The Beauty and the Beast live action film was, without a doubt, my most anticipated cinematic release of 2017. Now that I’ve seen the film, I can give you a bit of an insight into some of the new and improved parts of the story.
But beware spoilers! While some of this information has become common knowledge, you shouldn’t read any further unless you’re 100 per cent certain you want to know the little details.
1. Yes, it’s a musical
Director Bill Condon is no stranger to musicals. He wrote the screenplay for the Chicago movie adaptation, and he wrote and directed the Dreamgirls movie adaptation. So, unlike the live action Cinderella film of 2015, Beauty and the Beast was always going to be a “straight-forward, live-action, large-budget movie musical”.
2. Alan Menken is the musical “bearer of the flame”
Lyricist Howard Ashman passed away from an AIDS-related illness just months before the animated Beauty and the Beast film was released in 1994. The original film is dedicated to him. Prolific Disney lyricist Tim Rice collaborated on this new live action film with composer Alan Menken.
Alan Menken was responsible for the music of the original animated Beauty and the Beast, as well as its Broadway adaptation.
“It’s interesting and it’s challenging to come back to the same source material three times,” Menken told Entertainment Weekly. “I am the bearer of the flame to a degree, but I want to be as good a team member with Bill Condon as I can be. So I’m really taking my lead from him as a director, and he’s doing a great job.”
3. We get four brand-new songs
Alan Menken opted not to use any of the additional Broadway music; instead, he wrote four brand-new songs for the Beauty and the Beast live action film.
Belle and her father perform their own versions of How Does a Moment Last Forever, and Celine Dion will cover the song in the movie’s credits. Celine Dion originally performed the title song in a Grammy Award-winning duet with Peabo Bryson.
Broadway veteran Audra McDonald will show off her formidable vocals with an aria performed at the beginning of the film during a special new scene.
Days in the Sun is an ensemble number almost like a lullaby, during which the castle staff (and Belle) reflect on better times and happier days.
The Beast gets his own full song with Evermore. Dan Stevens (Cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey) admits that his singing wasn’t up-to-scratch for this level of performance, but he worked closely with singing coach Ann-Marie Speed from the Royal Academy of Music, and it’s definitely paid off. You’d think he’d been singing his whole life.
Some of your old favourites have also been extended slightly – my favourite is Gaston, which now includes a super-rad hoedown dance break in the tavern.
As for the title song, a cover of Beauty and the Beast will be performed by Ariana Grande and John Legend, to play during the credits.
The soundtrack will be released on Friday, March 10 2017.
4. The curse has new parameters
In the 1994 animated version, the Enchantress’s curse stated that the rose’s last petal would fall on the Prince’s 21st birthday. Which meant he would’ve only been 11 years old when it was placed.
Well, in the Beauty and the Beast live action film, the Enchantress isn’t going around and knocking kids off for adhering to Stranger Danger. The Prince is a fully-grown man when the curse is set, and his age is never mentioned.
It’s also explicitly stated that the castle and all of its inhabitants have been erased from the memories of everyone they know and love. No official word on whether they’re forced to suffer through eternal winter as well, but the anomaly is emphasised by the fact that everyone keeps wondering why it’s snowing there in June.
Thankfully, Emma Watson’s Belle seems to be paying a bit more attention to these things. She questions the castle staff’s loyalty to the Beast when he’s such a jerk, and she pegs that they’ve been cursed rather than assuming that they’ve always been talking household knick-knacks.
While this doesn’t mean that Belle knows exactly how to break the curse, it does help her understand that there are deeper issues at hand, and it’s a key part of how and why she decides to befriend the Beast.
5. She’s a beauty but a funny girl
The opening song of Beauty and the Beast tells us that Belle is “odd”, “funny” and “different” but we’re never told exactly why in the animated film. She seems normal enough, and doesn’t seem remotely bothered by the fact that everyone thinks she’s weird.
In this 2017 movie, Belle reveals how much those comments hurt her. She’s also been reimagined as an inventor, and is depicted showing a village girl how to read – something to which the townsfolk are distinctly opposed.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Emma Watson said of the villagers, “They are deeply suspicious of intelligence. [They’re] really trying to break her spirit and trying to push her and mold her into a more ‘acceptable’ version of herself.”
Acknowledging that she’s been ostracised for being different is another important plot point that brings Belle and the Beast together.
6. Gaston kind of has a reason to be a jerk
That’s a lie. His actions are still unacceptable but give me a minute of your time. In the Beauty and the Beast live action film, Gaston is a captain who has recently returned from war, and he seems to have lost his sense of purpose.
Gaston reveals that pursuing Belle romantically is the only thing that makes him feel like he’s back in combat – it gives him a goal, and her continued refusal only spurs him on. He’s still creepy as heck and I would gladly punch him in the face. However, a villain who believes they’re doing something for the right reasons (however twisted they are) is a much more satisfying character.
7. The mystery of Belle’s mother is addressed
Look, we all kind of assumed that Belle’s mother was dead because she was never mentioned in the movie. And I was OK with that.
In the Beauty and the Beast live action film, Maurice (Belle’s father) is not the same eccentric inventor we’ve already come to know. While he’s able to fix and maybe even construct music boxes, painting seems to be his prevailing passion. He’s also hiding a dark secret about Belle’s mother – something he won’t even reveal to Belle, despite her continued questions on the subject.
Belle’s desire to learn more about her mother leads to an emotional and historically poignant scene that adds depth to her character, Maurice’s character and even gives us another glimpse into the terrible restrictions that stem from the Beast’s enchantment.
8. The movie is kicking goals for diversity
The Beauty and the Beast live action film is getting some serious publicity for including interracial kisses.
In an interview with BBC Radio, director Bill Condon said, “The [Disney chairman] told me that it was the first and second interracial kiss in a Disney movie. That shocked me. I was surprised it hadn’t happened before.”
That statement isn’t quite true; the Disney chairman seems to have forgotten the kiss between Cuba Gooding Jr. and Joanna Bacalso in 2002’s Snow Dogs.
And if we want to get into the whole animated spectrum of Disney movies, Tiana and Prince Naveen shared a kiss in 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, and Pocahontas and John Smith locked lips way back in 1995.
Whether or not the Disney chairman is confused about what the term “interracial” encompasses, there are two prominent interracial kisses featured in this film, and it’s guaranteed to get a massive audience around the world.
Lumiere’s feather-duster lover (renamed Plumette) is played by the gorgeous Gugu Mbatha-Raw. She and Ewan McGregor’s Lumiere share a passionate embrace when the curse is broken.
The other kiss is between Madame de Garderobe (aka the wardrobe played by Audra McDonald) and her husband Cadenza. Madame de Garderobe’s accompanist in human form, Cadenza is a new character who was transformed into a piano during the curse.
Of course, the diversity doesn’t end there. You’ve probably heard that LeFou will be Disney’s first openly gay character. Played by Josh Gad (who voiced the snowman Olaf in Frozen), LeFou is far from the bumbling villainous sidekick we came to know in the animated film.
His motivations and his affections for Gaston are clear throughout the movie. And he’s actually the smarter of the duo this time around, and his new depth of character gives the audience the opportunity to better connect with him.
The Beauty and the Beast live action film will be released in Australian cinemas on Thursday, March 23. It’s a brilliant update for the much-loved classic. Keep an eye out for the many other differences from the original film!
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