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Beauty and the Beast is Beautifully Bestial in 3D

 

When I was in seventh grade, I was the beast when our drama class put on a production of “Beauty and the Beast.” 

But not the beast you would think of. Our mascot was the blue devil, making this beast the blue devil head with a nice jacket. I was a blue beast. Oddly appropriate, I think. I did a pretty good job, despite having to hold a microphone under my mask so the audience could hear me.  

The next year (or maybe it was the same year; my memory isn’t what it used to be) we played the theme song from the Disney version for our middle school band spring concert.  

So though “Beauty and the Beast” is ingrained in my childhood, as it is for most college students today, I actually never saw the movie until much later. When I finally did see it I wasn’t overly impressed. It wasn’t until the last year or so when I watched it on Blu-Ray that I really understood what all the fuss was about. It rose in the ranks to become my second favorite Disney movie (after “Lion King,” of course).  

Now it’s out in theaters again, with Disney continuing their recent trend of converting their older hits to 3D to squeeze a few more dollars out of them. At least Disney has been doing the 3D correctly. Last year’s “Lion King” release looked spectacular. 

So, how does “Beauty and the Beast” measure up when it moves beyond the realm of two dimensions?

Well, pretty good. The 3D is actually quite stellar, for the most part. Disney animation tends to burst off the screen anyway and the 3D conversion actually enhances the movie instead of hurting it like in so many other cases. 

The problems I have in general with 3D still apply, however. Namely that it dims the picture and often gives me a headache.

The movie itself is still wonderful, though. It was the first animated film to ever receive a best picture Oscar nomination, and rightfully so. Has it aged as well as some other Disney films? Well, sort of. It was probably the last Disney movie that has no trace of irony, as after this their heroes and villains tended to be much more complex and somewhat less likely to spontaneously burst into song.   

“Beauty and the Beast” is also pretty melodramatic. Belle is a doe-eyed and rather thinly-drawn image of a leading lady from a bygone era, most likely suffering from Stockholm syndrome instead of true love. Beast is your classic gruff exterior masking the stereotypical “perfect man” underneath.

Gaston is one of the more simple Disney villains in the past 20 or so years. He fits in the Disney mold as far as being completely despicable, and I’m sure a lot of us have lost a girl to a guy just like him (I know I have), but he’s missing the real charm and charisma of Scar or Ursula, among others. 

It all still works though. The simplicity of the story doesn’t make it any less compelling. The story is still engaging and the songs are still memorable, even though this is probably the last time Disney did a traditional musical and the songs would be more pop-oriented in their future films. 

The theme song in particular remains whimsical, if a little sappy. Gaston’s song remains the Disney song easiest to add your own inappropriate lyrics to.

So the story and characters and such, are all fairly timeless, but what really makes “Beauty and the Beast” so memorable is the animation. 

“Beauty and the Beast” was considered a landmark in animation when it was originally released and most of it is still breathtaking and even further enhanced by the 3D conversion. Even if you hate the movie, it’s hard not to be taken in by the visuals.

So “Beauty and the Beast” remains a shining moment from when Disney was in the midst of its renaissance. It has been surpassed as the best animated film of all time, but it still has the same effect it did 20 years ago. 

A group of girls were walking out of the theater behind me and were loudly exclaiming it to be the greatest thing they’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t quite go that far, but it’s still a “tale as old as time” and a “song as old as rhyme.”