Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Okay, so it's time for me to finally put all my cards on the table when it comes to 'Beauty and the Beast'. I've been sort of back and forth on this one, but I think I've finally decided that this is another case of a solid flick that ultimately has my respect for what it is, but it has never really been one for me. It's enjoyable, sure, but of my "Renaissance Bubble" I grew up with and really paid attention to ('Little Mermaid' to 'Lion King') this was probably the one I got the least out of. To be blunt, it's simply the whole romance aspect of things. This is just the type of movie that isn't necessarily up my alley.
With that said, I don't deny its history-making success. It was some of the first real use of CG in animation, we hit a mild milestone with Belle being the fifth official Disney Princess, the songs are admittedly pretty great, and the live-action version still remains a high-ranking title for box office success largely due to peoples' fondness of this original. I would probably even argue that nowadays this particular title marks the quintessential 'Beauty and the Beast' story as opposed to anything classically written or filmed - grown to have a more child-friendly tone like so many of Grimm's fairy tales. This is not to say the classic story is no good, it's just that when I say the title 'Beauty and the Beast' to you, chances are, this is the one that pops into your head first, even if it's the version you don't necessarily like.
In this version, we begin with some backstory where an enchantress disguised as a beggar seeks shelter from a storm. She offers a cruel prince a rose in exchange for this, but he snubs her. This is where she reveals her true self, and puts a curse on the prince for his arrogance, transforming him into the Beast (Robby Benson) and his servants into different objects. The enchantress then casts a spell on the rose, warning the prince that the curse can only be lifted if he stops being a jerk. If he can love and be loved in return before the last petal of the rose falls, everything goes back to normal. If not, the curse remains permanent.
Fast-forward several years, and in a nearby village we are introduced to the beautiful Belle (Paige O'Hara) - the book-obsessed daughter of an inventor named Maurice (Rex Everhart), who has dreams of adventure. She's ever on the avoidance of a brute named Gaston (Richard White) who is all about marrying Belle for her good looks and not a whole lot more. One day, Maurice heads into the woods towards a fair in order to show off his latest invention, but gets himself lost, and imprisoned in the Beast's castle for trespassing. This of course eventually leads to Belle seeking out her father, and eventually crossing paths with the Beast, trading herself as prisoner for her father. As a result, some might say Belle gets a mad case of Stockholm Syndrom. But the idea is that she shows the Beast what it is to love someone beyond their beauty, making Beast and Gaston contrast really quite well.
Of course, Belle isn't quite about the Beast from the get-go either. She gets a little nudge from the aforementioned cursed household items; namely a teapot and a teacup respectively named Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury), and her son, Chip (Bradley Pierce), a clock named Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), and of course everyone's favourite host, the candle, Lumiere (Jerry Orbach) who performs 'Be Our Guest'; the sequence I enjoy the most on a personal level between both this and the live-action film. It does make you wanna pull up a chair and dig in - but then, maybe that's just me.
Anyway, the movie is ultimately about finding the beauty within, it's a romance, and for the most part not completely for yours truly. But once again, I can't deny its success, and it has my respect. It was history-making in a few ways. Other than the use of CG (namely for the dancefloor sequence), it was also the first animated film ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and wouldn't be followed up until 'Up' in 2009'. It didn't win, but to have the nomination was quite a shocker to most. This ends up being a movie I meet very much in the middle. While it's not really for me, I still have no problem watchin it if someone else really wants to. It's not without its charm, but for me, it would be the next two titles that I'd really take away from my childhood. That, however, will have to wait until my next Disney Catch-Up series.
Leave a Reply.