Movie 30: Beauty and the Beast

BeautybeastposterI know at the end of this project people will want me to rank all 54 in order from greatest to worst and I don’t know how I am going to do it.  It feels impossible.  Take The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast . Both are masterpieces.  Perfection.  Little Mermaid probably means more to me personally,  where Beauty and the Beast is probably more of a universal story but they are both sensational.  I said it with Winnie the Pooh and immediately a chorus of detractors surfaced, but who cannot like Beauty and the Beast?

Who knows but I love it!

stained glass
The stained glass introduces us to the legend

Here’s how I know it is a great movie.  The other day I was thinking about it and it occurred to me there are some major plot holes.  For instance, we know the Beast has till 21 to  break the spell but he has 10 years so he was rude at 11?  If time stood still in castle and he is 21 forever (which would seem to be the case given Chip who is probably 7ish?) than how does he know he is 21 yet and if he is 21 wouldn’t that still make him very young when the spell was given?  Or has he been 21, 10 times?

Also when you think about Be Our Guest, all the flatware and napkins and everything else, if each of those things is a person that is a lot of servants at the castle?  Thousands! Finally, is the whole kingdom under the spell? Is that why there are so many items?  Because wouldn’t people notice their prince is gone? Also how long are Belle and the Beast together because Lefoux and Maurice are outside the whole time but their courtship seems like many months?

So plot holes, yes? But here’s the thing…None of that matters AT ALL!  Even a little bit! The characters are so rich, the writing is so sharp, animation stunning and the music- oh is it perfect. To me it is like Up in that regard. Yes you can nitpick plot points but all the pieces are so strong it carries the viewer away with it if they will allow it to.

Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture and it sure deserved it.

Production-

It’s hard writing this blog because I have tons of information on this and it is all very interesting stuff.  The audio commentary has so many great tidbits from Allan Menken, Gary Trousdale, and Kirk Wise.

Like Little Mermaid, this film was treated like a traditional Broadway musical and much of that emphasis came from lyricist Howard Ashman who I have grown to have such immense respect for when doing my research for this project.  He tragically died from AIDS before Beauty and the Beast could be released but this was not simply a song writer.  This was a man who acted out the characters and had definite opinions about casting, dialogue and everything else.  They said on the Gaston number Ashman had sheets and sheets of lines of funny prose that had to be trimmed out.  He could have gone on for days.

He was so crucial to Beauty and the Beast that  they moved production to an upstate New York Radisson Inn so they could be near him as he was sick.  What a creative gift to give the world as you are on your death bed.  Quite touching really.

howard ashman

I think we forget how bold the traditional musical structure was in 1991.  Even with The Little Mermaid precedent,  to do a Broadway musical was basically unheard of.  We are more used to it now because we get a musical release every year or so but that would not have happened if Menken and Ashman and Disney had not kept the medium alive in the 90s.

They said in the audio commentary that the New York Film Festival gave a standing ovation to a rough draft version of Beauty and the Beast and part of that is because it is so great but another is because it hits every nostalgic musical button without being corny.

The casting went a long way with the film’s success.  Jodi Benson, from Little Mermaid was considered for Belle, but they decided to go with an older, more mature sounding voice of Paige O’hara.  The Little Mermaid needed a girl who is uncomfortable in her own skin.  Beauty and the Beast needed a woman.   Belle has already figured out what she wants and it is not just a thing like legs or a man.  She wants adventure and a spiritual belonging.

What takes Ariel probably 40 minutes to realize when she sings on the rock, Belle has announced in the first 15 minutes.  Both are important characters but just at different phases and ages.  I love that.

beauty-and-the-beast-cast-disney-couples-23625095-400-550

All the other casting is brilliant with Richard White as Gaston, Robby Benson as Beast, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, and Angela Lansbury as Mrs Potts.  I went to a concert of Angela Lansbury and she felt great ownership over playing Mrs Potts.  She said after 9/11 she would talk with kids and her voice was a comfort to them because of Mrs Potts.  You can feel that kind of connection in all the performances. Mrs Potts is a great example of how perfect the characters are developed.  With her we have a character with no arms or legs and yet she is warm and maternal.  Pretty remarkable.

chip and mrs potts

What amazed me this time around is how every character in Beauty and the Beast is established in the first 30 seconds of them talking.  The Beast is the only one we don’t understand and have to see change.  Usually this wouldn’t work but when the writing is this sharp it does.  It is kind of like the Justice League of animation.  Individually they may be a boring character but together they work great.

