Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1991. Walt Disney Pictures, Silver Screen Partners IV, Walt Disney Feature Animation. Story by Brenda Chapman, Burny Mattinson, Brian Pimental, Joe Ranft, Kelly Asbury, Chris Sanders, Kevin Harkey, Bruce Woodside, Robert Lence, story supervisor Roger Allers, Animation screenplay by Linda Woolverton. Produced by Don Hahn. Music by Alan Menken. Production Design by Ed Ghertner, Brian McEntee. Film Editing by John Carnochan, Ellen Keneshea. Academy Awards 1991. Golden Globe Awards 1991.
A masterpiece of animation, this retelling (and rewritten) of the Madame LePrince de Beaumont fable concerns a studious young woman named Belle who goes to live with a hideous beast in order to save her father’s life. While living with him in his enchanted castle, she discovers that beneath the savage exterior of this creature lies a noble heart, which is good because her love could break the curse that has made him so beastly in the first place. Their friendship is heartfelt, the comedy of the castle’s anthropomorphized objects perfectly timed and the songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (whose death from AIDS meant he never got to see the finished product) are beautiful. The opening number “Belle” belongs more to the best musical theatre than any simple cartoon film you’ve ever seen. Watch it again and again, this is one of Disney’s finest achievements and it never grows old.