I know I've mentioned this (multiple times) before, but Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favorite Disney movie. So be prepared for some gushing. :) This movie came out in 1991, the year I was born, and I grew up watching it and loving it. But as I've continued watching it as an adult, I've come to appreciate it even more!
From those first few notes of music in the prologue, I just love everything about this movie. (Well, I do have a few tiny qualms, which I'll mention later.) First of all, let's talk about Belle. She is obviously the best Disney princess! Or at least she has always been my favorite. :) She's smart, and she's a bookworm. She has a tendency to wear colors like blue and yellow and green. She's a brunette. (Never underestimate the significance of a fellow brown-haired girl in a sea of blond princesses.)
And most importantly, Belle has common sense and a strong sense of morality. (One good example: when the Beast rescues her from the wolves and he's injured. Even though he just saved her life, she could have easily escaped, but she chose not to. She keeps her promises.) I can't help but compare her behavior and personality to Ariel's in The Little Mermaid. Ariel is so shallow and annoying and spoiled, and she would have fallen for Gaston in a minute. (Paige O'Hara is the voice of Belle, and she was chosen because they felt her voice had a slight Judy Garland-ish quality. And apparently Belle was made to look reminiscent of Judy Garland? I never knew that before, but now looking at her, I can kind of see that.)
All of the other characters in this movie are equally interesting. The Beast reminds me a bit of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre...rough around the edges, with some mistakes in his past, but such a redeemable character. Gaston: wow. He has to be one the biggest jerks in Disney history. :) He's just a conceited, arrogant annoyance at the beginning, but he quickly escalates into full-blown villain after trying to get Belle's dad sent to the asylum and hunting the Beast. And then there are all of the charming enchanted servants in the castle: Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, etc.
I love the music in Beauty and the Beast. Originally it was not going to include songs, which I can't even wrap my mind around, because this movie was meant to be a musical. The songs were written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, the talented team responsible for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Not only are all of the songs catchy, but the lyrics are amazing and hilarious. I find myself cracking up when I listen closely to the words of Gaston and Be Our Guest. Be Our Guest is also stunning visually...it's just like the elaborate, over-the-top dance numbers in those old musicals I love so much.
A few other little random things: the Beast's library. That has to be a memorable part for every book lover who has ever watched this movie. I know it's the reason why it's one of my life goals to someday have a bookcase tall enough to require a ladder. :) Also, the end of the movie always makes me teary-eyed. During the battle scene when the Beast has lost the will to fight Gaston because Belle is gone, that gets me every time. And then I get teary for nicer reasons when the transformation happens. :)
There are a couple things that always bothered me as a kid about this movie. First of all, why is Mrs. Potts a white-haired, grandmotherly type when her son, Chip, is a young child? And then there's the fact that I used to be so disappointed with how the Beast looked after he turned back into his human form. I think it was the long hair that always threw me off, ha. It doesn't bother me as much now...I like that he's so tall and broad, like the Beast, and I guess the longer hair fits with his Beast look, too. And then something that I only noticed the most recent time I watched: how did the village not know about the Beast? He was a prince, so logically he should have been the ruler of this nearby village, and the curse only happened about 10 years before. But it's like nobody remembers him.
Obviously, those little qualms don't affect my love for Beauty and the Beast at all. :) It really is the perfect Disney movie, in my opinion: pretty animation, incredibly memorable songs, good characters and plot, and the right blend of humor and drama.
Of course I'm very excited about the live action version of this story that's coming out this weekend. I might even review it here at some point. But up next on the animated list is another childhood favorite: Aladdin.
What do you think about Beauty and the Beast? What's your favorite Disney movie?