Just the thought of Beauty and the Beast is enough to make me cry. Ah, there I go again.. I’ll try to keep my spelling legible through the tears of nostalgia. Thing is, it really is a tale as old as time. Think about it: what is the premise of the most heart-wrenching romantic dramas of all time? Phantom of the Opera: deformed dude in love with a beautiful soprano. Hunchback of Notre Dame: spinally challenged dude in love with a beautiful gypsy. Beauty and the Beast: unlucky dude cursed by a vindictive sorceress who, you guessed it, falls in love with a beautiful bookworm. And where do all of these tales take place? Paris: the city of love, because The Hunchback of the Kremlin doesn’t seem quite as enchanting.
So Disney has either made my dream come true, or it has ruined my life, because if the live-action version of my all-time favourite film (as in, of all films ever made), is anything less than the perfection of the original, there will be hell to pay. That hell will mostly be in my head, but it will be hell none-the-less. I’m expecting live-action magic from Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, and from what I’ve seen in the trailers, I’m warily optimistic.
Side-note: let us observe a moment of silence regarding the state of our world. Picture the scene: 1992. The Red Carpet is filled with stars and the camera flashes twinkle like stars on a clear Summer’s night. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is filled with the most beautiful people in the world. Beauty and the Beast is set to win that coveted Academy Award for Best Picture. The envelope opens, and, as everybody leans closer with bated breath, the winner is announced, and the auditorium gives a standing ovation to… Silence of the Lambs.
I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in. What does this say about our society? Only that the warm fuzzy feeling of Disney is overshadowed by the pants-wetting terror of watching an incarcerated cannibalistic psychopath drive fellow inmates to suicide while some gender-confused serial killer sprays a hose (again) at the chick who wouldn’t “put the lotion on its skin”. Beauty and the Beast was the first ever animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, and somehow, the competition – a great film by all accounts, but by no means as emotionally engaging – stole the Oscar from the most wonderful family film of all time. And don’t tell me that Best Original Music Score is “just as good” or – don’t even try this one – that it’s “still an Oscar, so it still counts”, because Beauty and the Beast was made to win all three of the nominated categories, but the one psychopathic Member of the Academy managed to sway the panel.
So let’s forget about the questionable voting process of the Academy Awards while we revel in the mystique of the teaser trailer for the new live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast:
So, clearly the film is not straying far from the animated original. Many of the frames in the teaser were intentionally put there as they are remade iconic scenes taken directly from the original film. You know you’ve got a damn good advertising campaign when you cause the sweet, sweet pain of nostalgia in your audience. On the other hand, there were a whole lot of lit candles in that castle. One has to wonder: A) who lit all those candles?; and B) why has that castle not burnt to the ground yet with all the torn tapestries hanging that precariously close to an open flame?
The fact that Lumière (a Scottish Ewan McGregor attempting a French accent) and Cogsworth (Gandalf himself, Sir Ian McKellan) still look very similar to their animated counterparts – only better – makes my heart beat a little faster with excited anticipation at what other improvements Disney has in store.
A few painfully long days later, the official trailer was finally released:
That into song strokes my heart strings faster than the violinist can stroke his instrument (and for those of you who found something dirty in that last statement, you probably shouldn’t be watching Disney movies and could probably use a cold shower).
I’d like to take this time to give massive props to Emma Watson and the scriptwriters for the ingenious improvement to Belle’s backstory: how does a girl with no housekeeper, gardener, or job, have time to read so much? Simple: they made her the inventor of the family, while her father Maurice (Kevin Kline), creates music-boxes inspired by different countries (in an almost obsessive-compulsive way) in order to keep his daughter close by in fear of losing her. In fact, as Emma Watson puts it, Belle invented “a kind of washing machine” to do the laundry so that she would have more time to be the bookworm we all know and love. This is a great way, not only to humanise Belle, but also to give her a sense of feminist intrigue – a characteristic that would certainly have made her a pariah in 18th century France.
So, we know that Disney is pulling out all the stops – even adding some new songs while keeping all of the originals in place – in order to make this live-action version of one of the most beloved stories of all time a success.
As I’ve said time and time again, Beauty and the Beast is extremely close to my heart; however, it has one fatal flaw: the moral of the story is to learn to love beyond what the eyes can see – to see the heart of a person and fall in love with a human and not a body. Then the dude in the writing chair decided to change the Beast back into the prince in the end, essentially nullifying the entire allegory. New moral: tolerate the ugly dude until he turns hot again. No. I had hoped with all my heart that Disney would realise its mistake the first time around and keep Beast as adorable as he is, to preserve the nature of true, inner beauty, but alas:
Clearly Dan Stevens will be discarding the prosthetic make-up and CGI to turn into the greasy-haired Prince Adam no-one cares about (seriously though, did you know his name until I just told you? I even had to Google it, and I’m an obsessive fan!).
They say all’s well that ends well. Thing is, can all be well if Beauty and the Beast ends by essentially twisting the moral of inner beauty for children all over the world?
Maybe I’m too quick to judge, but when I went to Disney World in Orlando, I asked the Lady in Yellow whether she preferred the Beast or the Prince. She said, “I prefer the Beast, because that is who I fell in love with”. There you have it ladies and gentlemen: straight from the source’s mouth. Now if only Disney would listen to its princesses.
– Belinda Brock