I saw the original Disney version of “La Belle et la Bête” when it hit theaters in 1991, and since then I’ve seen it a few times, keeping the film fresh in my mind. My daughter, of course, was more than happy to see it again, and my son is always excited to wear his 3D glasses.
In Disney’s version of the story, Belle is an odd, book-reading girl living in a small Provencal town with her eccentric father. She uses her books to escape the everyday banality of her life and the lives of those around her that never seem to change. Pursued by the boorish Gaston, who desires her more as a trophy than for any true romantic interest, Belle longs for the fairytale life she reads about in her books.
After her inventor father gets lost on his way to a fair, Belle’s life changes when she retraces her father’s steps and finds herself at the Beast’s castle, where her father is held captive. Exchanging herself for her father, she begins to learn the castle’s secrets as she is given free run of the building, except for the west wing, where the Beast’s lair is located.
The enchanted denizens of the castle try to bring Belle and the Beast together, but the Beast’s raging temper causes Belle to break her promise and flee into the woods. She doesn’t get far before encountering a pack of wolves. The Beast shows up just in time to save her, but he collapses after fighting the pack off.
Belle returns him to the castle and in the process of caring for his wounds sees through his beastly facade. The two grow together as Belle’s father attempts to rescue his daughter from her imprisonment. Because Belle is missing her father, the Beast lets her use a magic mirror and she sees that her father is sick and collapsed in the woods. The Beast allows her to go to her father and take the mirror to look back.
Back in the village, Gaston has hatched a plot to threaten Belle’s father with being committed to the asylum to force Belle into marrying him. In an attempt to prove that her father is not crazy, she uses the mirror to show the townsfolk that the Beast is real, but this only serves to whip them into a frenzy of fear and hatred for the monster.
At the castle, the Beast feels the loss of love and that pain has taken his will to fight. Only the enchanted furnishings stand by to defend the castle against the coming mob.
Feeling responsible for the mob now set to destroy the Beast, Belle returns to help him. Her return gives the Beast the will to fight back.
Disney’s telling of “The Beauty and the Beast” is as charming as it ever was. The addition of 3D lends little to the story, however. In the few places where 3D could have been exploited for some kind of enhancement to the viewing experience, the results are less than effective. The end result of adding 3D to this kind of animation is the same as looking through a View-Master. There are even a few scenes where the process of adding 3D has made the animation suffer.
The kids, of course, enjoyed the chance to see “Beauty and the Beast” on the big screen, but I think they would have enjoyed it just as much without the glasses.