Amidst their Renaissance period, Disney has produced so many of their most notable works to date which can range from The Little Mermaid to The Lion King, but for myself Beauty and the Beast has always held the throne. Quite frankly, I’ve raised myself on titles like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin but I’ve always held high favour in regards to Beauty and the Beast amidst all. Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise have both had their share of ups and downs through their careers but if it all came down to a single effort to remember them for, Beauty and the Beast is that one. For not only has it remained my favourite of Disney’s animated features through all this time but it is also one that I’ll treasure for what mark it has left within my own life.
One would already recognize the story already from the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête, in which Belle allows herself to become prisoner to the Beast, who at one point was a prince who had become the monster he is as punishment for his arrogance. This story has been adapted to the screen already in 1946 by Jean Cocteau although if I were speaking in all truth and honesty I have always favoured this version for more personal reasons coming along. For as magical as Cocteau’s film has shown itself to be, Disney’s film has always held a place in my heart for it was a film that helped me amidst my own growing up. Say I am biased all you will, but even without said attachments coming by, what Disney provides still carries its own magic that allows for itself to hold up magnificently.
It all starts from Disney’s own respect for a fairy tale narrative with the opening, which hints toward an old-fashioned note that carries in itself an ode towards the classical era of Disney’s period. Going together with the gorgeous animation mixing both techniques from CGI and hand-drawings which still hold up perfectly well today, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise only make their goals even clearer from this point onward for notes striking back towards a storybook-esque picturing which perfectly suits the fairy tale being retold as always. For the many times Disney has told fairy tales of all sorts onto the screen, Beauty and the Beast always hit me as the most magical for it perfectly creates a vibe that feels as if it were lifted from a book to be read to those who will move along – showing something Disney has always done best, in which they lovingly embrace a narrative and exert a mood to fill the piece, strengthening its own impact.
When I was growing up, I was always in awe at the character of Belle in the same manner that I was drawn towards Ariel in The Little Mermaid: both of whom are protagonists that are trapped within what position their worlds have given them, only to seek comfort in their own independence. Although both eventually succumb to the comfort of a romance, what both are representative of is a sense of entitlement inside of one’s own self-worth, for it is still something to be found at a later point in one’s life. Yet my favour towards Belle comes clear because I feel as if it were at this point where a staple that could easily have been set up thanks to the rounding presented towards Ariel’s character arc had been subverted into something else. One that is most noted in Beauty and the Beast is a case of Stockholm Syndrome, which is fairly common to hear in regards to Belle’s relationship with the Beast, but in Belle’s arc, a sense of free-spiritedness only rings closer to my own sensibilities for even she carries so much warmth inside of her presence, which only hits me with a sense of power: she is desired by both the Beast and Gaston, but in how she helps developing both arcs to become what they are is where something more arisen, for Belle is not just a character but a representation of one’s growth. Soon enough, she proves a relatable figure for audiences of all sorts, whether they be children or adults.
During this era, Disney would always create a sense of comic relief through a number of supporting characters in order to show how they were willing enough to add their own touch to what stories they choose to tell, but in the case of Beauty and the Beast it is put to the very best. It is evident especially with how Gaston’s egocentric demeanor is highlighted all throughout for the film never feels afraid to make fun of this attitude which he carries and at the same time it gives him a sense of development. Side characters such as Chip, Cogsworth, and Lumière also help with framing the narrative together for we spend as much time with them as we do with the romance at hand, but within such a setting they feel so perfect within their positioning. While obviously a work of Disney’s own touch, the mark that they leave upon the story only fits stunningly for what they had aimed to capture with the fairy tale’s original text to begin with – it wows me how they work everything in.
Especially within the visual style that Beauty and the Beast sticks to, what creates such power is how the animation elevates one emotion to the next, for it gives the film an ageless appearance – yet if there were one specific scene to highlight, it would be hard enough given what wonder all the musical numbers create. It doesn’t matter which one it is, whether we go from “Be Our Guest” to “Beauty and the Beast,” the animation is just as lively as the musical numbers are. With Alan Menken’s score and Howard Ashman’s lyrics put into play, every last moment in which they last still oozes wonder for the music is candy to one’s ears just as the sequences themselves are so dazzling to look at.
When I look through the many ups and downs within Disney’s animated fare, I look at Beauty and the Beast and always ask myself, “What more could one ask for?” As they have always said, Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time, for it will continue being told in many numerous ways. If one were to speak of what Disney had subverted the tale into, it still remains a perfect blend of comedy, romance, and liveliness within every frame and it is never restricted to a specific sequence. It is in what Beauty and the Beast represents that ultimately makes it my favourite offering from the studio as of yet, for it is a tale of growth and discovery. A film that I have always held so dearly as a child and one that I still treasure in my heart even to this very day.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Disney.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Screenplay by Linda Woolverton, from the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
Produced by Don Hahn
Starring Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Pierce, Jesse Corti, Hal Smith, Jo Anne Worley
Release Year: 1991
Running Time: 84 minutes