Beauty and the Beast (1991): United States – Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Rated G by the MPAA – contains talking closets and a little animated violence and scariness
I still love this movie. It was always one of my favorites, growing up. The violence, the tragic romance, the comedy, I loved it all. Mostly the sadness, I think, though. And now, years later, it’s still one of my favorite films ever.
To begin with, it is quite gorgeous. I’m not sure how much I noticed the animation growing up, but it looks really good. I wish I could have seen it in IMAX when it got rereleased in 2002. Everything from the individual characters to the landscapes are great, and the revolutionary computer graphics employed in certain scenes still hold up remarkably well today.
Next, the songs are amazing. There isn’t a dud among them, and I still remember most of the words. In the Special Edition DVD, which we watched (after Aimee had it on hold at the library for three months. Stupid Disney vault.), there’s an extra scene with an additional song. It’s not a bad song by any stretch, but they were right to cut it for pacing and continuity purposes. All the rest of the songs are amazing.
But what sets this apart from all the other Disney movies, not including those done by Pixar? It’s the tragedy. In a lot of ways this is a tragic romance. Both lovers go through great sacrifices for people they love. Belle stays in the castle to free her father, the Beast lets Belle go because he loves her and knows her needs. This personal sacrifice, along with the immense sense of despair and sadness, sets this film apart. It’s not a theme you often see explored as well as it is here, not only in Disney films but also in mainstream cinema.
The gothic castle, the violent showdowns between the wolves and the Beast and between Gaston and the Beast, the darkness, the sadness in the Beast’s eyes: these are the reasons I love the film. There are the light moments that balance it out and make it suitable for children. Most of these involve some sort of slapstick, and it doesn’t hurt to have animated furniture to use as props and characters. I love these lighter moments too, the physical comedy, Lumiere and Cogsworth, and most of all, Gaston’s theme song. Wonderful stuff.
Well, if what I wrote above isn’t enough, I’ll reiterate. It’s a great film, with enough to love in it for people of all ages. It’s got the emotional depth most Disney films don’t possess, and takes the animated feature to a new level.