Upon its original cinematic release in 1991, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – based upon the classic French fairytale La Belle et la Bête – was met with widespread critical acclaim, winning two Academy Award for Best Original Music, Best Original Song and becoming the first animated picture to be nominated for Best Picture. Some may criticise Disney for rereleasing their back catalogue in retrofitted 3D, yet Beauty and the Beast still possesses the ability to create awe in children and adults alike thanks to its great story, fun characters and beautiful musical numbers.
This new rerelease doesn’t just attract those wishing to revisit their childhood, but is also a chance for new audiences to see one of Disney’s true modern classics. The joy of this film is to be found in the elegantly drawn backdrops which demonstrate a fantastic level of artistic skill, successfully creating a fairytale France inhabited by numerous larger-than-life characters.
The most memorable moment of Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise’s Beauty and the Beast is of course the spectacular ballroom scene where Belle (Paige O’Hara) and Beast (Robby Benson) waltz to the magical voice of Angela Lansbury. This scene was one of the first to employ animation by Pixar and, although it looks a little dated when compared to the most recent Pixar efforts, still carries a delightful warming, magical charm.
The 3D retrofit naturally adds very little, and in early scenes seems to dramatically contrast the rounded, friendly drawn characters with the more classical backdrops. Luckily for Disney, the magic of the story still works. Children in the screening laughed, cried and were terrified by Beast – clearly Disney know what they are doing. The simplicity of the fairy tale is a reminder of the skill Disney has in developing a classic story for young audiences.
One of the key factors that made Beauty and the Beast such a success was the quality of the musical numbers written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ahsman, including Be Our Guest and the aforementioned Tale as Old as Time, which have now entered the canon of Disney classics.
Standing proudly as an animated film for everyone to enjoy, the simplicity and elegance of Beauty and the Beast possesses a longevity that will last for years to come.