No one may have as swell a cleft chin as Gaston, but no film company has as fat a wallet as Disney.
With its world debut in 1991, “Beauty and the Beast” was the first classic movie to come from the company’s second wave of excellence and has seen the big screen three times now with its 3D release Friday.
It was the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and the movie’s songwriters, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, won two Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. There was clearly much excellence to be had from this film, so of course Disney would splash some 3D treatment on it and give people yet another reason to nestle down in a comfy theater seat and reminisce on why they fell in love with the film in the first place.
Most are familiar with the message behind the majesty, but it bears mentioning for the “oh yeah” moments’ sake.
Once upon a time, a shallow Prince Adam was transformed into a beast to mimic the ugliness he showed a physically unappealing and seemingly homeless woman. She left him with a rose that would seal his fate to forever be an ugly beast if he did not find true love by his 21st year.
Enter Belle, the intelligent but sometimes naïve daughter of inventor Maurice. She ventures out to rescue him from his cell in the castle. Beast releases him only on the condition that Belle stays in the castle with him. However, viewers get to watch a bitter first encounter turn into a blossoming romance complete with snowball fights and elegant dinners.
The three dimensions don’t necessarily enhance the film’s plot or characters, but it did leave viewers breathless on more than one occasion. Objects and body parts come off the screen almost unexpectedly, such as when Belle’s arm when she reaches around Gaston’s leg to grab her muddy book. Moments like that help people sit back and truly grasp the film’s magnificence.
The musical numbers are the film’s big winners, just as they are when shown in the regular two dimensions, but it’s a different kind of success this time. There’s just something about spoons jumping from the audience into an on-screen punch bowl during “Be Our Guest” or Belle twirling her beautiful golden dress right in viewers’ faces as she glides across the ballroom floor in “Beauty and the Beast” that make those precious moments much more mesmerizing and worth all 84 minutes.
Disney wastes no time preparing for the fascination of the musical numbers, either. There is clear separation between Belle and the dandelion field she daydreams in, and it’s stunning to watch the seeds fly off the screen when Belle blows them away. Astonishing 3D build anticipation for each of the two aforementioned songs, and it’s surprising how excited a room full of college students can get once they see the depth of the table their favorite dishes will dance on or just how many stairs Belle will have to descend to reveal her astonishing golden dress.
The film marks the second 3D re-release of a classic Disney film, following “The Lion King” 3D in September. One highly noticeable difference between the 3D versions of “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” is that the scenery of the latter allows for much more visual layering. The opening frame of “Beauty and the Beast” is much more captivating than “The Lion King’s” simple, flat prairie land. In “Beauty and the Beast’s” opening moments, viewers feel like they are actually rustling through a forest and pushing tree branches aside to reach the enchanted castle, which looks a whole different kind of enchanted when it’s popping off the big screen.
In all honesty, to pay the extra few dollars for enhanced enchantment and a pair of glasses is to only help Disney milk its cash cow and swell its head. Disney is very good at what it does, and the world knows it. That’s why viewers will catch sparkles of dust under the solitary spotlight outside Maurice’s holding cell or shimmery specks around the spell-casted rose — because they can, and because viewers will almost assuredly eat it up.
But those shimmery specks and dust sparkles are exactly why this film should be seen. The 3D treatment was nothing more than an added treat to those who like the idea of watching their favorite childhood movie on the big screen, but even those who went in with a patchy memory of the story will leave hoping to never forget it again.