After the successful re-launch of The Lion King in 3D , Disney continues the three dimensional reimagining of its animated catalogue with the release of Beauty and the Beast 3D . Stayed tuned for 3D versions of Finding Nemo (September), Monsters, Inc . (June), and The Little Mermaid (sometime next year). While it can be tempting to view Disney re-releases as mere money grabs, it’s worth bearing in mind that a whole new generation of kids will get their first chance to catch these Disney classics on the big screen.
Make no mistake, Beauty and the Beast is a classic. Not only did the 1991 release rake in $403 million in box office earnings, it was the first animated film to be nominated for a best picture Oscar and did garner a pair of best music Oscar’s for co-writers Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. The film has created countless successful spin-offs, including straight-to-video mid-quels, video games, a hit Broadway musical, an IMAX release and an international pop hit for Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. It’s a tale as old as time, as the song goes.
So does it merit the 3D treatment (and the few extra dollars to see it in 3D)? It is visually stunning, though it always was. But the treatment of the original animation, in a hand drawn style with a boost from Disney’s CGI department, makes Beauty and the Beast particularly amenable to the 3D treatment. Several key scenes ““ Belle’s dance through the village, the “Be Our Guest” sequence and the classic ballroom sequence ““ are just dazzling and worth donning those silly 3D glasses.
But for Beauty and the Beast devotees and newcomers alike, it’s the timeless story and the spunky heroine that makes the movie a must see family film. Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle, knows exactly what draws generation after generation to the movie. “The story is timeless and the message is timeless,” says O’Hara. “That message, don’t judge a book by its cover, that beauty is on the inside, is a timeless message.”
O’Hara also knows that the strength of Beauty and the Beast , whether in two dimensions or three, lies in the music. She believes the decision to root the score in Broadway traditions was part of the movie’s wide appeal. “Where other Disney movies like Aladdin went more the pop music route, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken made the decision to go the traditional Broadway route,” says O’Hara. “The music is a little old-fashioned and that makes it timeless. I think that has paid off and will still pay off 50 years from now.
And for O’Hara, a self described “Broadway girl,” supplying the voice of Belle has been a bit of fairytale in and of itself. O’Hara has basically been Belle since 1991, providing voiceovers in all the mid-quels and releases, and even painting a series of Beauty and the Beast themed works for Disney Fine Art. Yet she remains most proud of the character and the impact Belle has had on little girls. “”Her goal is not to get married and find a prince. Belle wants to see the world and she just happens to find the prince,” says O’Hara. “She is very content with who she is.”
So forget the hoopla about 3D. Just round up any little girls you know, especially brown eyed ones, and introduce them to this Disney classic and it’s plucky, independent heroine. Why the brown-eyed ones especially? Among many Beauty and the Beast firsts, Belle was the first Disney princess to have brown eyes, and that has proved to be as timeless as the story and the songs. “I still get letters from little girls that say, “˜I’m so glad Belle has brown eyes just like me,'” says O’Hara.