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Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast
Year: 1991
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

Beauty and the Beast is the crowning jewel of the Disney Renaissance. It's the most beautiful looking, as the best music, and is the most fun to watch. It's one of the shorter movies of the Renaissance, at about 1 hour and 20 minutes. It doesn't have character and pacing issues like The Lion King, and it doesn't have obnoxious sidekick characters such as (once again) The Lion King and Aladdin. Instead, we get real characters with real conflicts and issues. Belle is a fantastic protagonist and the Beast is also a complex and interesting character that one could call a protagonist. Gaston is despicable, which makes him fun to hate. And of course all the townsfolk and servants of the beast are delightful and often hilarious.

Beauty and the Beast follows the classic tale of a selfish prince who is turned into a beast for not being compassionate towards others. He must find someone who can truly love him and give him true love's kiss, and then he will turn back into a prince. Belle, of course, is that beautiful girl, who switches her father with herself so her father doesn't have to be locked up forever. This sets off a series of events in which Belle and the Beast get closer and closer to each other. Meanwhile, Gaston, who also wants to marry Belle, plots to kill this Beast.

The story is fantastic, it builds on the original fairy tale yet doesn't detract from the simple relationship between Belle and the Beast. In this movie there are fantastic colors and drawings, we get a very mythical and awe-inspiring setting that reminds me of something like Princess Mononoke. When Belle is attacked by wolves, we sense that they are not normal wolves. There is something magical about this place. We're in France, of course, but it's not really France. It's some other-world, much like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Pinocchio.

Anyways, the music is fantastic. One of the best Disney soundtracks ever for sure, and easily the best Renaissance soundtrack. The Lion King always annoyed me with it's weird mix between pop and Broadway. The Little Mermaid I liked but didn't love, and Aladdin bored me. Beauty and the Beast has some of the most memorable songs of the entire decade, with songs like "Be My Guest," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Belle." In fact, basically every song in this musical is hummable and very good. They're so fun to watch too - the color of "Be My Guest" is awesome and the computerized images in "Beauty and the Beast" are breath-taking.

And of course, show this to any age, including young kids, and they will love it. It has a universal theme - true beauty lies within - that basically anyone can connect to and appreciate. It will probably be most memorable for kids of the '90s (which I wasn't, but I still love it). They probably grew up on these films and they've become ingrained in their childhood.

The film has some issues, but I'll just brush over them here. Of course there are some really annoying characters, such as Gaston's sidekick friend (I can't even remember his name, but I really hated him). Yeah, so gosh darn annoying, why does Disney include that? Thankfully he's only in small portions of the film (unlike Timon and Pumba or whatever their names are in The Lion King). Gaston is pretty obnoxious too, but I love it because I get to hate him more. And there are some plot elements like the Beast getting made that are pretty laughable.

Those are really minor complaints, though. This film is pure magic. It will fill you with awe at the genius of Disney animation and leave you at the edge of your seat until the end. And that fight scene! Pretty damn good, maybe one of the best action scenes of the Renaissance. Gaston's death is also really memorable, and the transformation scene is like something out of a... I don't even know... Greek myth? It's like he's been transformed into a God, and Belle is witnessing it. Pretty powerful. Big thumbs up for Beauty and the Beast.