“Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle. Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. But then, one winter’s night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold…” so begins the story of a prince who was transformed into a beast and the girl who learned to love him despite his appearance.
“Beauty and the Beast” is perhaps the pinnacle of Disney’s animated movies. The first time I saw it in the theater (and the second time too) I was blown away. The story, of course, is “a tale as old as time”, but the animation, the songs and the voices were just perfect.
Belle is a young woman who lives and takes care of her sweet but bumbling father Maurice. She loves books and is unfortunately being pursued by the town’s hunk, Gaston who has nothing to offer but muscles. But Belle isn’t interested and ignores him. But Gaston won’t be put off so easily and plots to find a way to get Belle to marry him.
One evening, on his way home, Maurice becomes lost in the woods and stumbles upon a castle. The night is bitter cold and a blizzard is raging and he knows that he can’t stay outside. So he enters the castle in hopes of finding a place to get warm and perhaps find something to eat. What he doesn’t realize is that the castle is home to a beast, who upon finding Maurice decides to keep him prisoner for trespassing. Belle, meanwhile, is worried sick and goes off in search for her father. Belle eventually finds the castle and her captive father, and in an attempt to free him comes face to face with his captor. Belle offers herself in exchange for her father’s freedom and the Beast agrees. Maurice is set free despite his pleas otherwise, and Belle is shown the room in which she is to stay.
At first, Belle is terrified, but soon she realizes the castle is filled with magical beings and mysterious secrets. Her dresser talks, as do most of the household objects- Lumiere the candlestick; Mrs. Potts and her son Chip, the teapot and her “chipped” cup son; Cogsworth the clock and many more. Lumiere and Cogsworth convince the Beast that in order to gain Belle’s trust he must learn to be “suave… gentile…” as Lumiere puts it. Over time, Belle learns to trust the Beast and the Beast learns to open his heart and rediscover the humanity he lost many years ago.
“Beauty and the Beast” is perhaps one of the most powerful love stories of all time and there have been hundreds over versions over the years. I’ve seen and read many and this is one of my favorites. It’s a movie the whole family can enjoy though the very young might find the Beast a bit scary at first. A new DVD version offers three versions of the film, one of which includes new scenes and an animated number that was dropped from the original version but was finished after the song was rewritten and became popular in the broadway version.
Starring the voices of: Paige O’Hara, Robbie Benson, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury