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Beauty and the Beast

Disney Studios had a major triumph with 1991's Beauty and the Beast, an utterly enchanting and richly entertaining take on the classic fairy tale that made history by being the first animated film to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture.

This film has it all...humor, romance, giggles, adventure, music, and even scares. The classic story is mounted like a Broadway musical with a flawed but sympathetic hero, a charming heroine, a laugh-inducing villain, and some scene stealing supporting characters that serve the story instead of overpowering it.

I think one of the reasons this film was so successful was because of its heroine...despite her being a fairy tale character, Belle is a contemporary woman...she has a heart and brain and loves to read. When the arrogant Gaston insists on marrying her, she cleverly slithers out of the engagement by telling Gaston she's not good enough for him. Even once she agrees to stay with the Beast, she never lets him manipulate her yet when he saves her life, she does what she feels is right and returns to his home to nurse his wounds. The Beast is adorable in that scene, BTW, when he keeps screaming about how it hurts and she tells him to be still. This version has also taken an alternate tack with the character of the beast, who is not painted as a cardboard villain...he is presented as a spoiled child here who is bitter about the curse that was placed on him. This is also one of the few animated films that produces actual scares...the scene of Belle being attacked by the wolves is genuinely frightening as is the final showdown between Gaston and the Beast.

The voice work in this film is on the money...Paige O'Hara makes a lovely Belle and her singing is exquisite. I still find it hard to believe that Robby Benson is voicing the beast because he sounds NOTHING like the Robby Benson I grew up with. Also loved an unrecognizable David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth the Clock, Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, a teapot and especially the late Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, a candlestick, who helps to make the production number "Be Our Guest" so special, a number that conjures images of MGM and some of Busby Berkley's greatest choreography.

The song score by Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman is lush, melodic and serves the story perfectly. The title tune, flawlessly performed by Angela Lansbury, actually won the Oscar for Best Song of 1991.

I know it's an overused phrase, but this is truly entertainment for the entire family that ushered in a new and more sophisticated approach to animation as entertainment. 9/10