Beauty and the Beast
Release Date: November 22nd, 1991
Inspiration: “Beauty and the Beast” by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Budget: $25 million
Domestic Gross: $219 million
Worldwide Gross: $440 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
IMDB Score: 8.0/10
Storyline (per IMDB): Having lived a life in selfishness, young Prince Adam is cursed by a mysterious enchantress to having the appearance of a monstrous beast. His only hope is to learn to love a young woman and earn her love in return in order to redeem himself. Ten years later, his chance shows itself when a young maiden named Belle (Paige O’Hara) offers to take her ill father Maurice’s (Rex Everhart’s) place as his prisoner. With help from the castle’s enchanted staff, Belle learns to appreciate her captor and immediately falls in love with him. Back in the village however, unscrupulous hunter Gaston (Richard White) has his own plans for Belle.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on through the Disney animated films with the historic 30th film in the canon and in many people’s opinion, arguably the greatest film in the canon and possibly one of the greatest films of all time. There is something that has to be said for the fact that this was the first animated film in history to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and to this day only a handful of animated films have been nominated for that award. This was another film that was also one of my personal favorites and I was also a fan of the live-action remake from a few years ago, but again it is all about the animated film and something tells me that this film will hold up very well.
Voice Cast: So as I mentioned, we are right in the middle of a trend where the majority of the cast for these films are mainly different actors for each film, but there are some that are in multiple films though they are mainly smaller roles and not major ones. As such, we do have a few returning actors as we have Hal Smith who voices Philippe the horse in what would be his final film role as he would sadly pass away a year later, and then we have Kimmy Robertson and Frank Welker who play the Featherduster and Sultan the footstool respectively in minor roles. We now move onto the new actors as we start with Paige O’Hara who voices Belle in what would be the role that defines her career, and then we have Roddy Benson who voices the Beast in what ends up being his defining role as well. Next, we have Richard White who voices Gaston in his biggest role as he would become more known for his Broadway career, and then we have Jerry Orbach who voices Lumiere in perhaps his most memorable role amidst a long career. We then have David Ogden Stiers who voices Cogsworth and he also provides the opening narration as he would become a mainstay over the next few years, and then we have the legendary Angela Lansbury who voices Mrs. Potts in her first big role with a Disney film following Bedknobs and Broomsticks. We then have Bradley Pierce who voices Chip in one of his first roles as he was starting to make a name for himself, and then we have Rex Everhart who voices Maurice as this would end up being his final film role. Next, we have Jesse Corti who voices LeFou as he was starting off his career as well and he would make more appearances over a decade later, and then we have Jo Anne Worley who voices the Wardrobe as she was at the height of her career by this point. We then have the pair of Mary Kay Bergman and Kath Soucie who voice the trio of ladies who fawn after Gaston and they were just getting their careers started, and then we have Brian Cummings who voices the Stove as he was in the midst of his career in terms of film and TV. Next, we have Alvin Epstein who voices the Bookseller in a minor role and Alec Murphy who voices the Baker in another minor role, and finally we have Tony Jay who voices Monsieur D’Arque though he would become better known for another role later in the decade. It was interesting that you had a solid mixture of known voice actors and those that made their name on Broadway and in theater which would come into play in terms of the musical numbers, and it made for a solid mix of talent and they all made these characters memorable.
