Thursday, February 3, 2011

Be Our Guest

Beauty and the Beast
Directors: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Voice Talent: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers
Released: November 22, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Silence of the Lambs)
Best Sound (lost to Terminator 2)
Best Song - "Beauty and the Beast" (won)
Best Song - "Belle"
Best Song - "Be Our Guest"
Best Score - Alan Menken (won)

What is it about this beloved Disney film that can still entice audience members of all ages even after nearly twenty years (!!!) of its release? Is it the timeless story of a beautiful girl who befriends a hideous beast? Is it the gorgeous animation? Is it the catchy songs? Is it the fact the Belle is possibly the first Disney princess whose goal in life isn't to marry a prince, but instead actually has a mind of her own? Is it because it's the first animated movie ever to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture? For me, it's all of these reasons.

The Disney version of Beauty and the Beast is the only one I'm familiar with. I know it's a timeless story and there have been a few variations of it, but all of my knowledge comes from what Disney told me. I'm sure there are no talking clocks or candelabras or teapots in the other tellings of the story!  I remember seeing this movie in the theaters, but I don't remember crying during it which is what I did when I recently watched it. I cried about, oh, six different times. I cried when Belle and the Beast fought and she ran away, I cried when they were dancing, I cried when the Beast released Belle, I cried when Gaston tried to kill the Beast, I cried when Belle returned, I cried at the ending. I was just a mass of tears. Thank God I watched this alone. This movie really tugs at the heartstrings.

Even twenty years later, the animation really holds up. It is quite possibly, one of the most beautifully animated movies ever made. The scene that still gives me chills is when Belle and the Beast are dancing in the grand ballroom (and that has to be one of the most spectacular architectural structures I've ever seen, animation be damned!) Obviously that had to be computer animated to get the sweeping and 360 camera effects, but it works to the film's advantage as it makes for an epic scene.

The Academy obviously loved the songs in this film since they nominated three of them for Best Song. Out of all the songs in the movie, they're my favorites. "Gaston" is a clever and funny song, but I don't care for it as much as the others and "Something There" is a nice little ditty (and the only one where the Beast gets to sing), but it kind of reminds me of a Christmas song with the bell sounds. Even though "Beauty and the Beast" is the title song and was made into a pop single, I would say that "Be Our Guest" is probably the movie's best known song. (Yes? No?) In fact, for some reason, I had thought it was the winner of Best Song that year. "Be Our Guest" is a very infectious song and can get stuck in your head for days after listening to it. ("Try the gray stuff, it's delicious! Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!")  Plus Lumiere (the candelabra) sings it and he's my favorite character. "Belle" is a great theatrical song that starts the movie and introduces us to our main character and becomes a grand production by the end. It's a five minute song with both singing and dialogue and I know it verbatim. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this was the first time a Disney film released one of its songs as a single on the radio, being the title song sung by Celine Dion and Peabo Brysan. (In fact, Celine Dion was virtually an unknown singer (in the States, at least) when she recorded this song, that's how long ago it was!) One of the special features on the Blu-ray is a music video of Jordin Sparks singing the song and it is bland and generic. I don't blame it on Jordin, she sounds fine singing it (though, let's be honest, she's no Celine Dion), I blame it on whoever produced it. It's just so white bread bland and Poppy McAutotuned. It doesn't have the grand sweeping sound that the Celine/Peabo version has. Listen to the two versions back to back and you will see that the Jordin one fails in comparison. This is an irritating thing Disney does with a lot of their songs: they make updated versions with pop stars. Listening to Jessica Simpson sing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid made my ears bleed. It's like Cogsworth says, "If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it!" (I'm depending on all of you to have seen the movie to get that). Alright, I'm done with that little tangent.

Belle has always been one of my favorite Disney princesses because she's not vain and waiting for her Prince Charming to rescue her. In fact, she even refuses Gaston's offer of marriage even though he was (relatively) good-looking and would probably offer her a stable life. Any other Disney princess probably would have taken his offer, but not the strong-willed and independent-minded Belle. I never understood why Gaston just didn't go after one of those three blonde girls who were always swooning over him after Belle rejected him so many times. I know he says that he wants to marry Belle because she's the most beautiful girl in town, but those blondes certainly weren't ugly. Also, it's nice that you get to see the relationship between Belle and the Beast evolve as usually the Disney Princess sees her Prince Charming and it's Love at First Sight! :::gag::: I know there are a lot of haters out there who say that the Beast should have remained a beast and that it's what's on the inside that counts, not the outside. I do get what they're saying, but c'mon. First of all, it's a Disney movie, so he has to turn into the handsome prince. Second of all, the point of the spell was that it would only be broken if he found someone to love him and if he did, he would be able to return to his human self. Third of all, um...bestiality anybody?

Beauty and the Beast made history when it was the first animated movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. True, Up and Toy Story 3 have since been two more animated movies to be nominated in that category, however they were one out of ten movies that were nominated while Beauty was one out of five. If the Academy still had five slots, there's no way those movies would have made it in. Also, there was no category for Best Animated Film back then (and who knows if it still would have secured a slot for Best Picture if there had been), so the fact that it made it in is pretty amazing.


  1. Beauty had the best shot of any animated film to win the Best Picture Oscar. 1991 was a weak year. I still don't know why the Academy went with Silence of Lambs.

  2. To be honest I've never seen SotL (I know, I know) so I don't know which movie I would like better, but I think the Academy just didn't want to give it to a cartoon.

  3. I love this movie! "Belle" is my favorite song...