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Film Review: Beauty and the Beast 3D

Jan 24, 2012 08:25AM ● By Justin Buettner

Disney’s first and only animated film to be nominated for an academy award for best picture has been re-released in theaters in 3D following the success of last fall’s The Lion King. Just in case you have never heard of the movie, Beauty and the Beast is based on the famous fairytale about a vain prince who has a curse placed on him that transforms him into a hideous beast. Unless he is able to find someone to love him, despite his appearance, he will remain a beast for all time. Lucky for him an odd beauty stumbles upon his castle and a relationship develops.

Beauty and the Beast is far and away Disney’s most sophisticated animated movie both in story material and presentation. Directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise were able to be in production on this movie during a transition at Disney’s animation program, just before the unexpected commercial success of The Little Mermaid. This allowed them to develop Beauty and the Beast without the high level intrusion that other Disney animated features would later face. Further, it also allowed the directors to make bold decisions regarding their story, including fairly dark subject matter handled in a way that had never been seen before in Disney animation.

In addition a lot of thought was placed into the composition of the shots in Beauty and the Beast. This includes the use of motion, foreground and background elements, lighting and using angles on their shots that was -- and still are -- seldom used in animated features. The results are amazing as the movie truly looks and moves like an epic live action feature as opposed to a child’s animated feature. The 3D conversion helps bring a lot of these elements further to life giving the foreground and background elements even more depth. So while the 3D may have detracted a bit from the hand drawn animated sequences, the wide shots of the castle and country were gorgeous in 3D on a big screen.

It is impossible to write about Beauty and the Beast without mentioning the work of Glen Keane and Mark Henn who are icons of traditional hand drawn animation and do their best work by far in this film. To highlight their work even further I’ve included a clip of their rough animation of the end sequence of Beauty and the Beast which is perhaps the most powerful sequence of animation ever produced. The late Howard Ashman wrote the lyrics to the songs in the film,  all of which are famous now, but Gaston’s song is still my favorite. This was Ashman’s last full feature (he died while working on Aladdin) but his legacy is being one of the greatest lyrist of all-time, and this movie may be the best showcase for his work.

Disney tried to replicate the success of the sophisticated animated feature with miserable results with Pocahontas and Hunchback of Notre Dame. The stars aligned just right for Beauty and the Beast, capturing the best talent in generations in their prime and allowing a pair of vibrant new animation directors the freedom they needed to go outside of the box of what animated features had been. I am uncertain whether the 3D truly enhances the experience of watching this classic, but having the opportunity to view it on the big screen certainly does.  

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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