‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’ (1991) CLASSIC REVIEW – Tale As Old As Time
‘Beauty and the Beast’ is one of Disney’s most beloved classics featuring gorgeous animation, an enchanting and romantic story, and incredibly memorable musical numbers that still hold much popularity today. When Belle (Paige O’Hara) is taken prisoner by a fearsome Beast (Robby Benson) she befriends the enchanted objects of the castle in which she resides and learns to see what is beneath the Beasts frightening exterior; a prince searching for love. This film became the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1992, an extraordinary feat at the time and still a very tall task for any animated film to achieve. Beauty and the Beast achieves greatness across all departments from the fantastic lead and supporting performances, to Alan Menken’s truly magical score it is a story that transcends generations and speaks to many themes and lessons that kids can take away from their experience and learn from.
The way this story progresses and develops is very expertly paced to ensure you get enough of each character to understand their personality and who they are as people. The introductions of these characters are handled with perfection as these are the key moments that will shape your perception of Belle, Beast, and Gaston for the entire film. How Belle and Gaston are introduced through song is done so cleverly as you very quickly understand their character, their hobbies, their attitude towards life, and their relationship without having to go through multiple sequences of backstory and setup. And the way the plot moves along, swapping the focus between each of the main characters is done so seamlessly that you never get distracted or overwhelmed by the various side plots all progressing at the same time. As i mentioned, it is a tragic but also a beautiful story, there are moments of romance, moments of humour, drama, and of horror that are all integrated in a way to where the overall tone of the film doesn’t come across as disjointed at all.
The performances here from this ensemble cast are all just fantastic, and this creates very engaging, believable, and entertaining chemistry between the various characters. Paige O’Hara (Belle), Robby Benson (Beast), Jerry Orbach (Lumiere), Angela Lansbury (Mrs Potts), David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth), and Richard White (Gaston) all put in fantastic voice performances selling each of their characters very well and creating everlasting memorable roles that will be the basis for these characters in any adaptation going forward. You cannot talk about Beauty and the Beast without extensively highlighting the amazing soundtrack of classic songs by Alan Menken that turn what would be a magical film into a wonderful enchanting tale. The way the songs play into the story is done very well to where they play more of a role than just giving you something to sing. They give you insight about the characters and how they feel at the time, and actually, much of the story in the film is conveyed through musical pieces integrating the music with the film forever.
With great characters, instantly recognisable music, incredible animation, and a gripping and touching story this is just an all round fantastic Disney animated feature. And when you throw in the lessons of looking past ones exterior and getting to know someone for who they really are on the inside this becomes a story that transcends generations, hence the reason we now have a modern live-action retelling of the story for a new audience.