Almost every Disney animated hero or heroine has one thing in common: they have no mother. There's even an entire Disney movie about it — remember in Peter Pan when the Lost Boys adopted Wendy as their mother? Disney's Beauty and the Beast is no exception to the dead mom trope. In the animated film, Belle's mother is never even mentioned, but the new live action Beauty and the Beast gives the character a whole new backstory and actual screentime. Seeing Belle's mother in Beauty and the Beast breaks a Disney tradition, and it helps build a greater foundation for Belle's relationship with the Beast.
Instead of being a casualty of the writers, Belle's mother in Beauty and the Beast has a looming presence over the entire film. Mentioned early in the movie when Belle asks her father to tell her one more thing about her, Belle's mother is established as an influencing force in Belle's life. Similarly, her death has clearly left a lasting impression on Maurice, who spends his time trying to recapture the happiness of their time together in his art and music box creations. Though Maurice refuses to talk to Belle about her mother's death, it's obvious that he's still holding on to her, and his fragility gives Belle's decision to take her father's place as the Beast's prisoner even more urgency. Her entire life, Belle has been taking care of her father in the aftermath of her mother's death. She's not stopping just because there's a gigantic beast involved.
Including Belle's mother in the narrative also allows the new Beauty and the Beast to add a new dimension to Belle and the Beast's relationship. In a major departure from the animated film, the Beast doesn't just have a magic mirror to connect him to the outside world, he also has a magical atlas that can transport him anywhere in the world, if only in his mind. Later in the film, Beast allows Belle to use the atlas to return to her Parisian home, where she lived as a baby with her parents. There, they find a doctor's mask, and Belle learns that her mother died of the plague. In a flashback, we see Belle's mother beg a young Maurice to take their daughter and run before the plague takes them as well. It's a heartbreaking scene that not only helps add more depth to Belle, but also solidifies her bond with the Beast. She experiences this extremely intimate moment with him and turns to him for safety and comfort after, asking him to take her back home.
Belle's mother isn't the only parental figure given more of a story in the live action Beauty and the Beast. The Beast's mother is also briefly shown — she also died when the Beast was young, leaving him in the care of his selfish and unfeeling father. For director Bill Condon, adding detail to both Belle and the Beast's past was necessary for the new adaptation. "They're both outsiders, but how did Belle wind up being so different from everybody else in a town where nobody understands her, and how did the Beast become the person who earned that curse? That's the stuff we started to fill in," Condon said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
As Disney prepares to release even more live action films, it's likely we'll get to meet even more Disney mothers previously left ignored. Hopefully not all of them will meet the same fate as Belle's mother in Beauty and the Beast.