“I want to do something for her… but what?” asks the Beast. Cogsworth responds, “Well, there’s the usual things: flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep, …”
Walt Disney Pictures experienced an animation renaissance with 1989’s The Little Mermaid, their first big animated hit since 1977’s The Rescuers. The second film of Disney’s animation renaissance, 1990’s The Rescuers Down Under, flopped at the box office, and their next big animated hit would come the following year; an adaptation of a famous fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince De Beaumont. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast would become my second favorite film adaptation of De Beaumont’s fairy tale (my first favorite being, of course, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 French classic). I never got to see the film during its original theatrical release or even during its IMAX re-release in 2002. I finally got to see the film during its 3D re-release almost four-and-a-half years ago at the now-closed Ziegfeld theater in New York City, and it was an absolute joy to experience in an actual movie palace. This review of Beauty and the Beast is my entry in the Royalty On Film Blogathon hosted by The Flapper Dame.
1991’s Beauty and the Beast follows a young woman who is imprisoned by a prince-turned-enchanted beast in his castle. In order to become human again, he must win her love before the last petal of his enchanted rose has fallen. Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise assembled an outstanding voice cast that included Paige O’Hara (as Belle), Robby Benson (as the Beast), Richard White (as Gaston), Jerry Orbach (as Lumiere), David Ogden Stiers (as Cogsworth), Angela Lansbury (as Mrs. Potts), Bradley Michael Pierce (as Chip), Rex Everhart (as Maurice), Jesse Corti (as Le Fou), Jo Anne Worley (as the Wardrobe), Brian Cummings (as the Stove), Alvin Epstein (as the Bookseller), Tony Jay (as Monsieur D’Arque), Alec Murphy (as the Baker), Kimmy Robertson (as the Featherduster), Mary Kay Bergman and Kath Soucie (as the Bimbettes), and Frank Welker (as the Footstool). O’Hara and Benson have great chemistry as Belle and the Beast, Lansbury is motherly as Mrs. Potts, White is narcissistic as Gaston, and Orbach and Stiers are quite hilarious.
The screenplay by Linda Woolverton condenses De Beaumont’s fairy tale, removes certain characters while adding others, and makes some character changes (for example: the profession of Belle’s father Maurice is changed from merchant to inventor; Belle is turned into a stronger and independent female character). It also utilizes some elements from the Cocteau version (such as the enchanted castle objects and a suitor of Belle’s becoming antagonistic), and my favorite story arc was the Beast’s slow rediscovery of his humanity. The animation is just gorgeous; a successful blend of hand-drawn and computer animation (the ballroom sequence is a major highlight, and I also loved the use of shadows and ominous lighting). John Carnochan’s editing moves the film along at a good pace.
The Oscar-nominated sound mixing by Terry Porter, Mel Metcalfe, David J. Hudson, and Doc Kane is incredible, and three of the film’s songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, Belle, and Be Our Guest) received Oscar nods for Best Original Song (Beauty and the Beast would pick up the well-deserved win). Alan Menken’s Oscar-winning score reflects the humor, drama, and action, and is highlighted with memorable themes. Trousdale and Wise’s Beauty and the Beast is an enchanting animated musical with an enjoyable voice cast and memorable songs. It was also the first animated film to earn a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Picture (an achievement repeated only by 2009’s Up and 2010’s Toy Story 3).