Beauty and the Beast (1991): Once Upon a Time

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After the success of Walt Disney’s first animated feature-length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, he searched for other fairytales to adapt to the big screen. He found one that interested him early on from author Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont called La Belle et la Bête. While there were attempts to animate this traditional French fairytale from Walt Disney’s team, he ultimately pulled the plug every time because he felt the story was too difficult to adapt. Walt Disney would die before he ever got to produce Beauty and the Beast.

This would remain true to director Richard Purdum, who was assigned the task of resurrecting the Beauty and the Beast project. After Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg saw the initial storyboard reels in 1989, he scrapped the project and Purdum resigned. Katzenberg approached The Little Mermaid directors, Ron Clements and John Musker, to start the project anew, and to his demise, the pair rejected his offer. Thus, production proceeded with psuedo-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, until they proved their worth, alongside the Howard Ashman and Alan Menken music team of The Little Mermaid.

Beauty and the Beast is a feel-good story about passionate studio executives, chairman, producers, directors, animators, musicians, and writers coming together and finally completing a project that was deeply cared for. The 50 years was well worth the wait for this masterpiece. Beauty and the Beast would be released to overwhelming success, making it the first animated film to ever gross over 100 million dollars in North America alone. It would later be deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry almost immediately after eligibility in 2002. Perhaps the most distinguishing honor of all, however, is its nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture, making it the only traditionally animated film to have ever garnered that title even today. I’m sure most of you already love this film as much as I do, but it’s taken me some time to figure out exactly why I felt this way towards this movie. In this review, I hope to highlight some possibly under-appreciated elements and in doing so, I also hope to illustrate why this is not only the best animated film to date, but one of the most enchanting love stories that cinema has to offer. So it is with deepest pride, and greatest pleasure that we welcome you to relax, let us pull up a chair as I proudly present one of my favorite movies of all time.


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