US Animated Movie (1991). Disney. Pr Don Hahn. Exec pr Howard Ashman. Dir Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise. Screenplay Linda Wolverton. Based loosely on the version of the tale in Contes Marins (1740-1741) by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve (> Beauty and the Beast). Voice actors Robby Benson (Beast), Jesse Corti (Le Fou), Rex Everhart (Maurice), Angela Lansbury (Mrs Potts), Paige O'Hara (Belle), Jerry Orbach (Lumiere), Bradley Michael Pierce (Chip), Hal Smith (Philippe), David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth, Narrator), Richard White (Gaston). 84 mins. Colour.
A fairly standard retelling, BATB has much that is excellent, in particular the depiction of Beast – a far more complex character than one expects in an animated movie. Six character animators, led by Glen Keane, produced a Monster that is part lion, part bear, part buffalo, part gorilla, part wolf ... and, despite its lumbering animality, very human; it is no surprise that Belle (i.e., Beauty) has a moment of doubt when this splendid creature is transformed into a rather bland, standard-issue Handsome Prince. Other characters are well formed – notably Belle, Lumiere (a living candle-holder) and Mrs Potts (a living teapot) – but the movie suffers a severe compression of timescale: the Beast's wooing and winning of Belle have to be crammed into about 24 hours to match the progress of events back in the village. BATB was Disney's fifth full-length animated Fairytale, and was widely described on release as the best Animated Movie of all time – a spurious claim. Nor does it have, amid the customary Disney fun and hijinks, anything of the affect of, say, Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête (1946), from which it has borrowed some moments. But, on the level of simple entertainment, it is superb. [JG]