Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

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*insert voice of South Park's version of Mel Gibson* Gimme back mah monehh!
*insert voice of South Park’s version of Mel Gibson*
Gimme back mah monehh!

Twitter Plot Summary: Belle and the Beast are forced into close proximity, while enchanted household objects try and push them together. So to speak.

The cynical perspective on Beauty and the Beast would be to describe it as the tale of a woman who is kidnapped by a beastly creature and, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, falls in love with her captor. This would be a mostly unfair opinion to take on the matter of course, but it’s an easy read of a film that is otherwise a delight from start to finish.

Fresh from the success of the release of The Little Mermaid *and their renaissance following their dark 80s period, Disney went one step further with *Beauty and the Beast by going all out on the Broadway tunes, even going so far as to bring in a Broadway cast to say the words and sing the songs. It’s a formula that has done them well in the intervening 20-odd years, and arguably it was this film that set the ball rolling, like an animated version of the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The story is broadly the same as in the fairy tale, with a few amendments made for good cinematic effect. Here, Belle (Paige O’Hara) is a bookish but attractive girl who is pursued by the brutish Gaston (Richard White). Whilst she spurns his advances, her father finds himself in a large castle where the Beast (Robby Benson) resides, which leads to Belle being forced to move in, much to both her and, separately, Gaston’s chagrin. The Beast is a tragic figure, a man who was cursed by an enchantress, doomed to live as a beast until such time as he earns the love of another. But he must do so before the enchanted rose loses its last petal.

It didn't take much for him to get back into his big furry dog persona.
It didn’t take much for him to get back into his big furry dog persona.

In place of Disney’s usual anthropomorphic representation of animals (if we ignore the Beast who technically doesn’t count), this time we get anthropomorphic castle objects, from a candlestick to a clock to an array of wardrobes and kitchen utensils. The friendship between Lumiere (a randy Frenchman, no less) and Maurice the clock is a particular highlight, but the mother/son style relationship between Mrs Potts (Angela Lansbury) and Chip (Bradley Pierce) is the heart of the piece.

More important is the role Belle plays in these events. She is not the helpless damsel we have traditionally seen in the past, instead she butts heads with the Beast until they both eventually come to respect and appreciate one another for what is missing in their own lives.

The songs, of course, are sublime. Mix in some gorgeous animation, a mixture of classic hand drawn and computer generated imagery. All the more impressive given the year it was made, no doubt helping the world of animated films towards its current, three dimensional format.

Beauty and the Beast is yet another example of Disney at the top of their game, a demonstration of what the company can do when casting, story, animation and songs come together in a near-perfect combination. It would be a formula that they would repeat for at least the next two films.

Score: 4.5/5

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