Today I saw Beauty and the Beast in 3D. This is the third time I’ve seen the film on the big screen. I saw it in its original release, when I was in junior high, and then on the IMAX screen about ten years ago when the special edition came out.
I love this film. I may love The Little Mermaid and especially Aladdin more, but those three are, collectively, the pinnacle of Disney for me.
A couple of things I noticed this time around:
The animation in the opening number is not up to the level of the rest of the film. In particular, Belle’s face keeps changing shape throughout the number. I assumed this was because the number was one of the first animated, as the video above demonstrates. (The video is from the “Work in Progress” edition of the film that was screened at the 1991 New York FIlm Festival.) Watching it now on YouTube, I think the shortcomings of the animation are amplified by the big screen and the 3D.
That said, the 3D was much better than I expected - especially given the preview we saw for The Phantom Menace in 3D that looked terrible (and I’m not just talking about the content of the film itself). From the first moments, when the opening shot through the forrest reminded me of the genius of the multiplane camera and stained glass in the prologue had depth that made it look real, I knew the 3D would be done right. Most surprising, in this rendition, the ballroom scene with the title song didn’t even bother me. I don’t know if they re-rendered the computer animation to make it blend better, but it just didn’t seem as “sticky-outy” as it usually does to me.
The version of the film used was the enhanced version originally prepared for the IMAX re-issue (with some cleaned up animation and extra details in the backgrounds)… only without “Human Again” (which was a little disappointing, although the song isn’t necessary in the film).
Despite having seen this film dozens (if not hundreds) of time, there were little moments I appreciated that I never noticed before. (The face on the faucet! The bunny head mounted in Gaston’s lodge! The creepy way all the spectators in the final dance don’t move at all!) But mostly, I just reveled in how brilliantly put-together the film is. The music is perfect. The lyrics are perfect. The transitions from songs back into dialogue and vice versa is perfect. Really, there’s not an element I would change in this film.
There are not many films I consider perfect, but this one is pretty high up that list, and getting to see it on the big screen (in any number of dimensions) is a treat. If this is going to be something that happens every 10 years, sign me up for the 2021 screening.