Allan Menken’s score contributes so much too.  The way scenes build to crescendos and the way storytelling is done within songs is amazing.  this is not a action, stop and sing, and more action type of musical.  The music tells the story and introduces us to the characters flawlessly.

Think of The Mob  Song.  We start out with Gaston proposing to Belle and by the end they are practically at the castle and that all happens convincingly with the lyrics, vocals and music. (And each reaction totally makes sense when given the behavior of the Beast at the beginning and what little we know about each of the townspeople and Gaston).

It also took the CAPS work of Rescuers Down Under and combined it with special effects in a new way.  Remember in my Rescuers review I said the computer graphic sequences like the Sydney Opera House didn’t really hold up for modern audiences?  These do.  The ballroom scene is just as beautiful now and sweeping as it was then.  There isn’t a moment of the film that feels antiquated or tired to me.

lisa

There is personal value to Beauty and the Beast for me as well.  I responded to the story of course but I have always loved Broadway since I was in High School.  When I was in college my dear cousin Lisa and I conceived of a plan to take a trip out to New York with our Grandma.  While we were there we saw Beauty and the Beast and were blown away.  We also saw Music Man and the Rockettes (it was a Christmas trip).  4 months later Lisa passed away of a long-term illness, so I can’t help but watch it and think of her.

I’m sorry if that seems sentimental but it’s true.  For me movie-going is not just images on the screen but stories and stories matter in my life.

The Story-

Normally in my reviews I go over the story talking about what I like in one character or another, what songs I like, how the story moves and flows.  I literally have found that to be impossible for Beauty and the Beast.  I’ve tried 4 times and each time ended up with so much material nobody would ever read it.  My last attempt at keeping it simple had 10 pages  and I had only gotten to Something  There.   I know some people enjoy my writing but 20 pages on Beauty and the Beast might be a little much.

So, basically it’s a story about a girl who feels out of place named Belle

The town jock Gaston is in love with her because she’s pretty but she wants more

beauty and beast books gaston

Her father gets lost and finds an enchanted castle where he is imprisoned by a beast

She agrees to go in the place of her father so that he can be free

The house is full of enchanted objects created by the spell changing not only the beast but all in the household

BeautyBeastCharacters

They do their best to make Belle happy

Gaston is depressed about Belle’s rejection and his pubmates try to cheer him up

Belle’s father tries to get help, everyone thinks he is nuts and that gives Gaston an idea to manipulate Belle into marrying him

Meanwhile in some amount of time Belle starts to see a softer side to the Beast and he indulges her love of reading

Beast and Belle have a night dancing where he is ready to tell her he is in love with her

But she learns her father is in trouble and despite the enchanted rose wilting Beast allows her to go

letting Belle go

When home Gaston tries to have Belle’s father committed unless she will marry him, she refuses

Monsieur_D'Arque

Gaston and the townsfolk learn about the Beast and storm to the castle to kill him

gaston and people

The household objects defend themselves but Gaston finds his way to the Beast

lumiere and cogsworth fight back

At first the Beast doesn’t care because Belle is gone and let’s Gaston win at the fight

sad beast

Then he see’s Belle and Gaston and Beast fight, with the Beast letting him go.  Then in return Gaston literally backstabs the Beast and then falls to his death

Beast dies in Belle’s arms but just before the pedal drops Belle tells him she loves him.  This love is enough to reverse the curse and bring Beast back

All the household objects are returned to their pre-curse state and Belle and Beast are happy forever.

End-of-Beauty-and-the-Beast

Movie Review/Conclusion-

Phew! I’m exhausted.  I must have written that 5 times and I’m not entirely happy with a clip show summary (I have so much I could tell you!) it was the best way I could come up with to simply let the story talk about itself.

Like I said at the beginning Little Mermaid has more personal meaning to me but Beauty and the Beast is a close 2nd.  It had great impact and is one of only 3 movies I remember seeing as a little girl and loving.  So, if I could give a co-champion of my youth it would be Beauty and the Beast.

Every aspect is perfect.  Villain?  Perfect.  Heroine? Perfect.  Animation?  Perfect and still looks great in 2014.  Backgrounds?  Stunning works of art.  Side Characters?  Perfect.  Humor?  Perfect.  Musical score?  One of best ever written.  Songs? Perfection.  It really has the feel of someone’s master work and that is probably because it was.  Thinking of Howard Ashman working on the lyrics when he was on his deathbed had to give special meaning to the whole project for all who worked on it.  I have a feeling that is what made it so special.

