Beauty and the Beast holds a special spot in the hearts of millions of Disney fans. The 1991 film, which went on to a successful Broadway production, has entranced audiences, mostly because of Alan Menken’s memorable songs. From “Be Our Guest” to “Gaston” to “Belle,” the animated film has one of the catchiest soundtracks of all time.
When the iconic movie was released in IMAX a few years ago, the move was heralded by critics and the overall moviegoing public. Lines wrapped around theaters as fans grabbed a rare chance to experience a classic family film in such a unique format.
The current 3D version that’s playing in movie theaters feels more like a cash grab from the Big Mouse. The technology is simply unnecessary for a movie like Beauty and the Beast. It doesn’t naturally jump off the screen, and again, the film is best remembered for its songs, not its visuals. In fact, some 20 years after its initial release, the animation feels a little dated. Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara) doesn’t translate as well to the big screen; the lines used to form her face are rough and almost masculine. The beast, on the other hand, still looks wonderful. He looks like a cross between a lion and bear; it’s a creation that’s quite unique in the Disney repertoire.
Although the reintroduction of the movie is based largely on finances, one can’t complain if a whole new generation of audiences experiences the magic of the tale.
At 84 minutes, it’s still a wonder how the movie can tell such a great story in only a few minutes. All the characters are nicely developed, from Gaston, the brute suitor, to Belle, the beautiful oddball in town. Then there’s all the enchanted servants in the Beast’s castle, including Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip. I’m also quite fond of Maurice, Belle’s inventor father, and Lefou, Gaston’s righthand man.
The landscapes and backgrounds of Beauty and the Beast are impressive, and in today’s world of giga-CGI, they are sorely missed. Watch how directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise establish a scene: They begin with a portrait, almost like we’re reading a book, and then slowly it comes to life. This technique works especially nice in the opening sequence with the song “Belle.”
Many of the usual Disney cliches are present: Belle’s mother is nowhere to be seen, a theme that can be found in Bambi, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. Most of the main characters in these films either start the movie with one parent, or go on to lose a parent during the course of the feature. There’s a damsel in distress, a hero in need of a magic spell and a villainous mob hoisting torches. Beauty and the Beast follows the rulebook, but it does so with unparalleled excellence.
The movie is one of the only animated films to be nominated for Best Picture. That was a worthy nomination, and it achieved the honor in wonderful two-dimension.
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Beauty and the Beast
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Written by Linda Woolverton
Running time: 84 minutes