If you’re a cynical bastard, you might argue that the decisions by major studios to convert some of their biggest hits to 3D and re-release them in theatres is nothing more than a quick money grab. And yes, there is plenty of truth to that. But frankly, it’s a money grab I can get behind because sometimes it is just awesome to see our favorite movies the way they were meant to be seen -- on the big screen. I love STAR WARS and TITANIC and will eat up those upcoming re-releases with giddy abandon. But there’s a special kind of joy that comes from seeing classic Disney on the big screen, and that is why their re-releases will likely succeed even if other studios fail.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, you may recall, was released in 1991 and epitomizes Disney’s Second Golden Age, which began with THE LITTLE MERMAID in 1989 and ended with POCAHONTAS in 1995. It was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture, and over two decades later, it remains a truly magical movie-watching experience. It still looks beautiful, has some of Disney’s most memorable characters -- and possibly the best collection of songs in ANY Disney movie.
Actually, is that true? Let’s take a look at how the “Big Four” songs in BEAUTY stack up against its closest competitors from the Second Golden Age, THE LITTLE MERMAID and THE LION KING:
- BEAUTY: “Belle,” “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast”
- MERMAID: “Part of Your World,” “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl”
- LION KING: “Circle of Life,” “Be Prepared,” “Hakuna Matata” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”
Well, when it’s all laid out like that, it’s not as cut-and-dry as I initially thought. In fact, if someone put a gun to my head, I might go with MERMAID, my personal favorite movie of the Second Golden Age (which sort of renders this whole exercise irrelevant). Nevertheless... re-watch BEAUTY and I defy you not to react with rapturous glee when “Belle” kicks in. Or laugh at the hilarious arrogance of “Gaston,” one of Disney’s greatest villains. Or become filled with happy energy as “Be Our Guest” builds to a crescendo. Or get choked up during that sweeping overhead shot of Belle and the Beast dancing as Mrs. Potts sings the title song. Pound for pound, these songs may elicit the purest emotional reactions of any modern Disney film, and for that reason alone, the film will always be worth the price of admission.
The 3D conversion, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Not sure what happened here, as Disney usually has a pretty good handle on the technology, but it is almost as if they went overboard and infused TOO MUCH 3D this time. Backgrounds and scenery look very nice and layered on occasion, but characters in the foreground just look terrible. The 3D often makes them look unnaturally bulgy and “cut-and-pasted” into the picture. (Compare this to the LION KING re-release, in which the 3D didn’t really add anything to the film, but was more or less unobtrusive.) This is unfortunate because BEAUTY features some of the loveliest traditional Disney animation ever, and the 3D definitely detracts from that.
It does not, however, detract from the overall enjoyment of the film. Watching these classic Disney movies on the big screen remains a joyous, nostalgia-inducing movie-watching experience, and as long as they keep releasing ‘em, I’ll keep seeing ‘em (though, perhaps in 2D). Hail Disney!