Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #30: Beauty and the Beast

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

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“A long time ago, in the faraway land of Ireland, there lived a little boy. This little boy loved the films of Walt Disney, more perhaps than anything else in the world. One dark and stormy night, an old beggar came to the door, seeking shelter from the never-ending Irish rain and the gentle whimsy of the locals. In payment for shelter, he offered the little boy a most precious gift; a VHS of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. And the little boy said “Screw off. I hate that movie.”

The beggar stared at the little boy for a good two minutes. Finally, he said:

“I’m sorry, I must have misheard you. I thought you said you hated Beauty and the Beast.”

“I do.”

“That’s crazy talk.”

“It sucks.”

“It does not suck. It’s the greatest achievement in the history of animation. It’s hot stuff, you little shit.”

“It’s boring. It’s a boring, overhyped, whiter than white bread slice of pandering Oscar bait.”

Suddenly, the beggar transformed into a powerful magician with the most pimpin’ moustache the little boy had ever seen. 

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He cast a spell on the little boy, transforming him into an unshaved mouse. The mouse begged for mercy, and the Magician told him that there was one way that he could become a human again. He must review every one of the Disney animated canon one after the other, so that he might learn to love Beauty and the Beast. If he could not find it in his heart to love that movie, and be loved by it in return, he would remain a mouse forever. As the years passed, he fell into despair.

For who could ever learn to love…a boring, overhyped, whiter than white bread slice of pandering Oscar bait?”

Sigh, let's just get this over with.

Sigh. Let’s just get this over with.

Ohhhh…I’m gonna catch hell for this one.

Okay.

So.

Ahem.

Yeah.

I don’t really like Beauty and the Beast.

"Zeke! Run to the next town over, we need more men!" "How many men?" "ALL OF 'EM!"

“Zeke! Run to the next town over, we need more men!”
“How many men?”
“ALL OF ‘EM!”

EVERYBODY CHILL!

Please, just step away from the comments! Let me explain!

It’s me. Okay? It’s me. It’s not the movie, it’s me. I know it’s not a bad movie. Hell, I know it’s a superb movie. And if you’re worried that I’m going to trash this movie that you love, and show you a whole bunch of flaws in it that you never noticed and ruin it for you forever, no. That’s not going to happen. I play fair on this blog, and this movie will be walking out with a very high score. Probably.

My dislike of this movie is, I freely admit, largely irrational. It’s kind of hard to put into words but…

Okay, the animation is top flight, the music and songs are some of Howard Ashman’s and Alan Menken’s best work, it has one of the best leads in the Disney canon…

But it’s just. So. WHITE.

It’s so white. It’s whiter than white. It’s “Gandalf after he comes back from the dead” white. It’s whiter than a Mitt Romney rally.

ARGH! MY EYES, I'M BLIND!

ARGH! MY EYES, I’M BLIND!

So there’s that. Plus, I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s nothing more likely to push me into disliking something than being constantly told by everyone that I’m wrong, and I just don’t get it and that I should change my opinion because it’s clearly stupid and…oooooookay. I’m starting to realise why my wife hates Ariel now.

Yeah. Not so fun, is it?

Yeah. Not so fun, is it?

Sorry. It’s just a movie I’ve never been able to fall in love with. But hey, maybe this review will finally give me the chance to see this film in a new light and break the curse once and for all. We can hope.

Production began on Beauty and the Beast back in 1989 and it was originally intended to be a very different film from the one we have now. But around six months into production, director Richard Purdum and producer Don Hahn were ordered to scrap everything and start again from square one, retooling the film as a Broadway-style musical with songs by Ashman and Menken.

Now why ever would they have done that? I declare the mystery unsolveable!

Now why ever would they have done that? I declare the mystery unsolveable!

Ashman was eventually promoted from lyricist to goddamn executive producer, and probably had a bigger influence on the film than any other single person. Ashman worked tirelessly on this film, and with good reason. Ashman, like many thousands of other gay American men, was a victim of the AIDS epidemic of the eighties. He would live to finish all of the songs for this movie, and to learn of the movie’s rapturous reception at the New York film festival in an unfinished form. But he would not live to see the final film.

In my review of The Little Mermaid I called it “A Broadway musical in ink and paint” and I really, really should have held off on using that description because it fits Beauty and the Beast so much better. Ashman actually held auditions on Broadway itself and the resulting cast is pretty much wall to wall Broadway veterans. Also, the song-to-dialogue ratio in this movie is even more heavily skewed towards the songs which take up around twenty five minutes of the running time.

Richard Purdum, the original director, left once Ashman and Menken were brought on board as it was clear that Disney were going to make a very different movie from what he had originally intended.

Princesses and songs! Those cavemen do NOT fuck around!

Princesses and songs! NOW! Those cavemen are NOT fucking around!

Replacing him were two young newcomers  named Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, whose previous experience prior to helming this multi-million dollar animated feature was…an animated short for the Disney Land attraction Cranium Command. I’m not joking. Well, actually, their lack of experience was part of the reason they were hired. Eisner and Katzenberg simply wanted someone to ride herd on the animators who in turn could be easily ridden by Eisner and Katzenberg.

Huh huh huh huh.

Huh huh huh huh.

