Disney Marathon: ‘Beauty and The Beast’


For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Beauty & The Beast

Released: 1991

Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise

Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden, Angela Lansbury,

Plot: French villager Belle’s wish for a more interesting life comes true when she is imprisoned in an enchanted castle by a monstrous beast. Unbeknownst to Belle, the castle residents are hoping she could fall in love with the beast to break the curse upon them.

Review: This is a movie with a surprisingly long history. Immediately after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt Disney started looking to other fairy tales as potential future adaptations. ‘Beauty and The Beast’ was put into consideration, but passed over. It was revisited as an idea in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1991 that it eventuated. Initially not a musical, the success of The Little Mermaid meant that Disney wanted a similar follow up. This is a first time effort from directors Trousdale and Wise, and proved to be one of the company’s biggest properties.

It’s easy to see why this film is held in high regard. It was an early attempt to merge traditional animation with CGI environments. The visuals have a grand, sweeping scale. It’s packed with memorable characters and musical numbers. It’s got one of the most entertaining villains in the Disney canon. There’s very little fault here.

We start out by learning some backstory, charmingly captured in a series of stain-glass window illustrations. A selfish prince (Benson) is approached at his gate by a beggar woman offering a single rose in exchange for lodgings. When the prince turns her away, she curses him to take the form of the a beast, with the castle staff being turned into sentient furniture. If he can’t find someone to love him for who he is inside within 21 years or they will be trapped in this state forever.

Many years later our heroine Belle (O’Hara) winds up at the castle and, through a series of convenient events, agrees to stay as a prisoner. This prompts and awkward but heartfelt relationship as Belle begins to trust the Beast and he learns to manage his emotional outbursts. Over the months their feelings continue to grow until the Beast allows Belle to go free rather than consider his own happiness. Unbeknownst to them both, his selfless action brings the fearful and angry villages to the doors of the castle.

This…is a weird story. On the surface it’s about a monster who traps a woman until she falls in love with him. Trying to link together the other aspects of the plot is difficult, as we get Gaston’s (White) scheming to ensnare Belle for himself by bribing the local doctor to declare her father insane and the lives of the Beast’s staff, themselves suffering under the curse. This is one of the clearest cases of Disney sprinkling some magic dust on everything to make it work. Through the humour, the animation, the music, the intense finale…everything fits neatly into place. There’s not a dull moment in the movie, everything has a great song to move the story along, or is at the very least atmospheric and beautiful.

By the way, she shows the sheep the picture in the book. A moment later Gaston flicks through the book and says there are no pictures. It bugs me.

This was the very peak of the Disney Renaissance era of animation, landing in between Aladdin and The Little Mermaid and carrying all the skill and creativity also associated with those movies. It also manages to capture the feeling of a classic fairy tale, like the earliest Disney animated films, cementing it as an immediate success. It’s one of the few instances from this era of traditional animation and CGI being blended so effectively.

One of my favourite aspects of the movie comes in the form of the villain, Gaston. At the start of the movie he’s a douchebag jock who feels entitled to the village’s most beautiful woman even if she can’t stand him. Later he becomes more insidious and sinister, and by the end of the movie he’s dangerously violent. What makes him work better than a generic bad guy is that we can see this aspect of his character from the start while he’s all smiles and charm. He also has one of the best villain songs of all time.

Although the story is convoluted at times, there’s little to find fault here. Even if you find the plot has slowed down the animation is top quality and worth watching just for that. There’s a couple of awkward questions about the nature of the curse, but you don’t give it much thought while watching it.

Best Song: ‘Be Our Guest’? ‘Beauty and the Beast’? Pretty much any track could take this spot.

But no-one sings a song like ‘Gaston’.

Coolest Easter Egg: The castle is full of little details, including some notable works in the Beast’s art collection. The most interesting are the statues and gargoyles, all of which are scrapped versions of the Beast’s design.

Weirdest Trivia: Disney have recycled animation from old films in their lowest budget efforts, such as Robin Hood. When they started to run short on time they recycled Sleeping Beauty animation for the final scene of the Belle and the Prince dancing. In order to further cut corners, the spectators in this scene don’t move.

Rating: TEN out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

As always, the ratings of the movie above don’t define where they’ll land on my list. Personal preference comes first! Still gonna rank pretty damn high through.

You can click on those titles below if you want to see what we said about those films.

  1. Robin Hood
  2. Aladdin
  3. Wreck-It Ralph
  4. Beauty and the Beast
  5. Moana
  6. Big Hero 6
  7. Tangled
  8. The Sword in the Stone
  9. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  10. Mulan
  11. Emperor’s New Groove
  12. Fantasia
  13. The Three Caballeros
  14. The Princess and the Frog
  15. Oliver & Company
  16. The Aristocats
  17. A Goofy Movie
  18. Treasure Planet
  19. Chicken Little

AMELIA

This one surprised me, as Amelia has long been a fan of this movie. I think she’s mostly a fan of Belle and her dress though, as it landed halfway.

  1. Emperor’s New Groove
  2. The Three Caballeros
  3. Moana
  4. Mulan
  5. Wreck-It Ralph
  6. A Goofy Movie
  7. Tangled
  8. The Princess and the Frog
  9. Robin Hood
  10. Beauty and the Beast
  11. Oliver & Company
  12. The Aristocats
  13. The Sword in the Stone
  14. Aladdin
  15. Treasure Planet
  16. Big Hero 6
  17. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  18. Chicken Little
  19. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Like Amelia, Josh took this one as a mid-level moment. The swashbuckling characters appeal to him much more.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Aladdin
  3. Emperor’s New Groove
  4. Treasure Planet
  5. Moana
  6. The Three Caballeros
  7. Wreck-It Ralph
  8. Mulan
  9. The Princess and the Frog
  10. Robin Hood
  11. The Sword in the Stone
  12. Beauty and the Beast
  13. Oliver & Company
  14. Tangled
  15. A Goofy Movie
  16. The Aristocats
  17. Fantasia
  18. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  19. Chicken Little