The film that officially signaled Disney's animation renaissance (following The Little Mermaid
) and the only animated feature to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination, Beauty and the Beast
remains the yardstick by which all other animated films should be measured. It relates the story of Belle, a bookworm with a dotty inventor for a father; when he inadvertently offends the Beast (a prince whose heart is too hard to love anyone besides himself), Belle boldly takes her father's place, imprisoned in the Beast's gloomy mansion. Naturally, Belle teaches the Beast to love. What makes this such a dazzler, besides the amazingly accomplished animation and the winning coterie of supporting characters (the Beast's mansion is overrun by quipping, dancing household items) is the array of beautiful and hilarious songs by composer Alan Menken and the late, lamented lyricist Howard Ashman. (The title song won the 1991 Best Song Oscar, and Menken's score scored a trophy as well.) The downright funniest song is "Gaston," a lout's paean to himself (including the immortal line, "I use antlers in all of my de-co-ra-ting"). "Be Our Guest" is transformed into an inspired Busby Berkeley homage. Since Ashman's passing, animated musicals haven't quite reached the same exhilarating level of wit, sophistication, and pure joy. --David Kronke --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The most interesting of the extras on this multi-disc set is the storyboard for the first version of the film. British commercial animator Richard Purdum was originally slated to direct Beauty and the Beast
: he envisioned a darker retelling of the story with no songs. The storyboards and scratch voice track for this version offer rare insights into the creation of an animated feature--including the wrong turns. Although the artists boarded nearly a quarter of the film, the viewer sees very little of Beauty and nothing of the Beast; too much time is spent on Beauty's well-intentioned father, his comic horse, and her mean aunt. It's easy to see why Jeffrey Katzenberg rejected this version and called in Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. Unfortunately the discs have needlessly fussy, uncooperative menus: why list features on one disc that appear on another? --Charles Solomon