Hero/Prince: Prior to this film, the hero or prince of each film are firmly established from the start and we know that they are going to be the hero or prince of the film, but here we flip the script a bit as our prince of the film, the Beast is not that when we first meet him. He is an arrogant, selfish, cruel prince who turns away a beggar woman looking for shelter, but she reveals herself to be an enchantress and she turns him into a Beast to punish him for his selfishness. She then transforms the castle’s inhabitants into various objects and enchants her rose that will bloom on his 21st birthday, and if he can learn to love another and receive their love back the spell will break otherwise he will remain a Beast for the rest of his life. Resigned to his fate, he keeps in his castle until Maurice inadvertently shows up and he throws him into his dungeon, and then Belle comes and asks to take her father’s place which Beast agrees to. He is initially cold to Belle and chastises her when she tries to touch the rose as she attempts to leave, but she is attacked by wolves until Beast makes the save and he takes her back in as they warm up to each other. Eventually, he falls in love with her but decides to let her leave so she can be with her father and he once again resigns to his fate, but then Gaston and the townspeople show up to kill him and he fights with Gaston as he nearly kills him until Belle returns. Beast turns back to her and Gaston stabs him in the back only to fall to his death and Beast dies from his wound, and Belle expresses her love for Beast just as the last rose petal falls and he is brought back to life in his human form as is everyone else in the castle and he marries Belle. Beast is an interesting case study of someone who has been blessed with everything he could want and instead of being grateful, he is selfish and cold towards others as he believes he is above the common man. Having him transformed into a beast makes sense as it is a physical representation of his personality, but you can see he still has some humanity still in him which starts to come out when he saves Belle from the wolves and she begins to trust him. Seeing him slowly transform from this beastly figure back to a humble man while still as a beast is very impressive, and thus when he finally is transformed back into a human it is the final piece of his humanity completely restored. It is pretty refreshing seeing Beast have this storyline where he redeems himself as opposed to the previous princes who don’t have the same arc that he has, and as a result Beast is still one of the best heroes in Disney’s history and may well be the best when we get there.
Princess: For the first time since Cinderella, we have a princess that doesn’t start off as a princess and is instead just a normal girl living a normal life and that is of course Belle. She is the daughter of inventor Maurice and is considered odd by the townsfolk as she is seemingly unaware of her beauty and she prefers to read unlike most girls in the village. She is the desire of Gaston who tries to convince her to be his wife though she refuses, and when she learns her father has disappeared she rides out to the castle where he was last seen. She encounters the Beast who is keeping him as a prisoner and she offers to take his place which Beast accepts, and she meets the servants of the castle who have been turned into various objects due to a curse on the castle. She finds the enchanted rose and nearly touches it only for Beast to stop her and he scares her out of the castle, and she encounters various wolves in the forest only for Beast to save her and he brings her back where she nurses him to health. They eventually become close and start to fall in love though Beast lets her leave so she can care for her father, and when Gaston and the townspeople try to have Maurice committed she reveals the Beast is real and Gaston vows to kill him as he knows Belle loves him. She returns to the castle just as Beast is about to kill Gaston though he eventually allows him to leave, but Gaston turns around and stabs Beast in the back though it proves fatal as he falls to his death. Beast dies in Belle’s arms and Belle professes her love just as the last rose petal falls, and Beast is restored to his human form and the curse is broken on the castle as Belle becomes his wife and they live happily ever after. One of the knocks on the Disney princesses is that they are too cookie cutter and rely too heavily on having a strong male counterpart, but Belle shatters that stereotype as she is clearly a headstrong character and more independent than previous princesses. She values more than outward appearances hence her utter disdain for Gaston and she sees more to Beast besides his appearance, but there have been some who feel she is more of a victim of Stockholm Syndrome as she falls in love for Beast who is considered her captor though one could argue that he treats her like an equal as they start to become closer. She is widely considered one of the greatest feminist characters in history and set a new standard for the Disney princesses, and she is often considered the greatest Disney princess though I will be my own judge of that when I rank her against the other princesses.
