9 Reasons Why the New “Beauty and the Beast” is Better Than the 1991 Original
I know, such a crazy notion, but as a die-hard fan of the original 1991 animated classic, as a young woman who adored Belle and looked up to her as a young girl, and as someone who loves Disney, I truly believe that while the cartoon classic is phenomenal, the new live-action reimagining is astoundingly better. Here are my reasons why:
In the original I always had SO MANY QUESTIONS. Mainly–how in the hell did a village less than a few miles away not know that a giant castle that once was home to a wealthy and powerful Prince was RIGHT THERE? Who was the Prince ruling over if the villagers had no clue this place and this beast existed? Why were the servants cursed if they weren’t the ones who turned the old woman away? Why was the Prince so cold-hearted, arrogant, and shallow? The prologue amongst other scenes in the 2017 film address all these questions.
We learn that the enchantress placed a spell on the villagers to make them forget about the Prince and everyone in the castle. This explains how no one knew it was there, and also the sense of lawlessness in the village, because if their ruler–the Prince–vanished, and no one remembered him then whose in charge? Gaston? No wonder it’s a mess there.
We also learn why Beast is so cold-hearted, we learn his mother died when he was young and his father was emotionally abusive, and raised him to be a spoiled, arrogant, shallow shell of a man. We also learn that the servants witnessed the emotional abuse of this child and did nothing to stop it–deeming them worthy of punishment for being so cowardly and selfish as to not help the Prince when he was young.
Now someone asked me why the hell Chip and the dog were cursed too, they didn’t do anything. My theory is the curse was really only taking effect inside the ballroom, all the servants were in there for the ball, and in the opening sequence we see Chip running in to see what’s the matter and Mrs. Potts running after him–terrified. I believe she sensed the danger in the ballroom, and was trying to save Chip from meeting the same fate as the rest of them, and ultimately–she failed. The Maestro and Madame de Garderobe’s dog was in the ballroom as well, so I guess he was just unlucky also.
We also learn that Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts had spouses who must’ve been away from the castle when the spell was cast, causing them tragically (at least in Mrs. Potts case) to be forgotten by their loves.
2. Belle the Feminist Activist
It was never made clear in the cartoon film that it wasn’t just ‘odd’ that Belle liked reading it was ‘odd’ that a low-born woman in 18th century France even COULD read. It wouldn’t occur to children (it certainly didn’t to me) that her reading in public is practically illegal and worthy of public shame. In the cartoon it was just all ‘lol books are lame,’ In the live action not only does Belle not have a town bookshop to go to (because seriously, why would a town of mostly illiterate people who hate reading have a bookshop) she is merely friends with the Priest who owns less than a dozen books. THAT IS ALL SHE HAS. And then she teaches another young girl how to read and is publicly shamed for it, and still doesn’t back down, because she believes that women deserve the same rights as men.
In the beginning sequence of the town, we literally see boys marching into school while the girls are stuck doing the wash. Belle also refuses to waste valuable reading time on the laundry–so girl INVENTS A WASHING MACHINE!
When Belle gets to the castle, she tricks the Beast into taking her instead. She tries savvy ways to escape. She never flings herself onto the bed and cries like in the cartoon. She fights every damn second.
In the end she doesn’t even change out of her ballgown to go save her father, she just hops on her horse and goes.
Belle was ALWAYS strong, but this 2017 Belle is formidable and a force to be reckoned with.
3. Tragic love
In the 1991 film, the wardrobe was a goofy character there for laughs, as was Plumette. Also, Lumiere and Plumette’s relationship in the cartoon was creepy and borderline sexual harassment. It was pure lust. In this version, they are madly in love and Lumiere clearly cares about her so much.
We also see Madama de Garderobe and Maestro Cadenza (a brilliant new character) who are also madly in love, but unlike Lumiere and Plumette can’t even be with one another during the curse due to the stationary limitations as the objects they’ve been cursed to be. By the time Madame finally makes her way downstairs to be with Maestro it is too late, the curse is taking away their life. The moment when Lumiere realizes he has lost Plumette, and where Maestro realizes he has lost Madame, add a heart-breaking very raw and real layer to the story. It’s not just about Belle and Beast, these servants aren’t just funny objects that talk, they were people too. They had a life and loves and that was stolen from them just as it was the Beast.
