Featured Critic; St. Louis, MO
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When Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" hit in 1991, the magic was back, without question. By now, most everyone knows the tale and what it's all about (selfless love and inner beauty via ink & paint cell animation, set to an array of unforgettable tunes). The impeccable musical fairy tale followed the runaway box office and artistic success of "The Little Mermaid" with more of the same, in the best way possible. (Hence, no plot recap necessary here.) Not since the original creative surge of Walt Disney himself (roughly spanning from his studio's first feature "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" to "Bambi" several years later) had Disney Animation Studios experienced this kind of winning, profitable synergy. With "Aladdin" and ultimately "The Lion King", Disney would continue to soar - at least for a while. It was, no hyperbole, one of the great winning streaks in film history. But for me, "Beauty and the Beast" remains the pinnacle.
I saw the film in the theater four or five times back then. For me and the girl I was with at the time, it was, in retrospect, "our movie". Today, the girl has long since moved on, as did I shortly thereafter. But "Beauty and the Beast" remains as timeless as ever (not a speck of 1991 evident anywhere upon it). I reiterate that because it's easy to get cynical about the Disney Marketing Machine, itself a global behemoth that threatens to devour us all. This current 3D re-issue of "Beauty and the Beast" is clearly intended to continue the astonishing box office cash grab of "The Lion King 3D", witnessed in late summer 2011, by utterly milking the 3D craze (while it's still milkable). (Oh, and coming soon? "Finding Nemo 3D"! The hits just keep on comin' at ya!!)

But is a 3D post-conversion the true reason why "The Lion King" attracted audiences and made scads of money as it transformed the number one spot on the domestic box office chart into it's own Pride Rock for weeks on end? Dare I say no, it's most certainly not. Despite periodic widespread availability on DVD and home video for decades, these films benefit from the Big Screen. The Big Screen's immersion and clarity, The Big Screen and the shared audience experience that comes with it. It's how all films should be seen, these especially.

Perhaps for some, the 3D gimmick will get them in the door, but in the end, the classic films are essentially the same. Nothing is lost or gained by experiencing "Beauty and the Beast" in "Disney 3D". Thanks to Disney Animation's masterful use of the multiplane camera when they first made the movie, it was practically 3D from the get-go anyhow. My own children, three and six years old, thought that seeing it in the theater was "in some ways different, some ways the same" as watching it at home. (True and true.) But they were nonetheless thrilled to see it in the theater. For them, everything was bigger, more colorful, scarier, funnier. More magical. No mention, however, of the 3D effects.

But, this is your chance to revisit the film on the Big Screen, and that alone justifies this re-release. After all these years, "Beauty and the Beast" still holds up magnificently. Far more than a youthful nostalgia trip, "Beauty and the Beast" ought to appeal to all of us, from the most ardent of film buffs to the most wide-eyed child. (And if the film buff still has a wide-eyed child inside, all the better!) Although 1991, with it's then-new post-feminism princesses (Oh, the balancing act of indulging a little girl's love for getting dolled up and modern women's newfound social and intellectual independence in a classic Disney framework!) and rudimentary dabbling with computer animation (that crane shot of the title characters dancing still holds up, even if the chandelier almost doesn't) seems as far off as the lands Belle dreams about visiting at the beginning of the story, it remains a song as old as time. And even classic songs can be hits again.

TangledEverAfter.jpg[It should also be mentioned that the new original animated short that precedes "Beauty and the Beast 3D" is a follow-up to Disney's recent crowd-pleaser "Tangled", entitled "Tangled Ever After". It is absolutely hilarious, and almost worth the cost of admission alone.]

- Jim Tudor
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