Monday, June 17, 2013

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

How this animation is not on the 1001 list blows my mind.  It was nominated for best picture in 1991, but lost out to The Silence of the Lambs.  If it would have won, it would have been the first animation to do so.  Also, it is the first animation to implement computer animation.

The movie is vastly different from the book, but that does not detract from our enjoying it. It still keeps the basic plot.  Belle is a young woman living in a tiny French town who is branded a "misfit" because she enjoys reading, and her father is deemed crazy because he is a creative inventor.  Belle is actually color-coded blue so she'll stand out in the crowd.  Her father, Maurice, who has created the world's first steam engine but only uses it to chop wood, takes his invention to a fair and gets lost in the woods.  He seeks shelter in a creepy castle where he discovers the inanimate objects there, such as a candlestick, are eager to serve and please him.  Except the clock, Cogsworth, who has issues. Anyway, the scary Beast comes storming in a rage towards the main room, grabs her dad, and drags him upstairs to the dungeon. Yes the dungeon is upstairs. No, I don't understand either.
Belle is surprised her horse, Philippe  has returned so quickly and without her father. So, she rides him into the forest and finds her father trapped in the castle.  She begs the scary Beast to let him go and to let her take his place. He agrees and sticks Maurice in a creepy walking carriage that scared me when I was little.  Maurice tries to get the villagers to save her, but they won't because he's crazy. Gaston, Belle's handsome but asshole suitor, plots to put Maurice in an asylum to blackmail her into marrying him.
So, about Belle being trapped in the castle. She isn't stuck in the dungeon; she's given her own bedroom, beautiful dresses that fit perfectly, and free range of the castle with the exception of the West Wing.  Of course, Belle, being an only child spoiled brat, goes into the West Wing the first chance she gets.  This enrages Beast, who flips a table and Belle runs away in a panic.  As Belle flees, the wolves chase her.  The Beast comes to fight the wolves as very dramatic music plays.  Belle takes the injured Beast back to the castle to care for him instead of leaving him for dead and returning to her father.
Here is the part that sounds like Stockholm Syndrome to a lot of people.  However, its hard to say because the Beast treats her better and with more respect than anyone in her village ever did.  The part where Belle and the Beast become friends is filled with the best songs: "Something There" and the title song, "Beauty and the Beast".  The stunning scenes of the dance in the ballroom was animated seamlessly with both traditional and computer animation.  The ballroom dance is one of the best parts of the whole movie.

The Beast allows Belle to return home to care for her ill father, giving her his magic mirror as a gift. She uses it to prove that the Beast is real to Gaston and the villagers, saving her father from the loony bin.  Gaston seizes this moment to incite a mob to attack Beast's castle.  This leads to a hilarious fight between the objects and villagers.  The scene where the man gets trapped in the wardrobe and comes out dressed silly made me laugh so much when I first saw this.  Gaston and Beast have an epic showdown which ends up with Gaston falling to his death and the Beast bleeding out.  Belle comes back to the castle too late, and tells the Beast that she loves him. 

The Beast magically turns back into a human, and Belle recognizes him by his eyes.  The smoke around him while he is transforming is actual smoke with animation around it. They never say the Beast's real name in the film, but in the book and early computer game they call him Adam.  All of the objects turn back into humans too.  And they all lived happily ever after. I'll give this film a 9/10.

Note: The Beast was cursed to live as a beast until his 21st year.  Meanwhile, the objects sing "It's been 10 years since's anybody's here".  Many people mistakenly believe this means the Beast was 11 when cursed.  This is simply not true.  The Beast is the same age when cursed, and when the curse is lifted. The 21 years means being under the spell for 21 years.  This is evidenced by Chip, who is 6 years old.  If the Beast was 11, why isn't Chip 16 by now?  Exactly.  The objects and the Beast stay the same age the entire time they are cursed.

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