Film fanatics and friends Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. There has been only one ’10’ so far and the lads have just had their first proper disagreement over Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Wild Strawberries‘. Are they all friends again this week?
With perfect timing ahead of Fred’s trip to Orlando, Florida, Yasser’s choice this week is on of the Disney studios best-loved films.
You can read the entires from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.
To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.
Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
Fred: Week ten is here, Yasser, and I had Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast‘ to watch. It’s the best animated movie ever, in your opinion. Why?
Yasser: Disney was the best at animated movies. At times they were the only studio to churn out beautifully animated movies. After Walt died they lost that magical quality and during the 1980s, Don Bluth’s features were much better than Disney’s
FS: The 1970s and 80s were a barren period for Disney, that is right.
YA: After that shoddy period, they released ‘The Little Mermaid‘, their first fairy tale picture in 30 years, and though I don’t find it particularly spectacular, it was the start of their golden age.
FS: It was like a second golden era with a string of commercial and critical successes. Why is ‘Beauty and the Beast’ your favourite, though?
YA: Originally, I liked ‘The Lion King‘ and ‘Aladdin‘ above it, but they re-released it into the cinemas a few years ago and it was only then that I fell in love with it. It’s an enchanting tale, shrouded in mystery, humour, music, magic, class and charm.
YA: One thing I love is the castle. It’s beautiful.
FS: It was a fairly standard Disney castle, though I’d kill for that library
YA: No. Much more. If you look closely, it was classic 18th Century French architecture.
FS: I get all that – Disney films ALL have those touches – but you didn’t pick this for the castle
YA: No, but along with the Beast (Robby Benson) and the supporting cast, it makes the movie for me. Belle (Paige O’Hara) doesn’t do much for me as a Disney princess. I prefer Gaston (Richard White) as a character, for instance.
FS: Oooo! Controversial.
YA: Not really. He’s a fantastic character. He’s the opposite of the Beast. He’s handsome, popular, and has all the attributes of a hero. The film, though, is about not judging a book by its cover. Gaston versus the Beast is a great example of that contrast.
FS: And Belle?
YA: She’s not a stand-out compared to the rest of the main cast or the majority of the supporting cast. She is a strong character and isn’t conventional for her time and setting, which is very good. But she is flat at the same time. Paige O’Hara doesn’t convey the passion she ought to.
FS: Is she the biggest drawback?
FS: The film was specifically tailored with a view to making a stage show, so the songs are very ‘Broadway’, or Belle’s at least.
YA: Yeah, but there are other songs that are fun and integral to the story.
FS: Absolutely. There are two absolute stand-outs…
YA: ‘Be Our Guest’ and the title song?
FS: Yes. The music is brilliant in the main. It’s almost operatic in that the songs are woven so delicately into the story that I barely noticed they had gone from talking to singing. Disney songs can be a bit cloying but I didn’t find that with these. I liked the songs a lot.
YA: I thought you might.
YA: Other than the music what stood out for you?
FS: I’ve seen the films you mentioned earlier – ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Aladdin’, and ‘The Lion King’ but this was definitely a case of saving the best for last. It’s brilliant. I’ve told you in the past that my three favourite animated movies are ‘Spirited Away‘, ‘Up‘, and ‘Yellow Submarine‘, but I think this pushes ‘Yellow Submarine’ off that list. It might even go ahead of ‘Up’. I still prefer ‘Spirited Away’ though, so don’t piss your pants with excitement.
YA: (laughs) I won’t. What did you think of the Beast?
FS: A case of Disney at it’s best. He was hideous and mean, but there was those twin streaks of humour and humanity bubbling just under the surface. The scene where he’s asking Belle to join him for dinner was one of the non-musical highlights.
YA: Picking up on that, as his humanity started to open up, the tones in the scenes were much brighter. When we first meet him it’s dark, gloomy and creepy. When we see him embracing his loving side, everything gets brighter and the servants clean the castle.
FS: It goes to show you can do all the subtle things in an animated movie that live-action directors get worshipped for doing.
FS: Another great thing, and one you have mentioned, was the supporting cast. There are four main servants – Mrs Potts (Angela Lansbury) and Chip (Bradley Pierce), Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), and Lumiere (Jerry Orbach). Without them the film would have been really missing something.
FS: Chip was a bit of a standard ‘cute’ character but I liked him. Cogsworth was suitably fastidious and pernickety. He was a funny little guy.
YA: Droll at times, in a dry-witted manner.
FS: Yes – very well voiced by David Ogden Stiers. It would have been easy to make Cogsworth quite unlikable but he pitched it just right.
YA: How about Lumiere?
FS: Are you familiar with Maurice Chevalier?
YA: You’ve mentioned him before but not really
FS: He was a French actor who had a relatively successful Hollywood career playing rougish European types in 1930s comedies and musicals. Then, when he was older, he made a niche for himself in the European-set musicals and family movies of the 50s and 60s playing the older man with a twinkle in his eye.
FS: He was wonderful. I am a huge fan. Jerry Orbach, who voiced Lumiere, obviously was too as he channels Chevalier superbly. He steals the film really.
YA: Agreed. He’s a suave mofo. He has a boyish, selfish charm but his intentions are always to help others in an undersanding fashion.
FS: Yes, he has a good heart, but a weak brain and he thinks with his… well… you know.
FS: Which leaves us with Mrs. Potts. I reckon…
FS: … I’d pretty much crawl through a shit-filled tunnel to watch Angela Lansbury read out the telephone directory, so high is my opinion of her. It’s another inspired choice of ‘vocal artist’ – warm, comforting, welcoming.
YA: Crawl through a shit filled tunnel… (laughs) … telephone directory… (laughs)
FS: I love her. She’s one of my favourite actresses. She’s done great things.
YA: Yeah, Mrs. Potts is very warm and mumsy. I think she’s brilliant, just not as good as Lumiere. I love how he and Cogsworth teach the Beast to behave socially.
FS: I also liked Belle, by the way. She picked up the mantle from the classic Disney heroines like Snow White and Cinderella but mixed that ‘princessly’ air with a more modern characterisation.
YA: I loved the script. I thought it was fantastic.
FS: I think so too. The temptation with animated movies is to have a very simplistic screenplay with the odd rude joke or cultural reference thrown in for the adults happy. This was all on a level.
YA: It’s clever, witty and appealing to adults. Did you have any gripes with the film?
FS: I’d struggle to pick anything really. I found LeFou (Jessie Corti) a bit too annoying, but the only other problem, that of the animation not being perfect, is actually part of the film’s charm. It’s probably nostalgia, but hand-drawn cartoons have an appeal that computer generated ones don’t have.
YA: Okay – rate it.
FS: Despite the fact that ‘The Jungle Book‘ has a claim on being the first film I ever saw in the cinema, I don’t remember watching a lot of Disney films as a child. I’ve seen the majority of the classics from 1937-73, but until a few years ago I’d never seen those from the 1990s. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ had the best reputation and it’s easy to see why. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was engaging, charming, funny and touching. Everything about it was top-notch so you have your second 10/10.
Later this week: Yasser goes back to ‘Back to the Future’