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Hello and welcome to Filler Vision, where time is wasted.
Growing up, I owned a lot of Disney films on VHS. My dad, who me and my sister went to visit in Wyoming due to our parent’s splitting up, knew that we enjoyed those movies and purchased them for us to watch, older releases and films that were brand new. I recall getting a VHS copy of Atlantis: The Lost Empire in December of 2001 for, I think my birthday or Christmas, I can’t recall.
For the longest time, I never watched Beauty and the Beast. I was born in 1995, and my sister was born in June a year after the film’s release, so my Dad got the October VHS release of the film. I don’t know, I wasn’t won over by it. I preferred The Rescuers Down Under, Aladdin, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Atlantis, Treasure Planet, I wasn’t really interested with that film.
As time went on, I warmed up to the film more and more, as I did with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. It was maybe around the late 2000s that I fell in love with it. It’s not my favorite hands down, maybe in my top 10 Disney films, but I just dug the hell out of it the more I rewatched it.
It was sometime later I began to learn about the hardship the company went to make the film. Made during a period when the Walt Disney company was pumping out movie after movie after a period of the 1970s and early 80s when years passed without any animated features, Beauty and the Beast was the studio’s second attempt to adapt the story after Walt Disney struggled during the 1930s and 1950s.
Following the success of 1989’s The Little Mermaid, the film took on a similar musical approach, the film began to take shape in 1989, with an early storyboard reel. However, disappointed with the results, the then chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg ordered that the film be scrapped and started over from scratch, which was finally given his approval by early 1990.
Here’s how insane the production of the film was. Because the film had a production time of two years as oppose to the traditional 4 years production, due to the previously dropped earlier production version of the film. Not only that, the movie was screened at the New York Film Festival on September 29, 1991, yet only 70% of the film completed, with the remaining 30% showing rough animation and storyboards.
Yet, people didn’t seem to bother that. The Film Festival premiere had a 10-minute-long standing ovation from the film festival’s audience, and by the time the finished film reached cinemas on November 22nd, it went on to become the first animated film to gross $100 million in the United States. It went on to being screening out the competition when it was shown at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, and grossed $425 million against a $25 million budget.
The crowning achievement of it all? It became the first animated film to nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, one of three to ever receive that nomination. And this was long before the category for best Animated Feature, so imagine how it must have been for everyone to work on the film to receive that news?
So, that was it, right? The film did its job, was a huge hit, made buckets and buckets of hard cash. Went on to have two home video tie in movies, a live action TV show, a hit Broadway musical, a rerelease in IMAX, and a plethora of merchandise.
Overview: Set in Pre-Revolutionary France, the story tells of a girl named Belle (Emma Watson), who dreams of adventures outside of her village Villeneuve, with many of the villagers looking down on her since she’s always got ‘her head stuck in a book’. She even turns down Gaston (Luke Evans), a returned soldier who is looked fondly on by the town. However, when her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) goes missing, Belle goes looking for him, coming across an enchanted castle deep in the woods. She finds her father…as well as the owner of the house, a monstrous Beast (Dan Stevens), who has imprisoned Maurice for life when he attempted to take a rose back to Belle. In a selfless act, Belle takes her father’s place allowing him to be set free, while she stays in the castle. Fortunately, she’s befriended by the castle’s staff, whom have been turned into household objects: Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a candelabra, Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), teapot Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) and her teacup son Chip (Nathan Mack), and many others. Belle learns that the Beast was once a Prince, but his rude behavior to a beggar cursed him and his staff when she turned out to be an enchantress. Given an enchanted rose, the curse will only lift if the Beast can learn to love another and said other to love him back: if not, the beast will stay forever cursed, and all will lose their humanity forever.
Now, from a first glance, you’re probably thinking ‘Huh, that’s kind of like the original film’. Well, you’re not wrong. In fact, you hit the nail on the head. This is nearly the exact same as the 1991 film. Specific lines, many scenes, all the popular songs, it’s all here. In fact, why even try to recreate the same thing? Well, because brand name and profit, logically. After all, the new film took in $1.253 billion and is currently the 10th highest grossing movie of all time. I wish I was kidding.
