A Second Look: Beauty and the Beast
In 1991, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise released the animated musical romantic fantasy film, Beauty and the Beast, based on the French fairy tale of the same name by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as well as ideas from the 1946 film. Starring Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Pierce, Rex Everhart, and Jesse Corti, the film grossed $425 million at the box office. The film won the Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score and Best Music, Original Song and was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Sound Mixing and Best Music, Original Song for two other songs.
When her father doesn’t return from a trip to the fair, a girl from a French village named Belle goes looking for him. She finds him imprisoned in a castle and offers herself in his place if the castle’s master accepts. However, the master is a cursed prince who had been turned into a beast and will remain so unless he finds true love before his 21st birthday.
The second film in the Disney Renaissance, third if The Rescuers Down Under counts, Beauty and the Beast is another beautifully animated entry into the Disney Animated Canon, making use of really well-done juxtaposition between light and dark in various places of the castle. However, it’s notable that near the beginning of the film, there’s much more darkness in the castle than there is any light. But in the progression of the film, the darkness continually lessens and more light is seen in the castle and on its grounds, all the way up until the final scenes where the castle is nothing but light. It’s character development for a setting based on the art used and it works spectacularly.
What’s more is it seems that there’s simultaneous character development for The Beast alongside that of Gaston, though it’s more of a character breakdown for the latter.
Take The Beast, who acts what he is at face value when first met storming in on Maurice: a monstrous animal who walks on all fours with fur bristling and barely any clothes. But when he and Belle first meet, he’s walking on two legs, though still isn’t completely dressed. As the film rolls on, his mannerisms become more human than beastly and he starts wearing clothes more often, so much by the end of the film, he’s always walking upright and is dressed. His voice is also constantly shifting in tone from the snarling guttural growl to a gentler and softer speaking voice and his face moves from being sharper to being gentler as well. Actually, the only thing that doesn’t change in appearance is his eyes, they remain a steady shade of blue and keep the same shape. They’re also the same when he’s human, which demonstrates that The Beast’s eyes were a window into his soul and who he truly was.
On the other hand, there’s Gaston, who is the paragon of human manliness at the start of the film and even sings a song to show how manly he is. But as the film progresses, he gets more and more unhinged at the realization that Belle doesn’t want anything to do with him. And when he begins to lead the villagers to the castle, he starts to become fiercer, quite different than the steadfast and determined manly man. Descending upon the castle shows Gaston to start hunching over with his hair becoming wilder and when he’s fighting The Beast, he becomes more animalistic in his fighting, even resorting to trickery, while The Beast is more human in his fighting. What’s more is the veneer of manliness is completely stripped when falling to his death as he screams like a little girl.
What’s more is that Gaston is a deconstruction of a fairy tale hero. He’s handsome, adventurous and a hunter who’s loved by everyone around him and wants to woo the girl of his dreams. However, he believes said girl is owed to him and should fall in his arms. Further, his encounters of monsters shows that he thinks of them as nothing but evil when they’re anything but. However, it’s his ego that gets in his way because it makes him incapable of thinking that anything which rises up against him might not be in need of slaying. Because no one jumps to conclusions like Gaston.
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