After Purdum’s departure, they were looking for directors who would be under no illusions as to who was in charge. In fact, at the beginning Wise and Trousdale were referred to as “Acting Directors”, which Trousdale would later describe as “acting like a director in the hope that direction would happen.” But as it turned out, Kirk and Trousdale rose to the challenge and proved themselves to be very competent, prompting Katzenberg to promote them to “directors”.

The generation of young animators that had come on board around the time of The Fox and the Hound  had now fully matured into probably the most accomplished animation team in the world. This would be the last film that they would all work together on, as from then on the  studio would work on two movies simultaneously with the animation team being split in two. Many of the people who worked on this film consider it to be the crowning achievement of the renaissance, the true pinnacle. Are they right?

Well, let’s see if this thing can win me over.

Okay, so we begin with a view of the Beast’s castle deep in the forest and…oh goddamit.

Bambi's mother

Bambi’s mother AGAIN?

Well, at least she’s not about to be killed this time. But my God, how many times does this make? She’s everywhere! She’s like the Forest Gump of the Disney universe!

Forrest-Gump-forrest-gump-6676531-1280-620

Well anyway, the Narrator (David Ogden Stiers), tells us that once upon a time in a “faraway land”…

Here be dragons...

Behold! The land of a thousand mysteries!

… there lived a young prince. Through a series of stained glass windows, we are told the story. The prince had everything his heart desired, but he was spoiled, selfish and cruel.

And an absolute terror with a crossbow.

And an absolute terror with a crossbow.

An old beggar woman came to the castle one night and begged for shelter, offering only a single rose as payment. The Prince, repulsed by her haggard appearance (and probably a little pissed that he has to answer the door himself despite having more servants than Daddy Warbucks) tells her to screw off. The old crone turns into a beautiful enchantress and as punishment for the Prince’s cruelty, turns him into a beast and turns all his servants into household objects. Which…overkill much?

In fact, I have my suspicions about her identity.  So we have a powerful sorceress who can turn into an old woman at will and will react with massive disproportionate retribution at the slightest offence. You know where I’m going with this.

604038_10152735255635187_732400883_n

Eric, what have you unleashed?

She gives him the rose, telling him that if someone hasn’t found a way to love his hideous mug before the last petal falls, he’ll be stuck like that. The Beast falls into a deep despair: “For who could ever learn to love etc, etc.”

We then skip forward ten years to our opening number; Belle. As well as being a great Broadway number, Belle is pretty much a masterclass in how to do exposition through song. Think about everything that we learn during the course of this number: We meet Belle, we learn that she loves reading, that she’s kind and good natured, that the rest of the town views her as something of an odd bird. But we also meet Gaston, learn that the whole town thinks he’s awesome and that he wants to marry Belle and thinks that he’s a shoo-in. That’s a lot of information, but the song is so well written and establishes the characters so effectively that we never feel overwhelmed.

Now, let’s talk about Belle. Belle is one of the elements of the movie that I don’t like and I feel really guilty for not liking. Because I get why people think she’s awesome. She’s smart, active, brave…hell she’s downright heroic at times.  And maybe that’s the problem, she’s just a little too perfect. I mean, a character has to have flaws, right? I think that’s why I prefer Ariel to Belle. Ariel is stubbourn, and foolhardy and even a little selfish, but that just rounds her out for me. Belle is just a little too saintly for my liking. Also, I have to say I greatly prefer Jodie Benson’s work on Ariel to Paige O’Hara’s portrayal of Belle. Now, O’Hara is excellent, don’t get me wrong. But she gives Belle’s voice this kind of trembling quality that makes the character sound a lot more vulnerable and helpless than she actually is.

I like Gaston a lot though. Richard White who voices the character has an absolutely incredible voice, just booming with raw power and machismo. Also, enjoy him while he lasts because the next movie is Aladdin and pretty much every villain from then on is going to be some variation on Jafar. Gaston is pretty unique in the canon in that it’s not at all apparent that he’s the villain until quite late in the movie. He’s not particularly smart or threatening, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that after Belle turns down his advances we’ll never see him again. His transformation from comic antagonist  into out and out psychopath  is effectively done, and of course perfectly mirrors the Beast’s own journey from monster to nobleman. Anyway, Gaston is so fixated on getting Belle that he ignores the advances of triplets (!) and tells her the whole town is getting creeped out by her reading and starting to suspect she may be a witch. He invites her back to his tavern to look at his trophies but she tells him she can’t, prompting the triplets (!) to complain “What’s the matter with her?”

What's the matter with her?! What's the matter with HIM!?

What’s the matter with her?! What’s the matter with HIM!?

She says she has to go and help her father, prompting LeFou, Gaston’s little man-bitch, to remark “The crazy old loon! He needs all the help he can get!”

Belle angrily says that her father’s not crazy, only for her house to  blow up in the distance. She runs back to the house where Maurice, her father, is working on an automatic wood chopping machine which is basically an axe attached to a steam engine. You know, considering that the French Revolution can’t be that far into the future, I’m guessing Maurice’s invention is going to be put to uses he didn’t envision.

Doing this by hand? What are we, savages?

Doing this by hand? What are we, savages?

With a little encouragement from Belle, Maurice manages to fix the machine and gets it to work. Before you know it, he’s heading off to the county fair to show off the machine with Phillipe, his trusty horse.

