By Salena Moran and Evan Penrod | Staff Writers
Managing to hold true to the original storyline while also adding new scenes and songs to enhance the story, Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” successfully revives the classic story for a new generation.
The tale: a cold, pretentious prince (Dan Stevens) and his servants fall under an enchantress’ spell that can only be broken if the prince, in his beastly form, can love another and have another love him in return. An intelligent, headstrong villager, Belle (Emma Watson) discovers the Beast has captured her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) in his castle and bargains with the former prince for her to take her father’s place. With the help of a charming staff and a look into each other’s past, Belle draws the Beast from his loneliness and proves that true beauty lies within.
The scenery, costuming and plot detail enhance both the film’s aesthetic and the spirited charm of the classic Disney Tale. The castle possesses this size and grandiosity that is strikingly similar to the layout within the original film. The live-action version, however, went above and beyond with the tiniest and most intricate details. It felt as though one could actually step inside the castle.
The costuming is very appropriate and includes more traditional, upscale French 1800s attire, especially in the dancing scenes. Belle’s signature blue dress accentuated her free and spirited lifestyle. In the cartoon, her dress was very crisp and clean cut without any sign of wear and tear. However, the film shows a ruggedness and simplicity that accurately resembles a working villager. Moreover, her signature yellow dress took on a lighter, modern feel without losing its traditional charm.
While the cartoon left out important details, the live-action film takes the time to address any story gaps while maintaining the natural and sequential flow of the plot. For instance, the story establishes the loving bond between Belle and her father while also addressing what happened to Belle’s mother.
The storyline also explains why no one has any recollection of the prince or the castle that lies isolated beyond their village. This part of the story is addressed at the very beginning when the narrator explains the effects of the enchantress’ spell with greater detail.
Although the film nearly perfected the costuming, plot and set design, some of the primary flaws stem from the characters and animation. For example, Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) walks on two legs like a small metal human. However, part of the charisma of the original cartoon was that Lumiere hops around, as one would expect of an animated candelabra.
Additionally, the pompous village hunk, Gaston (Luke Evans) did not seem quite right. In a cartoon, it is easy to believe exaggerated features like huge muscular arms and larger than life personalities, however viewing those traits on a real life character make them seem less comical and unimportant. The live-action version seems to put more emphasis on his self-centered ego without giving much in terms of his strength and bulk, which is a staple for the Gaston character.
Gaston’s lackey, LeFou (Josh Gad), looks and sounds accurate to the cartoon. However his part made him seem less like Gaston’s dorky, obedient sidekick and more like an important, well-made character. This version gives him an overwhelming sense of purpose and development, almost as if he should have been the villain instead.
Upon the release of the movie, controversy surrounded Gad’s character and his apparent homosexuality within the film. However, the movie includes no particular scene clearly depicting LeFou as gay, as his character seems to be more comical relief from the seriousness of Gaston’s antics. For instance, LeFou is seen dancing with a woman and makes a comical facial expression when he finds himself dancing with another man. Moreover, he marvels at himself in the mirror after watching Gaston do the same. If one was not aware of the aware of the media hype over his character, they would never really have known.
In terms of design and appearance, the Beast needed more practical makeup effects without the reliance of as much CGI. Some of his movements and characteristics, especially when in the same frame as Belle or another unaltered character, just look unnatural. Time and effort put into applying facial makeup and hair to create the look would have appeared more like a man-turned-beast that looks realistic when pictured with other characters.
While some aspects of the characters and animation did not feel right or suitable, other aspects in plot and setting work in just the right way. Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” was an overall successful attempt at the original version, however it cannot easily replace the beloved cartoon classic.