Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday animation: Beauty and the Beast

The film randomly selected for review today is quite the choice: Disney's Beauty and the Beast.  This film is the favorite Disney film of many, often topping many lists of best animated films.  It's such a treasure that I'm not even sure how to adequately review it.

I don't know if I saw this film in the theater or not.  I was only three when it was released, and it's possible that my parents took me to see it, but I don't know for sure.  What I do know is that I personally was never big on this film.  I certainly did like it, but I didn't love it.  There were many other films I enjoyed watching much more.  It wasn't until much later when I started to really enjoy hand-drawn animation that I understood why Beauty and the Beast is beloved by so many, and certainly, it boasts some brilliant animation, especially for its time.

Today, I still am not a huge fan of this film, but I certainly understand why it was and still is so successful.


Screencaps from http://disneyscreencaps.com/.

Overview: Beauty and the Beast is an American animated film released in 1991 by Walt Disney Pictures.  It remains one of Disney's most successful animated movies and was the first animated film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Art: The art is fantastic.  This is certainly Disney at its best.  Vibrant colors, beautiful backgrounds, lovely characters designs.  The overall look of this film truly is exquisite.  The characters' details are masterful.  They were certainly designed by great animators.  Belle lives up to her name, and the Beast, though hideous, still has an attractive enough design that allows him to appear fearful but also vulnerable at times.  The animation itself is top-notch.  Very fluid and well-done including matching lip movements.  In particular, the ballroom scene is incredible.  I cannot think of a movie that attempted a cinematic look before this film did.  During the ballroom scene, it actually looks like a camera is following the characters as the angles change seamlessly.  In hand-drawn animation, that is not at all easy to do.  The use of CGI (which was fairly new at this point in time) allowed the animators to do things they in the past was much more difficult.  Sure, the CG effects stood out at times, but honestly, it's actually not that noticeable.  I only notice it when I'm actually looking for it.  Otherwise, they do a very good job of limiting it and only using it for backgrounds or other otherwise difficult to animate parts (like Gaston's hair on his chest).  This really was the beginning of some great animation coming from Disney.  They only got better with time.  The only drawback I can find is that sometimes the characters seem too flat against the backgrounds, but this isn't a big deal.  The colors used allow them to still blend in pretty well.




The characters all look a little flat here compared to the beautiful background.






Heavy CG use in this scene, but it's not too much, and it's quick enough that it's not too noticeable.

A mostly CG background, but it allows this scene to look very cinematic.  I also love how the animators actually had Belle's dress twirl around her.




A nice homage to Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

Sound: High quality, clear, crisp sound.  Voices were very well-chosen (as always for Disney).  I love Paige O'Hara as Belle.  She gives Belle a mature and beautiful sound.  Apparently, the part was almost given to Jodi Benson who previously played Ariel.  I am so glad they changed their mind on that for multiple reasons, the biggest being that Belle really needed that more mature voice.  Angela Lansbury as as Mrs. Potts is also a stand-out.  I love the way she sings the title song in the film.  Speaking of which, the music...where to start with the music?  The music is more or less what saved the film.  The film was originally not going to be a musical, but when it appeared that the story was challenging to adapt, it was turned into the Broadway-type musical we know today.  The very talented song-writing duo, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, wrote the music for the film, and the entire score is just excellent.  There is not one bad song in the film, and the score itself throughout the film is moving and gorgeous.  Although this film did not win Best Picture, it did win Best Original Score and Song (and in fact, three of its songs were nominated for Best Original Song).  It was also nominated for Best Sound Mixing.  Truly, in terms of sound for animated films, this film is high on the list of the best.




Story: As early as shortly after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney had tried to adapt the story of Beauty and the Beast for an animated film, but it proved to be quite the challenge.  The story that Disney finally came up with several decades later is certainly a masterpiece, just perfect for the animated medium.  When Belle's father is taken prisoner by a Beast, she agrees to take his place.  A romance blossoms between Belle and the Beast.  The Beast is actually a prince who has been cursed to remain a beast unless he can find someone love and be loved by in return.  By the end of the film, the love between Belle and the Beast allows the Beast (and his subjects who haven been turned into household objects) to become human again.  The story is a grand love story with engaging characters and backstories.  Belle is considered odd by the other people in town but doesn't change herself for others.  The Beast has anger issues, but we see Belle get through to him little by little.  The servants in the castle each have their own very fun personalities.  Gaston is a great villain who is selfish and manipulative, really driving the story to its climax.  His sidekick, LeFou, is amusing with his eager-to-please attitude.  Overall, it's a really enchanting story with wonderful characters that stay interesting the whole way.

A further note I want to add: many have strongly asserted that Belle is suffering from Stockholm syndrome (i.e. she has developed an emotional bond with her captor and ends up defending his behavior, overlooking his ill treatment of her).  I have no idea how anyone who actually watched this movie could think that.  In the beginning, Belle stayed with the Beast out of obligation, but it became quite clear that she could actually leave anytime she wanted once the Beast gave her a nice room.  Still, she remained because she gave her word that she would stay.  However, when the Beast threatened her safety after she entered a forbidden part of the castle, did she stick around?  No.  The moment she no longer felt safe, she ran away.  Someone with Stockholm syndrome wouldn't have done that.  The only reason she returned was because the Beast was hurt, and because she's a nice person, she felt compelled to help him (since he did save her life).  She only began to develop an emotional bond once the Beast started making a conscious and obvious effort to be kind and make her happy.  And again, it's pretty obvious that the Beast was not actually keeping her captive, and Belle knew that the whole time.  She was only staying due to her word and because it appeared that the Beast really was trying to be kinder.  I'm sure that if he ever made her feel unsafe again, she would've left again, but from what we see in the film (and in other direct-to-video sequels), the Beast never again reached that level of violence and anger with her.  I do not gather at all that Belle has Stockholm syndrome as that would suggest that she was overlooking any abuse or ill treatment from the Beast, and if anyone watches the film, she certainly wasn't overlooking any because the Beast really did become gentle and kind towards her.  She is just a woman of her word and only developed feelings when she saw that this creature really was trying to reform just for her.











Many really hate the Beast's human form.  Hmm...I think it might be the lips and maybe the nose.  Honestly, though, I don't mind his human form.


I think he certainly has the biggest arms of all the Disney princes.  :b


Personal appeal: When I was younger, I didn't care much for this film.  As an adult, I'm still not a huge fan, but I must admit that this is a jewel of a film.  It's no wonder that it is often considered the greatest animated film of all time.  I think it's a wonderful fantasy that enchants me every time I watch it.


Chances are, you've already seen this amazing film.  That's how popular and well-known it is.  It's something everyone should see, not just animation lovers.  It's among the most perfect animated films out there, for sure.  It fits the medium so well and has fantastic visuals, music, plot, and characters.  It's a timeless movie that will surely be enjoyed for many more generations.  For this reason, I honestly think it deserves a perfect score of five out of five peridots.  This film really sets the bar for all animated films.

Rating:

No comments:

Post a Comment