the film—was Howard’s favorite song. We were able to put it into one edition. He was smiling from heaven on that.”
Watch our full interview with O’Hara in the video above and be sure to catch the full bonus feature “Alan Menken and His Leading Ladies.” Available on digital, 4k Ultra HD, and Movies Anywhere February 12 and on 4k Ultra HD and Blu-ray February 26. The Little Mermaid also includes new bonus features inside the original recording sessions; a new installment of Stories From Walt’s Office, featuring “Gadgets & Gizmos” Disney kept in his office; a “#TreasuresUntold” special, revealing secrets about the original movie; DCappella’s fresh music video of “Part of Your World”; sing-along mode; and classic bonus features like deleted scenes, audio commentary from directors Ron Clements, John Musker, and Menken. Plus, only available on digital, three additional hours of bonus features and “Part of Your World” – A 30-Year Retrospective where Menken and Benson talk about finding Ariel’s voice, the peak of Disney “I Want” songs, and more.
Check out a clip from the bonus feature here: