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On November 22, 1991, Disney unveiled Beauty and the Beast in theaters. The film, a critical and commercial smash, was nominated for six Oscars at the 64th Academy Awards, including best picture. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
In this classic tale, the Beast has a magical mirror that he can look into and see anything in the world that is happening. One doesn’t need a magic mirror to see that everywhere in the world, Disney is going to touch hearts and kindle spirits with this enchantingly splendid animation.
Steeping with magical moments and bursting with vitality, this scrumptiously grand movie will be one of this year’s great performers, and every seventh year hence it will continue to cast its wondrous spells over as-yet-unborn viewers.
Disney’s 30th animated feature, Beauty and the Beast stands at the pinnacle of animated accomplishment, even when weighted against the excellencies of its lineage. In these sterile, technological days when creations of architecture, movies and other splendors are inferior to the classics of past ages, this artisan-crafted masterpiece is perhaps the closest we’ll ever come to a Gothic cathedral.
The fifth classic tale to be animated by Disney — Snow White was the first in 1937 — Beauty and the Beast is a timeless story, here reconstructed and magically energized by screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who has lifted it beyond the filmically constructed dimensions of its storybook structure.
The movie narrative is propelled not only by the sound moral that “beauty is only skin deep” but also, in this marvelous case, its energy flows naturally from the independent fiber of the Beauty, a comely French countrygirl named Belle who takes charge of her own life and doesn’t pine away for a Prince Charming to lift her to her dreams.
Graceful yet spirited, Beauty and the Beast follows a grand and noble story line, but this path is ever respective of the silly side trails and the quirky tributaries that are the special stuff of everyday life. Under directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise’s glimmering guidance, personality-plus is suffused into every frame: Everyday kitchenware bounds to loony life; castles and village streets conjure up emotional reactions, while more issues swirl with contradictory complexity.
The technical work is masterful, with all contributors in harmony with the film’s splendid vision. Highest praise to art director Brian McEntee and his background artistic supervisor Lisa Keene, whose detailed and richly hued scenery conveys with precise understatement the rich tones of the story.
The film’s character creations, from Beauty and the Beast to the multitudes of anthropomorphic utensils, are superbly rounded and golden graced.
Soaring with six scrumptious songs by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Beauty and the Beast steps out in the most rousing musical fashion, each song bursting forth at a teeming moment and each orchestration lifted by visual delights, from Busby Berkeley-styled choreography to grand-scale character sweeps.
Throughout, Menken’s full-blown score thunders and lilts with perfect story pitch. — Duane Byrge, originally published Nov. 11, 1991.
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