But Maurice and Philippe miss a turn and soon are wandering through a dark and eerie forest. Maurice stops at a roadsign, and realises that he may be more lost than he thought.

Bahia

Faced with a fork in the road, one leading through a less scary part of the forest with birds chirping and one clearly leading to the very abyss of hell itself, Maurice obviously picks the second one.

Never going to reference Scary Movie again, so enjoy it while you can.

Never going to reference Scary Movie again, so enjoy it while you can.

Unfortunately, it turns out that this forest is full of more wolves than a Stark family reunion and Philippe soon panics and leaves Maurice alone, stranded in the wood. He gets chases by wolves through the forest and finds his way to the Beast’s castle.

Okay, help me out here.

What was the Beast the prince of? I mean, this is not some unnamed fantasy kingdom. The movie explicitly says that it’s set in France. So, presumably the Beast was a French prince. So…why the fuck is his castle in the middle of a forest? Why isn’t he at Versailles? Come to that, where are his subjects? Who exactly does he rule over? We see his servants, sure. But where are the actual peasants that he rules and collects taxes from and claims droit de seigneur?

Anyway, Maurice enters the castle which is seemingly abandoned but is filled with strange whispering voices, like the island from Lost. Unlike the island from Lost, however, we are actually given an explantion for this. Cogsworth and Lumiere (David Ogden Stiers and Jerry Orbach) a talking clock and candelabrum listen as Maurice pleads for shelter and Lumiere offers him a place to stay, over Cogsworth’s objections. You know, the way the scene is presented we’re supposed to think of Cogsworth as being a joyless spoilsport, but he’s actually the only one acting in Maurice’s best interest here. Why do none of the other characters realise that by inviting Maurice in, lighting a fire and plonking him in the Beast’s chair of all places, they’re putting his life at risk? Maybe they’re just so happy to have someone to serve that they don’t care. We’re introduced to Mrs Potts, a talking teapot voiced by Angela Lansbury, and her son Chip, a teacup voiced by Bradley Pierce. This movie has one of the largest casts of supporting characters in the canon and, again, I think this is one area where the movie comes up short against Little Mermaid. The character designs are certainly very inventive, but I can’t help but find Lumiere and Cogsworth a little one dimensional. One’s French and debonair and is constantly womanising, one’s British and stuffy and fussy. Not exactly ground breaking stuff, is what I’m saying.

What is ground-breaking however, is the Beast, whose arrival causes the fire itself to die from fear.

Ah, there's that good old timey Disney terror.

Ah, there’s that good old timey Disney terror.

Beast is animated by (who else?) Glen Keane and just…damn. There were a ton of potential designs floated for the Beast but Keane’s final version, a hulking lion/bison/canine hybrid is spectacular. Couple this with the fantastic, gravelly voicework of Robby Benson (this guy would have made a great animated Batman) and a surprisingly deep and layered character arc and you have one of the all time great Disney leads. There’s actually two Beasts, Scary Motherfucker Beast, and Adorkable Beast. This…this is the former.

The Beast, still mostly wreathed in shadow, terrorises Maurice, demanding to know what’s he’s doing there. Maurice stammers that he was just looking for a place to stay and the Beast snarls “I’ll give you a place to stay!”

Cut to the Beast patting his full stomach and saying contentedly “And I did!”

I kid.

A few…days…later…

Okay, we’ve got to get this out of the way. Trying to figure out the timescales in this movie, like how long it takes to get from Belle’s village to the Beast’s castle, or how long Belle was actually in the castle, or how long Maurice spent in the woods looking to get back to the castle…you’ll go nuts. Seriously. It makes no sense. The next scene where Gaston tries to get Belle to marry him seems to take place in summer at the latest (we see flowers), a few minutes later all the leaves are red and it looks like autumn and a few scenes later it’s winter even though only a few days should have passed…the internal chronology makes pretty much zero sense.

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff.

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff.

So Gaston has actually gone and had an entire wedding party set up outside Belle’s house without even waiting to ask her if she’ll actually marry him.

Okay, Ariel thinking that Eric did the same thing in the Little Mermaid and being delighted actually pissed me off quite a bit so I will give the movie credit for portraying this as being as creepy and insanely narcissistic as it actually would be. So kudos for that. Surprising everyone but the audience, Belle turns Gaston down flat and we see the first hints of the darker side of Gaston’s personality when he hisses to LeFou “I’ll have Belle for my wife, make no mistake about that!”

I also have to talk about the animation for a second. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but am I the only one who thinks that Beauty and the Beast is a bit of a step down from The Little Mermaid in terms of its animation? I mean, the animation on the main characters is all excellent. But, next time you’re watching really pay close attention to the minor characters in the background. Some of it is actually quite rough. Also the backgrounds aren’t great. In fact, compared to Rescuers Down Under, they can seem downright ugly.

Anyway, after Gaston’s gone, Belle sings a reprise of um…Belle, where it becomes pretty much the archetypal “I want” song. Howard Ashman described an “I want” song as usually the second or third song of the musical where the heroine sits down on something and sings about what she wants, and by the end the audience is rooting for her to get it.  Once she’s finished, Philippe arrives alone and Belle asks him what happened to Maurice and for some reason Phillipe doesn’t answer…oh yeah, he’s a FUCKING HORSE.

