I remember when Beauty and the Beast came out back in 1991. I’d heard the music from a lot of different sources, and I liked it a lot. The images I saw looked very beautiful, so I was excited to see it.
The story is an adaptation of the classical fairy tale. Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara) is the town beauty, and is pursued by the town hunk, Gaston (Richard White). She has no interest in him, much to his chagrin. After her father (Rex Everhart) disappears on a business trip, she searches for him and finds him locked by a Beast in a castle tower. She convinces the Beast (Robby Benson) to let her take her father’s place. Disney did a good job with the story, and it flowed very well throughout Beauty and the Beast.
The voice cast did an amazing job. I’ve been a fan of David Ogden Stiers since he was in M*A*S*H, and I’ve come to love his voice acting, too. O’Hara has the voice of an angel. Angela Lansbury has been a favorite since the 1960s in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. And Jerry Orbach! He is talented on so many levels. I loved him in Law and Order, and I loved him here (though I will admit to not recognizing his voice at first).
As I already mentioned, I really liked the music in Beauty and the Beast. Alan Menken is a true master of the emotional hook in soundtracks. His songs went from delicate and gracious to bombastic and full of excitement, and everything between. The music during the ballroom scene was wonderfully romantic. The music itself showed the tentativeness of Belle and the Beast, then blended more fully as the song progressed until they were fully caught up in the moment. I could listen to the soundtrack for hours.
The lyrics by Howard Ashman were really fun, full of wit and humor. From Gaston’s barroom antics to Belle’s snowy hopefulness (is that a thing?) to the climactic scene, they evoked just the right emotions at just the right moments.
My only concern with Beauty and the Beast was the animation: it was inconsistent throughout the film. There were gorgeous scenes which screamed, “Classic Disney!”, but some scenes were not as expertly finished. Not just the details, but the line work and movement. Belle’s facial features changed sizes proportionally a few times in a few of the scenes. It was almost as if half the animators were phoning it in.
Despite the animation woes, the film was still very enjoyable. Lansbury’s rendition of the title song was truly amazing. This film deserves most of the recognition its received, and I enjoy it every time I watch it. I look forward to sharing Beauty and the Beast with my kids when they’re old enough to sit still for long enough.
Release Date: November 22, 1991 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some social drinking, drunkenness)
Sexuality: 1 (brief bouncing bosoms)
Violence: 2 (extreme peril, attempted murder, scary imagery, intense fighting, death)