The story of Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite fairy tales. I remember reading books and of course watching the television series with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton. I was in high school at the time, and when I wasn’t doing homework, my days were filled with drama club daydreams of Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast and Labyrinth. So when Beauty and the Beast came out from Walt Disney Animation, if fit right into my fandoms and I was very excited. It was also the very first Disney film my then boyfriend (now husband) and I saw together in the theatre. Twenty years later, we are still together and the film is now a wonderful momento of our first year together.
I remember what a big deal it was that Beauty and the Beast featured those great computer animated scenes during Be Our Guest and the ballroom dance. It was exciting for audiences to see computer animation move beyond what we’d seen in Tron, this time in a more realistic albeit completely animated setting. It was impressive. Of course the music was also a big deal, the team of Ashman and Menken having made such a splash with the Little Mermaid soundtrack. Howard Ashman passed away before the release of the film, but his work lives on and the score and original songs for Beauty and the Beast are some of the most well-known Disney songs around.
All of that praise behind it, I must admit I was a bit nervous about seeing a media preview last weekend, and what the 3D treatment would do to one of my favorites. I hoped that the computer animated scenes would translate seamlessly and it would all work out. And for the most part, it did.
I guess what Beauty and the Beast has working against it is the hilarious short preceding the film, Tangled Ever After. This short was a quick encore of what audiences loved so much about Tangled, Maximus the horse and Pascal the chameleon. See a clip below:
Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the classics, and part of what endears Dumbo to me so much is that you can actually see the sketchy style of animation. But when you go from 2011 animation directly into 1991 animation, the differences stand out. I was actually distracted by the facial expressions and a lot of the main characters and kept comparing them in my head to Rapunzel and Flynn. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s how I felt watching it.
Many of the 3D effects were great and fit right in, the opening scene zooming into the stained glass windows, the landscapes and computer animated scenes were fun to see “pop” at you. At the end of the day, however, it wasn’t necessary to enjoy this classic animated story. I would’ve seen Beauty and the Beast as a re-release, regardless of the 3D effects. I’m sure many parents in my age range, or younger folks that grew up with the film would feel the same, and will see it in 3D too, but the film stands on its own, without need for gimmicks. It is a history lesson of sorts, a visual timeline of how far we’ve come in animation, including styles and design.
One of the previews let us know that Finding Nemo will be the next to receive the 3D treatment, which perhaps makes more sense, since the film is entirely computer animated. I know Disney is constantly looking for ways to bring classic films to a new generation, and of course looking to make money, they are a business after all. But where the Lion King excelled in bringing us breathtaking African landscapes in 3D, Beauty and the Beast falls short of really benefiting from 3D. I still enjoyed it, my children (who had never seen the film in theatres) loved it, and the tale truly is as old as time. I do recommend seeing the film, I just implore Disney not to feel like they have to 3D-ize every film in their vault. They can stand on their own.
Beauty and the Beast 3D opens in theatres nationwide this Friday, January 13 and is worth it to see Tangled Ever After alone!