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Screenplay: Story by Kelly Asbury, Brenda Chapman, Tom Ellery, Kevin Harkey, Robert Lence, Burny Mattinson, Brian Pimental, Joe Ranft & Christopher Sanders, Animation Screenplay by Linda Wooverton, Story Supervisor by Roger Allers
(Note: This dates back to when screenwriting credits for animated feature, for reasons I'm not completely sure of, were given to the film(s)'s animators, not necessarily those who wrote the screenplay. This WGA rule has since been altered)
Among the Disney Renaissance films, I consider “Beauty and the Beast” to be the best of the group. I know, the common wisdom today is to probably place “The Lion King” in that spot; I suspect that’s probably got a lot to do with the grandiose nature of the story, plus the fact that it was pretty unique and unusual for a Disney film, an original story, even though there’s definitely influences collected from numerous sources, I actually always thought it was, very good, not great.
Especially, when you think animation-wise, “Beauty and the Beast” is really the one that stands out most, especially for its time, this is the legendary production. It’s the first animated feature to get an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, (Back when there was only five films nominated btw) winning for its sensational music, and that was a decade before animation got their own category, and it holds up beautifully today more than most animated films have long since outdated themselves. This is partly because of the films revolutionary animation, being one of the first films to truly use 3-D dimensional animation techniques, especially noticeable during the library scene, and especially on the big screen. (I also recommend the IMAX viewing.)
There are two types of great animated films, those that make you notice that it’s an animated film, and those that make you completely forget that it’s an animated film. This movie succeeds at both. The amazing images and characters, many of which, especially most famously the tracking shot in the ballroom, was impossible in animation, truly making animation a technique that could truly create almost anything that live-action could do. Still though, the movie defies most animation films and instead of just telling a fairy tale with vibrant colors, this movie actually is a great character study between, interesting, and the even bigger key, “smart,” characters.
Think for moment, just how many characters in any animated or regular movie do you ever see read a book? This is great set-up because from here, because knowing she isn’t as shallow as Ariel, or as dumb as Snow White, (come on, accepting an apple from her?!) and can pull through the layers of the beast, and then more interestingly we see the Beast process her trying to understand him and just how this throws him off, but in a good way. At less than 90 minutes in length this film plays longer in your head than it actually does, because the movie is a fuller experience than a typical animated film.
They had great inspiration to begin with though, “Beauty and the Beast” is an ever-evolving fairy tale that continues to be told and retold today, but more directly, the film was directly influenced by Jean Cocteau’s amazing 1946 version of the film, taking and even expanding upon many of the inventions and elements from that film. We now think of a Gaston character as being apart of the story, but that wasn’t invented until Cocteau’s version, and now it’s synonymous with the story, thanks to Disney’s version.
In fact, the story makes more sense in the Disney version, the way the enchanted of the castle and the cursed prince makes the inanimate objects come alive. This was only hinted at in the original, but giving them characters and traits, to match other positions of people within the castle walls, it surprisingly expands the story. And yet, the characters study is between Belle and the Beast, the two characters who are mismatched and thrown together, that eventually fall in love. For all-intents and purposes, this is a romantic-comedy. This is the one animated movie that you can legitimately bring a date to, and have it not be weird. That’s why this was listed on AFI’s list of the greatest romances in film history. (“Lady and the Tramp” also made the list) “Beauty and the Beast” is one of Disney’s greatest of all animated features, one that shows the best of Disney as well as one of the biggest of technical milestones as well, although more than that, it’s just one of the best version of “Beauty and the Beast”.