Villain: We talked about a memorable hero in Beast and we talked about a memorable princess in Belle, and now we have probably one of the most memorable villains in history in the man known as Gaston. He is a hunter that believes he is the best man in the entire village and as such, he should marry the best girl in the village which he believes to be Belle simply based on her beauty as he could care less about her other attributes. He even goes as far as to set up a full wedding ceremony though she adamantly refuses his advances and leaves him embarrassed, and when Maurice tries to convince everyone that the Beast is real Gaston devises a plan to have Maurice locked up in an asylum and will release him when Belle marries him. She again refuses and proves that the Beast is real as Gaston realizes that Belle is in love with Beast, and he rallies the townspeople together as they storm the castle to kill the Beast. The castle’s occupants beat the townspeople out though Gaston manages to reach Beast and attacks him as Beast is unwilling to fight back, but when Belle returns Beast fires up and nearly kills Gaston though he ultimately decides to spare him. Beast and Belle reunite only for Gaston to stab Beast in the back with a knife though he ends up losing his footing and falls off the castle to his death. Gaston is an interesting villain in that he is not completely evil to start and he is simply narcissistic and conceited, and he is of the belief that Belle is the one for him simply because she is the most beautiful girl in town though she sees through him. Despite his characteristics, he also has a lot of charisma and is viewed very highly by the townspeople to the point that they blindly follow him when he goes to kill the Beast. Once he learns that Belle will never marry him as she is in love with Beast, that’s when the switch flips on him and he transitions into a true villain which is showcased when Beast allows him to live only for Gaston to turn around and stab him in the back though it ultimately leads to his demise. Gaston is another one of those villains that you can’t help but like at certain times and he is still one of the most iconic villains of all time.
Other Characters: This is an interesting film because we seem to have a lot of characters in the film, but the majority of them are mainly background scenery whether it be the townspeople or the other inhabitants of the castle. We start off with the more important characters that live in the castle and first up in Lumiere the candelabra who is the most outgoing of the group and truly believes that they will be human again, and then we have Cogsworth the clock who is a bit more pessimistic than Lumiere as he is more loyal to Beast though he does consider Lumiere his best friend. We then have Mrs. Potts the teapot who serves almost as a mediator to the group and serves as a mother figure to Belle while she is there, and then we have her son Chip the teacup who immediately latches onto Belle when she first arrives. We also have other secondary characters such as the Wardrobe and the Stove that make a few appearances, but for the most part are there as mentioned as background characters. We then have Belle’s father Maurice who is an inventor and is ready to take his newest invention to a fair, but he gets lost and ends up in the castle where he is captured by Beast and held prisoner until Belle agrees to take his place. Maurice tries to get help to rescue her though no one believes him and Gaston threatens to have him placed in an insane asylum until Belle saves him, and he is by her side when she becomes Beast’s new wife. We then have Gaston’s sidekick LeFou who is loyal to a fault to Gaston and constantly sings his praises, and he stays by Gaston’s side despite Gaston constantly belittling him and he joins Gaston when he invades the castle though he is scared off along with the other townspeople. We finally have the other townspeople that Belle interacts with like the Baker and the Bookkeeper, and we also have the three ladies who continuously fawn over Gaston though he repeatedly ignores them as all he cares about is Belle. While there is a pretty large group of characters in this film, a lot of the focus went on a handful of them as they helped further the plot along and played a vital part of the film.
Songs: I had mentioned back in my review of the Little Mermaid that Disney seemed to be making these films more like Broadway musicals, and that is on complete showcase here as this film feels like a stage show that was animated. They even made it a point to cast people that had good singing voices which is why most of the actors in this film were Broadway stars and had appeared on stage before which certainly helps considering the songs in this film are some of the most memorable in Disney history. The film kicks off with the song “Belle” sung by Belle and the townspeople as she laments on her life while the townspeople sing about how strange Belle is, and then we have “Gaston” that LeFou and the townspeople perform as they sing the praises of Gaston in a fun number. We then have one of the centerpiece songs of the film which is “Be Our Guest” which is still one of the most memorable songs in history, and then we have “Something There” as Beast, Belle, and the servants sing about the budding relationship with Beast and Belle. Next, we have the other centerpiece song of the film which is “Beauty and the Beast” and it is still considered one of the greatest love ballads in history, and finally we have “The Mob Song” that Gaston and the townspeople sing as they prepare to attack Beast and the castle and you feel the tension throughout the song. I would like to mention the song “Human Again” which was cut from the original and added in the re-release while also being added when the film was turned into a Broadway show, and that is also a solid song but it is not a major loss when it was cut. I would also like to briefly acknowledge the lyricist of these songs Howard Ashman who also worked on the Little Mermaid and briefly on Aladdin, and he also served as executive producer though he would tragically pass away from AIDS just 6 months prior to this film’s release. Even though he was only involved in 3 films, he was very instrumental in the songs for those films as they are still very highly regarded to this day and you do wonder what he would’ve done for Disney going forward had he lived and I felt it important to pay him his due as the film was dedicated to him and he was honored as a Disney Legend.
