Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame is loosely based on Victor Hugo's novel Notre Dame de Paris and it tends to get a lot of flack from die-hard fans of the book. They complain about Disney toning down and removing the darkest elements of the story and for giving it a feel-good happy ending. I must be in the minority then because I really love this film! In fact I would go so far as to call it one of my favourite Disney films. I did like this film as a child but I've grown to appreciate it a lot more now I'm older and can recognise the darkness in it. OK this film is nowhere near as dark as Victor Hugo's book but it's still extremely dark for a Disney film! I'm still shocked that they managed to get past the censors with a U rating. This is mainly due to their interpretation of Frollo's character. He's just so freakin' evil! He's a great character and you could make a very strong argument for him being the most evil Disney villain ever. He kills Quasimodo's mother, tries to drown a baby, has people tortured, smells Esmeralda's hair, sings a song about how he can't decide whether he wants to rape or kill her (Hellfire), sentences an innocent woman to death, attempts to bargain the woman's freedom in exchange for sex, sets Paris on fire, persecutes gypsies and tries to decapitate Esmeralda at the end.... in a Disney film! Awesome! Frollo is a badass, evil villain and you can really tell that Tony Jay had a great time voicing him. You may be interested to know that Tony Jay had a very small role in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. He did the voicing for the asylum keeper Monsieur D'Arque. Disney liked his voice so much that they asked him to come back for The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The villain is probably the most memorable character in this film but that's not to say that the other characters in this film aren't great. Quasimodo is a great hero and is voiced by Tom Hulce, who played Mozart in the film Amadeus. Hulce brings so much kindness and innocence to the character and makes Quasimodo someone that you can really root for and get behind. Plus he's actually a really good singer. He sings with so much heart and passion and his version of Out There is one of the highlights of the film for me. Phoebus is voiced by Kevin Kline, who's hilarious and has great comic timing even in animated form. Phoebus's character isn't anything like the sleazy scumbag character of the book, which I'd complain about if he wasn't so funny and downright cool. Esmeralda is voiced by Demi Moore. Surprisingly even she's quite good although she doesn't get to do the character's singing.

The music in this film is often seen to be a weak entry for Disney and for Alan Menken but I actually love most of the film's songs - especially Hellfire, Out There and the film's opening song The Bells of Notre Dame. They're wonderful. I love Stephen Schwartz's lyrics too and I especially love that the songs make use of a choir. It helps to give the songs a really epic feel. The only song I'm not so keen on in the film is the Gargoyles' song A Guy Like You. It's clearly supposed to be a big, fun comedy song like "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid or "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast - but it's just not that good or funny. It doesn't help that I don't like the Gargoyles anyway but I'll get to that in a moment. I also love the animation in this film which is just stunning. It looks spectacular and the animators do a superb job in recreating medieval Paris. Notre Dame in particular looks incredible. Before I get on to my only real issue with the film here are my favourite songs from the film:


Out There

The Bells of Notre Dame

The only thing that lets this film down in my eyes are the talking, singing gargoyles. I really dislike them! It's obvious that Disney only put them in there to provide some comic relief and to keep the younger children entertained but that wasn't necessary in my opinion and the Gargoyles aren't even funny. Even as a kid I didn't find them entertaining. However, as irritating as the Gargoyles are I'd be willing to give Disney some credit for putting them in there if they were purely imaginary. That's actually implied at first. For example: there's a scene where we see the Gargoyles are moving around and performing their big musical number with Quasimodo but then Esmeralda walks in and we see that the gargoyles are stone and are standing still. This suggests that this musical number was all in Quasimodo's head. That's a brilliant idea! The Gargoyles being the product of Quasimodo's loneliness and imagination is a great but tragic way to get your comic relief in. But in the end the Gargoyles turn out to be real. They fight back against the guards when Notre Dame is attacked, they help Quasimodo save the day, and there's no way that Quasimodo could have imagined them. I think this film would have been pretty much perfect if Disney had decided "You know what? Screw the kids, let's just get rid of these damn things". Oh well.

Despite the Gargoyles I do really love this film though. It's a beautiful film and is one of Disney's most underrated. For sheer guts it's also one of their bravest films too. I'm amazed that Disney managed to pull it off as well as they did. I'm glad that this film is starting to get more credit and recognition because it really deserves it and I don't think it was a huge hit when it first came out.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Pocahontas (1995)

Walt Disney Studios had very high hopes for their film Pocahontas and thought it would be a smash-hit success. Disney were on a huge high in the 1990s with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King all being huge critical and financial hits. Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was head of Disney Animation at the time, was even convinced that this film would get a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars just like Beauty and the Beast did. But it didn't. Pocahontas wasn't a financial flop but it didn't make as much money as Disney were hoping. The critics didn't rip it to shreds but no-one loved it as much as the previous Disney Renaissance films. I can definitely see why. The film has some major flaws and even when I was a child I didn't like this film as much as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, etc...

