I’ll let it be known that I don’t like 3D technology and I don’t understand why Hollywood is still trying to make it happen, but I’ll watch a rerelease in 3D if a film is close to my heart (Or a new release if I think it absolutely needs to be seen in 3D—Avatar is a perfect example of a film where that third dimension truly adds to the experience, despite the rest of its flaws).
Beauty and the Beast is, without a question, no exception to this personal rule. At three years old, it was the first film I had seen in a movie theater, ever. I still remember that it was an evening showing and it was just me and my dad, at this now nonexistent theater in San Francisco called the Regency (It’s now the concert venue the Regency Ballroom). In a way, it was my first fandom too. I wanted to be just like Belle (I still do—Her adventure-seeking spirit and doing her thing and loving without giving a care to societal norms are admirable qualities!), and for the longest time, whenever I went shopping with my mom or dad and I saw a Beauty and the Beast-related toy or item, I begged for them to buy it for me. Even if I didn’t get it, I still somehow got showered with all things Beauty and the Beast for birthdays and holidays and even for no reason at all. You know when you’re a pop culture junkie, people tend to associate you with a certain celebrity, movie, TV show, book series, etc? Beauty and the Beast was that to me in my early childhood, equivalent to American Idol in my late high school and most of my college years.
My love for Beauty and the Beast has never faltered: There was an IMAX rerelease in 2002 that I never got to see, but I did snatch up a Special Edition DVD as soon as it came out. I was psyched when a local theater company did a production of the Broadway musical in 2007, and I was entranced as I actually got to see a dream-like farce unveil before my eyes and all around me. Over twenty years later since that day I first sat in a cinema, I now have an excuse to form words about how much I adore this masterpiece from Disney’s golden age. However, as you can obviously tell by this first-person narrative, this post isn’t so much of a critique as it is a mere appreciation and tribute to one of my all-time favorite films.
When it was released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast broke barriers for the world of animation in Hollywood when it became the first animated feature to win the Best Comedy/Musical Golden Globe and the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. If it were released as a first-run film today, it would have no problem knocking all of its hand-drawn/computer-generated/CGI competitors out. With its alluring combination of adventure, romance, humor, lovable characters, and all-around fun, plus critically-acclaimed showstopping musical numbers penned by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, Beauty and the Beast attracts a broad audience for the ages, even extending its legacy as a long-running Broadway musical.
Based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête, Disney’s vivid and friendly adaptation tells stories of yearning for a new life outside a small town where conformity is of importance, and learning that true beauty comes from within. Set in a tiny European village where a mysterious castle full of living household objects—and a fearsome beast—are in existence, the film follows Belle (Voiced by Paige O’Hara), a beautiful girl who keeps her head in her books, a characteristic seen as odd by her fellow townspeople. When her father Maurice (Rex Everhart) stumbles upon the castle and becomes a prisoner of the Beast (Robby Benson)—a prince trapped inside the body of a hideous creature under a spell cast many years before—Belle bravely sets out to find him. But when the Beast releases Maurice and holds Belle captive instead, she unexpectedly befriends the kind enchanted objects living in the castle: an amorous candelabra named Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), a cautious clock named Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), a motherly teapot named Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury), and her son Chip (Bradley Pierce). She also starts to fall for the Beast as she sees the human inside him. However, the arrogant hunter Gaston (Richard White)—a suitor of Belle’s—takes jealousy upon finding this out and takes his foolish sidekick LeFou (Jesse Corti) to lead the town in a quest to kill the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast manages to find a fine balance in throwing its story out there. It doesn’t shy away from being sinister, as shown in its depiction of the dark castle, how frightening the Beast is, Gaston’s thirst for revenge, and a scheme to throw Maurice into an insane asylum. However, as it is a Disney movie after all, the cute characters and its timeless romantic plotline gives it its magical atmosphere and casts people of all ages under its spell to fall in love. Of course, Beauty and the Beast would certainly be nothing without its music. From its lively introduction to its lovely outcast heroine “Belle” and the morbid “Mob Song (Kill the Beast),” to the deliciously divine entertainer “Be Our Guest” and the elegant title track, every song is an integral part of the tale, accompanied by grand visuals and will irresistibly make your hearts (and mouths) sing.
Technically, the new restoration is closer to the original colors (As opposed to the 2002 special edition with brighter colors), which is a plus side for those who prefer the film the way it was seen at its earliest. But the 3D is just 3D—it does make its biggest impacts in the already salivating eye candy produced in “Be Our Guest” and in the ballroom dancing scene, which has given the most iconic images associated with this film. Disney could have just rereleased this movie in its original format, and I would be very pleased. But with or without animation popping out of the screen, Beauty and the Beast has proved that a film of its league will never die. Rather, it’s a rose that somehow manages to weather through time and continues to bloom.