Once Upon A Review : Beauty And The Beast(2017)

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this page was the idea of it growing to feature other writers and fandoms that I might enjoy but might be too busy to write about. Thus, we have our guest writer, Megan King to take care of the Disney reviews…so without further ado :

*Mild Spoiler Alert*

 
I want to go on record stating that I was just shy of 6 years old when Beauty and the Beast released on November 22, 1991. It was a true cinematic adventure for a 5-year-old girl who desperately wanted to grow up to be a Princess. It caught my attention like no other Disney movie previously had, because here was a girl like me- a girl who loved to daydream, who loved her books (albeit at 5 years old I was WAY more into coloring books than trying to read), and who’s upbringing was considered a little unconventional, being the child of divorced parents in a time when divorce was not as commonplace as it is 20 years later. Here was a common girl with big dreams and an equal intellect who, despite unfortunate circumstances, found romance, love and (most importantly to my 5-year-old mind)- became a Princess. Belle was truly a critical part of my foundation as a person. So believe me when I say that going into the 2017 live rendition of Beauty and the Beast, I had high expectations for what this film should and should not be, and equally what it should and should not include. While I could ramble on and on about all the things I absolutely adored about this movie, and the few things I thought interesting (though not bad!), I have to keep this concise otherwise none but the most diehard of Disney fans will read. Allons-y!

 

Imagine my delight as the Beast’s beautiful chateau is pictured at the opening instead of Cinderella’s castle. I squealed and repeatedly smacked my BFFs’ arm in excitement, because I have a serious distaste for Cinderella and anything to do with her (rooted in my childhood incapability of finding anything Aurora in lieu of Cinderella). I got shivers, and the 5-year-old in me was hooked on the cinematic beauty that is Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast. Condon truly kept to the very heart of everything that this story entails. The movie unfolds almost scene for scene, with a few changes along the way. Kept are the iconic musical number in which we see Belle (Emma Watson) in her village, and her odd role within it. Changed, however, is her role from the dutiful, daydreaming daughter of the town’s eccentric inventor into one who is a free thinking, educated and independent young woman, daughter of the town artist. Her new development truly reflects the independence of women today and subliminally speaks to how the role of women today has changed and is further evolving- going from a society where women reading and having ideas is shunned into one where it is welcomed. Maurice’s (Kevin Kline) character becomes a little less eccentric himself into someone caught in a sad, romantic past he cannot entirely escape from.

 
Belle and Maurice aren’t the only two characters who have changed. Gaston’s (Luke Evans) character has developed from a man whose entire character was based in small-town naivety and egoism into a true bully and brute, someone who has seen the world through war, and has been left marked because of it. He has been left bloodthirsty with serious anger issues. With LeFou (Josh Gad), we have a realistic explanation for his enchantment with Gaston.

 
The Beast (Dan Stevens) hasn’t changed much as far as his character behaviors go, however we discover the basis for his emotional instability- an emotionless father, and a mother who died while her son was young. Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and Plumette all did not deviate from their original characters, either, with the exception of Cogsworth losing his sass. While I didn’t catch the lack of his dramatic flair the first time I viewed it at the Thursday night sneak peek, I definitely noticed it lacking the second time I saw the movie when I took my children.
There were a few new characters, as well- Pere Robert (the village priest) and Maestro Cadenza.

The enchantress was given a larger role in the new film, becoming a watcher of the town and castle she enchanted with her curse, seeming to have more invested in the area than just a removed punishment. What, truly, is her connection to the area they resided in, or the royal family she signaled out? Why did she pick this Prince to punish for his transgressions, shallowness, and selfish ways? Was it something he did, or his father? Madame Garderobe also took a more prominent role in the movie than she had in the animated film, due to her relationship with Maestro Cadenza.

 
As a whole, the village was a true epitome of a small town- everyone knew everyone (and the business that went with each individual), they were all like-minded due to their close, small proximity, and were stand-offish if not downright unwelcome to the idea of change and forward thinking, as made apparent when Belle tried to teach the young girl to read. Did anyone else notice how the village, whom had probably spoken pretty badly of their monarch due to high taxes for his lifestyle, immediately welcomed and rejoiced at his return (and the return of their memories) when the spell was broken? This same town also never gave a second thought to the man they had just lost, the man who they had raised up, praised, and envied. Basically- these hoes ain’t loyal. Good for Belle to get out of that, because how stagnant and crippling a community, where they judge and tear each other down so freely, a community where leaders and role models are forgotten so easily. Might I add here that Stanley (of the Tom, Dick, and Stanley trio, played by Alexis Loizon) was an unexpected delight and personal surprise favorite in the movie, because YAS QUEEN during the famous battle for the castle.

