An old beggar woman arrives at the castle of a French prince. The woman asks for shelter from the cold, and in return, offers the young prince a rose. Repulsed by her appearance, the prince turns her away.
The woman then throws off her disguise, revealing that she is a beautiful enchantress. The Prince tries to apologize, but she has already seen the lack of kindness in his heart. She conjures a powerful curse, transforming him into a hideous beast, his servants into anthropomorphic household items, and the entire castle and all its surroundings into a dark, forbidding place, so that he will learn not to judge by appearances.
The curse can only be broken if the Beast learns to love another and receives the other's love in return before the last petal of the enchantress's rose withers and falls; if not, he will be doomed to remain a beast forever.
Years later, a beautiful young peasant woman named Belle lives in a nearby village with her father, Maurice, who is an inventor.Maurice rides off to a fair with his invention, but gets lost and loses his horse as night falls. He escapes from some wolves and desperately seeks shelter from a storm. Cold and tired, he stumbles upon a mysterious castle and enters. One by one, the enchanted household items - Lumière the candelabra, Mrs. Potts the teapot and her son Chip the tea cup and Cogsworth the clock and head of the household - welcome him.
The Beast, however, is enraged when he discovers Maurice and is about to throw him out, not caring that the wolves would eat him, when Maurice says he needs a place to stay. The Beast then decides to lock him in a dungeon in the castle tower (against Maurice's wishes).Belle, who worries when her father's horse returns home without him, decides to seek out her father. Eventually, she winds up at the Beast's castle. The objects, their hope renewed with the arrival of Belle, show her the way to the dungeon while keeping themselves concealed from her sight.
Belle finds Maurice in the tower dungeon, but the Beast catches her. She offers herself in exchange for her father's life, against his wishes, giving her word to remain in the castle forever. The Beast reveals himself to her, and although Belle is clearly terrified, she bravely refuses to back down from her offer. The Beast agrees and releases Maurice, who is taken back to the village in an walking coach before they can say goodbye. Moved by Belle's sadness, the Beast decides to give Belle a room in the castle instead of keeping her in the dungeon. The Beast gives Belle permission to go anywhere in the castle except the West Wing, refusing to explain why. He shows Belle her room and tells her that they must meet for dinner (at Lumiere's suggestion).