This is the first in a series of posts I will be doing on lessons that can be learned from Disney movies. Yeah, I know it sounds kind of cheesy but honestly, everyone's seen them and everyone can relate to them so it works.
The overarching theme of Beauty and the Beast is love. The only reason there is even a story is because the Prince has "no love in his heart" and therefore the enchantress turns him into a beast. But she doesn't turn him into a beast because he doesn't fall in love with her. Rather she turns him into a beast because he doesn't simply love her by giving her the shelter she needs. Therefore he needs to learn to love, not the warm fuzzy kind of love but the love that says "I want to do something for her".
Belle, on the other hand is the perfect picture of love right from the beginning. She shows nothing but love and respect to her father, even though he's pretty much the most embarrasing parent in the history of the world. However, this is not simply a love out of obedience but a true love for her father for whom she is willing to give up her freedom in order for him to leave the Beast's castle in safety.
The household appliances, led by Lumiere, also exemplify love when they show hospitality to Belle and her father, despite the Beast's express orders not to. This is with the exception of Cogsworth who is the classic example of a good person who is afraid to do the right thing.
When the movie begins the Beast and Gaston are the same in their attitude toward the world. Both see themselves as the center of the universe and are unwilling to do anything for others. But the Beast changes whereas Gaston stays the same. The first sign of the Beast's change is when he risks his own life to save Belle from the wolves. From there he goes on to change in little ways, such as using a spoon, in order to please her. Then in his greatest act of love towards Belle, the Beast allows her to go to her father. He has found that Belle's happiness is more important to him than breaking the spell.
However, the Beast's ultimate act of love in the movie is not towards Belle but rather Gaston. This is in the Beast's mercy in allowing Gaston to live despite Gaston's cruelty to him.
In the final scene of the movie Chip asks Mrs. Potts "Are they gonna live happily ever after Mom?" To which Mrs. Potts replies "Of course dear, of course." Because they have learned how to truly love and so they now possess the tools to live happily ever after.