For the past few years, Disney has been recreating numerous animated films into live action movies. This technically started in 1994 when they made a version of The Jungle Book with actual animals, though most noteworthy were the live action 101 Dalmatians’ movies. The trend got big when in 2010 saw the Tim Burton take on Alice in Wonderland. Afterwards came Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon, and of course, Beauty and the Beast. With more and more of these remakes coming out, I’ve noticed I’ve been dreading them more and more. The only exception is Pete’s Dragon, mostly because that film kept the original idea and did a complete 180 on everything else. It’s what a remake should do; keep the concept, but do your own thing…Yet that film wasn’t a big hit, so screw that concept, I guess.
All I can get is the studio wanted to do the exact same story again because people enjoyed it so much. That’s fine…except when they did with the Enchanted Christmas and Belle’s Magical World, it kind of lost its oomph when you show it being the exact same thing repeatedly. How many times do we really want to watch Belle and Beast argue, then get along? As a Broadway musical, that would be cool with different actors and actresses, with some lavish stage sets and costumes. As for making it a live action movie, okay sure, let's do the story in that format. Disney however seems to try and make this film the definitive live action Beauty and the Beast film. I still stand by the fact that 1946’s Beauty and the Beast from Jean Cocteau is the perfect live action take on the story. Dated in some areas, true, but it’s the most influential adaptation, to an extent it left a mark for later adaptations to follow. How so? That film created the archetype of Gaston, and when the original animation team was working on their film, they looked to Cocteau’s film for inspiration.
To the new film’s credit, while having pretty much the same story, plays around with different areas. Well, more like pokes a stick at it nervously. And luckily, some pay off. Maurice being a clockmaker here is a nice take on him being a quirky inventor, as well as makes it more grounded. Having some scenes played around differently is interesting, mostly since audiences will be thrown off by sequences showing up earlier and unsure how the rest of the story will play out.
But then the movie does…odd additions. Belle, as before, is looked down on the town, though this film makes it seem she gets along with a few villagers as oppose to the animated film where she gets along with the librarian. And then the movie makes her an inventor, with her making a prototype washing machine. So, she went from bookworm…to a French Revolutionary MacGyver. I wouldn’t argue against it had the film had her doing it more as oppose to a throwaway scene where we show the villagers being displayed as dicks.
The castle staff this time around are more anxious to make Belle fall in love with the Beast, most noticeably Lumiere. Lumiere is pushing HARD to get the two hooked up, and oddly enough Cogsworth is the one not on board with that idea. Heck, when Belle flees in this movie, the staff try to keep from leaving the castle, as oppose to the original where they didn’t want her running off into the wilderness.
Gaston is now a soldier from a war. Odd, due to the placement of the film, but more on that later. The point is the movie tries to give a reason for Gaston lashing out at the end of the film. And yet that really wasn’t needed. Gaston was depicted as the male hero from earlier Disney movies, the twist being he turns out to be the bad guy. It’s a clever take on an old trope. Here they set up the ego and the Tavern song sequence is put earlier in the movie, so that’s kept on track.
Then when Maurice shows up, he takes Gaston to where he said Belle’s captured. Gaston, losing his temper, knocks Maurice out and ties him to a tree where LeFou points out there are wolves. Gaston doesn’t take a moment to consider, and leave’s him to die. Um, that escalated quickly. I get he’s unhinged, but leaving a man tied to a tree to die? Weren’t we suppose to like Gaston at first? I guess the filmmakers just wanted a straight up bad guy.
Speaking of wish, Belle early in the movie keeps asking Maurice about her mother. Maurice keeps trying to push it aside, as it hints at a tragic past. Later in the film where Belle and the Beast have gotten along for a long period, Belle addresses she wished she could leave. And then they do.