Stanley (Alexis L)I

When it comes to the storyline, I was delighted that it kept true to its’ beginnings. I was also delighted to discover more of Belle and the Prince’s backstories- why Belle was in that village, how the Beast was turned into who he was. While the movie lacked the impromptu, surprise wedding celebration, we did see the monstrosity that was underneath Gaston’s glamor when he left Maurice for dead in the woods, prey to the wolves. We saw how and why the Prince was raised to be such a shallow, self-serving Prince. We discovered the heartache that Maurice kept from his daughter, and why he chose to keep her in the safety of a small village. But was physical safety worth her mental and emotional well-being? The visuals that went along with the story were absolutely, in a word, breathtaking. It was enough to move one to tears (and I did cry). The color, the beauty- both simple and extravagant, were dead on the mark of the time period the movie was set in, albeit an ideal, fantastical period (for it definitely lacked anything visually ugly that would have been true of the time). And the ballroom left me utterly speechless, whereas I had been engaged in singing (and sometimes speaking) along with the movie. The emotions of the movie were truly moving, truly stirring.

 
The new score for the movie was absolutely glorious, too. You can hear the emotional ride that the movie goes on in the soundtrack alone (which I have listened to almost obsessively since I last watched the movie, and am currently listening to). We were given the old favorites, given new life: Belle, Gaston, Be Our Guest, Something There, and Beauty and the Beast. Left out was a relatively unknown To Be Human Again, and we gained three new wonderful, moving songs: How Does a Moment Last Forever, Days In The Sun, and Evermore. I just want to ask- how did we ever live without Evermore as part of the original? The song occurs after the Beast lets Belle go back to her father, and truly epitomizes the love and loss the Beast feels for her, knowing he did the right thing by her while simultaneously coming to terms with the things he’s done, the things he feels, and the future he thinks he will have without her. It is a sad, powerful score of love, loss, and hope. I get chills every single time I hear it.

 
Overall, this movie was- for me- the movie of the year. It is definitely everything that I had hoped and prayed for it to be, and more. Other than wishing Ian McKellen and Bill Condon had kept more of Cogsworth’s sassiness and sarcasm (Because who wants to live without lines such as “If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it!” and “Oh the usual things- flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.”). 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is truly a movie for all ages, a neo-classical addition to the trademark tradition of magic that Disney is famous for. I believe that had there been the chance, Walt himself would have given the Mickey-eared stamp of approval.

 
Happily Ever Yours, Megan King

Once Upon A Review : Snow White

My friends, one of the things I wanted this site to become was a place for people to come and post their own writings and thoughts. This segment is the first part of that. Megan King came to me a while ago with the idea of covering more of the Disney films. I love everything Disney but from a news/journalistic perspective I typically lean more towards the Marvel and Star Wars side of that spectrum. Megan, being my stubborn and resilient friend sent me an email with an entire article on Snow White and an entire plan for a series of reviews. Thus, Once Upon A Review was born. She plans on taking us on a trip through Disney history and that begins with Snow White. So, without further ado, I present: Once Upon A Review

-Vance

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)

  • The first Disney princess
  • Walt Disney company’s first full-length cel animated feature film, meaning each frame was hand-drawn
  • Cast-
    • Adriana Caselotti (Snow White)
      • Only ever notably played Snow White
      • First woman to be named a Disney Legend for her voice acting, awarded in 1994.
    • Lucille La Verne (Evil Queen Grimhilde)
    • Harry Stockwell (Prince Ferdinand)
    • Roy Atwell (Doc)
    • Pinto Colvig (Grumpy & Sleepy)
    • Otis Harlan (Happy)
    • Scotty Mattraw (Bashful)
    • Billy Gilbert (Sneezy)
    • Eddie Collins (Dopey)
    • Moroni Olsen (The Magic Mirror)
    • Stuart Buchanan (Humbert the Huntsman)

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was the first full-length feature film from the Walt Disney Company, and was the first-ever cel animated film ever in motion picture history. Prior productions had been limited to Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony shorts. Snow White had a budget of $250,000 – ten times the budget that a Disney short required. Compare that to Walt Disney’s latest Disney Princess movie, The Princess and the Frog, which had a budget of $105 million.

Coming into this movie, I try to keep an open mind and let all my old prejudices fall behind- like how I’ve always thought Snow White’s voice was like fingernails on a chalkboard. The basic elements between Walt Disney’s version and the Brother’s Grimm remain intact- the princess & the queen with her magic mirror, the huntsman and the dwarves, and the queen’s jealousy and disguise, the apple, the glass casket, and the prince who loves her.

However, there are notable differences. The Walt Disney version involves much more magic and superstitions. The Queen in the movie involves herself in black magic, which is not mentioned in the original story, and rather than use many disguises she only needs one. The Prince appears in the beginning of the movie while Snow White is cleaning the castle rather than appearing in the end to carry away the glass coffin, setting the cinematic tone for princess stories and love at first sight.