Belle tells Philippe to take her to Maurice and he brings her to the Beast’s castle (little bit of a continuity gaffe because Philippe was long gone before Maurice actually reached the castle but, fuck it, I’ll let it slide.). Belle gazes at the castle and wonders aloud, “What is this place?”

What? You've never seen a completely random forest castle before?

What? You’ve never seen a completely random forest castle before?

She enters the castle and finds Maurice locked in a dungeon. And I gotta say, I’m disappointed in Maurice. What kind of inventor gets captured and doesn’t immediately start building a robot suit to escape?

Tony Stark built that in a CAVE! With a BOX OF SCRAPS!

Tony Stark built that in a CAVE! With a BOX OF SCRAPS!

Belle tries to break him out but she’s ambushed by the Beast, who knocks the torch out of her hands. Belle pleads with him to let Maurice go, saying that he’s sick and could die. At first, the Beast refuses, but then Belle makes him an offer he can’t turn down. In exchange for letting him go, she’ll take his place. I find this really interesting. It’s Belle, not the Beast who actually suggests the exchange. It may be that Beast was too honourable to make the suggestion, but once she did he simply didn’t have the resolve to throw away his last chance at being human again.

We get probably Belle’s finest moment as a character where she stands in front of the Beast and simply says “You have my word” before collapsing to the ground as he coldly snarls “Done!”

Beast throws Maurice into a creepy spider carriage, and tells it to “take him to the village”. Since Beast doesn’t specify which village, we can only assume the carriage takes Maurice on a tour of every small town and hamlet in Western Europe before finally bringing him home.

Belle is devastated because the Beast didn’t even let her say goodbye, and it’s clear that the Beast does actually feel guilty over it. He then surprises Belle by taking her to her room, as she thought she was going to be staying in the dungeon. The Beast tells her that the castle is now her home and that she can go anywhere except the west wing. Belle asks him what’s in the west wing and he explodes with “IT’S FORBIDDEN!” Please remember this when Beast acts all surprised when he finds Belle there later.

What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?

What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?

The Beast takes Belle to her room, and, on Lumiere’s prompting, politely invites her to dinner demands that she joins him for dinner on pain of death and mauling. Jesus. I really want to see the wedding invites when these two finally get hitched.

Invite

Belle collapses on the bed in tears and we cut to the tavern in the village where Gaston is moping like a sulky five year old because Belle turned him down; “Now Gaston, you know can have any other girl in the village.” “But I want THAT one!”

LeFou tries to cheer him up with Gaston, probably my favorite song in the whole movie (yeah, you heard me Be Our Guest, you got a problem with that?). It’s a hilarious romp where the whole town gets to indulge their man crush for the big lug and the more I watch it the more I think Howard Ashman was trying to drop subtle hints about Gaston’s sexuality.

Well. I say "subtle".

Well. I say “subtle”.

They’re interrupted by Maurice, who busts into the tavern begging them for help and saying that Belle’s been kidnapped by the Beast. Figuring that Maurice has finally gone full on Space Cowboy, the give him the bum’s rush and throw him out. But this causes an idea to wander unexpectedly into the uncharted rainforest of Gaston’s brain…

Meanwhile at the castle, Belle meets Mrs Potts, Chip, and one of my favorite characters in the movie, Madame de la Grande Bouche (voiced by Jo Anne Worley). She’s actually not even named in the movie, that name is from the stage version. I just love how nonchalont she is about the fact that she’s a talking wardrobe. Belle is all “This is impossible!” and she’s just “Yeah, but what you gonna do?” Madame tries to get her dressed for dinner but Belle says she’s not going.

Down in the dining room, Beast paces furiously wondering what’s taking so long. Lumiere asks him if he’s considered that Belle might be the one to break the spell.

Well duh

What the hell does Lumiere think is going on here? Does he think Beast is going to say “Well shit, I was just going to fatten her up for Christmas dinner but your idea is much better!”

Cogsworth arrives and Beast demands to know where Belle is. Poor Cogsworth is so paralysed with fear that he stares briefly into Bahia itself…

Bahia 2

Weird. It’s like he has tiny eyes IN HIS EYES.

…and stammers that she’s not coming. Beast loses his fucking shit and rampages up the stares while Cogsworth runs after him screaming “Please! Your grace! Your eminence!” Watching this scene as a small Catholic boy, it always confused me because I thought it meant that the Beast was a cardinal.

richelieu

 Beast hammers on the door and demands that Belle come down to dinner but she tells him to screw off. On the prompting of the domestics, he tries to be nicer but she still refuses, because…yeah, nice manners do not really excuse kidnapping. One of the lazier criticisms of this movie is that Belle is suffering from Stockholm syndrome, which betrays a misunderstanding both of Stockholm syndrome and the movie itself. Belle doesn’t bond with the Beast as a defence against his threats and intimidation. In fact, she only starts to warm to him once he begins treating her with decency and respect. We’re not there yet, though. Beast tells the servants that if Belle doesn’t eat with him, she doesn’t eat at all. He skulks back to his chambers where he uses his magic mirror to spy on her not creepy at all. He hears Belle tell Madame le Grande Bouche that she doesn’t want anything to do with him, and decides that he’s just fooling himself and that she’ll never see him as anything but a monster.