4. Papa and Belle’s Motherless Backstory
In the cartoon, Belle’s father is simply a goofy character. He’s a blithering idiot who makes pointless inventions. In this version, he is an artist who had to leave his plagued wife behind in Paris in order to save their only daughter. We see him live with the pain of this everyday. We see him and Belle have a beautiful, genuine relationship. We see him fight whole-heartedly for Belle. We see him give her courage and strength to never back down from who she is.
And we learn something that the cartoon NEVER gave us–we learn of Belle’s mother. Lost to the plague when Belle was a babe, with nothing but a rose-shaped rattle to remember her by, that her Father captured in a painting. Explaining why Belle always asks for one. We learn that Belle–like her father and mother–is willing to sacrifice everything for the ones that she loves.
5. Classic Fairytale Homage
While the cartoon held almost no remnants of the original fairytale written over 500 years ago, or the original French film made in the 40s, the 2017 version pays homage to both.
Belle asking for simply a rose from her father’s travels, as well as Beast and his servants preparing Maurice a fire and dinner when he arrives at the castle, but Beast only growing angry when Maurice steals the rose–is taken directly from the pages of the fairytale.
We also see another fun easter egg reference to the french film: when Maurice walks up to the door–he sees the front lantern is being held by what looks like a human arm made of stone, which in the French film, was an incredibly iconic scene when Belle walks through the dungeon to find her father.
6. A Real Antagonist
Cartoon Gaston is again, a 2D character there to provide some conflict at the end. The 2017 version shows him as the epitome of prejudice, hatred and sexism. He expresses many times throughout the film the the sees Belle as prey for him to hunt. He leaves Maurice for dead in the wood. The lyrics of the mob song were even changed to include his verse “but I know they all will follow, for in times like this they do just as I say.” Gaston is the scariest Disney villain because people like him exist in real-life. Gaston and his angry mob of blind-followers provide a tangible conflict outside of the curse that the cartoon simply did not provide.
7. A Shared Love of Reading
It never made a damn bit of sense in the 1991 cartoon and the Broadway musical adaptation–that Beast was illiterate. If ANYONE during the time could read it sure as hell would’ve been the wealthy Prince. All aristocracy could read and most men knew how to read a little. So yeah, a Prince could read.
So the fact that he and Belle share a love of reading adds and element to their friendship bred romance that didn’t exist prior to this reimagining.
8. New Music
What would Beauty and the Beast be without those iconic numbers like: ‘Belle,’ ‘Gaston,’ ‘Be Our Guest,’ and of course, the title song–made famous by Angela Lansbury– ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ When Broadway adapted the cartoon film years ago, they added some songs of their own, such as the Broadway-Buff-Beloved number– ‘Home.’ So naturally it would’ve been easy for the writers and directors of this film to just buy the rights to those songs and call it a day. Instead we got 5 gorgeous new numbers, and 1 new reprise. We got the opening ‘Aria,’ sung at the Prince’s beginning ball by Madame de Garderobe, we get ‘How Does a Moment Last Forever,’ sung by Maurice, singing about remembering his late wife. Then we later get the Montmartre of this song sung by Belle as she recalls the lost ‘Paris of her childhood,’ in an all new scene where her and Beast use a magic book to travel to the attic where she lost her mother. We get ‘Days in the Sun,’ where we hear from the servants and the pain they feel as well living under the curse. We get, ‘Evermore,’ the torrid, angst-filled lamenting ballad Beast sings when he let’s Belle go. And lastly, we get a never before heard reprise of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ sung by Mrs. Potts ( Emma Thompson) at Belle and Beast’s wedding. These news songs add more passion to the film. (Evermore is my personal favorite)
9. Gay Lefou
It’s about damn time. Cartoon Lefou is definitely alluded to being in-love with Gaston, but Josh Gads blatantly homosexual portrayal was brilliant, and as a member of the queer community–made me so happy.
Yes, in ‘Frozen’ we got the one throw-away joke about Oaken being gay, but it was 0.5 seconds long and barely delved into. In this 2017 film, Lefou makes many sexual innuendos towards Gaston, publicly cuddles Gaston, and in the end dances happily with another queer fellow at Belle and Beast’s wedding, and this is an amazing step forward for the Disney franchise to start having openly queer characters in their films.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT! My 9 reasons why the 2017 Beauty and the Beast is better than the 1991 original. I still love the original and it will always have a fond place in my heart–but when movie nights of the future come round, I will opt to put on the 2017 version instead, and experience a Tale as Old as Time, retold for a new generation.