By Cameron Hawkins
Disney is famous for making animated versions of fairy tales about princesses like “Cinderella.” Disney does make other films that have nothing to do with princesses, but when it comes down to it, the princesses are their most well-known characters.
As I said in my review of the new live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” is widely regarded as the best Disney film ever made. Personally, I disagree. I think Disney princess film “Beauty and the Beast” takes that title.
Now, I don’t want to make this a comparison between “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” or deny how great that film really is. However, I do want to make my point on why “Beauty and the Beast” is the superior film.
Also, while this is subjective, “The Lion King” down to its plot point is “Hamlet” with lions and it did not get nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Meanwhile “Beauty and the Beast” did, and at a time when there were only five films chosen for the category. Take that as you will. Nonetheless I think I have an argument as to why the tale as old as time is the best Disney film.
Story Spoilers Ahead
“Beauty and the Beast” is based off the French fairy tale of the same name. In the Disney take of this tale a young woman named Belle (French for beauty), lives a normal life in her village. One day her father Maurice leaves for the market and winds up at a seemingly-vacated castle where he is captured by the Beast, the castle’s prince who has been transformed by an enchantress.
Belle finds her way to the castle and learns that her father is held prisoner there. The Beast appears as Belle tries to free Maurice from the cell and tells her that her father trespassed so he is to stay a prisoner. Belle offers to take his place, but her father declines. When saying goodbye to her father she pushes him out of his cell and takes his place.
Belle remains at the castle and slowly befriends the Beast with the help of the Beast’s servants, who were turned into household items by the enchantress. Even though she is technically his prisoner, Belle progressively begins to fall in love with the Beast.
Later in the film Belle finds out about the rose left by the enchantress and the spell she cast upon the Beast. To break the spell he must love and receive love in return before the last petal falls.
Back in the village Maurice seeks help from Gaston, the village jock who wants nothing more than to marry Belle, even though she has denied him numerous times. Maurice tells of the castle where Belle is held captive and about the Beast who lives there. Gaston thinks Maurice is old and crazy and bullies him.
At this point Beast shows Belle a magical mirror that allows her to see whatever she wishes. She asks to see her father and sees the horrible things that Gaston is doing to him. Beast allows Belle to leave the castle to save her father and to take the mirror with her to remember him by.
Belle ends up using the mirror to show Gaston that the Beast is real, which leads Gaston to go to the castle to kill the Beast. After the fight against Gaston, the Beast is dying from a stab wound. Belle tells him that she loves him just as he dies and the last petal falls. The spell breaks and he turns back into a handsome prince. And like most fairy tales, they live happily ever after.
Still With Me?
Now I know you’re wondering, why is this the best Disney film? Well, there are numerous reasons as to why, but one big reason is Belle.
In most of the Disney princess films that came before this one, the princess would be nice and pretty. That’s about it. Also, at some point they would be rescued by a prince. Boring.
Belle is a completely different story. She tells the perfect physical specimen of the village (Gaston) that she will never marry him because they wouldn’t work together. She sacrificed her own life for her father’s. She fell in love with a Beast because of his personality and not because of the way he looked. In the end of the film, she is the one who saved the Beast. The woman saved the man. The village girl saved the prince. She is a well-developed character.
But it isn’t just Belle. It’s the way the story is told. In the beginning of the film it’s portrayed that Beast is the villain. But when progressing through the story you find out that he is the victim, whether he deserved it or not, and you feel sorry for him. You can tell he is angry, but on the inside he’s also sad, regrets the mistakes he made, and wants to better himself. This is an effective way to tell the story as well as develop Beast’s character.
The character of Belle, the many other charming characters, the fact that the film is a musical (with arguably the most memorable Disney scene and song of all time to bat), puts “Beauty and the Beast” ahead of its time and makes it just as charming today as it was over 20 years ago. Innovation like that seen in this film wasn’t seen again until 2013’s “Frozen.” The implication of strong female roles, how people should view others, and the superb storytelling is what makes “Beauty and the Beast” the brilliance that it is.
This is my philosophy on film: a film’s objective, first and foremost, is to tell a story. “Beauty and the Beast” has the best story of any Disney film.
Cameron Hawkins is a Journalism student at the University of Nevada, Reno. He hopes to have a career in Film Journalism writing about news and reviews in the industry. He is also a saxophonist who has played for 12 years and is a member of the University of Nevada Marching Band as well as the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music Fraternity. In his free time Cameron likes to watch movies, play video games, and read comic books.