Disney classic shares hopeful message in tough times

Beauty and the Beast

Disney characters from the movie Beauty and the  Beast, Beast and Belle, dance during a parade along Main Street at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. May 4, 2005.


Disney characters from the movie “Beauty and the Beast,” Beast and Belle, dance during a parade along Main Street at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. May 4, 2005.

At a time when the world is needy for lightness, enchanting escapism and hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll pull through this mess, this movie classic reminds us that in the end, love and goodness will prevail.

“Beauty and the Beast” is widely considered to be the best example of what animation perfection looks like. This 1991 charmer was directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise. In 1992, it was the first-ever animation to be nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture and went on to win two Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. We all know the melodic chorus that was sung by Angela Lansbury. The song, “Beauty and the Beast” has been repeated numerous times in numerous movie incarnations.

“Beauty and the Beast” is an innovative departure by Walt Disney’s standards. It set a new gold standard for future musical animations. Not only was it the first animation to use computer-generated graphics (CGI), but the characters were portrayed in new ways that made the plot seem more like a real movie.

Take Belle for example. Our heroine’s personality is still innocent and good, but her goal in life is not the white picket fence. You see, she’s seen as an oddball as described in the movie’s chorus. She loves to read, and libraries are her candy! Belle is smart, sassy and she’s not afraid to speak up. Because of that, she’s viewed as an outsider. We come to learn that she is truly a one of a kind person. And only one of a kind person can find the love of her life, with another one of a kind.

But it’s not Gaston. The old portrayal of a Disney romance was that beautiful boy meets a beautiful girl, they fall madly in love, and live happily ever after. Gaston is portrayed as very handsome, but here, he is vain, self-centered and “ugly” on the inside. His appealing exterior hides the truth of who he really is.

Our hero, the Beast was once a handsome prince who like Gaston, was beautiful to look at, but was spoiled, selfish and unkind. Another version of Gaston. The handsome prince is cruel to a needy woman, and when she’s denied her simple request, she turns him into an ugly beast. His exterior now matches who he is on the inside. His curse or quest is to find a woman who can love him for what he looks like and not his status or wealth. He has 21 years to find that one of a kind woman.  Fearing that love will elude him, the Beast retreats into his castle and becomes a recluse.

The way people learn their life lessons are also portrayed differently in this movie. The Beast is angry, loud, ferocious. He knows he’ll die if he doesn’t find a woman he truly loves and who loves him back with the same intensity. The Beast does fall hopelessly in love with Belle. But when she wishes she could see her father, and they both realize he might be in danger, the Beast releases Belle, knowing it likely means he and his staff will die. Through this loving sacrifice, we see the beauty inside the Beast. Belle sees it too, but her need to help her father is greater and she flees the castle.

There is the inevitable showdown between Gaston and the Beast. They both die, but through the power of love and goodness, shown through a visually beautiful sequence, the Beast is resurrected and turns back into the beautiful prince. His exterior now matches his inner beauty, and like all good fairy tales, these two ones of a kind people marry and live happily ever after.

“Beauty and the Beast’s” message is as old as time itself. But the way it’s presented is new for the times. Learning you were wrong and be willing to change for love is a powerful life lesson. Maybe we can apply that lesson to our current world situation. May we change for good.

It’s currently being streamed on YouTube, Google Play and the Disney Channel.

Gail Pischak is a third-semester film student. Her goal is to make short docs that influence and change for good.