Fairy Tale; Romance; Folk Tale, Legend, and Mythology; Quest
Yeah, we know you know it's a fairy tale. But we're still gonna talk about it.
Beauty and the Beast is based on a classic 18th-century tale involving magical curses, handsome princes, enchantresses in disguise, and a pure-hearted girl who makes everything right. Ironically, Disney actually cuts some of the traditional fairy tale elements out of the story, like Belle's two wicked stepsisters who frankly feel more at home in Cinderella.
Unlike some pieces of folklore, this tale has a definite origin: it was written by a French novelist named Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. But, it still carries the mythic tropes that go back to the beginnings of civilization. (Cue dramatic impressive music.) The very term "once upon a time" speaks to the magic of folklore and verbal storytelling. The film's adherence to the "Hero's Journey" (go check out that section) harks back to myths and legends from the dawn of civilization. These stories never truly leave us, and Beauty and the Beast serves as a reminder of how potent they can still be.
That segues pretty easily into the third of our four genre tropes: the quest. Both of our protagonists are looking for something. Belle wants to experience the world and all of its adventures. The Beast wants to, well, stop being a beast before time runs out. Both of them face challenges and obstacles on the path to fulfillment, and they ultimately help each other find exactly what they're looking for.
Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention romance. The tagline for the movie calls it the greatest love story of all time, and it might not be exaggerating. In previous movies, Disney basically let the romance speak for itself: the handsome prince and the beautiful princess got together because that's just how things were done. That isn't going to fly here. They needed to show us not just Belle and the Beast falling in love, but why they fell in love and how that changed them (particularly the Beast) for the better.