Saturday, November 7, 2009

#436: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Directors: Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise
Cast: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson & Richard White

Based on the French fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of Belle, a girl from a small provincial village, who comes across an enchanted castle. Under a spell, the castle's inhabitants have all been transformed into common household furniture and appliances, except for the Prince, who has become a terrifying beast. The only way to break the spell is for the Beast to fall in love, and to be loved in return. However, the Beast doesn't know how to control himself in front of Belle, who is terrified of him.

The fairy tale La Belle et La Bête was first published in 1740. In this original version, the character of Gaston does not exist. Belle is the youngest of three daughters, whose father, a merchant, goes on a mission to a far away land to discover if there are riches to be found. He asks his daughters if they would like a gift on his return; the older two request jewels, while Belle asks only for a rose, as no grow in their homeland.

On his journey, the father encounters the Beast's castle, though there at first appear to be no inhabitants. He takes food from the already-set table, as well as jewels for his two daughters. Outside, he finds a rose garden. When he plucks the most beautiful rose, the Beast appears and holds him prisoner for taking the most prized possession of the house. As the father tells the Beast of his daughters, the Beast tells him he will be freed as long as Belle comes to live with him.

When Belle arrives at the castle, she is treated royally. Every night, the Beast asks for her hand in marriage, and every night, she refuses. However, in her dreams she encounters a Prince asking her why she will not marry the Beast. She responds that she loves him only as a friend. In the morning, she assumes the Prince is a prisoner in the castle, but never finds him.

Soon, Belle becomes homesick and begs the Beast to return home temporarily. He permits her to leave, on the condition that she returns in one week. She is given a mirror that shows the Beast's location, as well as a ring that brings her back to the castle if it is spun around her finger three times. While home, the sisters grow jealous of Belle's luxurious lifestyle. After hearing of her deadline to return, they decide to persuade Belle to stay just a day longer, hoping the Beast will kill her. Belle agrees, believing the sisters truly wish her to stay. However, the following day, she looks in the mirror to find the Beast lying motionless in the rose garden.

Belle immediately returns to find the Beast is dead. She tells him she loves him, and begins to cry. When her tears hit the Beast's body, he revives and is transformed into the Prince.

Although the Disney film keeps a good deal of the original tale in tact - and in fact enhancing it with a backstory - the French are not too keen on the animated version. The story was famous from the beginning, becoming an opera in 1771. In 1946, Jean Cocteau directed the renowned film version of the story, La Belle et La Bête. This film (which is in fact in the 500 list) is considered a classic of French film, though Disney has stolen its thunder. Today, many French people are concerned that though the cartoon is charming, it is Americanizing French youth.

Aside from the controversy in France, this film is a Disney classic, and for good reason. The music is sensational, winning Oscars for both Best Score and Best Song. The voice acting is excellent on all parts, and the animation... well, the animation.

This film is not only another great Disney film, but it is also in fact a landmark in the history of animation. It is the first animated film to use computer imaging to enhance the visuals. This is predominantly used in the ballroom scene, as well as for the chandelier in "Be Our Guest". The style was an immediate success, though it has led to the downfall of hand-drawn cartoons.

Oh, and just so you know, there was an extra song cut in the original, but added to the 2002 DVD release, titled "Human Again". It completely baffled me watching this on SurftheChannel and not recognizing a scene after seeing it so many times. It's actually quite a good song, with most of it being sung by the wardrobe (wow, that sounds awkward).

I doubt anyone's out there who hasn't seen this already. If there is, you're crazy.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • "Be Our Guest" was originally animated with Maurice (not Belle) as the guest, but they decided not to waste such a wonderful song on a secondary character.
  • Nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, losing to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). It was, however, the first full length animated feature to win the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy).
  • In the 1930s and again in the 1950s, Walt Disney attempted to adapt Beauty and the Beast (1991) into a feature but could not come up with a suitable treatment, so the project was shelved. It wasn't until The Little Mermaid (1989) became hugely successful that they decided to try it a third time.
  • Robby Benson's voice was altered by the growls of real panthers and lions so that it is virtually unrecognizable. This is why near the end when the Beast transforms into the prince his voice changes. His voice is also not changed on the original motion picture soundtrack.
  • Rupert Everett auditioned for the role of Gaston, but was told by the directors he didn't sound arrogant enough. He remembered this when he voiced Prince Charming in Shrek 2 (2004).

1 comment:

  1. the fact about rupert everett is a fun one, indeed! he was so haughty sounding in shrek 2!