Beauty and the Beast (1991) review

Rated: 4/5

Introduction (aka bitching about the color scheme)

So to be honest, I wasn’t expecting this review to take this long to make. It’s a story that’s worth visiting.

So, as you may know, Disney has a habit of releasing their most popular films roughly every 10 years, then putting them out of circulation after a year, only to be re-released 10 years later. You know, to make it a special occasion. Also because they’re dicks. Fucking Disney, they make a lot of good movies so you can never really hate them, but they have a habit of screwing things up that revolve around the movie, sometimes causing the film itself to be messed up (an extreme example of both can be found with The Path to 9/11). Hence to say they did something a bit similar with Beauty and the Beast, as I soon found out.

I wanted to rewatch the original 1991 classic, especially before watching the remake. But everywhere I looked there was this “Special Edition” version which seemed to be the only one to rent or view on television. So, I did a little look-see at movie-censorship.com, and took note that the previous blu-ray/dvd releases had 2 versions of the film, this Special Edition, and the Theatrical Cut. The main difference between the two is that there’s this dumbass song with subpar animation (compared to the rest of the film) inserted into it.

You know, like with what they did to the previous release of The Lion King.

They were close to doing something like that with Aladdin, with a song called “Proud of Your Boy”, but thankfully they remained smart about that and kept it in unfinished drawing format as a special feature on that DVD. It has a bit of a tragic story to it.

Regardless, I understand completely why these song were originally left on the cutting room floor, pacing being the primary issue. Plus I think the extra songs in Aladdin and The Lion King are better than this piece of crap song from Beauty and the Beast, particularly surprising since Beauty and the Beast probably has the most solid well-rounded collection of songs in any Disney film that has ever existed, to this day. Debateable, and I’m willing to hear arguments on alternatives, but that’s currently my mindset. I was humming all the songs contained in Beauty and the Beast well after the film ended (that extra piece of shit song being the exception).

There’s a few other alterations made in the Special Edition version of the film, to which I direct you to the movie-censorship link I made previous to see the details of. The point is, even with the “Theatrical Version” available on each of the DVD/Blu-Ray releases, there is one little problem. The color scheme.

I heard how badly the new releases, from the 2002 Platinum DVD, to the 2010 Diamond release, to the 25th anniversary edition, all messed up the colors. What they basically did was make the colors more, well, colorful. Brighter, making them all stand out more. At first that sounds fantastic, but it’s a bad thing when you really think about it, for a number of reasons (as discussed in detail on another site). The problem is that I couldn’t find a theatrical cut online (or at a rental store) anywhere to go off of for comparison, at least not when it comes to an actual VHS copy version.

You can imagine where I’m going with this. I couldn’t just let this go. So I bit the bullet, went on ebay, ordered a VHS copy of the film, prayed that it would work when I got it (which it did), used Pinnacle/Dazzle to transfer it to my computer, and watched it to see if my memory held up with this film, in that it was darker than what I had previously seen. Sure enough, it was. And I had to pay between $500 to $3,000 to get it. Nah, just kidding, I payed roughly $10 for it, but I’m not joking when I say there are copies on ebay that are seriously being sold for that much. Jesus Christ, I don’t know what’s worse, someone selling it for that much hoping to make that much of a profit off of a VHS tape that isn’t THAT rare which you could potentially find at a thrift store like Goodwill, or some dumbass schmuk who actually pays hundred/thousands of dollars for it. Oh who am I kidding, the latter would be worse.

Anyway, I did a side-by-side comparison between the films, and aside from the inferior/less sharp/more grainy VHS quality, the difference in the color scheme is definitely noticeable. For instance, take a look at the opening sequence in the VHS version and the newer version, side by side:

Link to video; embed doesn’t work.

You’ll notice the colors are less bright and more washed out, and overall darker, adding to the more dark/grim/serious mood that is fitting for this portion of the film (particularly during the portion where the camera is pulling away from the dark castle surrounded by fog). This also serves to the film’s benefit in later scenes, mainly at the castle during the first half of the film. The brighter color scheme for the DVD/Blu-Ray editions sacrifices this mood for more bright/crisp/sharp coloring, which looks nice and all, but doesn’t serve the mood. That’s easily the most questionable aspect of it all, but there’s other elements that I also find a bit irritating. In that they opt to practically alter the colors entirely for some objects. For instance, the wolf chase scene.

Link to video; embed doesn’t work.

It’s not an enhancing of the existing colors that current versions of the film does, but often just plain flat-out replacing them, turning dark browns to light browns, turning blacks to dark blues. It all winds up taking away from the grim atmosphere necessary for some sequences. On the other hand, the brighter and more pronounced coloring ends up being beneficial in some cases. For instance, the brighter red of “Beauty” in the title scene Beauty and the Beast. And the entire ballroom dance sequence is improved overall due to this color scheme.

Link to video; embed doesn’t work.

The problem is that the blu-ray has pros and cons, with the VHS version actually being superior to the newer editions in some aspects, when the new blu-ray versions should be an overall improvement. Instead it makes unnecessary changes that not everyone agrees with.

Oh well. Ignoring the differences in colors and ignoring the existence of the Special Edition of the film, how is it today?

The Review (Theatrical Version; fuck the Special Edition)

I haven’t seen this film in years, at least a decade. But I still remembered a good portion of the film after all this time (if not all of it) from repeated viewings during my childhood. And I can safely say that this film holds up well. The animation is fantastic, especially considering some shots circle around the characters. All the songs are catchy and memorable, especially “Be Our Guest”. The characters are just as memorable as the songs. And it’s all earnest and straightforward without much fluff.

