If you’re alive, you’ve probably heard that Disney released a live-action remake of their classic, “Beauty and the Beast.” While the reviews have been mixed, it’s making a killing at the box office and regardless of what critics say, fans are in love. And they should be. It’s a lovely rendering of one of the most successful animated features of all time and it boasts a very capable all-star cast. But does it hold a talking candle to the original? The short answer is, “NO! NOTHING COULD EVER TOP THAT AMAZING ACHIEVEMENT IN ANIMATION!”
The original “Beauty and the Beast” was as close to a perfect film as most animated features get. It has drama, romance, comedy, suspense and a dog that’s a footstool. Okay, the other one has that, too, but the animated one is way cuter. Seriously, though, there are a lot great things to say about the new live-action film, but here are 15 reasons why the original remains our favorite.
WARNING: This article may contain spoilers for the live-action “Beauty And The Beast” film.
We know we’re probably going to step on some Magne-toes with this one, but David Ogden Stiers remains the one and only Cogsworth. Stiers was an accomplished voice actor at the time, and he has the range to show it (fun fact: he also voiced the Narrator). His Cogsworth is simultaneously perfect amounts terrified, anxious and dedicated to his job. Plus, it’s very funny when Lumière drags him into “Be Our Guest” and he has to use his clock hands to windshield-wipe salt off of his face.
Conversely and understandably, McKellan plays him much older and much more blustery. He’s never quite as scared or jumpy as he is in the original, and it takes away from the original Lumière/Cogsworth dynamic that was so endearing. McKellan’s Cogsworth and MacGregor’s Lumiére never convince us they’re ever at odds. In the animated version, that’s one of the primary relationships, and it’s the perfect comic relief when things get too tense. It also rooted the age-old culture clash between England and France.
14. JUST ENOUGH SONGS
Bless those extra songs in the live-action version. Bless their heart! Not a single one resonated except for maybe Maurice’s. The Beast’s new song, “Evermore,” is just a meandering, mopey exploration of how he wants to be human again, but oh no… he might not be. One romantic, moody song from a beast that’s supposed to inspire fear is quite enough, thank you. His actions and changing attitude toward Belle are more than enough to indicate to the audience that he’s changing for the better. The song just made it excessively sentimental AF.
Same goes for servants’ “Days in the Sun.” All these characters do from moment one is talk about how they want to be human again. Their single motivation for every single action they take is to help Belle and the Beast fall in love so they can be human again. We did not need a pointless song driving this point home again. It begins and ends at “Be Our Guest.”
13. ONLY ONE FURNITURE LOVE STORY
Okay, let’s just say there was a lot of time spent on whether or not the servants would also find love in the live-action version. In the original, the supporting characters do what they’re supposed to do — support the primary narrative. Yes, it’s fun when Lumière and Plumette flirt around, but that’s partially because we get them in limited doses, and it’s an inside look into the personal lives of household objects.
What’s more, in the original, these objects are largely the comic relief, and that allows the audience to focus more on the most interesting relationship in the movie — Belle’s with the Beast. But the live-action version focuses too much on the plight of the servants and their S.O.s. Since none of the furniture romance is particularly well-executed (see: the Garderobe’s), anytime we have to watch it, we get bored and start wondering when Gaston is coming back. Raise your hand if you groaned inwardly when Plumette revealed her feathers were growing back faster than usual to a worried Lumière.
Joanne Worely’s loony, good-times wardrobe was a tribute to the woman’s storied comedic personality. It is never not funny to watch this big, wooden cabinet lean onto Belle’s bed for girl talk or jump off a balcony with an operatic “Aaaahhhhh!!” She’s kind of like if Lady Olenna were drunk and your best friend. She only has a few scenes, but the pantheon of palace characters would be woefully incomplete without her. Not so in the newer version.
We’re not sure how you waste Audra MacDonald, but “Beauty and the Beast” sure is. Just either have her go from singing half lyrics to snoring in every scene and that’ll do it. Madame Garderobe has more of a backstory, but far less to do. Her semi-humorous romance with Stanley Tucci and the eyeroll-inducing attempt to convince the audience that they might not actually get back together in the end was never anything but an annoying waste of time. And she never jumped off of the balcony! IT’S THE BEST PART OF THE WHOLE BATTLE!!!