While watching this movie, I can’t help but think about how, despite Snow White being a classic Disney movie, there are many things within the movie that are outdated and certainly can’t be a good influence for children today. The Queen being preoccupied with her vanity to the point of being more than willing to murder her stepdaughter in order to secure her attractive supremacy isn’t a message that is healthy to today’s children, specifically those who idolize princesses. Snow White intrudes into an unknown house, making herself at home without regard for the owners’ wishes, despite her good intentions. Then there are the comments, observations and general nonsense that comes from Grumpy that are drenched in male chauvinism. And perhaps it’s just me, but I also felt that Snow White’s face was remarkably inexpressive. She seemed to wear one facial expression almost the entire movie, due to the lack of detailing on her face. There is only so much one can do with the basics and some rather overwhelming spots of blush, I suppose.

Midway through the movie we get a deeper look into the dwarves’ lives, and we learn more about how their dynamic works. We see the group singing and dancing and generally having a grand old time before coming to blows over a solitary pillow. Honestly, I’d probably come to blows over a pillow, too. About the same time, the Queen discovers the huntsman’s betrayal, and we see her jealousy and hate transform her into an ugly old woman, and see how the pursuit of her need to be the fairest in the land ultimately leads to her demise. I have to say, I find the Queen as the old woman much more entertaining than her Queenly self. She seems to really get into the character of being someone else, and a certain ghastly joy comes over her as she sets out to kill off the competition.

Overall, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves deserves it’s place among the Disney classics, and Snow White herself her spot among the official Disney princess lineup. It’s a classic that every kid should see at least once in their lifetime, if nothing else but for the experience of it.

 

Now let me tell you how I really feel, now that I’m done being objective. This movie has fantastic scenery. You don’t get this kind of detail work in today’s animation. It really is a lost art, something that is simplified today, which is a crying shame. As far as the characters goes- the Evil Queen and Snow White herself have about as much character development as glass, meaning it’s really transparent and not a lot to it. The Evil Queen is a crazy jealous witch (literally), and Snow White is a teenage ninny who thinks that the world will be okay as long as she has her Prince. The huntsman and the dwarves have way more character development to them. The huntsman is a conflicted individual, having love for the princess but filial duty to his Queen. The dwarves, as well, are a more complicated sort, showing a broad range of emotions as they deal with Her Royal Highness, Princess Home Intruder. Seriously, who just barges into a home because a bunch of animals tells them it’s okay? Yes, I realize I’m talking about a fairy tale character here, but it’s no wonder the Evil Queen got to her in the end if she’s taking advice from woodland creatures.

Moving on. I loathe Snow White’s voice. It’s something that canines have absolutely no problem hearing, and in fact- maybe that’s why the animals could understand her; because she was speaking at a decibel that no actual human speaks at. The idea that one can meet her True Love and it be love at first sight, and have that seamlessly be a “and they lived happily ever after” ending is ridiculous. It’s also a topic that has been touched on several times in the last decade by Disney movies- Enchanted, Brave, and Frozen all discussing these subjects. I also want to note that the Queen’s name is Grimhilde and the Huntsman’s name is Humbert. I just want you to let that sink in for a minute.

Snow White does have some catchy songs, however. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung “Hi ho, Hi ho” while en route to work. I also enjoyed how well the Disney crew dedicated themselves to giving the movie a distinctly Germanic look for the dwarves’ house, from the style of the house itself, to the furnishings and décor to the objects used inside the house during the duration of the movie. And while I think Snow White is overall a big wuss, she did have the gumption to boss the dwarves around a few times. I did have a “you go girl, you give those dwarves some rules” moment. I also think her Prince Ferdinand is probably the weakest among the Disney princes, and he seems to be more of an afterthought to this movie than anything… as if the crew went, “oh yeah, how are we supposed to end this… it has to have an ending… true loves’ kiss sounds great. Let’s throw in Prince Ferdinand for that. Oh, and let’s never say his name in the movie.” Good job. *insert sarcasm here*

Overall, I’m not a huge fan of this movie. I’d give this a 6/10 rating. I found the art of it to be better than most of the actual movie itself, and Grumpy to be irritatingly chauvinistic. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put a fiery little female-hating man into a kids’ movie? Someone who evidently thinks that the definition of gender roles and what is accepted behavior for men and women (and between the sexes) would change. The first half of this movie could hardly hold my attention, and the second half was only held by a dwarf dance party and the Evil Queen letting her evil glee out as she trotted her merry way along to go whack her stepdaughter. This is definitely one of those movies that I could only watch maybe once a year. Tops. And if my kids beg to watch it.

-Happily ever yours, Megan King