The most interesting thing about the film are the characters themselves, which is good because musicals tend to be at their best when they are character-driven. Like with stage-plays, when characters sing, they are not literally singing within their own world (well, at least not the entire time). When they sing it is directed at the audience. In particular, the sequence when Belle and Beast are out in the snow with the birds, and their mental singing to let us into their thoughts to match their facial expressions, how they feel a love for each other, but are unsure about it.

And then there’s Gaston, one of the more intriguing Disney villains out there, who actually has a bit of a character arc. He begins as a narcissistic prideful individual who is full of himself, yet has the muscles and skills to back it all up. The further into the film he gets he becomes more and more of an asshole until he just becomes full-on evil, enraged at being unable to get something he wanted, this something being Belle, simply because she’s the most beautiful woman around (of course; since when is a Disney princess not the most beautiful person in the Disney film?), and not because they are a good match for one another. What’s also amusing is how Gaston dislikes the idea of “thinking”, dismissing books because Belle reads them because it encourages her to think. The idea of something putting ideas into one’s head, causing them to think, as in he and most of the town prefer living a life where they don’t have to think very hard for themselves, if at all. Just content with living a life of monotony, something Belle wishes to escape from. And yet, when Gaston starts thinking (his sidekick views this as a “dangerous passtime”) of a plan to get Belle to marry him. When Gaston “thinks”, it causes him to come up with terrible (in the ethical sense) ideas. I guess “thinking” isn’t for everyone.

Speaking of which, we see and learn about Belle’s father, who is looked upon as the local loon, but makes helpful inventions. Yet we never learn of Belle’s mother. She is never mentioned. Now, my first thought on this matter is that it’s not necessary, that not everything about a character needs to be told if it doesn’t further the story or the characters. The story works fine without bringing that aspect up. On the other hand, one has to wonder if her mother contributed to Belle standing out from everyone else in town, being different from everyone else in mannerisms, what she wants, and how she carries herself. But then that would bring up the question of where Belle’s mother came from if she’s the one to teach her about such things, and what kind of a person she would be to want to marry Maurice. Assuming she did marry him, and he didn’t just get her pregnant through some experiment he was doing, and he considers Belle to be his greatest experiment ever. Ok, that’s going to keep getting weird if I keep following that train of thought. The point is that it’s not necessary to explain everything so that the viewer can use their heads, do some thinking for themselves, to consider backstories to fill in the gaps, gaps that are by no means flaws within the film itself.

But there are some questions that I believe do have some grounds for demanding answers that aren’t brought up in the film. For instance, what about the Prince’s parents? Being in a castle, isn’t there a king and queen? Were they ever ruling over the people in the province? How did the kingdom change when the castle got cursed? Did they die before or after the curse? My guess is that they both died early before the Prince could ever get to know them, which contributed to his spoiled and easily enraged behavior, somehow.

There’s also a question that one would ask during the finale of the movie. When the townsfolk arrive at the castle to siege it, the thought that Belle might have betrayed them never crosses the minds of the furniture people. I mean, yeah, they trust her and all, but you would think that thought would come up once with one of them, especially since Gaston has the mirror that Belle had. Granted, it would’ve only distracted from the plot and ultimately wouldn’t add anything worthwhile to characters and pacing. The Beast isn’t the one who needs to doubt Belle (unless we’re going to turn this into one of those fucked up Grimm’s Fairy Tales), though in all fairness there isn’t much doubt that Belle would doubt the Beast either under the circumstances. Doubtful that such thoughts are worthwhile.

That poor fucker is dead.

And speaking of things you wouldn’t/shouldn’t necessarily think about is the furniture, and how old the prince was before he got turned into the Beast. Because when you think about it, considering that the narrator at the beginning states that the prince would retain this form up until the age of 21, when it will be too late for him to find true love and revert back to his original form. So here’s the thing, he was stuck in this form for years, which means he must’ve been a teenager when he got hit with the curse. What a bitch that hag is! Even worse, considering “Chip” (because he has a chip on him, hardy har har) is a kid, that means he could’ve been a baby, or a 5 year old, or something, when they were all cursed. And even further into this, consider why it is the servants-turned-furniture are so scared of the Beast when he’s angry. I’d imagine it has to do with the fact that he’s capable of destroying them all easily, and has the strength to do it, and likely has done so in the past, thus has killed his servants in his rage in the past.

In fact, you can see the spoiled-rotten child of his character at several points in the film. When he’s talking with the furniture, you can tell they’re trying to act as parental figures to the Beast, but he has a temper which he never learned to control. The best instance to highlight this is right after Beast saves Belle from the wolves, and the interactions they have with each other while she nurses him back to health. It’s like she’s learned to see him less as a monster she should be afraid of, and more of the spoiled brat that he his, and thus treats him as such, which helps him to grow out of his immaturity.

But anyway, the theme of the film. It’s all about how beauty is on the inside, not on the outside. You can be beautiful or ugly on the outside, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Belle is beautiful on the inside and outside, Beast is ugly on the outside and inside, but slowly becomes beautiful on the inside as time passes. Gaston is the personification of one who is handsome on the outside, ugly on the inside; and his sidekick is ugly on the inside and outside (at least I’m assuming that’s what they were going for with him).

Insert coming-out-of-the-closet/cross-dresser joke here.

Overall, a solid film that holds up well that I still enjoy even now. Just wish it would be released in a format that preserves the original color scheme, at least to a better extent than is done in the most recent release. Also has a decent amount of violence in it, especially for a Disney film that’s rated G and the Beast gets clawed and bitten by wolves, and gets stabbed.

Still a good and watch-able film for both kids and adults, a true well-made classic. Very much worth watching.

PS: Don’t worry. I’ll eventually get around to the remake.

One thought on “Beauty and the Beast (1991) review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s