No, you didn’t have a stroke when you read that. The Enchantress, as well as giving the magic mirror, left a magic book. Apparently, if you touch the book and think of a certain place you want to go to, you transport there. And Belle and the Beast go to where Belle’s mother was last seen, which is an abandoned mill outside of Paris. It’s there they find a plague doctor mask, and Belle realizes she died of the bubonic plague.
Now, the whole discovering of what happened to her mother is fine, it’s how they find out is the problem. You’re telling me the Enchantress left this guy cursed to look like a monster and could only break his curse if he falls in love with someone…was also given a transporter to ANYWHERE in the world? WHY?! Lady, you KNOW what will happen if someone sees him! An angry mob would want to burn him immediately! How screwed up are you to give him a mirror to go anywhere yet can’t because of his appearance because you cursed his ass in the first place?!
Here’s the stinger: it never comes back. You know when that would have been useful? When she RIDES BACK TO HER VILLAGE TO SAVE HER FATHER! Beast, give her the book! She wants to save her father, and you just let her ride on horseback while there’s a quicker means of transportation?! WHY?!
On the note of Belle’s, mother, Belle also finds a rose shaped pen she brings back with her, and later shows it to her father, revealing she knows what happened to her mom. It’s a touching moment, and the two do play off each other well…But all that was going in my mind was “…Is that flower still contaminated by the plague?” If that’s the case, Belle just brought back the plague…Should we be worried?!
And now comes to one of the more ‘controversial’ moments of the film: Lefou being Disney’s first Gay character. Across the movie, Lefou has quick lines where it’s implied he’s interested in Gaston. Scenes such as him addresses the three triplets “It ain’t gonna happen” when they fail to get Gaston’s attention, and a sequence after Gaston talks to himself in a mirror saying, “I’m not done with you yet”, Lefoue sneaking up afterwards with “Me neither”. During the climax, one of the thugs from the village is attacked by Madame de Garderobe, and when he’s put in female clothes, is shown to be happy with his attire. It’s at the end of the movie where during the final dance sequence, Lefou ends up dancing with the thug who wore said female attire, and the two are shown smiling.
Director Bill Condon stated the dance sequence was the moment he referred to prior before the sequence was heavily overblown, almost to an extent the film wasn’t allowed to be shown in certain countries. My take?
It comes off as a sight gag instead of a genuine moment. That’s how it played off to me. It’s how it was played off in the theater I saw it in. And it’s so short, my friend was reaching down to pick up his wallet that he dropped that when he sat back up, he missed it entirely. He asked what he missed, I told him, and his reaction was “That’s it?”. LeFou came off as the studio trying to market a character for the LGBT community, though more as a marketing tactic as oppose just writing a memorable character.
Cast: Emma Watson as Belle- Look, I’ll be completely honest, I haven’t seen Watson in anything outside of the Harry Potter films. I knew watching this would be tricky since she’s still well known for being Hermine in 8 movies. So watching her here, I felt she did a decent performance. She worked well with Kevin Kline, presenting a very realistic father/daughter relationship, and overall was okay. Again, not fair to judge someone off a series of still popular movies.
But everyone else did. Prior to the film’s release, I overheard a bunch of classmates looking forward to the movie, saying how great Hermione will be in the movie (yes, they referred to her as that character). I asked them had they seen her in other movies, and none of them had. They all assured me she’ll do fine in this movie, since she was great as Hermione. I argued it’s hard to judge someone off just one previous role, which they proceeded to ignore. Hey, more power to you.
Dan Stevens as The Beast- Dan Stevens does an okay job as The Beast. He does capture the original 1991 version, though I do feel he made the character a bit more animal like. I’m guessing that’s what the script called for. I think the scene that really shows it is when Belle is looking at the flower in the glass case. He comes in and just explodes at her. Let me remind you, she was looking at the case, she didn’t have it open or was trying to touch it. Overreacting, much?
I do like his singing voice. It’s a bit flat at some spots, but in those rare moments it really works.
