When Walt Disney Studios announced that they would be making a live action version of their classic animated movie Beauty and The Beast, the reaction was met with mixed responses. Many fans were overjoyed – but as with all things Disney, there was a very vocal group of fans that were skeptical, and their skepticism continued to rage with each image tease and trailer revealed.
I’ll never forget reading the comments:
“Omg Disney is ruining my childhood!”
“Urgh Emma Watson has no emotion and can’t even sing!”
“This movie looks terrible, WTF have they done to Lumiere and Cogsworth?!”
“Stop trying to replace the classics!”
“That dress is absolutely disgusting. I refuse to watch this movie”
Look, lets be honest: Walt Disney Feature Animation’s “Beauty And The Beast” (1991) is arguably the entertainment conglomerate’s most successful animated feature film. And I’m not talking financials here; I’m talking in terms of pure animated movie magic.
When it comes to captivating story, characters, music, voice, visuals and the overall impact it leaves the viewer with once the credits roll? It is hard to argue that Disney’s BATB is anything short of animated perfection. It is loved not just by Disney fans, but by everyone around the world.
So to many, the animated classic is considered sacred territory, with many of the aforementioned skeptics spouting “Why is hell is Disney fixing something that isn’t broken?!”
It is a fair question, and a big part of the reason why there must have been so much pressure on Sean Bailey and his “live action” film team inside of Disney to get it just right…
If It Ain’t Baroque – don’t fix it…
So from the perspective of a fan of the animated classic, how did the live action team do? To start, let’s get one thing out of the way: Walt Disney Studio’s live action Beauty and The Beast remains extremely true to the animated version, but also manages to bring the audience something new.
Unquestionably there is that moment after the lights go down where fans (like myself) tense up to see how the animated classic has been transformed into live action. The moment we first see Emma Watson appear on screen as Belle, right before she is about to sing the first line of her opening number, the whole movie theater seems to hold its breath and then…?
Suddenly it’s all coming to life, the villagers, the town and most importantly, Belle. Everything is here and it feels good. This ability of capturing the audience with the movie’s already incredible score and lyrics (thanks to the legendary Alan Menken and Howard Ashman) continues throughout the entirety of the film. All of songs are there, plus some new ones, with what feels like an extra dash of that “Disney Magic” when watching it be brought to life in live action.
A section of the movie I particularly enjoyed was when LeFou (played by Josh Gad) sang the song “Gaston”. This moment was recreated exceptionally well and needs to be seen to be appreciated. During this scene it’s like Gaston (Luke Evans) has stepped straight out of the animated movie. Perhaps most important however, is that each song is expressed with genuine emotion and passion. I really believe Belle when she is singing about yearning for something more. I’m blow away when Lumiere (Ewan Mcgregor) puts on a showstopping performance for “Be Our Guest”. When performing a number in a musical it’s less about having the best voice and more about generating the best connection with your audience and this movie knows it.
There are plenty of elements within the movie that set the live action apart from the animated version. We are met with what feels like a much more accurate atmosphere historically. For example, the characters inside the enchanted castle are visually nothing like what we remember from the animation. Everyone gives off a much more elaborate demeanor which when you think about it, is actually very fitting considering these guys live in a gigantic castle, serving royalty everyday.
Thinking about it more,the obvious challenge that the filmmakers faced was bringing these objects and also the Beast to life. The live action movie does a great job savoring these character’s emotions and personalities without overbearing you with CGI technology. The cherry on top is pairing this with the voice talents of Ewan Mcgregor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson plus others who will make you believe you’re in the enchanted castle with them.
Going back to the humans, all the costumes have a real authenticity about them. Simple changes like: Belle wearing sturdy boots to walk around the village rather than her little ballet style slip-ons seen in the animated classic.
Of course the most iconic moment in the original film is when Belle appears in her famous yellow gown before her and Beast dance together for the first time inside a stunning ballroom complete with extravagant chandeliers. This remains a breathtaking moment in the new movie and it’s impressive how they still manage to capture how Belle’s dress seems to flawlessly glide across the floor with each movement she makes. The dress design itself, while keeping the vibrant golden yellow colour, takes on a very different shape and style which some fans found disheartening – But I think in these moments we we need to remind ourselves that this 2017 movie is not wanting to simply transform the animated version into reality, but provide us with something new to marvel at and enjoy.
In the 1991 animated movie we feel moved and enchanted to see Belle enter the ballroom in her off the shoulder, vibrant floor length gown for the first time. This is the most memorable scene from the animated movie and that is something fans will always have forever. Because this moment is so cherished, I am glad that the live action movie changed Belle’s dress as I feel Disney is gifting us with something new here rather than overwrite perfection.
However, for me the interesting adaptation here is not so much the dress, but more the dance style. I found it really interesting and surprisingly satisfying that the dance choreography showcased a style that matched the time period in which the story is set. We see less high school prom vibes and more elegant traditional movements that would have been performed at these extremely high class royal balls. It was a nice surprise. I had never questioned the characters costumes, design or the way the characters moved in the animated version but seeing these minor adjustments in the live action kind of made me think…”well yeah, makes sense”.
But if it is baroque…
We see a lot of further character development and many questions answered in the live-action adaptation of “Beauty And The Beast”. For example, there is a short moment where we briefly get a glimpse into Beast’s childhood life and it’s revealed he didn’t have the nicest of upbringings, especially from his father. This provides a good explanation to why the Beast was such a mean and selfish Prince at the start of the movie.
We learn Belle is an avid inventor, just like her father and is regularly creating and tinkering with projects.
We learn about Belle’s mother and why she is now absent. In fact, the live action film cleverly provides logical explanations for many moments that were previously questioned by fans. Answers to questions like….
Q: How is it possible the villagers have no idea there is a massive castle nearby?
- When the curse was placed on the castle it also erased memory of its existence to the world.
Q: Why does Mrs Potts have so many kids but only pay attention to Chip?
- Chip is now the only teacup seen belonging to Mrs Potts.
Q: If you do the maths based on the animated version. The Beast was around 10 years old when he was cursed. Also, his portrait depicts an adult?.
- All mention of age and years cursed is removed for the live action movie. Makes much more sense and the Enchantress is no longer seemly being a massive jerk to a little kid.
Q: Belle must have some insane upper body strength to have lifted the (unconscious) Beast onto her horse after he was attacked by wolves.
- In the live action we witness Belle asking the Beast to make the effort to try and stand up so that she may get him onto the horse and then take him back to the castle.
I’m just naming a few instances here, there are plenty more. Perhaps one of the most interesting changes is LeFou. In Disney’s animated classic LeFou is merely nothing more than Gaston’s crony. Sure he had a good song but that’s pretty much it. In the live action, LeFou plays a much more vital role and also brings a bigger and better personality to the character. We see LeFou’s character grow much more in this version of the story and it proves that he isn’t the same irritating fool we previously knew.
Something there that wasn’t there before…
To conclude, Disney Studios’ live action version of Beauty and The Beast is something special and deserves to be enjoyed by all. It takes fans on an emotional ride of nostalgic brilliance while offering an exciting taste of something that wasn’t there before. This movie will have you gasping, smiling, crying and singing as it reminds you why Beauty And The Beast is the most beautiful love story ever told. It’s not trying to be the original and it’s certainly not wanting to replace it. Celebrate it!
Interestingly enough, I have already seen many wrongly judge this movie ahead of watching who were then quick to change their views upon experiencing it for themselves. Kind of ironic considering the main moral for the story is to not judge for what you see on the outside but instead look for the beauty that lies within.