BEAUTY & THE BEAST – 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (1992)
Featuring the voices of Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Stiers and Richard White.
Screenplay by Linda Woolverton.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise.
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 84 minutes. Rated G.
Twenty-five years on from it’s release, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is still a bright star in the history of the world’s best-known animation factory. In fact, I’m not one for superlatives, but I personally think a very good argument could be made that Beauty and the Beast is the best film in the legendary Disney animated archives. Yes, that’s even better than Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Bambi, Dumbo, Pinocchio, and many other acknowledged classics.
Beauty and the Beast is one of those blessed occasions where everything is just right. The artwork is stunning (sorry, Pixar, you’ll never create a film that looks as gorgeous as this one), the characters are lively and funny, the score is nearly perfect. All of the songs are memorable as anything from any Broadway musical, the only slightly pedestrian one here is “Human Again,” which was probably rightly left on the cutting room floor until it was added in for the Broadway cast album and later a “Special Edition” extended cut of the film released for the 10th anniversary re-release. (This anniversary Blu-ray has both the original version of the film and the special edition, as well as a sing-a-long version.)
It’s easy to forget now that when Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991, Disney’s animation wing was kind of in tatters. The seventies and the eighties had been a pretty threadbare era for the legendary studio, spawning the underwhelming likes of The Rescuers, Oliver and Company, Pete’s Dragon, The Great Mouse Detective and The Fox and the Hound.
Most of the classic animators were long gone. The best Disney animator of that era, Don Bluth, had gone out on his own and created his own studio, and he had seemed to have passed his old employers behind, creating the hit animated films The Land Before Time, An American Tail, The Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go To Heaven and even the pioneering video game Dragon’s Lair.
The first sign of renewed life at Disney actually came with the film before Beauty and the Beast, when the studio teamed up with Broadway composers Howard Ashman and Alan Mencken (Little Shop of Horrors) to create a new musical version of the classic fairytale The Little Mermaid. That film opened to serious acclaim and fairly decent box office, so the studio re-upped with the composers to do another classic story, Beauty and the Beast.
Sadly Ashman did not live to see the premiere, because when Beauty and the Beast was released it ushered in an unprecedented winning streak at the Disney animation wing. The movie was a smash hit and beloved critically. It is also the ONLY animated film ever to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture.
A generation later, nearly everyone in the world has seen Beauty and the Beast at least once. However, this anniversary release pleasantly points out how well the movie has aged. It is as enthralling, romantic, exciting and charming as ever.
If you have not visited with Beauty and the Beast in recent years, it still has not lost its magical glow. Maybe it is time to check back in, particularly since early next year Disney is remaking the movie as a live-action film with Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson. I hope they are able to do the original film justice, but the animated Beauty and the Beast raises a very, very high bar.
Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 28, 2016.