Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beauty and the Beast

The Disney Channel is showing Beauty and the Beast in preparation for its release on Blu-ray. The movie will be 20 years old this November.

It holds up well as befits its status as one of Disney's most important movies. Who Framed Roger Rabbit renewed interest in classic animation and roved that Disney could still do it. The Little Mermaid proved that they could produce a hand-animated movie as good as the classics done under Walt himself but its audience was still limited to kids and their parents. Beauty and the Beast changed that. It made many critics' best list for 1991 and it was the first animated movie to get a best picture nomination. It won several other best picture awards. Eventually it was made into a Broadway play with the 8th longest run on record.

It made a lot of money. It was followed by Aladdin and the Lion King. These made even more money. In-between, Disney rereleased some of their classics like Snow White. Suddenly it was ok for adults to see an inimated movie, even without kids in tow.

Of course it didn't last. Disney ran out of fairy tales and the Disney spin didn't work as well with other properties. The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Pocahontas took liberties with classic literature and history. Hercules and The Emperor's New Grove went with a more cartoonish look. Their reinterpretation of Tarzan as a confused adolescent marked the end of Disney's revival. The movies went from sure-fire blockbusters to risks. The animators unionized, raising the cost of production.

At the same time, the adult market for animated movies migrated to CGI.

Ironically, one of Beauty's most memorable scene, the ballroom dance, was CGI as were some of the dancing silverware.

In some ways CGI has left me jaded. I know that Beauty was a marvel of animation but it no longer looks like it. Hand-drawn background just can't compare to CGI ones. The recent Disney release, Tangled, was a nice throw-back to the hand-animated look but it was CGI and far more detailed.

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