Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Who Could Ever Learn to Love a Beast?

This week has been pretty easy so far and I don't mind that at all after the whirlwind of last week.  I've got the kids working on a project in the library and we've only got two days left in the week before its over.  Then I have a comfy three day weekend and two teacher workdays before I see the kids again.  It'll be a nice break, and will be matched with several more great bluray releases this month.  Last week saw the release of Grindhouse, and then The Exorcist and finally this Disney classic from 1991.  I recall seeing this one in the theater the Christmas of 1991, which was particularly magical as it was the first time I'd ever been to Disney World as well.  It was expected to be as fun and enthralling as The Little Mermaid had been but I don't think anyone could have predicted the success and acclaim that it would gain upon its initial release.  To this day, its still my mom's favorite animated Disney classic and always manages to make both of us cry.  Lets examine true animation artistry now as we revisit Beauty and the Beast.

The story begins in typical fairy tale fashion, chronicling the story of a young French prince who was spoiled and unkind to others.  One night, he refuses to give an old woman shelter and the woman, after warning him to not be decieved by appearences, transforms into a beautiful enchantress.  Deciding that he needs to be taught a lesson, she transforms him into a hideous beast and places a full enchantment on the castle and all who live there.  She leaves him with a magical rose that will show him the passage of time.  If he can learn to love and have someone love him in return before the last petal falls from the rose, he will be transformed.  If not, he will remain a beast forever.

Years later, as the rose is nearing its last year, a young girl named Belle is dealing with having to live in a closed-minded and provincial little town where her strong-willed nature and intelligence are seen as odd.  Her father, a batty inventor, goes to have an invention evaluated at a fair and gets lost on the way.  He seeks shelter at the Beast's castle and is thrown in the dungeon.  When Belle discovers this, she goes to the castle and agrees to stay captive in his place.  It is from this that their relationship begins to take shape and the Beast realizes that she is his last chance for salvation from the curse.

Yeah, I know.  I talked only about the serious parts and left out the songs and the comedy, but really...when you think about it, the story is really serious.  I suppose that makes the spectacular musical numbers and comedy even better, because you need the lightness to off-set the dark and serious.  Of strong note are the characters of Lumiere and Cogsworth, voiced by Jerry Orbach and David Ogden Stires respectively.  They form a perfect 'odd couple' relationship that becomes something you want there to be more of...so that means there's a perfect amount.  There also isn't a forgettable song in the bunch.  The title song, Belle, Be Our Guest, and even the added Human Again (special edition version) stick with you for days and express the longing of the characters to want exactly what it is they expect from life.  In many ways, the film is about longing and finding the right pieces to fill what's missing in your own life.  I think that's why I always cry, because it makes you believe that everything works out for a reason and that everyone will have a happy ending.  Also, its comforting to know that there is someone who can see past our surface flaws and see the beauty underneath.  There's a reason this was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture (all hype aside) and it is something that everyone should own.

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