90s Movie Challenge Week 21: Beauty & The Beast (1991)

Welcome back to the 90s, friends! Once upon a time (a couple of weeks ago), in a faraway place (Australia), a young princess (our excellent guest poster, CJ Dee) locked herself away in a castle (her house) with a magic mirror (Twitter) as her only window to the outside world. 

And to be honest, she’s gone a bit peculiar, ranting on about being served meals by Alf, her dancing spork, a singing gravy boat called Jemima and Rupert the juggling can-opener. So while we work out how to fix this psychological quagmire that we’ve inadvertently created, why not have a read of her affectionate look back at 1991’s animated classic, Beauty & The Beast.

A Tale As Old As Time

Ma chère public, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. 

And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as World Geekly News proudly presents CJ’s look at Beauty and the Beast!

Beauty and the Beast has been one of my favourite Disney movies for as long as I can remember. I recall seeing it in the cinema and then being absolutely obsessed with the music. It was only when I got older I began to realise the complexities of the story and appreciate how much is going on.

The story has everything… far off places, daring sword fights — a prince in disguise! A sassy candelabra, a far-too-relatable uptight clock, and a fancy British tea set. And can we all take a moment to appreciate that the aforementioned sassy candelabra is voiced by no other than Jerry Orbach? As in Lennie Briscoe from Law & Order? Be Our Guest, indeed. 

Yes, we went there. We put Lumiere in a corner.

And Angela Lansbury. If we don’t agree that Angela Lansbury is an international treasure then murder won’t be all she wrote. Her version of Tale as Old as Time is a masterpiece and her portrayal of the kindly but no-nonsense head housekeeper is just heaven’s-sakes-is-that-a spot on. If hostile aliens invade, we simply need to sit them down with Angela Lansbury, she’ll sort them right out with a pish posh and a cup of Earl Grey for the trip home. 

Be Our Guest is absolutely one of my favourite Disney film songs. And there are so many good ones to choose from that this is really saying something. It’s upbeat, it has backstory, cups do their soft-shoeing, there’s grey stuff — what more could we want?!

The Mob Song is another in many examples of Disney absolutely slaying at villain songs. Gaston building up mob frenzy is portrayed brilliantly to a triumphant crescendo as they breach the castle walls. And the ensuing fight scene covers action, humour and is just beautifully animated. 

Did someone mention animation? Oh, it was me. The ballroom scene is one of the most magnificently animated scenes in all of Disney history. These guys work animation magic every single day but this one scene from 30 years ago (ouch) still manages to take my breath away.

Okay so upbeat good guy number, check. Menacing villain crescendo, check. Love song, double-check. Now… the montage. Technically Beauty and the Beast has two montage numbers, but the second didn’t make the final cut until decades later. 

The first is, of course, Something There, sung by the heads of the household as they observe the blossoming affections between Belle and Beast. It’s fun and humorous and Chips confused prattling adds a layer of realness.

However, the second is actually the one I prefer — Human Again. I understand it didn’t move the plot along much and why it got the chop, but seeing the household staff getting the castle spick and span while singing about how much they long to be, well, human again? It’s simply gorgeous and so well executed. 

Beauty and the Beast is one of the closest things I have ever come to a perfect animated film in terms of production value, soundtrack, mingling a fairytale with humour and depth, and performances. It has been an important part of my life — thus far — and remains in my heart, even three decades later. 

Huge thanks to our guest CJ Dee – don’t forget to hop over to Gotham City Times to read more of her stuff!

And that’s the end of our Disney double-bill. There’s one more entry from the House of Mouse later in the year, but in the meantime come back next week as Rebecca Aulburn takes us on a groovy trip to 1997 via the swinging, shagadelic sixties. Yeah, baby, that’s right! It’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery!

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