I can't exactly say why I've decided to do a feature on Beauty and the Beast. Oh. I mean... it might be because I love it. Which may be because I'm a romantic sap at heart. Or maybe because it's the best Disney film ever! (Take that, Aladdin!) Alas, it has been given the sequel treatment. One of these days I'll actually rent those and write a Woe Column about them. But for now, I shall focus on the original movie.
Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991. I was eleven at the time and saw it one time in the theater. I also bought the video the day it was released. By age 13, I had memorized the entire freaking flick. I currently own the video, the DVD, the movie soundtrack, the Broadway soundtrack (I also saw the musical in 2001), a sounds book, sheet music, a Golden book, 2 special edition Cornflakes boxes, a musical snowglobe, a stuffed Beast, and I have no idea what else. So you could either consider me an almost-expert or an almost-wacko. But either way, if you're reading this column, I assume you must have some interest in the film. Which is why I'll unapologetically continue...
My cousin and I used to have a shared love for the movie. From ages 12-14 we would often playact and involve the B&TB characters. This is very complicated, so don't expect to understand. All I really remember about it is that we called Belle "Belle" but referred to the prince as "Prince Ug." As in ugly. As in, give me back the beast, this guy's a freak! Seriously. I know it sounds weird, but at age 11 or whatever, we thought the prince was better off as a furry, clawed-and-pawed creature than the "man" he became at the end of the film. Recently I have come to realize that he isn't really that bad. Just the way they make him turn around... I mean, look...
"He's a man!"
"Oh, the sight! It's blinding! Don't look directly at it!"
I mean, check out Belle's reaction...
I think that says it all. (Ahem, note the pix are (c)Disney & the people who drew them. You know that.) So basically even Belle is immediately turned off by the sheer horror of this guy. But wait! He gets increasingly more attractive (well, and more cartoon-like) as the film progresses (ok, so there are like 2 minutes left in the film by that point...) and, quite frankly, I'm all for the Beast becoming human again. Now he and Belle can kiss without the possibility of fang damage to the girl. It's a happy ending for all!
A lot of people have had some -- how shall I say this -- issues with the film. Mostly there's the whole "how old is the Beast?" debate, which stems from the fact that, at the beginning of the movie, the narrator says the rose will bloom until the Beast's "twenty-first year." Since the rose drops its final petal during the course of the film (gee, hope that wasn't a spoiler for you), the Beast is, what, 20? 21? (Ah, a youngun. I feel so old.) However, during the Be Our Guest song, Lumiere delivers the line "ten years we've been rusting!" which suggests that he's been a candlestick for 10 years, or perhaps, just in service to the antisocial prince/Beast for 10 years. And if he's been a candlestick for 10 years, that means the prince was only 10 or 11 years old when he turned the old beggar woman/echantress away. Which doesn't make any sense at all, because in the stained glass windows and in the portrait of the prince that the Beast has a claw-party on,
the prince is clearly not that young. Plus, what kind of enchantress (not that I know a whole lot about enchantresses) would punish an 11-year-old kid like that? Kind of rude. Oh, and the other thing of issueness is Chip, the little teacup. When he returns to his human state, he's not more than five years old. So unless he was born a teacup (okay, then, where's Mr. Potts? Yeoch.), he can't have been like that for more than 5 years.
Which leads me to... my theory! (Yayyy, she's getting to her point finally!) Okay, remember when Maurice leaves town to go back and get Belle? From that point, it seems like days or even weeks pass at the castle. Belle and the Beast fall in love, play in the snow, and have their dance. If you want to buy into the sequels, they even have Christmas and a wide variety of other adventures during that time. Yet, after the ballroom dance scene, Belle looks into the magical mirror to see Maurice lying in the snow. He hasn't been back to his house, we know, because Lefou is there staking the place out. So Maurice has been lying in the snow, or tromping through the snow, for weeks? Um no... he may he a spry old man, but even spry old men will turn into Popsicles after awhile. And, you know, die and stuff. So we have two possibilities. A) Maurice is really from the planet Krypton and didn't bother to tell us or B) Maurice was only out there, like, a day. But if weeks passed in the castle, then that must mean... time seems to pass differently in the castle! Why not? It's enchanted, after all. Shut up, it's possible! This would explain a few other things too.