So…let her go? Just a thought.

Mrs Potts is putting Chip and his brothers and sisters to sleep…

There are so many troubling implications from this that I'll get into later.

There are so many troubling implications from this that I’ll get into later.

…when she looks up to see that Belle has come down to the kitchen. Belle mentions that she’s hungry, and Mrs Potts orders everyone to fix her up with a full course meal. Cogsworth, again the only one who apparently remembers that they work for a psychotic hell-monster, isn’t happy with this but they all steamroll over him and put on Be Our Guest, the movie’s big show stopper.

Damn, what is there even left to say about this one? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s the most famous song from the movie. It was nominated for an Oscar for best song, but lost to Beauty and the Beast.

But it did get a Simpsons homage, which is like the Oscars of life.

But it did get a Simpsons homage, which is like the Oscars of life.

And on a technical level it’s superb, just an imaculately crafted musical setpiece. And yet…yeah, I can’t really put my hand on my heart and say I love this song. It’s just so polished and so meticulously crafted that I can’t really respond to it on an emotional level. If it sounds like I’m dissing the song for being too good then maybe I am, but I just feel like it’s missing the sense of lightness and spontaneity that you get in something like Under the Sea. I dunno. I shall accept my punishment in the comments.

Miraculously, Beast does not hear the fullscale Broadway musical number being performed in his dining room (in my head he’s just up in his room  listening to Simple Plan with the volume turned up).

"How could this happen to meeee?"

“How could this happen to meeee?”

Belle asks if she can have a tour of the castle and Cogsworth and Lumiere agree to show her around. She gives them the slip and then makes the spectacularly stupid decision to go snooping around the West Wing.

"Hi, Beast? Some weird chick's wandering around up here, can you escort her out? Thanks buddy."

“Hi, Beast? Some weird chick’s wandering around up here, can you escort her out? Thanks buddy.”

She wanders through the Beast’s bedroom, past all the smashed furniture (no wonder all the servants are afraid of him, he’s killed like half of them) and she sees the portrait that the Beast had painted when he was ten showing what he’d look like when he was twenty.

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff.

She then sees his magic floating rose, and is just about to touch it when the Beast sees her. He’s absolutely furious, and with good reason for once, but he overreacts completely, smashing tables and chairs and roaring “GET OUT!”

Belle frantically tells the servants; “Promise or not, Imma get the fuck outta here!” (her exact words) , and she flees the castle on Philippe. She doesn’t get very far however, because this is the only forest in the world that has more wolves than trees. The wolves trap her and Philippe and are about to move in for the kill but the Beast arrives just in time to be a Big Damn Hero.

Come at me bro

This fight scene. Jesus Aloysious Christ, this fight scene!  If the sight of Beast kicking the ass of an entire wolf pack doesn’t get your blood pumping then chances are you are dead, in which case…stop reading this and return to the peace of the grave. For shame! It is ungodly for the dead to browse the internet.

Beast sees them off but is badly wounded and collapses in the snow. And here’s something that I find very satisfying, Belle’s first instinct is to fucking leave him there to die. She doesn’t, of course. But she definitely considers it before her conscience forces her to save his life. Yeah, Stockholm syndrome my ass.

Back at the castle, Belle tends Beast’s wounds, and after some arguing she thanks him for saving her life. The Beast says she’s welcome and that’s pretty much the last we see of Scary Motherfucker Beast. He doesn’t even raise his voice to anyone else for the rest of the movie, barring a few roars at Gaston.

Back at the village, Gaston and LeFou meet with Monsieur D’Arque, the asylum keeper voiced by the great Tony Jay. Gaston tells D’Arque that he wants him to lock up Maurice in his asylum, so that Gaston can blackmail Belle into marrying him. D’Arque says that that’s despicable, but since he’s pure evil he is totally on board. Jay’s purring, deliciously malevolent delivery just steals this scene, and it’s no wonder that they asked him back a few years later to voice Frollo.

At the castle, Beast is falling for Belle, and wants to do something nice for her. At Lumiere’s suggestion he brings her to a room in the castle, tells her to close her eyes and when she opens them he shows her his gift. And I have to admit, it’s pretty spectacular.

An almost complete collection of the works of Stephen King!

An almost complete collection of the works of Stephen King!

This scene segues into Something There, where Beast and Belle sing about their deepening relationship while Belle shows Beast how to feed the birds (tuppence a bag).

You've heard of the bluebird of happiness? This is the bluebird of not-giving-a-fuck.

You’ve heard of the bluebird of happiness?
This is the bluebird of not-giving-a-fuck.

Belle then throws a snowball at Beast and the servants sing about how everything seems to be going well, while behind them through the window Belle and Beast have a friendly snowball fight. At least, we hope it’s friendly.

"GRAAAAAHHH! KILL YOU!!"

“GRAAAAAHHH! KILL YOU!!”