11. THERE’S NO PLAGUE
Okay, shout-out to whoever wanted to give historical context to the story about the girl and the magical Beast-man she loves. We appreciate you, seriously, we do. But plague, is not, never has been and never will be, appropriate for a Disney movie. In the original, Belle’s mother goes the way of many Disney mothers — unexplained death (probably childbirth) before the action of the movie commences. It’s a hallowed tradition and if you’re going to deviate from it, you’d better be serving us some “Bambi” level pathos.
Unfortunately, what we did get, was a weirdly creepy and way too real scene where Belle’s visit’s her family’s old apartment only to realize that her mother died of plague. Let’s forget the fact that that damn book could’ve taken them to the Bahamas, it’s still a weirdly sci-fi, “The Walking Dead”-esque moment in the middle of a fairy tale. If there’s a “Snow White and the Huntsman”-type remake of “Beauty and the Beast,” then there’s some room for plague. Not. In. Disney.
10. LEFOU’S LOYALTY
Josh Gad’s interpretation of Lefou was one of the few additions to the original story that both entertained and made sense. As a backstory, having Lefou be in love with Gaston explained why he went along with all those terrible (and boneheaded) ideas. But it also led to a really contrived and unnecessary change-of-heart moment in the final battle. It wasn’t funny and it was way more of that storyline than anyone asked for. While it was great to see homosexuality finally (if tepidly) represented in the Disney universe, from an entertainment standpoint, Lefou’s more fun when he’s a two-dimensional villain.
We’re probably beating this stick with a dead horse, but “Beauty and the Beast” has a complex primary relationship. It doesn’t need another one. It’s already kind of an unwieldy story, especially in the live-action version with the more fleshed-out backgrounds of every other character at work. Lefou is plenty entertaining as a doofy sidekick.
9. THE NEW ENCHANTRESS IS EXTRA
If something’s not broke, Do. Not. Fix. It. This goes double for beloved Disney films. The prologue in the original was exactly how much we needed to see of the Enchantress that places the castle under her spell. Well, okay, that’s not exactly true. It would’ve been a nice bit of closure to have her show up at the end and be all, “See? Was that so hard?” What wasn’t nice? The live-action’s “outcast beggar lady is actually a very powerful (and sensitive) sorceress so be nice to everyone, kids,” warning.
We get it. We got it the first time. We got it in the first prologue and, frankly, we got it the live-action prologue, too. When Galadriel speaks, you listen. It was entirely unnecessary and a waste of good Gaston time to have the sorceress be a kindly person on the fringes reminding us that, all together now, looks can be deceiving. Wait, isn’t there a fairy tale or something about that…?
8. THE PRINCE’S BACKSTORY
The prince’s backstory in the original is just enough to make us curious and fearful at what the Beast is like when the story of the film actually starts. It’s beautifully rendered in stained glass, and it remains creepy and tragic. It’s also remarkably efficient, introducing us to the character of the Beast in under a minute with no more background necessary. He’s a spoiled brat and he pissed off the wrong witch. End of story.
But nooooo, live-action had to go and give him a mean dad to explain why the really wealthy prince in pre-Revolutionary France was haughty and rude to poor people. Sure, it’s heartwarming and well-executed, but the original Beast is just as affecting without the story going to extra lengths to excuse his old behavior. That way, the focal point of the story remains that he changes his behavior, not what tired, modern trope caused it.
7. NO GUN CLIMAX
Okay, this might be nit-picky, but in the animated version, Gaston stalks the Beast with arrows in the final sequence on top of the castle, not a gun. It’s actually kind of weird because he uses a gun to shoot pheasant in the beginning of the movie, so why wouldn’t he use one on the beast at the end? Well, regardless of Gaston’s reasoning, he doesn’t use a gun. He uses arrows, and it makes a difference.
In the live-action version, there’s something really disturbing about a Disney film that features one dude shooting another dude multiple times. It’s really, really violent compared to the original. It’s still Disney, so it’s a gunfight surrounded by dancing plates, but it feels really out of place and decidedly out of step with the Disney brand. We’re not saying we wouldn’t be down with a more realistic, dangerous version of the story, but not bits and pieces here and there.
6. ANGELA LANSBURY
Bless Emma Thompson. Bless her. We love her and there is nothing she can’t do well, but there is one thing she can’t do better and that’s play Mrs. Potts. Angela Lansbury will always and forever be the one, true Mrs. Potts. If you’re new to Ms. Lansbury, she was like a slightly more serious Betty White — just as popular, but solved mysteries and never talked about sex. She was kind of the iconic grandmother of her day, and that made her absolute perfection as a kindly teapot. And frankly, her rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” remains our favorite.