Okay, let's say that the prince got turned into a beast when he was 18, and he falls in love with Belle when he's 21. He's been a beast for three years. Everyone in the castle has been an object for 3 years. But it has seemed longer to everyone in the castle. Lumiere thinks it has been 10 years because he has seen 10 winters/springs/summers/autumns pass. But so what? Maybe the weather in the vicinity of the castle, thanks to the spell, is unnaturally freaky. Maybe the castle residents have seen 10 winters and maybe their days and nights are a bit wacky, too. So basically the residents of the castle age according to outside time, but they have more time than outside time, within the castle. So the prince has only aged 3 years according to outside time, but it has felt like longer. And Chip was turned into a teacup when he was, perhaps, 2, and is now 5.
Well... I guess it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, unless, of course, you're me. Oh well. Hey, so I have some other fun Beauty and the Beast stuff for you. Let's talk about Gaston.
I used to like Gaston a whole lot. Not sure why, exactly... maybe because he could scale rooftops without breaking a sweat... or because he suffered from a case of unrequited love... you gotta sympathize. So for a while I was convinced that there should be a new sequel, titled: Beauty & The Beast: Gaston's Revenge, in which we discover that Gaston survived the plunge into the ravine (maybe he landed in the water, and hey, he's tough!), climbed his way back out, and has been stalking Belle and Prince Dijon (I named him that. It's French. Hey, it's better than "Ug," okay?), and is crazy-angry that Belle and Dijon are now married. So he plots his revenge, kidnaps Belle, and then there's a duel... because there always needs to be a duel... and, in the end, realizes he's just a big loser, and marries one of the ditz triplets.
But happy endings just aren't to be had. While watching the commentary on the DVD, I learned about this little frame...
... skulls, man. Skulls. I'm sorry, folks, but you just can't argue with something like this. Gaston is undoubtedly no more. There's just no denying it. It's so sad... but really, Gaston lost all my lovin' after I realized what an utter jerk he was for stabbing the beast... I mean, anger is one thing, but violence is quite rude.
Another thing I discovered while watching the commentary was that they had to change some of the artwork in the film when they did the special edition. So if you have the DVD and watch the original scene with the Beast getting towel-dried, you'll see this...
...and if you watch the same scene on the extended/special edition track, you'll see this...
Mainly because in that Human Again song on the special edition track, the castle objects tidy his room; whereas in the original film, they're lazy slackers and they don't. Oh, but get this. The DVD has one thing that bothers me. There's a scene on the VHS tape (and, as I've heard, on the version they air on TV) where the Beast stutters -- it's during the scene where he's in the dungeon talking to Belle.
VHS version: "You wanna-wanna stay in the tower?"
DVD version ("original" and special edition): "You wanna stay in the tower?"
Now, I may be off, here, but I think that when a girl has spent 10 years hearing a track where the Beast stutters in that spot, you should not go and take the stuttering out... even if it was an audio flaw. Obviously it annoyed somebody at Disney, and that's why it was changed, but really. Oooh, or maybe they got complaints from a speech-impediment organization. Cuz, you know, complaints are why they changed the wording in the "Arabian Nights" song from Aladdin and changed the sort-of-sexually-suggestive clamshell Little Mermaid box. Oh, heck. I don't even care why they did it, but I think it's dumb. The Beast has practically just laid eyes on a woman who he will soon call "beautiful" and, you know, fall in love with. If he wants to stutter, let him stutter.
And that, folks, is all I have to say about Beauty and the Beast for now... hope you enjoyed. Now go watch it.
(Originally published on my website AlligatorJuice.com on April 12, 2003.)