After this is Human Again, which I’d never seen before watching the movie again for the blog. Human Again was originally written for the film but cut for time but was added to the stage musical version. When the time came for the film to be released on DVD, it was decided to animate the song and insert it into the movie. The result is…fine. It’s probably the weakest song in the film but that’s hardly the same as saying it’s bad. The new animation gels with the old seamlessly enough. It’s certainly not a travesty like the extra scenes they shoe-horned into Bedknobs and Broomsticks (also starring Angela Lansbury, weirdly enough). It’s fine, I’m just having a little bit of difficulty seeing why someone thought it was absolutely vital that this sequence be re-inserted into the movie oh wait a minute…

broooms

Yeah, that explains it.

You really thought you could release a movie under my name without magic brooms?

You really thought you could release a movie under my name without magic brooms?

Yes! I swear! Just don't hurt me!

Please! I’m sorry! We didn’t know that was a thing!

Tell me Jeff, you ever been to Bahia?

Tell me Jeff, you ever been to Bahia?

Yes! I swear! Just don't hurt me!

No! Not that! Look, I’ll make this right! In the special edition we’ll have more magic brooms than you’ve ever seen!

Brooms?


Brooms?

Yes! I swear! Just don't hurt me!

Yes! I swear! Just please don’t drop me off this balcony!

Broooooooooms!

BROOOOOOMS!

Needs more brooms.

Needs more brooms.

The song finishes with Belle reading aloud to Beast: “For never was there a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo”. This pisses me off for two reasons. Firstly, if you think Romeo and Juliet is some wonderfully romantic love story then you clearly have NOT READ THE PLAY.

Wasn't it so romantic when she stabbed herself in the chest?

Wasn’t it so romantic when she stabbed herself in the chest?

Secondly…how exactly do you read someone an entire play? Was Belle doing voices for the different characters? Was she speaking the character identifiers: ” Benvolio. In love? Romeo. Out. Benvolio. Of love?” Because that would get old really fast. Plus, it’s a looooong play. And when she’s done, Beast asks him to read it to her again, like it’s the Three Little Pigs or something.

Well anyway, one thing I will say for Human Again, it gives Madame de la Grande  Bouche more stuff to do, which I am always in favour of. And it does segue seamlessly back into the original movie with her leaping into a fountain which throws up a load of water which brings us into the scene where Beast is getting bathed and made over before his big date with Belle.

C'mon guys. He's an eighteenth century French aristocrat. That look is waaaay too macho.

C’mon guys. He’s an eighteenth century French aristocrat. That look is waaaay too macho.

Then we get the famous ballroom scene over the Oscar winning song, Tale as Old as Time. 

Am I just dead inside? Is that it? Is that why I just can’t connect to this on an emotional level? It’s all so beautifully done. I mean, sure the CGI hasn’t aged particularly well but it still looks pretty. But I just…can’t…get in on this. For a love scene to work for me there has to be a certain emotional rawness that just doesn’t come through here. It’s so safe and nice, which I realise is a weird critique to be levelling at a Disney movie but there ya go.

After dancing, they go outside to the balcony where it’s conveniently stopped being winter, and Beast asks Belle if she’s happy. She says she is, but then looks away into the distance and he asks “What is it?”

Oh gee, Beast. I wonder what could it possibly be? Maybe if we stay here all night and wrack our brains we can crack this mystery together?

No need, as it happens. Belle tells him she wishes that she could see her father again one last time, and he lets her use the magic mirror (presumably after deleting the browser history first). She sees Maurice, lost and freezing in the forest, where, since we see him leaving to rescue Belle immediately after getting thrown out of the tavern, he’s presumably been the entire  length of their courtship. And if you ever find yourself in a North Korean prison camp and are forced to watch the two direct to video sequels to this thing, keep in mind that during the entire course of those two movies, Maurice is slowly dying in the snow.

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff.

Belle realises that at this rate he’ll be dead by next June and Beast, although it breaks his heart, releases her from her vow and tells her to go to him. Belle, of course, being stricken with Stockholm Syndrome refuses to stay…no, my mistake she gets on that horse and high tails it out of there as fast as she can while Beast roars his grief to the heavens.

"YOU AH TEARING ME AHPART BELLE!"

“YOU AH TEARING ME APART BELLE!”

Belle finds Maurice and brings him home. She nurses him back to health and Maurice asks her how she was able to escape. She tells him that Beast let her go, and that he’s “changed somehow”.

"Like his character design had been subtly altered to make him seem more appealing."

“Like his character design had been subtly altered to make him seem more appealing.”

Chip reveals that he stowed away in Belle’s bag and asks her why she left, but before she can answer him there’s a knock on the door. Belle answers it only to find herself face to face with Monsieur D’Arque who tells her that he’s come for her father.

"Excellent"

“Excellent”

  They drag Maurice off and Gaston makes his offer to Belle; he’ll get Maurice set free if she marries him. Belle doesn’t even give it a moment’s consideration and instead uses the magic mirror to show the mob the Beast and prove that he’s not crazy. Seeing that the Beast is real, the mob panics and someone asks if he’s dangerous. Belle replies “He wouldn’t hurt anyone! Please, I know he looks vicious but he’s really kind and gentle. He’s my friend.”

See? NOW it's Stockholm Syndrome.

See? NOW it’s Stockholm Syndrome.