Luke Evans as Gaston- Luke Evans does a good job with Gaston, showing off the character’s heroic side and cocky side in a lot of scenes that really work. I do wish we got less of the plain villain-esque Gaston, but Evans works well with it. Though it was very unlikely due to his age, I feel Bruce Campbell would have been perfect substitute for Evans.
Kevin Kline as Maurice- I really enjoyed the performance Kevin Kline gave here. He was one of the saving graces of the film. Whenever he came on screen, I had a smile on my face. His presence gave off a warm, happy feeling that I wish other character’s shared.
Josh Gad as LeFou- Josh Gad is an actor I like. He’s a really talented guy and has some great comedic timing. Here he does a good job, you see the commitment, especially with his background on Book of Mormon on the stage, and that shines through when he sings.
Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Nathan Mack as Chip, and everyone who does the voicework for the castle staff do a good job with their roles. Though I feel it’s odd they chose these talented actors and…there’s nearly unrecognizable. It took me until the Be Our Guest song that I realized it was Ewan McGregor. The rest of the time he’s doing his lines with a French accent, and while he’s clearly putting his all in it, some of his lines are a bit hard to hear. Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson are good too, though outside of telling exposition, don’t leave a huge impact on the story. Though I’ll give points for Cogsworth being more reasonable in this film, that’s a nice change. Chip is giving not a lot of runtime, but Nathan Mack does deliver some funny lines and does make the character his own.
Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe- So let me get this straight. Audra McDonald, a very talented singer from Broadway shows Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, and Porgy and Bess, appears in a film with popular songs…and doesn’t get to sing a song? Okay, technically she does…before it cuts off from her, often times letting someone else finish the song. So, what else does she do? She plays the wardrobe. Yeah, a minor side character.
Ray Fearon as Père Robert, Villeneuve's local chaplain- Ray Fearon is pretty good in his role. He works as a supporting character, and feels very natural to the story.
Production: I’m guessing the filmmakers are just throwing away the history books because this and Cinderella exist in some pocket dimension where numerous periods of France just happened at once. Gaston states at the opening of the film he’s returned from war. Okay, makes sense, many sources note this film is set prior to the French Revolution, which took place from 1789 until 1799. And with Luke Evans stating in 1740, Gaston fought off Portuguese marauders around 16, and with Luke Evans 38, then the story should take place somewhere in…1778…Wait, what?
On a technical side, the film looks gorgeous. Numerous shots of the castle are breathtaking in the set designs and the production trying hard to get the period just right. And I must say, I really like the costume designs. They’re very gorgeous to look at.
Then there’s the Beast and castle staff. In some spots, they look good and others…not so much. When the first trailer was released showing the staff, I kept thinking they were kind of…creepy. I don’t know, it looked like inanimate objects trying to make it seem they were alive…yet clearly weren’t. The Beast kind of had numerous inconsistencies. Sometimes he seemed really large, then other times appeared to have shrunk to be closer to Belle’s height.
Though I’ll take all of that as long as I don’t have to see that nightmare fuel Madame de Garderobe. That. Thing .Is. Horrifying. It has no face. It’s really frigging creepy. Enough said, I’m scared of that thing.
But then there’s another issue I have with the film: it never lets you take the movie in. The movie, despite being much longer than the first movie, feels like it’s speeding through certain scenes as oppose to taking it’s time to give you a very enjoyable experience. My sister, who likes the film pointed that out during the sequence when we’re shown Belle’s room, and that stuck in my mind for the rest of the movie.
Numerous musical sequences range from grand to tiny. There are some areas where the camera is going out of its way to make the sequence look large, and then some sequences don’t. Most embarrassing is the opening song in the town, where the sequence that is meant to be a grand entrance to this movie, and it comes off as a small set piece.
As for the songs? Um, hit and miss. The opening song with the villagers, Belle, and Gaston really turned me off, and Beauty and the Beast was sadly underwhelming. The Be Our Guest song tried to be upbeat and colorful, but at the same times tries to be over the top and feels it’s missing that push to really do that. Surprisingly, I enjoyed a lot of the new songs. How Does A Moment Last Forever was great setting up Maurice and who he is, and with Kevin Kline singing, added an emotional layer to it. I also like Evermore, which I felt was really catchy. I noticed echoes of Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera in that one.