Plus, it’s more fun to watch a teapot when you can disconnect from the fact that they could break if they hopped to hard across the table. Was it just us or was it a little nerve-wracking watching what appeared to be a very realistic piece of porcelain bounce willy-nilly over surfaces that would 100% shatter it under normal circumstances. We’ll take our cartoon fantasy land over that feeling any day of the week, thank you very much.
5. NO VILLAGE/CASTLE HISTORY
Placing the castle deep in the woods with no connection to the surrounding village gives it an air of mystery that contributes to its nature as a magical place. Yeah, it’s a little weird that Belle never would have heard of it before, but there’s a man-beast and a bunch of talking supplies running around. Most early audiences probably assumed that the villager’s unawareness of the castle and its inhabitants had something to do with all the magic running around.
There is absolutely no reason to make the villagers the long-lost relatives and lovers of the castle staff. Also, it’s hella sad to think of Mrs. Potts’ husband aging 20 years while his wife and son remained stuck in time. Additionally, the idea that the servants could have connections to the village was introduced so late in the live-action story that it feels like gilding the lily when it’s resolved at the end. Did Cogsworth need a fishwife? No. He has Lumière for that.
4. THE DANCE
The dance Belle and the Beast share after date night is iconic, no two ways about it. It’s one of the most recognizable images in the movie, if not Disney itself. And it’s just better in the original. There’s something about watching the Beast finally achieve grace and Belle finally be as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside that still gives us a case of the squees. It’s the perfect expression of how far they’ve come in their relationship and it’s so romantic (as romantic as a wolf-buffalo dancing with a young girl can be).
While Emma Watson and Dan Stevens certainly had chemistry, the live-action version of this same scene never achieved anything beyond a pallid imitation of the original. Maybe that’s just the name of the game when it comes to these kinds of remakes that are chained so heavily to the source material. It’s not like Disney would’ve allowed the film to be made without the dance looking as close to the animated version, but Belle and the Beast kind of look like they’re at prom. It’s just not as magical in real life as it is in the cartoon.
3. THE BEAST IS SCARIER
We don’t know what it is, but something about there actually being a human underneath a beast costume makes it less frightening to see in live-action. Maybe because, as adults, we know that’s a dude in a C.G.I. suit, so this probably isn’t a documentary. An animated wolf-buffalo is much, much scarier to a kid than a man in a wolf-buffalo suit. Go fig. Objectively, because he’s animated, his movements and expressions can be a little more exaggerated. The original beast’s highs are higher and his lows are lower. Also, his voice is way deeper. Chills!
Granted, that kind of thing makes the original a little heavier on the sentimentality and a little more dated, but it’s effective when it comes to inciting fear. You’re made of stone if you’re not at least a little afraid for Belle when she goes to the West Wing and the beast roars at her to “GET OOOOOOOOOUT!!”* The live-action version never really gets there (for good reason, kind of. If it had, that movie would’ve been “Beauty and the Revenant.”).
2. IT’S TIMELESS
Classic, animated fairy tales typically age pretty well. When you consider that most Disney cartoons are their versions of stories that are hundreds of years old, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The fact that they’re animated helps, too. Animations never age. Live-action actors do. It’s hard not to feel like “The Godfather” is dated when you watch it and look at a current picture of Al Pacino at the same time.
Plus, the animation in this movie is so good and the story so simple and well-executed that it remains watchable. It is literally a tale as old as time! The live-action version will, eventually, look hopelessly outdated as the actors age out of these kinds of roles and special effects advance beyond where they are now. It’s not that the live-action movie is destined to be forgotten by history, but it won’t be able to achieve the same kind of classic status the animated version enjoys to this day.
1. IT WAS PIONEERING
If you weren’t around when the original premiered, you probably don’t remember the general sense of hullaballoo that surrounded it. That’s kind of an understatement, to be honest. While “The Little Mermaid” put Disney back on the map when it came to animated features, “Beauty and the Beast” was their most sophisticated project to date, and it showed. It was the first animated feature to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award (it lost to “La La Land”), and it was also the first animated feature to receive three nominations for Best Original Song.
It was also the first Disney animated feature to use any kind of computer animation. The Disney animation team partnered with Pixar making use of the latter’s CAPS (Computer Animated Production System) technology. They were able, for the first time, to create a sense of depth in a two-dimensional animated film, famously in Belle and the Beast’s dance scene. While the remake is certainly a work of art in its own right, it was not, and never will be, as groundbreaking.
What’s your favorite thing about Disney’s classic “Beauty And The Beast” film? Let us know in the comments!