Gaston realises that Belle is in love with the Beast, and he tells the mob that the only way to ensure the village’s safety is to kill the Beast. After all, the castle is a few mere hours weeks days away it’s like RIGHT NEXT DOOR. The townspeople are instantly convinced, save for one brave haystack.

"Guys, let's be rational here. Now, this Beast hasn't hurt anyone that we know of so maybe we should just..."

“Guys, let’s be rational here. Now, this Beast hasn’t hurt anyone that we know of so maybe we should just…”

"Sounds like Beast-Talk to me!"

“Sounds like Beast-Talk to me!”

"JESUS!"

“JESUS!”

Belle tries to reason with them, but Gaston says “If you’re not with us, you’re against us!”

Hmmm...this is all strangely familiar.

Hmmm…this is all strangely familiar.

They lock Belle and Maurice in the basement and head off to the strains of Kill the Beast, my second favourite song of the movie. Gaston tells the mob to “Screw your courage to the sticking place”. So, he’s gone from complaining about reading books with no pictures to quoting Shakespeare? Must have taken an e-learning course.

Chip uses the automatic chopping machine to break them out of the basement and Belle rides off to warn the Beast.

The mob arrives at the castle…

davidtennantfacepalm

…and Mrs Potts runs to tell the Beast that the castle is under attack and that a big ten foot tall hell-beast would be real useful right about now. But Beast has sunk into full on emo mode and tells them to just let the attackers come.

"Well...okay. But could you at least go outside to meet them so we don't all have to die as well?"

“Well…okay. But could you at least go outside to meet them so we don’t all have to die as well?”

"No. Too sad."

“No. Too sad.”

Gaston’s mob gets into the castle easily enough, but they quickly get embroiled in a savage battle against the ambush tactics of the castle inhabitants and holy shit I was joking before but the Iraq war parallels just fit this thing like a fucking glove! I’m going to write a PhD on this:“How Can You Read This? It Has No Pictures.”; Gaston as critique of Neoconservative policy and the Bush doctrine.

Anyway, the battle between the castle inhabitants and the villagers is actually pretty brutal and contains such highlights as Mrs Potts scalding people with piping hot tea and Madame De Grand Bouche straight up murdering a dude.

Crushed his head like a fucking nut.

Crushed his head like a fucking nut.

And it doesn’t end there. We get Lumiere almost getting melted like a Nazi standing in front of the Ark of the Covenant by LeFou, Le Fou getting stabbed in the ass by Cogsworth (not a euphemism) and OH JESUS!

So...help me out here Disney, is what I'm watching rape or disembowelment?

So…help me out here Disney, is what I’m watching rape or disembowelment?

They manage to drive the invaders out, but Gaston has made it to the Beast’s bedroom.

"Hey Beast? You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?"

“Hey Beast? You ever dance with the Red Rooster in the pale moonlight?”

"Go ahead. I couldn't feel any more pain than I already do!"

“Go ahead. I couldn’t feel any more pain than I already do!”

"FUCK I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE WRONG ABOUT ANYTHING IN MY LIFE!"

“FUCK I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE WRONG ABOUT ANYTHING IN MY LIFE!”

Gaston shoots Beast and knocks him through the window and onto the roof. Beast can’t even muster enough strength to fight back, and Gaston breaks off a gargoyle and makes to finish him off. But Belle arrives and calls out to him to stop.

And suddenly, Beast has a reason to live…

Time's up. Rules change.

Time’s up. Rules change.

I’ve got to admit, it is such a “Fuck yeah!” moment when Beast remembers that he’s the goddamn Beast and starts taking Gaston apart. Now that Beast has got his head in the game, Gaston doesn’t have a chance and the fight ends with him being held by his neck over a five hundred foot drop while he begs the Beast “Let me go! Please!”

Very poor choice of words.

Very poor choice of words.

But instead of dropping him, Beast simply pulls Gaston in and in a voice deeper than the pits of hell says two words:

"Get out".

“Get out”.

And my balls have just grown balls watching that.

Belle appears on the balcony and they have their reunion but Gaston, being a bastard, stabs Beast in the back before being thrown into the ravine.

"LAZY BASTARD KOOKABURRAS!"

“LAZY BASTARD KOOKABURRAS!”

 Belle pulls Beast onto the balcony and he tells her that he’s glad that he got to see her one last time. He dies, and Belle tearfully whispers to him that she loves him just in time for the last rose petal to fall.

As the music swells (the score in this scene is achingly good), beams of light start to rain from the sky and as Belle watches in amazement, the dead Beast is transformed into a living, human prince.

I sense a great disturbance in the force, as if a million furries cried out in anguish...and were silenced.

I sense a great disturbance in the force, as if a million furries cried out in anguish…and were silenced.

Yeah, I’m not the first one to say this, and I sure as hell amn’t going to be the last, but this ending is really unsatisfying to me. I don’t know anyone who prefers the prince to Beast, and it’s such a let down to know that the awesome, bad-ass teddy bear we’ve grown to love over the course of the movie is gone forever, replaced by some bland, blue-eyed pretty boy. I mean, I know Belle marries him. But when they’re in bed together, she’ll be thinking about Beast. Don’t tell me she won’t be. But we’ve still got the other unfortunate thing about the ending to talk about; Mass Character Death!

