With Disney’s live action revival just around the corner, our love for the French fairytale will truly never cease. With two trailers already building anticipation as they tease how beautiful and idealistic director Bill Condon has envisioned such a retelling, audiences are gasping and biting at the bit to see what new things are brought to the table and to witness which of those classic Disney moments make it back to the big screen.
But what really makes this tale as old as time as the tagline and its incredibly popular title song states?
Walt Disney’s classic musical animation was brought to life in 1991 by the collaborated efforts of its base material, a French fairytale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, its directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise and the wondrous musical talents of Alan Menken, and of course was the first animation to win Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s beloved by many and holds firm as one of Disney’s finest, so what makes Condon feel obliged to invent another entry to the long list of efforts in the Beauty world — for the last two, the very modern retelling Beastly and the Christophe Gans’ French live action didn’t particularly take flight — that will carry the legacy? The magic, of course. Disney magic.
With the alarming success of Disney’s recent live action updates – Cinderella, a perpetually sweet, cutesy fairytale with an abundance of heart and The Jungle Book, a glorified CGI-extravaganza with enough star talent to boot – it was only a matter of time before others are thrown into the pipeline. And as Beauty and the Beast was announced, others followed suit such as reboots of The Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Mulan, The Lion King and an Emily Blunt-starring sequel to Mary Poppins titled Mary Poppins Returns. Without sounding too much like my five year-old former-self, bring ’em on. There may be a stigma that riding on Disney’s past success is a technique catered to the Disney giants, but really, Disney magic is the only kind of movie magic that gets away with such tactics.
Growing up on animations such as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid makes me a glorified 90’s fanatic. Whilst I appreciate the former classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and other wonderful fairy tales, my time is cherished wholly by those released late 80’s/early 90’s where i sat down, the becomings of an early movie fanatic, and revelled in the wondrous tales of magic, the love between a Prince and his Damsel in Distress (I understand now the obvious sexism aspects, cue Frozen and Tangled), swashbuckling sword fights and villains fighting to their bitter end. It’s a kind of magic that still harbours something incredibly special today, and recreates so magnificently upon every viewing. And those in the same boat will fully understand the necessity behind the want and the need for these films. They may contain schmaltzy messages, but what’s wrong with living in a fantasy for a little while?
The magic behind these reboots may come and go in short bursts compared to the long-lasting effect of Disney’s originals, but as they arrive, I’ll happily show a rebooted attempt that contains as much, if not more, spark, paralleling the experience I had as a child and passing that on to a younger generation where they may envision the likes of the gorgeous Lily James as Cinderella, Neel Sethi as Mowgli or even transcend the likes of Emma Watson from such a well known character as Hermione Granger and positioning her in the role of the charismatic and rambunctious Belle, a village girl with big dreams, landing in the clutches of a cursed prince and falling for each other, battling the odds and the villains whilst meeting a few new colourful characters along the way.
As Emma Watson signs on to portray one of her favourite characters, Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens dons the suit as the Prince/Beast, Luke Evans as the mirror-hogging Gaston, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Ewan McGregor as Lumiére, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts etc etc. The list of this unimaginable cast goes on and on, and much like the fans of today showing their love, the popularity of this film shows with its star talent.
This story truly is a tale as old as time. It may have been done a thousand times before, it may not even live up to the 1991 classic of the same name, but damn it appears like Bill Condon and co and tried their very best to pay homage to one of Disney’s most spectacularly romantic tales.
Beauty and the Beast hits UK cinemas on March 17th.