1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Review #30: Beauty and the Beast

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Disney Animation Review #30: Beauty and the Beast

Disney Movie Review: 30/52 - Beauty and the Beast

Ryan Dosier- It’s hard to describe the lightning that was captured in a bottle with Disney’s 30th animated feature, Beauty and the Beast (1991). It is perhaps the most acclaimed and beloved animated film of all-time, with very good reason. It is also perhaps the strongest Disney feature yet, but it is definitely the first of only three animated films to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

The success of Beauty and the Beast derives from countless points. The characters are engaging and incredible, the music is out of this world, the animation is breathtaking, the layouts are extraordinary, the voice acting is superb—everything comes together for this film in spectacular fashion. I honestly cannot think of one bad thing to say about Beauty and the Beast, so this review will be positively glowing. 

From the opening seconds, Beauty sets itself apart from every other film before it. The prologue is haunting and impeccable with its use of stained glass imagery and virtually no animation to introduce us to the story. Then, when Belle is revealed and the song “Belle” is performed, the stunning animation and outstanding song carries on the totally different feel of this movie. Immediately Beauty and the Beast is something special and that sense never leaves.

Belle is an incredible creation. Strong-willed, passionate, strong, and unwilling to be reactionary—Belle drives her story more than not only any other Disney princess (except maybe Ariel) but more than almost any other Disney protagonist period. The town looks at her as someone whose worth is merely because of her beauty. When she meets the Beast, he is able to appreciate her for all of her. Belle is an immensely delightful character throughout the film with a killer singing voice that has rarely been matched. She is animated with ferocity and delicacy so beautifully thanks to the talented hand of Mark Henn.

The Beast is also a nuanced, amazing creation. The genius that is Glen Keane animated the Beast in what is his best-animated work. You can see how much Keane threw himself into bringing this character to life. The Beast is at once hideous and handsome, heinous and heartfelt. His evolution through the film from a vicious monster to a self-sacrificing man is the true success of this film’s story. The Beast carries the weight of this film on his large shoulders in an incredible way.

Yet the titular characters do not steal the show in Beauty and the Beast. The enchanted objects of the castle do that, and do that with amazing ease and humor. Mrs. Potts is a teapot that moves exactly how a teapot should move and acts both warm and hot when the mood calls for it. Cogsworth is bossy and precise—like a clock would be. But the greatest character is by far Lumiere, the candelabra. Lumiere is a rare blend of extraordinary animation and perfect voice acting. Jerry Orbach provided Lumiere’s voice and every French-accented word rolls out beautifully. Lumiere is one of those rare characters that makes every scene he is in his own. He is, quite literally and figuratively, on fire.

One has to immediately think of the music in Beauty and the Beast when talking about Lumiere—and really any of the characters. It’s hard to think of the film and not think of its unprecedented soundtrack. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken did the unthinkable by topping their music in The Little Mermaid when they wrote the songs for Beauty. My personal favorite is “Be Our Guest,” which I think is the most entertaining Disney song period. The animation in that scene is beyond any caliber Disney had previously set and the story the song tells is completely sensational. Lyrics such as “We tell jokes, I do tricks, with my fellow candlesticks” show off the insane talent of Howard Ashman so beautifully. 

The other songs are all just one hit after another. Starting with “Belle” and culminating with “The Mob Song,” every single song in the film has its purpose and electrifies the film with magnificent melody and bafflingly good lyrics. The song “Beauty and the Beast,” performed by Mrs. Potts, is both musically and visually a masterpiece. The iconic ballroom dance with Belle and the Beast is stunning while the music delivers amazing emotion. Virtually all of the songs work, and I wish I could go into detail about “Gaston” and “Something There” and the others, but that’s for another time.

What more can one say about a masterpiece of filmmaking like Beauty and the Beast? The work done by everyone on this film elevated animation to yet another high after they had already elevated it to its peak in The Little Mermaid. The Disney team would continue to elevate the medium for years and years thanks to Beauty and the Beast. The film ranks among the best animated features and reaches real heights among all films. You really cannot go wrong with the fantastically artful piece of magic that is Beauty and the Beast.

5/5 Fellow Candlesticks

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