Walt Disney first attempted unsuccessfully to adapt Beauty and the Beast into an animated film during the 1930s and 1950s. Following the success of The Little Mermaid (1989), Walt Disney Pictures decided to adapt the fairy tale, which Richard Purdum originally conceived as a non-musical. Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg eventually dismissed Purdum's idea and ordered that the film be a musical similar to The Little Mermaid instead. The film was directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton story first credited to Roger Allers. Lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken wrote the film's songs. Ashman, who additionally served as the film's executive producer, died of AIDS-related complications eight months before the film's release, and the film is thus dedicated to his memory.
Beauty and the Beast premiered as an unfinished film at the New York Film Festival on September 29, 1991, followed by its theatrical release as a completed film at the El Capitan Theatre on November 13. The film was a box office success, grossing $425 million worldwide on a $25 million budget. Beauty and the Beast won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, the first animated film to ever win that category. It also became the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 64th Academy Awards, where it won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for its title song and received additional nominations for Best Original Song and Best Sound. In April 1994, Beauty and the Beast became Disney's first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical. The success of the film spawned two direct-to-video follow-ups: Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997) and Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World (1998), both of which take place in the timeline of the original. This was followed by a spin-off television series, Sing Me a Story with Belle.
An IMAX version of the film was released in 2002, and included "Human Again", a new five-minute musical sequence that was previously included in the 1994 musical. That same year, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". After the success of the 3D re-release of The Lion King, the film was reissued in 3D in 2012. A live-action adaptation of the film directed by Bill Condon was released on March 17, 2017, that went on to become the 12th-highest-grossing film of all time.