About a year ago, I re-watched the Disney cartoon Beauty and the Beast. Watching the live-action/CGI remake, I felt gratified to notice some changes that improved the story. IMO, not all the changes were good, but overall I thought it was a success. In fact it was a phenomenal commercial success, though sadly it’s still listed below Frozen.
See below for more opinions. Beware of SPOILERS.
Improvements in the new Beauty and the Beast
- The chronology has been fixed. The prologue shows us the prince as an adult; the song “Be Our Guest” says “too long we’ve been rusting” instead of “ten years we’ve been rusting”.
- The fate of the staff of the castle makes more sense. When the last petal falls, they are justly transformed into objects because (through inaction) they are partly responsible for the prince becoming a jerk.
- The prince isn’t a jerk for no reason; he was influenced by his father, who was bitter after his wife’s death.
- The beast is made more central to the story. He’s the real protagonist of the story because he changes, and in this version he gets a song to dramatize the important choice he makes that reflects the moral transformation that has taken place.
- They kept the songs. (Belle, Gaston, Be Our Guest, Something There, The Mob Song, Beauty and the Beast) They even added some! (How Does a Moment Last Forever, Days in the Sun, Evermore)
- Belle’s favorite book doesn’t get damaged.
- Gaston’s coat, gun, and sudden decision to court Belle are explained: he’s a soldier returning home.
- Le Fou gets more character development: he abandons the villain, joining the good guys.
- Le Fou is apparently gay (that’s a first for Disney).
- Belle’s father goes down the wrong road because a tree magically falls and blocks the way, not just because he feels like it.
- The enchantress remains involved in the story.
- Part of the spell on the castle is forgetfulness, which explains why no one in the town remembers the castle or its servants, even though some of the townspeople were separated from their spouses when the spell was cast.
- Belle’s father is only punished by the Beast when he tries to take a rose from the garden. The idea of Belle asking for a rose is part of the traditional story.
- Belle makes a rope to escape her bedroom in the castle (instead of collapsing in a heap on the floor and crying).
- The footrest/dog is called Froufrou! That’s just perfect.
What I didn’t like in the new Beauty and the Beast
- Belle gets her books from the chaplain’s chapel library, not from a book shop or public library. Maybe that makes more sense historically, but nowadays books aren’t all church books, and priests aren’t the only literate people around.
- Belle is an inventor in this version, but she still doesn’t seem to have any specific ambition.
- The laundry scene was unsubtle. The machine was cool, and Belle knowing how to read and teaching a child to read made sense. Shoehorning a misogynistic schoolmaster into a movie that already had Gaston in it wasn’t necessary.
- Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe character, is really creepy. It’s not just me, right?
- Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord character and husband of the wardrobe, fights by spitting out his teeth. Why?!
- I miss Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts. Chip really did seem like her grandson.
- The history of the inventor and his wife, who live in a windmill in Paris, doesn’t seem to match other versions of the story in which the family was wealthy and then suffered economic loss as well as sickness.
- Apart from the prison tower, I didn’t like the castle interiors as much somehow. Especially the ballroom. Can’t beat the original ballroom for glorious nostalgia.
- Gaston doesn’t look like Gaston when he’s wearing a hat.
Other differences in the new Beauty and the Beast
- racial diversity in the cast
- Frenchier French hairdos
- a magic teleportation book
- Gaston tries to murder Belle’s father by leaving him in the woods (?!)