Beauty And The Beast (1991)

Directed by: Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise

Written by: Linda Woolverton/Roger Allers/Brenda Chapman/Chris Sanders/Burny Mattinson/Kevin Harkey/Brian Pimental/Bruce Woodside/Joe Ranft/Tom Ellery/Kelly Asbury/Robert Lence

Based on story by: Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

And just like that, the Renaissance was back on track.

At this point, Beauty And The Beast is pretty much THE Disney movie. It was even bigger than The Little Mermaid. It was the first to be adapted for the stage (which seems to happen to all of them at this point…Oliver & Company On Stage, anyone?), the first to be nominated for Best Picture, the first to win Best Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes, the first film to have three songs nominated for Oscars. It also got an IMAX release!

So, yeah. It’s kind of a big deal.

Disney had actually been trying to make it since Snow White was a hit. But it just never happened. Then Jean Cocteau made his version and, well. Walt knew he couldn’t do any better. (Honestly, as good as this version is, Walt was right. It can’t touch Cocteau’s.)

Animation god Richard Williams was asked to take the project on after Roger Rabbit, but he declined. (Too bad. I can only imagine the creep factor in his version.) He did get one of his buddies involved and he started on a non-musical version. Michael Eisner wasn’t so into that, so he fired the guy and brought Linda Woolverton in to write the screenplay.

This means that Beauty And The Beast is the first Disney film to actually have a screenplay. Typically, animated films are written with storyboards, not a script.

At this point, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were brought on board to start writing the songs. Ashman, sadly, was already dying of AIDS at the time and was also working on Aladdin. (He would be dead before the movie was released.) Aladdin was his dream, so he wasn’t so into starting B&B, but he did it anyway. He helped to add personalities to all of the enchanted furnishings of the Beast’s castle and made Gaston into the big bad of the film. (The Cocteau film introduced Introduced these elements, but Disney made them all true characters.)

The story is that old story of girl meets beast, girl hates beast, beast imprisons girl, girl falls in love with her captor. Stockhold syndrome is so romantic!

Belle (Paige O’Hara) is a strange girl. You see, she likes to READ! (GASP!!) But that doesn’t stop Gaston (Richard White), the village idiot…I mean, toughguy, from wanting to “have” her. He’ll stop at nothing to force her to marry him.

Luckily (?), her father (Rex Everhart) gets imprisoned by the Beast (Robby Benson), a prince who has been turned into a hideous beast by an enchantress. To break the spell, he has to learn to love and have someone fall in love with him before he turns 21. When Belle finds her father in a cell, she says that she’ll trade places with him.

Of course, Belle shaves off the Beast’s rough edges and turns him (sort of) into a gentleman with the help of his servants (Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Jo Anne Worley and many others). She falls in love, but isn’t quite there, yet. Beast, though, is all in. So much so that when her father gets sick, he lets her go.That’s when Gaston becomes more than just toxic masculinity encarnate. He becomes a “kill ’em all” villain.

The movie is pretty magical. Although the dark part of me thought it would be hilarious if, when Beast turned back into the prince, he was still dead.

I just really wish that it wasn’t all Stockholm Syndrome. Because, seriously. No one should be falling in love with the person who just imprisoned them or is super abusive to them.

Other than that, it’s a beautiful film. The CGI in the ballroom sequence hasn’t held up quite as well as they had probably hoped, but the camerawork is still amazing for an animated film. I can only imagine what it was like seeing that on a big (or IMAX) screen.

The Renaissance is well on its way.