Beauty and the Beast’s Belle made her way to another Disney animated movie, thus connecting both to the shared Disney Princess universe. Walt Disney Pictures has explored a variety of genres for decades, but the studio continues to be best known for its animated features. However, the ones that still hold a special place in the hearts of the audience are those animated movies with female characters as the leads, and many of them are part of the official Disney Princesses franchise.
The first character to join this faction within the wider Disney universe was Snow White, who made her debut in the 1937 movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Since then, Disney has produced 12 movies within the Disney Princesses franchise, as not all female leads in an animated Disney movie can be part of it, as is the case of Frozen’s Anna and Elsa. One of the most popular and beloved members of this exclusive club of Disney Princesses is Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, who managed to make a quick and very easy-to-miss appearance in another animated movie that isn’t part of the Princesses franchise.
Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991 and follows Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara), a book-loving young woman who in order to save her father, becomes the prisoner of the Beast (Robby Benson), a prince transformed into a beast through a curse. To break it, Beast must learn to love and be loved in return, which he achieves thanks to Belle. Without counting its direct-to-video sequels, Belle didn’t appear again in another Disney movie – at least not in a lead role. In 1996, Disney brought The Hunchback of Notre Dame, based on the 1831 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. The story focuses on Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame, and his struggles to gain acceptance into society. Like any other animated Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a musical, and it’s during one of its musical numbers where Belle makes a quick appearance.
During the musical number “Out There”, there’s a moment where the camera takes a look at the town’s citizens from above, and on the bottom right side of the screen, Belle is seen walking and reading, as she used to do. Belle is wearing her white and blue outfit from the beginning of Beauty of the Beast, so this was most likely her before the events of her movie. Of course, there’s a timeline mistake here as they are not set in the same year – The Hunchback of Notre Dame is set in 1482, while Beauty and the Beast is set in the 1700s. Still, Belle’s quick cameo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame connects both movies to the “shared Disney Princesses universe”, which suggests there are many links between the Princesses and with other Disney characters as well – for example, it’s widely believed that Anna and Elsa’s parents didn’t die and their mother was pregnant when they disappeared, so she gave birth on the ship to a baby boy, and they ended up in a jungle, thus making way for the events of Tarzan, and the reason why they were sailing is that they were on their way to Rapunzel’s wedding.
Belle’s cameo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, then, brings Quasimodo and company into the shared Disney Princesses universe, and without having to have a direct connection to her. Of course, it’s unlikely the animators of The Hunchback of Notre Dame added Beauty and the Beast’s Belle to their movie with the intention of setting up a wider connected universe, and it was nothing more than a fun Easter egg, but there have been too many similarities and coincidences within the Disney Princesses franchise that they have made way for very interesting theories, as is the shared Disney Princesses universe.