Beauty and the Beast (USA, 1991)
Directed by Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise
Starring Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach
IMDb Top 250: #237 (10/7/13)
The Disney Renaissance was underpinned by two major shifts in Disney thinking. One was a move back to the fairy tale and fantasy territory that had underpinned the Golden Age, and the other was a more confident and forthright approach to production and promotion. Disney spent much of the 1980s figuring out exactly what kind of stories they wanted to tell and how they wanted to sell them, and after many failed but interesting attempts, they finally hit lucky with The Little Mermaid.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire, I spoke about Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise being far more accomplished dealing with adaptations than they are with original stories. They are masters of taking a pre-existing, often reputable source, and channelling its darkness in a way that younger audiences can appreciate. The version presented here is hardly the most faithful to the original fairy tale (though such terms are problematic, considering the many different versions of all the classic stories). But it is extremely faithful to the spirit of the story and plays it straight, taking all the magical elements at face value.
Snow White in the opening scenes, with Belle's interaction with the animals mirroring that of her historical counterparts. The montages in 'Be Our Guest' look back to Fantasia, as do the dancing mops in 'Human Again' (which was cut from the original release). More esoterically, Gaston's character design owes a fair deal to that of Brom Bones in The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad.
The Sword in the Stone for pure unmitigated hilarity, and the glossier animation allows more of the physical humour to be fully realised.
The Black Cauldron), but his decision to make the film a musical was the right one. The songs are all stand-outs, combining catchy melodies and clever lyrics without ever sounding like the singers or writers are showing off. The first few notes of the title song are enough to make your heart sing and quiver, while 'Be Our Guest' remains completely irresistible.
Sleeping Beauty. The respectful and intelligent treatment of the original story is married to beautiful visuals, fantastic character writing and a soundtrack that remains one of the best in any 1990s film. Even after all these years its power still remains, to wow your senses and above all win your heart.
NEXT REVIEW: Highlander (1986)