Few would argue that Beauty and the Beast is one of the best animated films ever made. For many, it is one of the most beloved memories from childhood: the spectacular animation, the beautiful music, the catchy songs that everyone was listening to on the radio or on their Walkman. We tend to think of Toy Story and Shrek as the first animated children’s films that appealed to adults, but in 1991, few parents argued with taking their kids to see Belle and the Beast fall in love two and even three times. (Admittedly, ticket prices were significantly more affordable in those days.)
The tale as old as time concerns a vane and cruel prince who has a curse placed upon him and his castle when he turns away an old woman because of her horrible appearance. The spell turns him into a hideous Beast (his servants fare somewhat worse) and he is told that unless he falls in love with someone before his 21st birthday, the curse will be permanent.
Assuming he will be alone forever, The Beast (Robby Benson) gives up hope. That is, until Belle (Paige O’Hara), an odd outcast from the local village, finds her way into his castle. She comes to rescue her father (Rex Everheart) from the Beast’s tower and gives herself in his place. Though she is frightened by his appearance at first, they strike a tenuous friendship. Belle realizes there is something sweet and almost kind and soon she wonders why she didn’t see it there before.
Even 20 years later, the cast’s performances are still entertaining. O’Hara and Benson are perfect opposites and play off each other wonderfully. Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) is so soothing to listen to and Lumiere (Jerry Orbach) is as debonair as ever. “Wait! Jerry Orbach (Law & Order) is the voice of Lumiere?” That’s right. Like watching so many childhood favorites again, it’s amazing how many things you pick up on as an adult.
With its hilarious characters and slapstick comedy, Beauty and the Beast 3D is as enjoyable and exciting to watch as when it was originally released, a clue that it will continue to be timeless. Similar to The Lion King 3D that was released last year, Beauty and the Beast has been retrofitted with Disney Digital 3D in order for Walt Disney Studios to capitalize on the new technology in hopes of making money. It worked for The Lion King, so why not another Disney classic?
As with The Lion King, though, the film actually suffers from the overbearing 3D animation which only highlights how rudimentary the film’s original animation is in comparison to today’s computer-assisted artwork. For example, everyone who saw Beauty and the Beast in the theater remembers seeing the famous ballroom scene for the first time and being blown away by the magnificent shot which swept from the chandelier down to Belle and the Beast dancing. Now, with the animation-on-steroids digital 3D, that scene looks absurd as the foreground and background appear to be spliced from two different movies.
This should not deter anyone from seeing the film, however, since it deserves to be seen on the big screen once again. Watching the singing and dancing plates and saucers fly across the screen as we listen to Lumiere sing “Be Our Guest” is just about as good as a movie experience gets.
This film is rated G and runs 84 minutes.