I’ve been doing it wrong. All this time I’ve been trying to meet people in coffee shops when I should have been out wandering the woods in search of a hideous, violent creature that is desperate for a beautiful girl to hold prisoner. Well. Lesson learned.
Find me a more perfect beginning than that of Beauty and the Beast. Everything comes together with the animation, the music, the mysterious narrator, and the splendour of a beautiful scene concealing the unsightly fate of a character we dislike, judge, and pity all in the span of 10 seconds. In a tall castle in the middle of nowhere a prince (voiced by Robby Benson) is cursed for being a shallow jerk. The enchantress transforms him into an ugly Beast and dooms him to a life of loneliness until someone open to loving a malicious Minotaur should happen along. Thanks to his location and lack of dating sites, years pass and the Beast grows lonelier, angrier, and more beastly. So we begin. In shocking contrast to this man/prince/creature is the lovely, humble Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara). Belle dreams of a more exciting life – and not the kind that comes from cooking dinner for the town’s most eligible bastard, Gaston (voiced by Richard White), even if he is wholeheartedly determined to have her for a wife. After rejecting his proposal, Belle spots her father’s horse returning without its rider. She immediately goes in search of her father and finds the darkest, most Gothic-looking castle in the dampest, wolviest part of the woods. It is inhabited by the most well-mannered furniture and the most frightening Beast. Her father, now the Beast’s prisoner, is in a dank tower suffering from a mild chest cold. Being the town martyr, Belle makes a deal to trade her father’s freedom for her own. The Beast happily agrees.
The Beast’s first move is to give Belle a fancy room, so his prisoner can be comfortable for her life-long stay. Belle’s first move is to disobey every order he gives her – save the “don’t run away” one. The Beast treats her relatively well (debatable) because he can’t stand the hairballs any longer. But why Belle doesn’t run or at least strike a better bargain with her captor is a little on the flaky side. Sure he can learn to love and is the best snowball fight she’s ever had, plus living in an enchanted castle is no death sentence… But Belle’s concern for her father should prompt fewer thoughts about what’s for dinner and more worries about where the spider carriage took her only living relative.
Belle’s Stockholm syndrome isn’t the only thing amiss in Beauty and the Beast, but it does seem to be the most popular thesis subject. I’m also curious how the neighbouring villagers have forgotten about their royal family, the tragedy that befell its only living heir, and the Gothic castle within walking distance. It hasn’t been that long. When all is right in the end (because… Disney) the villagers are more than happy to forget what they’d forgotten, dust off their crinolines, and join the furniture for a waltz in the ballroom.
All that said, I could watch Beauty and the Beast all day for the rest of my life and I would be happy. Seriously warped in my perception of reality, but happy. It is Disney’s shining jewel, nominated for four Oscars (including best picture) and winning two (best original song and original score). It is magic from start to finish. Sure we question how Belle can fall in love with her shouting, bullying, uncivilized captor, but we must remember that her experience with eligible men thus far includes A) the Beast and B) Gaston, whose marriage proposal has a foot rub clause. Antlers are great but… in all of the decorating?
The animation spectacularly captures France in autumn, winter, and spring despite the plot’s seemingly week-long story line. The soft colours and smooth brush strokes go magically with Alan Menken’s musical score. You can hear the story through his music. Beauty and the Beast also does what Disney used to do best: use songs only for the purpose of progressing the plot. Montages with lyrics! There is no wasted time in Beauty and the Beast, which is what makes it such an exciting and hypnotizing story.
Everyone has their own Sick Day Movie and Beauty and the Beast is mine. Sure some of the finer plot points are questionable and sure Gaston reminds me distractingly of a guy I knew in high school, but I can’t help but fall in love with Beauty and the Beast every time I re-watch it. It’s just (*sniff*) so beautiful! 9/10.