Plot: After going for so long without a fairy tale being adapted into a film, Disney broke the trend with the Little Mermaid and now that continues here as this film is based off a fairy tale from French folklore. Reading up on the original story, it is vastly different from the film though you can see the similarities and that they took parts of the fairy tale while adding a bit of a different spin on it. In this film, we meet the prince of an unknown castle somewhere in France and he is selfish and heartless, and a beggar woman comes and asks to stay as she offers a single rose in exchange though he refuses. The woman turns into an enchantress and transforms the prince into a Beast while placing a curse on the castle and she leaves him the rose which is enchanted, and she tells him if he can love another and receive love in return before the last petal falls the curse will break though he will remain a Beast if he fails. Years later, an inventor named Maurice happens upon the castle and the Beast takes him prisoner, and his daughter Belle finds him and offers to take his place which Beast agrees to. She is welcomed by the servants of the castle who have been transformed into various objects, but when she nearly touches the rose the Beast scares her out of the castle though he ends up saving her from a pack of wolves. She nurses him to health and they begin to warm to each other, eventually with the Beast falling in love with her though he lets her leave to take care of her father. When the townspeople led by Gaston try to have Maurice committed to an insane asylum, she reveals the Beast to them and Gaston then leads them to the castle to kill the Beast. He fights the Beast who is about to kill him though he lets him walk away and he reunites with Belle only for Gaston to stab him in the back though he ultimately falls to his death, and Beast dies in Belle’s arms and she professes her love as the last rose petal falls. Beast is then transformed back into a human and the curse is lifted as the servants also return to their human forms, and Belle and the Prince marry and live happily ever after. It’s funny because when you look at certain aspects of this film and the fairy tale, there are parts that seem like it would be too dark and scary to turn into an animated film directed mostly at kids. But as Disney seems to do nearly flawlessly, they make a film that is very light-hearted for kids though keep it just dark enough to entertain adults as well and that balance is on perfect display with this film.
Random Watching Thoughts: Instead of a storybook beginning, we have the prologue told via stained glass pictures; I wonder what the enchantress would’ve done if the prince brought her in and not rejected her while in her old woman form; Only when she turns into an enchantress is the prince remorseful for his action; I understand wanting to punish the prince for his actions, but I feel the servants got a bad rap being transformed into objects when they had nothing to do with the prince rejecting the enchantress; If the rose was in bloom until his 21st year, how old was he when the enchantress came to the castle?; It was such a nice day that even the man in the stocks was in a good mood; So basically Belle was reading the story of Jack and the Beanstalk; That barber must’ve had his head in the clouds if he cut off half of that poor customer’s mustache; I wonder how many listening to this song felt the woman asking about the eggs was trying to pay when the other guy mentioned something was expensive; She was focused on that book yet had enough sense to push the sign up to prevent from getting wet; A bit of foreshadowing as she describes the book to the sheep not knowing the same thing would happen to her; Poor LeFou really wanted to bag that bird only to miss it; Right off the bat, you can tell what kind of man Gaston is that he wants to marry Belle simply because she is the most beautiful girl in town; Just from this opening number you can believe that this belongs on a Broadway stage which would end up happening in 1994; The townspeople were singing at the top of their lungs and it’s only at the end of the song that Belle believes they are singing about her; Of course Gaston would complain about a book not having any pictures; Belle calls Gaston primeval as an insult and he takes it as a compliment; Not a good sign when Belle calls her father a genius and then an explosion happens in their basement; Interesting that Belle acknowledges that Gaston is handsome, but also that he is rude and conceited; Was Maurice that tired of chopping wood by hand that he had to make this insane invention?; Maurice waits until he is lost to finally console the map to try and find his way; Philippe had the right idea not wanting to go down