I have seen the stage musical probably 15 times and it is a delight.  Whenever they do it at local theaters by me it is sold out quickly.  They had so much interest a few years ago they had like 6 performances on Saturday.

It has lessons of redemption, forgiveness, vanity, pride, ambition, dreaming, and fun but it doesn’t beat you over the head with any of them.  It has us so attached to every character including the Beast that when they transition to humans it feels like a  bit of a letdown.  We are so used to them as candlesticks and clocks.

I honestly had forgotten how great this movie was until it was released in 3D (and I could do without the added scene for the 3D release) last year and I saw it on IMAX and sat in my chair for about 10 minutes after and marveled.

I would say it is not only one of Disney’s best but it is one of the great movies ever made.

Overall Grade- A+

No wonder it was the first animated movie to be nominated for Beast Picture and won for best score and song for Beauty and the Beast.

Hey, and it also introduced us all to Celine Dion so there’s that😉

Oh and the other great thing is for most viewers we want to be Belle because she’s smart, kind and beautiful, but we also want to be the beast because we hope someone will love us even with all our flaws.  To have that kind of relatability with one character is hard for a writer, but to do it with two is really hard.  Perfection!

25 thoughts on “Movie 30: Beauty and the Beast

    1. Thanks!

      In the intro it says it would bloom till his 21st year and then Lumiere says ’10 years we’ve been rusting’ so that’s where the time thing comes into question, but like I said it really doesn’t matter.

      I heard a quote from Emma Thompson once where she said ‘in a great movie you never notice the craft service table in the shot’. That’s really true. In a bad movie those kind of plot holes and mistakes are so glaring.

      As far as Stockholm Syndrome I have heard that but I know a lot of feminists, some quite rabid (I’m nothing to them) and they all like Beauty and the Beast, so we are talking a very small minority of feminists who feel that way.

      I think it saves itself from being a captivity situation and a resulting Stockholm Syndrome pretty early on because Belle not only can leave but successfully leaves. If it wasn’t for the wolves she would have been gone and fine. She still has her horse and for however long she is there (we don’t know) she could leave.

      Belle is also never manipulated by the Beast. She won’t come down to dinner or do things his way. Some say he kind of buys her affection with gifts but that seems like a stretch. Nothing in Belle’s personality has shown she would stay only because of the library and pretty dress.

      The Stockholm Syndrome requires some degree of brainwashing and I just don’t see that as happening to Belle in the story.

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      1. The only reason I brought those things up was to show how a bad movie those things really bug me but in a great movie they don’t matter at all.
        Any movie you can pick apart the logic behind the story. The good one’s make you not care.🙂

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  1. Great job! Fun reading what you wrote after talking with you on the phone about your plans for this review. Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite shows I did in high school. That says a lot because I it was one of my tiniest roles haha (milkmaid/plate). Peter Pan was more fun as a show to be in- but the stage version`s music isn`t as good, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’ve seen the show so many times. Would love to be in it. It just has so much energy and a great heroine, great villain, great characters.

      I was actually surprised by my reaction to Peter Pan. Would be interesting to see what you think watching it now.

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  2. It’s interesting to watch this movie as an adult and pick up on the things you couldn’t appreciate so much as a child. One thing that strikes me now is how well the characters’ expressions are animated – particularly the Beast, as he doesn’t have a human face. The scene where he shows Belle the library stands out as it’s the first point in the film where you can see genuine happiness on his face.

    There’s also little details like the design of the castle, and even down to the way the Beast’s foot changes in the transformation scene, which shows that his foot structure is very similar to a wolf’s with him walking on his toes.

    The story and the characters are all just as good as I remember them being years ago – it really is one of Disney’s best.

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    1. Very good points. It’s not one of those movies you love as a kid that you watch as an adult and cringe a little. If anything it is better.

      As an adult I appreciate the story arc of Gaston more. The way he lets his wounded pride slowly turn into madness is very well done.

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  3. While ‘The Lion King’ might be my favourite Disney film, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is what I regard as their Magnum Opus, this (and Lion King as well) is what I think of when I think “pure Disney Animation magic” – just about perfect in every conceivable way! They both have a universal, all-encompassing, emotionally fuelled story with memorable characters and an array of memorable music and songs, counterbalanced by truly sinister villains and dark moments. Both have an epic quality to their stories, and every frame of animation is iconic. Why would I call ‘Beauty and the Beast’ better? As a love story, it blows the competition out of the water; Belle is easily the best Disney heroine – some say she’s unbelievably perfect, but honestly I find that Belle is the kind of altruistically good person who is super-rare, but can exist. The Beast is a really nuanced prince character who really earns his redemption despite being rather cruel at the beginning. Some people either love to hate Gaston because he was pretty goofy in a dumb sort of way at the start, and others just loathe him for just about everything he is on the inside (my Mum especially). Everyone has their favourite side character, but personally – Angela Lansbury as Mrs Potts is always my cup of tea! The script is wonderful, Linda Woolverton pulled a decent writer’s cramp on this one; it’s by far her best work (she had next to no influence in how The Lion King ended up being despite being part of the developmental team) – shame she threw it all away in more recent years.

