By Nikki Jamieson
In less then a month, the live-adaptation of Beauty and the Beast will hit theatres.
Although critics may say that Disney is merely making an adaptation of an adaptation to begin with, just trying to re-cash in on the success of the 1991 animated film, there is no denying that there is a certain level of excitement as the premiere date gets closer. After all, for myself and countless others, this represents the relaunch of a story near and dear to our hearts.
Based on the fairytale of the same name, a well-worn copy of the film could be found near the VHS player in my house growing up. That soon got replaced by a DVD copy and, much later, a Blu-ray copy.
So yes, I am looking forward to the film. But at the same time, there is also that little voice inside of me that whispers, well what if they get it wrong?
Nostalgia factor aside, it is entirely possible. The animated film won many awards, including Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, and Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score and Best Original Song.
It had featured an iconic lead character who showed that you can be smart and brave with your head in the clouds, all while saving your prince and twirling around in a ball gown and reading a book. The main male lead was more then one-dimensional, showing off a wide variety of emotions. It introduced a cast of characters that, while providing some comic relief, had actually helped to move the story along. Parts of the movie wouldn’t have work if those characters weren’t in it, so the story writers did great work there.
And who can forget the ballroom scene? That stunning piece of animation that must have been so hard to pull off but came out just perfect. And let’s see a show of hands over who has not, at one point in their life, memorized the lyrics to Be Our Guest or performed the titular song at a school band concert?
In other words, it has a lot to live up to.
But with that said, while the animated version is considered to set the standard for all its successors, a lot of other versions have done a good job as well. For example, La Belle et la Bête, a 1946 black and white film, has been considered a classic of French cinema and is quite good, even if you do need subtitles to understand what they are saying.
And this is not the first time Disney has done a live-action remake; both Cinderella and the Jungle Book were remade quiet recently, and both of them turned out wonderfully.
But they aren’t Beauty and the Beast.
In both of the former two films, the stories were fairly straight forward and a fair bit could be changed while leaving it recognizable. In the Cinderella remake (fair warning, spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen them), there was more interaction between her and her stepmother and stepsisters and she met her prince early, while I don’t remember the honey scene being in the animated version of Jungle Book.
But for both those films, they could take a bit of liberty. For example, in Cinderella, the story was she was put to work as a maid by her evil stepmother and sisters, a ball is announced, she worked hard to be ready to go to the ball, said steps ruined her dress and stop her from going, fairy godmother to the rescue, she goes to the ball, meets and leaves the princes and a glass slipper, prince goes searching, stepmother locks her in her room, she gets out, the shoe fits and it’s happily ever after. The plot itself is simple, so the story can be fleshed out and things added with it still being recognized as the original animated movie’s live adaptation.
With Beauty and the Beast, that will be a lot harder. To try to sum up the animated film; prince is mean to a beggar, beggar turns out to be a witch and curses prince and servants with a time limit, Belle is introduced, her annoying suitor is introduced, Belle is considered odd and her father crazy, father leaves to a fair, takes wrong turn and ends up in castle, get imprisoned by Beast, Belle takes father’s place, Belle snoops around castle, gets scared by Beast and flees, gets attacked by wolves, Beast saves her but is injured, Belle takes Beast back to castle to heal, father tries to convince people to help him save Belle but no one believes him, annoying suitor plots, Belle and Beast become friends, servants arrange date night, Beast shows Belle a magic mirror to see her father, but father is lost and sick in the woods, Beast tells Belle to go and find him, she does, Beast is sad, annoying suitor shows up to put father in crazy house to force Belle to marry him, Belle shows people father was telling truth via mirror, annoying suitor gets people riled up and goes to kill Beast, Belle and father follow, people attack castle, annoying suitor attacks Beast, Belle appears and Beast regains will to live, annoying suitor stabs Beast and falls to his death, Belle tells dying Beast she loves him, curse is broken and happily ever after.
Insert deep breath here.
So yeah, not a lot of wriggle room to add stuff, and you can’t really take much, if anything, out without distorting the plot.
But you can’t really create a new movie line by line of an old one. In addition to the many copy-right issues involved, what would be the point? You might as well then just re-release the original film. Not to mention that the animated film is a musical, and given how Jungle Book incorporated its two big songs into the live action film, we can expect a lot of singing.
The hype leading up to the live adaptation of Beauty and the Beast has literally been years in the making. We have seen the snippets, we have seen the trailers, we have heard the songs, we have seen who has been cast and we have heard countless rumours about the film. And with the exception of the doll bearing an unfortunate resemblance to a certain much-hated Canadian popstar rather then the lead actress Emma Watson, everything is looking really good. Amazing even.
Plus the original Belle, Paige O’Hara, had offered to help Watson with the singing part of the role and Susan Egan, who first played Belle in the broadway adaptation, said that Watson’s casting was perfect only adds credibility to the film.
But we have all been victims of the hype that comes along with movies. And despite their tremendous success with live-action remakes such as Maleficent, Cinderella, Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland, Beaty and the Beast is going to be the true test. If they can pull it off, and pull it off right, then we can breath a sigh of relief and rejoice, because we will then know that other films in Disney’s live-action remake line-up, such as Mulan (due out next year), The Little Mermaid, Dumbo and the Lion King, are in good hands.