Belle and the Prince kiss, breaking the spell and transforming the household staff back into human form. But see, here’s the thing. Only some of the magic household objects used to be people. We see them at the end:

This many people

There’s what, maybe two hundred people there, tops? What about all the little talking forks, the walking tables, the dancing combs and living suits of armour? I got news for you; THEY’RE ALL DEAD NOW. At the end we see Mrs Potts and Chip. Know who we don’t see?

 Troublin implications

Yeah. Happily ever after my ass! This thing has a higher body count than Rambo 3!

Well anyway, a reprise of Beauty and the Beast plays and they watch the recycled animation from Sleeping Beauty. The end.

***

In 1991, a movie made history when it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was the first film of its genre to win that award, a tale of the strange attraction that forms between a beautiful young woman and a mysterious monster.

Silence of the lambs

Sometimes they come in twos. Like asteroid movies, or CGI comedies about ants.

In one respect it’s not surprising that Beauty and the Beast lost to Silence. Animated movies continue to be stigmatised by the Academy. There have only been two animated movies since Beauty to be nominated for Best Picture (Toy Story 3 and Up). Instead, animated films have been ghettoised into the “Best Animated Feature” category, in a field so small that it ensures that pretty much every major animation studio can get nominated every year.

Shark Tale is an Oscar Nominated film. You just think about that.

Shark Tale is an Oscar Nominated film. You just think about that.

But in another sense it is surprising to me that Silence won. Silence of the Lambs is a dark, troubling, morally complex film whereas Beauty and the Beast feels like it was made to win Oscars. Now, I know that’s not the case. There was absolutely no way of knowing that this film would ever be considered for an Academy Award. But it feels like that, to me at least.  There’s something calculated about it that just stops me from truly appreciating it’s merits. And, make no mistake, those merits are there. As I said before, it’s in many ways a fantastic film. But there’s something there that stops me loving it. So, it looks like you’re going to have the Unshaved Mouse around for a long time to come. Sorry Walt, I can respect and admire it, but I still don’t like it.

Sorry? For what? So you're an idiot, it happens.

Oh well. At least you tried. I suppose you’ve suffered enough.

You…you don’t mean?

Sure, I'll turn you back into a human. You ready?

Sure, I’ll turn you back into a human. You ready?

SERIOUSLY!? OH MY GOD, YES PLEASE!

SERIOUSLY!? OH MY GOD, YES PLEASE!

Okay, close your eyes...Triguna Mekoides Ave  Panchito Pistoles!

Okay, close your eyes…Triguna Mekoides Ave Panchito Pistoles!

Oohh...tingly.

Oohh…tingly. Goodbye everyone!

Goodbye Mouse, we'll miss you!

Goodbye Mouse, we’ll miss you!

Peace out, dawg.

Peace out, dawg.

Do svidaniya, tovarich.

Do svidaniya, tovarich.

What? You've never seen a completely random forest castle before?

So long buddy.

There...the spell is complete. The Unshaved Mouse is gone... he is now A PRINCE!

There…the spell is complete. The Unshaved Mouse is gone… he is now A PRINCE!

Um...you know what? It's fine. Change me back.

Um…you know what? It’s fine. Change me back.

Scoring

Animation: 15/20

The production had less time to complete the film after they had to scrap the first six months and start again. So we get a pretty noticeable downgrade in animation from Rescuers Down Under.

The Leads: 18/20

Beast is awesome. Belle…is also awesome. Fair is fair.

The Villains: 16/20

Gaston is an interesting and effective departure from the usual villain template.

Supporting Characters: 15/20

I know everyone loves them, but I’m putting my foot down. They’re good, not great.

The Music: 17/20

Technically fantastic, but just lacking that little extra spark that made Little Mermaid’s songs so good.

FINAL SCORE: 81%

NEXT TIME: Get ready for unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings! Like the feeling you get when you pull on your shoes only to realise that your cat left a present for you in them and now it’s all mushed up between your toes. I don’t know how you’d describe that. The point is, Aladdin is next!

NEXT UPDATE: 13 June 2013

Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. The blog updates every second Thursday. Thanks for reading!

138 comments

  1. And by the way, I just now noticed that you found Belle to be a perfect, flawless and saintly. And I really have to comment on that. I will not hide that Belle is my favorite Disney princess, and she is also tied with Jane from “Tarzan” as my favorite Disney girl over all (for how could I not relate to the only two brainy brunettes in the canon?) So yeah, you won’t hear me say many things about Belle. But still, I can simply not agree with you that she’s a perfect, flawless saint. She is clearly a nerdy outsider in her town. And if she had been as perfect as you say she is, she would have had tons of friends. Just because of course she would. But now that didn’t happen, because she could not fit in. And I don’t care what Gaston and the other townsfolk say: Belle is not the most beautiful girl in town. And I say that as a good thing, because I prefer the “mousy” plain Janes over the gorgeous hotties. And furtheremore, Belle will also do a few stupid things. Like breaking the one rule that Beast had given her, and not even apologizing for it. And unlike so many other modern Disney heroines, she is never a tough action girl. True, she is not afraid to stand up to Gaston or Beast. But guess who needs a man (uh well, manbeast) to come and save her from a flock of wolves? So yeah, maybe you still feel that Belle is whatever you called her. But I hope I have defended her well.

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