Cursed to remain a monster unless he finds true love, a transformed Prince sees his last chance in the imprisoned Belle – but how could she ever love the cruel and hideous Beast?Beauty and the Beast
was a significant film – not only for me but also for Disney
itself. In the wake of two decades of falling box office returns, the film took the impetus created by 1989s The Little Mermaid
and solidified the newly bolstered reputation of the company – helping to kick off a golden era of titles which would run through to the late 1990s. The Lion King
would follow but Beauty and the Beast
is, arguably, the best modern Disney
It arrived at an age when I had already all but dismissed Disney
in favour of rival studio Don Bluth
– who had transfixed me with An American Tale
and the 1982 masterpiece The Secret of NIMH
. Next to the beautiful animation and surprisingly dark stories in Bluth’s
could gain little purchase. Until the stupendous debut of the Beast
.Beauty and the Beast
is back in cinemas for a limited time in the post converted 3D which Disney
slathered on The Lion King
for its recent, highly successful re-release. For my money, Beauty
has always shined brighter than Simba’s exotic adventure and it looks stunning in this new incarnation.
Partly that’s down to the way it was created, with a cinematic sweep that few other animated films (particularly at the time) can match. That’s down to the use of a variety of bleeding edge computer aided elements which helped to bring a new vitality to the animation. And it also allowed for creation of multi-layered images, with a camera moving in simulated 3D space, all leading up to the then revolutionary ball-room sequence where Belle and the Beast waltz as the camera dances around them.
It looked amazing back in 92 (yes Ireland got it a year later) and still does on the big screen, but it’s also genuinely given new life by the inclusion of 3D. The post-conversion is effective and often subtle, with moments of presence carefully chosen and a wonderful focus on pushing particles like snow and rain out into the audience.
The film itself remains an absolute joy – openly broad in its comedy and themes and refreshingly free of the kind of self-reflexive tone we’ve come to expect from contemporary animations. A knowing wink may make screenwriters feel self-important but a bawdy joke and some wordplay is just as effective at getting us to the next musical number.Beauty’s
songs are mostly still marvellous, performed with a gusto that’s matched in the over the top speech of the main characters voiced by Paige O'Hara
, Robby Benson
and Richard White
as the wonderfully embellished Gaston. You would want to be a particularly churlish churl to not get swept away by the strains of ‘Be Our Guest’ or the magical ‘Tale as Old as Time’ – though I might still prefer Angela Lansbury’s
rendition to Celine Dion
and Peabo Bryson’s
thunderous finale.Beauty and the Beast
is an animated classic from a period of high quality Disney
productions unmatched in the modern era. The songs are infectious, the characters broad and entertaining and there’s an economy to the pace of the simple, timeless story which many movies could learn a lesson or two from. Simply magical, even in 3D.