It’s the tale as old as time. A young girl in France trades places with her father to become the prisoner of a fearsome beast in the 1991 Walt Disney Animation Studios classic, “Beauty and the Beast.” Along the way, the beauty falls in love with the beast, protects him and all of the inhabitants of his castle from the chauvinistic Gaston and helps break a curse turning the Beast and the inhabitants of his castle back into people. It was the first animated film to ever be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
What can I say about “Beauty and the Beast” that hasn’t already been said? It is one of the, if not the, greatest animated film in the Disney canon. We are more than 30 years removed from its release and it’s still just as iconic today as it was back in 1991. It takes an easy to understand story and uses the animation and the music to drive the plot and it does so in one of the most enjoyable manners I’ve ever experienced. Every time I watch this film, I have a smile when it’s done. It is spectacular.
Let’s talk about the music. It’s the second of three films the incomparable duo of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken worked on for Disney. This pair did amazing work with both the score and the songs for the musicals. “Belle,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Be Our Guest” are three of the most iconic songs in all of Disney films and are still being sung by children and adults today. Howard Ashman was battling the illness that claimed his life during the promotion of this film. When he was in the hospital, the film premiered and ended with the audience giving it a standing ovation. When asked “who would’ve believed this film would be this successful,” Ashman said, “I did.” Howard Ashman knew how much of a success this would be and he was integral in it being a success.
This is on a short list for best animated Disney film. It’s on a short list for best animated film. It may not be your favorite Disney film. It’s not my favorite Disney film. But this one is so good that it is in a majority of people’s top 5 animated Disney films and it’s a deserved reputation.