Here’s a fun fact, when the studio was working on this film, there was a version that wasn’t a musical. The studio worked for the longest time on just making a straight forward live action film, until the studio decided to bring back the old songs, as well as newly recorded ones.
Final Thoughts: The new film, while everyone shows they were committed to their jobs, from the actors to set designers to musical composing, will always be in the shadow of the animated film. Had they done their own thing and attempted to stand on its own, it could have stood on its own. Because for some of the new additions to the film, they do work, but sadly doesn’t hold up when the rest of the film tries to recapture the animated film. Instead, it comes off as somewhat awkward. I don’t hate it, though I won’t lie that a film that’s only 26 years old got remade that quickly is really odd. Tale as old as time? Not so much.
Final Rating: 2/5
Near the end of the film’s theatrical run, I had no plans on seeing the film. The reason why was I nearly didn’t want to see this movie, I really wasn’t interested. That, and it came down to me wanting to pay respect to Howard Ashman. Ashman, who was a notable playwriter who worked on plays such as Little Shop of Horrors, collaborated with Disney on Oliver & Company, before writing songs for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and early song treatments for Aladdin. He, along with Alan Menken, were the talent behind the early 90s Disney films. So much so when a test screening of the Little Mermaid was shown and Part of Your World played, Ashman pushed himself to get an emotional reaction from audiences. He knew without that emotional aspect; the audience wouldn’t be on board to seeing Ariel go on land. And he went above and beyond to get that song to impact the story.
Ashman didn’t live to see the 1991 film, as he passed away on March 14, 1991 at the age of 40 from AIDS, leaving behind his spouse Bill Lauch. Ashman was diagnosed with HIV+ in 1988 midway during the production of The Little Mermaid. Despite overtime becoming weaker, he stayed productive with his work. Ashman was the guy who pitched Aladdin as an animated film, which many animators noted was a personal project to him. And despite that, when Beauty and the Beast was stuck in development, he left Aladdin and with Menken’s assistance, saved the movie. It was at this point Ashman’s health had been deteriorating fast, yet was able to complete lyrical work on the film before succumbing to the disease.
I’ve never met Ashman, nor anyone who worked with him, but seeing him in numerous behind the scenes footage, him discussing the songs he was working on in DVD bonus features, and seeing how many animators succumbed to tears when they remember when he died, I get how talented he was and how much he meant to those who worked with him. I wish he got to see the final film, all his hard work and energy played off to millions who love the film, and still do.
What if a cereal mascot who's cereal was never distributed to the public and wanted to know why?
The concept came when I read an article that there has never been a female cereal mascot. Sure, some exist from tie ins with shows and toy lines, but not one made just for cereal. So this came out of it. The original look of the box was modeled off of classic Cocoa Puffs cereal box designs from the 1970s, but I changed it to look similar to Crispy Critters and Lucky Charms cereal box designs.
Something I've always wanted to see is a modern film done in the style of the classic Universal Monster films from the 1930s through the 1950s. Not a reinterpretation, but a legit classic horror movie that is a spiritual successor to those films. I know that's unlikely, but I feel it can be done. The Babadook took influences from the likes of silent horror movies for it's monster, and was pretty scary.
Recently it has been announced that Zack Snyder has currently walked away from the Justice League movie to deal with the loss of his daughter Autumn, who committed suicide in March. In the meantime, Joss Whedon will be handling reshoots and the remainder of the film's post production, with Warner Bros. allowing him as much time to recover before returning to do work on future films.
I wish to give my condolences to Mr. Snyder. This year saw the passing of two grandparents, one from my mother's side, and the other from my stepfather's. I also understand the sudden loss, as last year saw the passing of a high school classmate and a friend of the family's father, who both committed suicide. It's hard, and I am completely understanding of him taking a break to spend with the family to recover. I wish the best for him and his family.