‘Beauty and the Beast’ at 30 – Review

The beauty and the Beast (1991)
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Screenwriters: Linda Woolverton, Brenda Chapman, Chris Sanders
With: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Jesse Corti, Rex Everhart, Bradley Pierce

The 18th century French fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” is one of the best known, influential and adapted stories in the Western world, inspiring stage versions, TV adaptations and countless films. After Jean Cocteau’s surrealist version of 1946, the film that most captivated hearts and minds had to be Disney’s animated musical in 1991, which, to the delight of CEO Michael Eisener, earned his studio the first Oscar nomination for Best Picture for an Animated Feature. 30 years and a live-action remake later, how does the original hold up? All together now, “A tale as old as time …”

Clever dreamer Belle (Paige O’Hara) doesn’t quite fit into her simple provincial village, avoiding the advances of handsome blower Gaston (Richard White) and seeking out her distracted inventor father Maurice (Rex Everhart). When Maurice gets lost in the woods and finds his way to a strange castle, Belle sets out to find him, and in exchange for his father’s freedom soon offers himself as the prisoner of the master of the castle, a prince cursed for being a beast ( Robby Benson) until he finds true love.

Disney has been producing its series of brilliant live-action / GGI hybrid remakes of its beloved animated catalog for a decade now. Of Maleficent To The jungle Book and Mulan, they’ve been a mixed bag, it’s fair to say, from valid reimaginations (Pete’s dragon) unnecessary retreads (The Lion King), but no one takes the original animated versions from you and they can coexist. However mixed up you might have felt about Bill Condon remake of 2017, few can say that the years 1991 The beauty and the Beast is the highest level of the Disney Renaissance and among the studio’s most magical films.

It was quite impossible to be as driven by Belle and Beast’s burgeoning live-action relationship as he was in the animated version of this story. Perhaps this is because the Animated Beast, unlike Dan Stevens’ large portrayal of the velvet belt and fur, is much more bestial in appearance and physique, contrast to (and love for) ) Beautiful more marked. Just watch how animalistic his movements are in the first half of the 1991 film, stalking on all fours like a moody bear on the hunt when his lonely existence in his castle is disrupted – when as soon as his relationship with Belle is starting to flourish, he becomes more upright, awkward and fragile, as unsure of his place in the scheme of things as Belle has felt for much of his life.

This film features composers Alan Menken and Howard Ashman at the height of their powers, a particularly bittersweet fact considering Ashman was losing his battle with AIDS during production (Disney + documentary Howard well worth a watch for a more detailed and poignant account of this). Menken’s orchestration is extremely atmospheric and extremely emotional in all the right places, and the sheer number of absolute bangers – as kids probably don’t say anymore – on the song list is truly impressive, especially considering the movie was not originally intended as a musical. . From the singing opening number led by a choir “Belle”, to the funniest Disney villain song of all time “Gaston” (“now I’m about the size of a baaarge!”), The rowdy “Mob Song” and of course “Be Our Guest”, there is something for everyone.

The movie might only be 90 minutes long, but the magic of the animation is such that the time strangely seems to pass differently than in the live action, and as a result you feel like you spend a lot more time with Belle. and Beast, watching them test the water and get to know each other, seeing them fall in love with that nondescript something beneath the surface.

O’Hara and Benson make a wonderful combination, bringing depth and nuance to their slowly developing romance, their voices pairing perfectly with those of their expressively spirited counterparts. You have awkward first dates, bad dinners, and gifts of affection big and small, so much of their story is told without words. You would need a heart of stone not to be moved when the titular pair walk into this ballroom with the charming ballad of Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) accompanying them. David Ogden Stiers and Jerry Orbach are some of Disney’s best-ever paired doubles as Cogsworth and Lumière, and Richard White explodes as Gaston, one of the most sinister toxic men in the whole movie, a character who manages to easily conquer a city by virtue of being tall and beautiful.

It’s both intimate and epic, fantasy and grounded, perhaps only losing something of its majesty down the home stretch featuring the crowd in slapstick battles with living furniture, admittedly a fun sequence. for the kids which mitigates somewhat the dramatic impact of the final rooftop showdown between Beast and Gaston, and Belle’s confession of her feelings.

The third Disney’s Renaissance film is one of the finest examples of American animation in history, telling a timeless story of love, selflessness, and not judging by appearances. Disney had started to introduce elements of CGI animation into their traditional cellulo designs from the 1985s. The Black Cauldron but it was their most successful marriage of animation techniques to date, with computer technology embellishing and improving traditional hand-drawn craftsmanship in the service of history. Many have tried better The beauty and the Beast, including Disney themselves, but every knockoff looks pale in comparison.

23/24

Recommended for you: Disney Renaissance movies ranked

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