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Monday, November 12, 2012

Beauty and the Beast

All right.  I’m opening up this blog entry with a question.  How many of you know that classic fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast”?

I’m only under the assumption that most of you probably have heard some variation of the classic fairy tale.  But for those of you who haven’t, here’s a little bit of a run down.

The story originated almost four centuries ago, in 1740.  The first rendition of the fairy tale was penned by a French woman named Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.  However, the version that most people became familiar with was published sixteen years later, in 1756, which was more or less an abridgement of de Villeneuve’s work by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont.

(Man, the French had some impossibly long names back in those days.  If driver’s licenses had existed in the eighteenth century, I’d wonder how they would fit all of that on one card!)

Anyways, the basic plot of “Beauty and the Beast” is like this.  When the story begins, we’re introduced to a wealthy merchant who has three beautiful daughters.  Two of them are spoiled rotten, and have absolutely no concern for anything except material things.  Only the youngest daughter, Belle, is described as being pure of heart.

When the merchant ends up losing everything to a tempest at sea, he and his daughters are forced to work and live in a tiny farmhouse.  The merchant soon hears that one of the cargo ships carrying his riches did make it safely to port, so he goes to the city to see if there is anything that could be salvaged that he could sell.  When he asks his daughters if they would like him to bring something home with him upon his return, two of them naturally ask for gold, diamonds, beautiful dresses...basically anything that a “What Not To Wear” gift card can buy.  Belle, on the other hand is much more frugal.

All she wants is a simple red rose.  Since roses were very rare where they were, a rose was all that she needed.  A beautiful request from someone pure of heart.

The merchant is dismayed to learn that upon arriving in town, the cargo inside the ship has been liquidated in order to take care of his debts, leaving him without a single penny to spend on presents for his three girls.  To add insult to injury, he ends up getting lost in the woods.  Luckily for him, he ends up stumbling across a palace.  Upon entering, he discovers that there is food and beverages available for him to sample, courtesy of the unseen owner.  The merchant spends the night there.  Upon leaving the palace, he discovers a rose garden outside of the castle, and he remembers Belle’s request.  He picks the biggest, most beautiful rose out of the garden, and sets out back home...when he is attacked by the most hideous beast known to man!

(No, seriously, the beast confronts the man.)

He actually does more than that.  The rose he picked was the beast’s prized possession, and because the merchant couldn’t keep his paws off of it, he must die.  The merchant, obviously regretting ever going near the flowers, pleads with the beast to let him go, telling him that the flower was a present for his daughter, Belle.  The beast decides that threatening to kill the merchant was a bit he lets him go with the rose and all the presents that he can carry...but he must return one day.

So the merchant arrives back home, gives his daughters the presents, and makes a promise to himself never to tell Belle what happened.  But you know how persistent teenage girls can be, and when her father explains what happened, she goes to the beast’s castle, taking her father’s place.  Upon arriving, Belle is treated like a queen by the beast, and bestows love, attention, and everything her heart desires.  He is smitten by the young girl, and each night he asks for her hand in marriage, which Belle politely declined.  She only has her heart set on marrying a handsome prince, which she mistakenly believes is held captive by the beast himself.

If only she knew.

Anyway, I’m not going to spoil the ending of this classic story because I never like to reveal movie endings.

Because, in 1991, Disney created an animated movie based on this classic tale.

“Beauty and the Beast” was released on November 13, 1991.  It was directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, produced by Don Hahn, and the screenplay was written by Linda Woolverton.  And the songs were all composed by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, including this one...

ARTIST:  Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson
SONG:  Beauty and the Beast
ALBUM:  Beauty and the Beast
DATE RELEASED:  November 16, 1991

The voice cast was very good as well.  Paige O’Hara played Belle, and Robby Benson played the Beast.  Other voices included Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Steirs, Jerry Orbach, Richard White, and Bradley Michael Pierce.

The plot of the movie version was loosely based on the classic fable, but there were some significant particular with the Beast’s backstory.  Having a curse placed upon him by an enchantress, the servants of the Beast are transformed into household furniture.  Lumiere (Orbach) becomes a candleabra, Cogsworth (Stiers) turns into a clock, and poor Mrs. Potts (Lansbury) and her son, Chip (Pierce) turn into a teapot and a tea cup respectively.  The Beast is also given a magic mirror which can see into the future, as well as an enchanted rose, which will continue to bloom until the day he turns 21.  If he does not find true love before the last petal falls off the, I can’t say.  I have said too much.

There’s a little bit of a difference in Belle’s backstory as well.  Belle lives in a little French village with her father, Maurice (no sisters present in this version), and Belle is actively pursued by the smug, arrogant, evil Gaston (White).  Other than that, the story goes almost exactly the same as the classic fable. 

And would you know that there are lots of things about this film that I didn’t even know about? 

Did you know that the role of Chip was only supposed to have one line of spoken dialogue in it?  Turns out that Bradley Michael Pierce did such a great job with his one line that the writers actually wrote in more lines for him to say as a result of it!

Did you know that when the Beast was being designed, the animators drew inspiration from several animals including an American bison, a bear, a gorilla, a lion, a wolf, and a wild boar?  Talk about mutant species!

Did you know that the original name for Mrs. Potts was supposed to be Mrs. Chamomile?

Did you know that Tony Anselmo worked on the animation of the film?  In case you’re wondering who Tony Anselmo is, he is currently the voice of another Disney character, Donald Duck.

Did you know that the film won two Academy Awards for “Best Original Song” and “Best Original Score”?  It was also nominated for four others.

Did you know that the line that Cogsworth says that begins with “flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep...” was ad-libbed by David Ogden Stiers?

Did you know that in the village scenes, Belle is the only person in the town to wear blue as a predominant colour?  There’s only one other person in the movie that wears a lot of blue...I wonder who it could be?

Did you know that there is at least one scene that was reused animation from “Sleeping Beauty”?  I can’t really reveal what that scene is, but it’s near the end of the movie.  It was done as a time-saving measure.

Did you know that the film was shown with a 70% completion rate at the New York Film Festival two months before the film was officially released?  To make up for the thirty per cent still under construction, storyboard reels and rough animation pencil tests were put in place.  It reportedly received a standing ovation at the festival.

Did you know that before Angela Lansbury got the part of Mrs. Potts, the role was initially written for Julie Andrews?

Did you know that Howard Ashman came up with the idea of turning the enchanted objects into living creatures with their own distinct personalities?

Did you know that the film’s soundtrack takes up a little over a quarter of the entire movie’s length?

Did you know that in order to disguise Robby Benson’s voice when he was portraying the Beast, it was mixed in with the growls of real lions and panthers?

Did you know that before Paige O’Hara was hired on as the role of Belle, the Disney crew considered Jodi Benson for the role?  Jodi Benson, of course, played Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”.

Did you know that Patrick Stewart was initially on board to play Cogsworth, but had to turn it down due to shooting conflicts with “Star Trek: The Next Generation”?

Did you know that the movie was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1994?  It is the seventh longest running Broadway play ever, ending its run thirteen years later, in 2007.

Did you know that the stained glass window that appears in the end of the film was added into Disneyland shortly after the film was released in 1991?

Did you know that this film was the first animated feature film to be nominated for the “Best Picture” Academy Award?  It lost out to “Silence of the Lambs”.

Did you know that this film is the 30th animated feature film by Disney?

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