This November, Disney Plus will roll out with over 600 launch titles, together with many animated favorites from the firm’s again catalogue. But whereas Disney reaps the rewards of beloved childhood classics, the wave of recent viewership is a reminder that Linda Woolverton, who penned Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, and different screenwriters concerned with Disney’s traditional animated movies won’t get a cent.

Woolverton, who wrote this month’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and spoke with Polygon about her lengthy profession in screenwriting, was frank about the actuality of the state of affairs.

“Zero,” she replied. “I acquired zero for the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, as a result of animation, function animation, just isn’t coated by the Writers Guild of America and subsequently there aren’t any royalties that have been negotiated.”

Beauty and the Beast was the first function movie Woolverton labored on, a gig she acquired by leaving a duplicate of her young-adult manuscript at the entrance desk of the Disney workplace. A few days later, she acquired a name from chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, who needed her to hitch a brand new screenwriting division. At the time, Disney was in transition and Woolverton discovered herself caught in the center. It wasn’t simply being a lady in a principally male-dominated trade; Disney was additionally pivoting from screenplays being finished by the story division off of boards to having written scripts from non-animators.

For Beauty and the Beast, Woolverton basically remade the Disney heroine to be a proactive agent of her personal story. The earlier princesses Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora all the time had one thing occur to them; after Belle, each Disney main girl made their very own decisions in their very own tales.

“I don’t think a Disney heroine ever went back after that,” Woolverton says.

belle sits in a field, blowing a dandelion, and dreaming of adventure in the GREAT WIDE OPEN


Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to get nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, however nonetheless, that wasn’t the film that secured Woolverton’s eventual membership with the WGA, which secures its members fee upon reuse of their materials, be it by way of reruns of tv episodes, remakes of films, or availability on a streaming service.

“It was Homeward Bound, the canine film,” laughs Woolverton. “I acquired into the Academy off of [Beauty and the Beast], however I didn’t get the WGA. I acquired in from Homeward Bound. The speaking canine film.”

To this present day, the WGA doesn’t safe animation function writers residuals for his or her work. Individual studios and initiatives could signal contracts below the Writer’s Guild to be able to assure their screenwriters residuals, however animation options don’t depend as considered one of the 24 “units” essential for Guild membership.

Woolverton went on to make money from her repute as a star author in the Disney household. She later tailored Beauty and the Beast for Broadway, and wrote the screenplay for the Tim Burton-directed Alice in Wonderland, which, regardless of all the CGI, was a live-action movie protected by the WGA. The 2010 movie reimagined Alice as a decided younger lady returning to Wonderland. The blockbuster earned Woolverton the title of first — and at present nonetheless solely — feminine screenwriter of a billion greenback film. It’s an honor she nonetheless has a tough time wrapping her head round, particularly contemplating the protagonist of her film was a lady.

“I was always told when I was coming up as a writer that boys don’t go see girl movies. I was also told I should partner with a man. As a female writer, you had to write a male protagonist when you really wanted to do a female protagonist,” she recounts. “Finally with Alice, I suppose it broke that barrier down as a result of it truly confirmed the studios {that a} younger feminine can usher in money, can break field workplace information. Suddenly every part modified. Now we see all these feminine protagonists as a result of it’s a industrial operation in any case.”

Woolverton has garnered a lot reward for her work to invigorate ladies on display with company {that a} part of her Wikipedia web page is devoted to the time period “Strong Female Characters.” It’s a phrase that’s been greater than slightly warped at present, thrown round as a blanket assertion to hype up any film with a feminine lead. Woolverton thinks the time period has turn out to be “trite.”

“There are so many more facets to a woman than just ‘strong,’” she explains. “I think it’s a catch-all phrase, that hopefully as we explore the dimensions of female protagonists will fade away into more specifics about that particular character.”

The nuance goes additional. It’s not really easy as swapping out male leads for feminine ones, Woolverton argues.

“Women don’t do things the same, don’t make the same choices, don’t have the same struggles,” she says. “You don’t just take out a male protagonist and plug in a female and put a sword in her hand and call it good because that’s not gonna change anything.”

the live action alice looks confused as she wanders through wonderland

Walt Disney Pictures

That storytelling mindset is clear in each 2014’s Maleficent and the sequel, each of which boast tales specializing in the relationships between ladies. The unique put a twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. Maleficent, chilly and wounded after the man she cherished in her youth violated her belief, finds herself caring for the baby that she initially cursed.

“A lot of women, boy, did they respond to that,” Woolverton says. “Love can mend so much, and children particularly, but also that true love doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic love.”

With Maleficent 2, Woolverton dives deeper into the sophisticated mother-daughter relationship between Maleficent and Aurora, one which displays a wrestle each mom goes via (solely maybe, with out the magical element).

“[Aurora] wants to explore more about her own other half of herself and also wants her own autonomy and wants to make her own decisions. Just like every teenage kid,” Woolverton explains. “When does Maleficent have to let go? Just like every mother. When do you have to let go? When do you have to let your kid make up their own mistakes — or not be you. You have to recognize that your child is not you.”

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is projected to make $45 million in its opening weekend. If the sequel is something like the unique, it is going to ultimately gross lots of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars}. Neither is about to launch with Disney Plus thanks to numerous licensing rights, however once they do ultimately discover their approach to the platform — as all Disney properties will ultimately — Woolverton’s legacy of multidimensional feminine leads will as soon as once more bolster the platform. Only this time, she’ll hold getting paid for them.

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