the dark path; Some shortcut, it led them to a cliff and near death; It’s a good thing he happened to stumble upon the castle and could keep the wolves at bay with the gate; You wonder what Maurice has seen in his life because he has just seen a talking candelabra and a talking clock, yet he is not frightened and more curious about them; Considering that no one has ever visited them since they were cursed, they were all too excited to serve Maurice even though he was a stranger; How long did it take Gaston and the townspeople to set up this wedding and how did Belle not realize what was going on since it was right outside her house?; That’s quite the invention Maurice made to see who is at the front door; Just like Gaston to make himself at home and kick his boots off while putting his feet on both the table and Belle’s book; Gaston is really asking a lot if he says they will have 6 or 7 boys; Gaston got basically thrown out of the house and into the pond, yet LeFou still wants to know how things went; As quickly as it was set up, the marriage party is dismantled just as fast; This scene where Belle sings on the hilltop feels very reminiscent of the Sound of Music; We saw Philippe run away and never go near the castle yet somehow he knew how to get there when Belle asked him to take her to Maurice; Mrs. Potts doesn’t believe Chip when he mentions Belle in the castle, but then she believes it when the featherduster says it; So a personal anecdote, my high school has done Beauty and the Beast as their musical twice to my knowledge and one of them was directed by one of my fellow classmates who was also a close friend of mine; That’s the scariest carriage I have ever seen; Lumiere suggest to Beast he give Belle a better room and he scoffs at that suggestion, but then when he sees her crying he decides to give her the better room; Such a waste of good beer that Gaston throws into the fire; Even though Gaston is supposed to be the villain, you can’t help but love him when you hear LeFou heap such praise on him through song; They say they are giving Gaston 10 points for that hit yet one of them gave him 9.8; Nice attention to detail by having the candle go out when Maurice knocked it down on the table; I don’t think Maurice should’ve been out in a short sleeved shirt given that it was snowing pretty heavily; The moment that the page turns for Gaston as he goes from likeable douchebag to evil villain; Much like Maurice, Belle sees inanimate objects moving around and talking yet she is not horrified; It’s been a long time that the wardrobe has opened up if all those moths came flying out; That is quite the spread for just two people; If Beast is aware that Belle could help break the spell, you’d think he would do a lot better at being nicer to her; Beast is saying that Belle’s being difficult, but you can’t really blame her at this point; Such a waste of food; It’s a good thing that rose has so many petals or Beast would be screwed; Lumiere picked the wrong time to get some loving from the featherduster since it let Belle leave the room; How many children does Mrs. Potts have?; I know Cogsworth is trying to follow orders, but giving Belle a glass of water and crusts of bread is pretty harsh; They are really going all out to make Belle comfortable if they are giving her in essence dinner and a show when they sing “Be Our Guest”; It is never officially stated when this film is set, but it would have to be in the early 1900s since the plates and silverware created the Eiffel Tower which was built between 1887 and 1889; Even though there have been great musical numbers prior to this film, I think it is safe to say that “Be Our Guest” is the standard bearer for musical numbers in Disney films; Cogsworth was so against them singing, but he gets into it at the end and is proud of them; Belle mentions the castle being enchanted while Lumiere and Cogsworth try to play dumb not thinking that she is smart enough to figure it out; To quote Cogsworth, “If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it”, ahh…puns for the win; You can tell that she didn’t believe them when they said they had a library; I was reading up on the making of the film and it was said that Belle’s appearance was partially based on Judy Garland, and now that I look closer it does look like Belle’s blue dress has a similar look to Garland’s dress in “The Wizard of Oz” just not plaid; I always wonder what would’ve happened if Belle touched the rose; That moment of realization from Beast when he knew that he royally screwed up; Philippe was able to survive falling into the lake yet that one wolf couldn’t make it; Was there a den nearby that so many wolves appeared?; How strong is Belle that she was able to lift Beast up and put him on Philippe by herself?; What