The new classics of the Disney renaissance continue as the recommendations from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of The Lion King brings me to Beauty and the Beast.
Taking on the classic tale that had been visited in both film and television formats the story gets the Disney treatment with songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman who took home two Oscars for their work. One for Best Original Song (Beauty and the Beast), and Best Score.
From the opening musical number, the ‘I want’ song of Belle performed by Belle (Paige O’Hara) and the little French village (a nod to the tale’s origins, as well as the iconic French film) she lives in, this one can’t help to invite you in to be the film’s guest, and their telling of the fairy tale became the gold standard.
Belle’s father, Maurice (Rex Everhart) is an inventor who gets lost on his way home one evening, and ends up at an enchanted castle. When Belle comes looking for him she encounters the strange inhabitants who reside there, household items that seem to be imbued with life, a candle stick named Lumiere (Jerry Orbach) a clock called Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), a tea pot, Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) and her boy, a tea cup, Chip (Bradley Pierce) alongside countless others.
Discovering her father imprisoned, she makes a deal with the castle’s master, a giant animal, Beast (Robby Benson). She will stay and keep him company, if her father is released.
The inhabitants believe that Belle’s arrival may break the curse they are under, and encourage Beast to pursue a relationship with Belle, even as the two begin to develop feelings for one another. Meanwhile back at the village, Maurice’s stories about the castle lead Gaston (Richard White) a self-absorbed hunk who has eyes set on Belle to gather a group of villagers to march on the castle towards a climatic battle.
The animation, hand-drawn (with a few computer created additions), is top-notch and the story is wonderfully realised – earning it an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture!
It remains an incredibly beautiful story about love that has endured for a reason, and Disney does it justice by pulling out all the stops for this version.
It works, it entertains, and it exceeds. It not only followed in the the steps of The Little Mermaid, it blazed the trail further, proving that Disney was back in a big way.
Watching it for the blog, the first time in countless years, is still an affecting experience and while it has since inspired a stage musical, and a live-action version, both based on this telling of the story, this one will be my preferred choice.