Without question, the most memorable aspect of Beauty and the Beast is the Academy Award-winning music from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
There are some films that will always be considered classics, irrespective of age or movie snobbery. Originally released in 1991, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was one of the biggest sensations of the early decade, filled with wonderfully catchy music and jaw-dropping animation. For the 2012 re-release in Disney Digital 3D, the studio has tried to improve the original film with retrofitted 3D technology; however, it doesn’t enhance the experience by much because Beauty and the Beast is already such a fantastic adventure.
If you don’t remember (or if your children are getting ready to see the film for the first time), Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a vain and cruel prince (Robby Benson) who is turned into a hideous beast after failing to show kindness to a stranger. A curse is placed on the prince and his castle, one that can only be broken if the Beast can find true love before his 21st birthday. After years of solitude, the Beast and his servants (who themselves are turned into household appliances and objects) have accepted the fact that they will continue to live their lives under the spell.
Their hope is revived, though, when Belle (Paige O’Hara), an outcast from the local village, crosses paths with the mysterious castle and its strange, but delightful, inhabitants. With the help of Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), and Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury), Belle is able to see past the Beast’s terrifying physical appearance to the kind and gentle man underneath. Unfortunately, town blowhard Gaston (Richard White) is unhappy with Belle’s refusal to marry him and causes trouble not only for the Beast, but the entire town, as well.
Without question, the most memorable aspect of Beauty and the Beast is the Academy Award-winning music from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Twenty years later, the songs are just as much fun as the first time you heard them. Films released today rarely have memorable songs that everybody knows and looks forward to hearing on the radio. Beauty and the Beast reminds us that there was a time when pretty much everyone in the country was singing the same three songs over and over.
The characters are still entertaining and engaging, each performer perfectly cast in their part. Some surprises are realized years later as an adult viewer (Jerry Orbach is Lumiere?!), and some voices age flawlessly (Lansbury is as wonderful to listen to as ever). The film is filled with ridiculous characters and slapstick comedy, reminding us that, at one time, Disney was the only game in town when it came to animation.
Beauty and the Beast was the first animated feature film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. It’s no surprise considering the amazing visuals and stunning animation. However, what made it so magical and mind-blowing back then is what hurts it today with the addition of 3D animation. Everyone who viewed the film in the theater remembers the first time they saw the famous ballroom scene (one of the first times computer animation was blended with traditional animation). While it was breathtaking to watch originally, the digital 3D just draws attention to the fact that the original animators’ best work is simply quaint in comparison to today’s technology. The 3D takes the magic out of the experience and makes the film weaker by comparison.
That one criticism aside, Beauty and the Beast 3D is still a fantastic movie that adults will love to see again on the big screen, one that will continue to captivate the attention and imagination of young children. | Matthew Newlin