does Gaston actually do for a living that he was able to give that much gold to the asylum warden?; Talk about bad timing that Maurice would leave to find Belle just as Gaston shows up to have him taken away; Really Cogsworth, promises you don’t intend to keep?; Beast was so giddy to show Belle the library, but honestly when was the last time he was even in that library?; Poor Chip, so naïve; I also wondered that if Beast didn’t find love in time and he remained a beast, would he maintain his humanity or would he become a full beast?; They say that it may only take a few days, but what if the rose loses all its petals before then?; What was that hatstand thinking when he did Beast up that way?; I read that Angela Lansbury wasn’t sure if she could pull off singing “Beauty and the Beast”, but thankfully she went through with it and she made it memorable; Another pretty iconic scene here with the camera shot descending into the ballroom while Beast and Belle dance; It is a bit weird that Beast still called her his prisoner even though they were clearly falling for each other; LeFou was there for so long that he became a snowman; Considering how blue he was, it’s a wonder that LeFou didn’t have pneumonia; Gaston must really have the village under his thumb if they were all by his side when they tried to commit Maurice and then when he rallied them against the Beast; Again, it’s amazing that they knew where the castle was when they didn’t even know it existed until Belle showed the Beast in the mirror; 50 Frenchman can’t be wrong, huh?; I know how today most people are scared about robots and technology taking over, and if these villagers can’t beat a bunch of inanimate objects brought to life then us modern populace don’t stand a chance against the machines; I know Chip used the invention to free Belle and Maurice, but you do feel bad for Maurice given how hard he worked on that invention; Animation snafu of the film: LeFou is missing his shoe because Sultan took it from him, but when he and the other villagers enter the kitchen he is wearing both shoes and then when they run out of the castle, he is missing the shoe again; Gaston shot an arrow into Beast and after he knocks him onto the ledges, the arrow has disappeared; Beast was ready to die until Belle returned; When the lightning hit the spirals, I wonder if people thought the castle would be set on fire; Gaston still believes that Belle wants him despite all the evidence to the contrary; Gaston was so confident until Beast held him over the edge and then he begs for his life which Beast gives him; If there is one thing about this film that I wish was better, I feel like Gaston falling to his death was slightly anticlimactic; I do wonder what would’ve happened if the last petal fell before Belle expressed her love, and also does the spell still hold if Beast is killed because he clearly dies here?; It was a nice subtle touch to have Beast wrapped up in the cape like a cocoon since he is being transformed back into a human; She just saw him transform from the beast back into a human, so why is Belle suspicious that he’s not the same?; Cogsworth and Lumiere try to be friends again yet they can’t help getting into another argument; Even though he is a human again, Chip had to ask if he still has to sleep in the cupboard; Much like the storybook beginnings and endings, we started the film with a stained glass picture and we end with one; I believe this is the first time that a song from the film is given a pop version for the soundtrack as we have “Beauty and the Beast” sung by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson; “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul. We will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950-1991”.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, there is no question that this is one of the greatest films in Disney history and also perhaps in all of cinema as well. We have had 29 previous films to this point and only one has received a perfect score from me, and that one was more unexpected while this was I fully expected to give the perfect score too and it would’ve been a disappointment if I didn’t. This film is about as perfect as you can get and while there are some things that you can nitpick at, for the most part it is very memorable between the songs, the visuals, and the overall package which is why it deserved being nominated for Best Picture. It was fantastic when it came out in 1991 and almost 30 years later, it still holds up and it would be the first of arguably the greatest 3-film stretch in Disney history. In the end, this film is still one of the best of all time and right now has a great chance of being ranked as the best though we still have some that might challenge it.
Final Grade: 10/10