    This is probably the best song line-up. With this movie, I can recite all of them in a heartbeat; Be My Guest, The Mob Song, Belle’s Song, Beauty and the Beast, Gaston, all masterpieces! I even have an answer for the plot hole you mentioned: I think the Prince was indeed 11 years old when he was cursed, and all the servants who turned into inanimate objects remained the exact same age across the ten years the castle was cursed. But because he was still a living thing as the Beast, he aged. If the curse wasn’t broken, the servants would have watched him grow old and become more and more animalistic over time; pretty horrific if you ask me! I also DO NOT buy the bullcrap that Belle develops Stockholm Syndrome because of her stay with the Beast; there was a PERFECT opportunity for her to leave and let the blizzard claim him after he saved her from the wolves, and she didn’t take it – that brief moment of realization that the Beast wasn’t a monster and might be worth saving was the linchpin for everything she does from that point on, falling in love was just incidental to honest feelings of gratitude and wanting to help the Beast find his humanity. And besides, if she married Gaston and didn’t run away or kill herself after all HIS abuse, I’d call that Stockholm Syndrome!!

    Like all of the upcoming live-action re-adaptations from Disney, I have many prevarications about the Emma Watson ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in addition to it being a musical!! That’s no small feat they intend to pull off; but if there’s even the smallest hope that Disney is pulling no punches in making this THE BEST DARN movie they’ve ever made and going about it with the same amount of passion and meticulous judgement as they did with the original classic, then there’s a chance it might be good – I don’t have. What do you make of the cast assembled? Are you anxious or hopeful? All we can do now is hope for the best.

    It is a film meaning many things to many people, and with recent hits like Tangled and Frozen, Beauty and the Beast is the one that I do believe should perhaps be even adored above al all of them because it manages to hit every story, character and thematic note with all the right amount of grace you’d expect; if I had a time machine and could only show Walt Disney one of the wonders his company would achieve – this would be the one I’d show him! I imagine he’d be moved to tears!

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    1. Very interesting that you compare this film and Lion King back to back since they’re both really great Disney films and possibly even films period. By the way, did you know that Gaston was originally going to survive his fall and then get eaten by the wolves shortly after? How ironic considering that very thing happened to Scar in The Lion King (which oddly enough came out three years after this).

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      1. You bring up a good point about Gaston’s original death being used for Scar later on, but I have to admit having Gaston survive a fall like that would have been a bit of a cop out, and I like that it was his arrogance and conceit that killed him, believing he could still have Belle after killing the Beast.

        And yes, I do contend that both ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ are great films period, mainly because they went above and beyond audience’s expectations, they were great stories wonderfully realized.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Awesome review once again! Sorry I didn’t read this one sooner. I actually watched an animal version of this on You Tube a couple to few days ago. It was called Beauty & The Bear and was basically Beauty & The Beast with animals in it (i.e. Duchess (The Aristocats) as Belle, Warren T. Rat (An American Tail) as Gaston, Warren’s bug sidekick as Lefou, Yogi Bear as the Beast, Thomas O’ Malley (also The Aristocats), & various other animal characters as the other characters from the film. Now, I need to watch the actual Beauty & The Beast. Hopefully, it shall be as good, if not better, than you say it is. By the way, did you know that there’s a live-action version of this film coming out on March 17th, 2017?

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  5. Gaston is different from most villains, Disney or otherwise, whose malevolence is apparent from the start. The townspeople regard him as the town hero, & when he gets depressed by Belle’s rejection, the townspeople lift his spirits by singing, “No one [does X, Y & Z] like Gaston.” When they receive word that Belle is held captive at the Beast’s castle, that’s when Gaston’s arrogance escalates to murderous rage. The climax parallels that in Edward Scissorhands except that Edward does not keep his girl; she ends up marrying an unnamed & unseen 3rd man (as implied when, as an old woman, she tells Edward’s story to her granddaughter).

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