Beauty and the Beast
From the movie's prologue: Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle. Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. But then, one winter's night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away. But she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within. And when he dismissed her again, the old woman's ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress. The prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart. And as punishment, she transformed him into a hideous beast and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there. Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his twenty-first year. If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?
Belle dreams of leaving her provincial town and experiencing adventure and romance, like the tales she reads in her beloved books. After her father disappears in the woods, Belle follows him and discovers he's become the prisoner of the Beast, a terrifying monster living in an enchanted castle. She volunteers to stay as the Beast's prisoner if he'll let her father go, and he agrees, hoping that Belle will break the spell cast on him and his servants many years ago.
Actually, chronology is a problem in this movie. First, it says in the prologue that 'years' have passed, but the Beast couldn't have been that young when he was transformed. There's a portrait of him hanging in the West Wing that looks no younger than eighteen or so. If he is still barely under twenty-one at the end of the movie, he can't have been in the Beast form for more than three or four years, maximum. Yet that's apparently enough time for the surrounding villages to have completely forgotten his castle exists. Also, how long is Belle in that castle? It looks like she's in her village until late summer/early autumn, and I assume she spends most of the winter with the Beast. But there's a scene - newly added in the DVD release - where the servants all sing about how great it will be to be human again, right in the middle of her stay, and it looks like spring or summer. So was Belle there for a few months or for more than a year?
This movie is fantastic. The songs are fun and memorable, the animation looks amazing, the story is classic, the movie won an Academy Award for Best Picture blah blah blah. Everyone knows Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney's greatest animated films. Do I really have to tell you why?
Well, I will gush about the characters a little bit. Specifically, Belle and Gaston. Belle is the Disney Princess I always get on those stupid Internet meme/quizzes, probably because of her great love of books. I can't say that Belle ever does anything particularly clever or intellectual, but I can at least pretend she might be a smarter sort of princess because of her fondness of libraries. (Jasmine's probably the smartest Disney Princess; she shows herself to be cunning and tricky several times throughout Aladdin.) I think Belle's a lot of fun; definitely more interesting than the early Disney Princesses from Walt's era.
Gaston is amazing. He's such a friggin' jerk, and as we know, all women secretly love a jerk. I love Gaston. He's an arrogant, egotistical, idiotic douchebag who never thinks beyond his own desires. And everyone in Belle's little town, including her father, think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. It's mind-boggling. Plus he has some seriously huge biceps. Man, those are are some huge biceps. He's just so cool! How can you not love a guy who stops in the middle of his marriage proposal to clean his teeth? Uber-douche!!!
I mean, he's so much cooler than the Beast. Ugh. The Beast. Did you know that his name is Adam? Prince Adam. This isn't in the movie anywhere, but I've seen it on the Internet and on Disney Prince dolls. He's such a lame prince. I mean, the Beast isn't so bad, but once he transforms back into Adam, it's disappointing. He's just...ugly. I mean, look at that nose. Those lips. That chin. He's totally got a classic Habsburg profile...which I guess is accurate for France, but man. No one's got a great cleft in his chin like Gaston!
Seriously. Not so hot. Change back.
Oh well. So what if Prince Adam's freaky-ugly and awesome Gaston ends up smooshed at the bottom of a ravine? It's still one of the best movies Disney ever made.