The film starts off in England in the year 1607 with Captain John Smith and a group of British sailors boarding a ship to the "New World", Virginia to be precise. The leader on the ship is Governor Radcliffe and he's convinced that Virginia is full of gold. When his crew lands he gets his men to work by getting them to dig with shovels and blow stuff up with dynamite. That's not how you find gold! Unsurprisingly this upsets the Native Americans who are living in the area and it leads to conflict. However in the midst of all the tension and fighting between the natives and the settlers, John Smith meets Pocahontas, the daughter of the Native American tribe leader. Pocahontas teaches John Smith about her way of life and gives him a new perspective. We then get a Romeo and Juliet-style love story.

Now Disney were clearly trying to do something a bit different with Pocahontas. If Disney has a comfort zone then it's in adapting European fairy tales. Pocahontas was an obvious attempt to tell a story that dealt with American history. But that's one of my problems with this film because most of the "history" in this film is completely made up! It's basically just a fantasy romance with characters sharing the names of people who actually existed in real-life. Yes, I know that you can never rely on Disney for accurate adaptations and it doesn't usually bother me when they stray away from fictional fairy tales. Fairy tales are re-written all the time anyway. But Pocahontas isn't based on fiction. Pocahontas and John Smith were real people who actually existed so Disney are essentially re-writing history. The real-life Pocahontas married a man called John Rolfe and she never had a romance with the real-life John Smith. Well it has been established that Pocahontas and John Smith knew each other but it's very, very unlikely that they had a romance - since Pocahontas would have been aged 11 or 12 at the time! The real-life John Smith certainly didn't look anything like the hunky blonde that you see in Disney's Pocahontas either. He was a short, portly roundhead (see below). I do give Disney's Pocahontas a bit of credit for not having Pocahontas and John Smith end up together at the end though. John Smith gets shot and he has to sail back to England to get treatment for his wounds. Er, but shouldn't that voyage take several months?! Surely he'll die of septicaemia on the way?!

The real John Smith
There are other big problems with Disney's Pocahontas as well. One big issue that I have with this film is that the characters are boring and have no real depth, even the main characters are dull so it's pretty hard to care about their love story. Pocahontas is free-spirited and she gets to do some stuff that other Disney heroines don't but she's bland and just not very interesting; although at least she isn't as boring as John Smith! His character is voiced by Mel Gibson. Er, am I the only one who finds it a bit ironic that Mel Gibson is playing the leading male in a film that's trying to teach kids not to be racist?! There's a few famous names in Pocahontas actually. Billy Connolly plays a settler called Ben, and a 21 year old Christian Bale has a small role as a settler called Thomas. My mind was blown when I found that out! Interestingly, Christian Bale would later go on to star in another re-telling of the Pocahontas story when he played Pocahontas's real-life husband John Rolfe in 2005's The New World.

My final problem with this film is that there are aspects of it that just don't make any sense. For example: how come the animals don't talk in this film? I mean, a freakin' willow tree can talk but the animals can't?! Why don't the animals talk in this film?! One of the big themes in the film is communicating with nature. It would actually make sense for the animals to talk in Pocahontas! Speaking of other things that fail to make sense in this film: how come John Smith, who is supposed to be English, has an American accent?! And what about the language barrier between Pocahontas and John Smith being overcome so easily simply by a magical gust of wind?! If only all language barriers could be solved this way!

As you can probably tell I'm not a huge fan of this film. It rewrites history but I'm actually more bothered by the lack of interesting characters, the weak plot and the fact that there isn't all that much humour. I definitely don't hate the film though and I certainly don't think it's awful. The film does has its positives. The animation is stunning and I really love the music. Alan Menken's music is gorgeous and Stephen Schwartz's lyrics are good. Savages is a pretty catchy song and Just Around the River Bend is lovely. Colours of the Wind is a beautiful song and I always love listening to it. It deservedly won an Oscar for Best Song and Judy Kuhn's voice is beautiful. Judy Kuhn played Cosette in the 10th anniversary concert of Les Miserables and although she was good I like her voice more in Pocahontas. I think it's probably because I like her mezzo voice more. Finally, the film does have some nice messages about anti-racism, respecting other cultures and how we should care about nature. It featured Native American actors voicing many of the characters too. I'll finish with my favourite song from the film : )

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

50 Things I've Learnt Whilst Watching Merlin

  1. The best place to send your magical son is a kingdom where having magical powers is punishable by death.
  2. It never rains in Camelot.
  3. Never expect a straight answer from a Dragon. They love to talk in vague, cryptic metaphors.
  4. Helping a mysterious, random stranger who tells you not to ask questions and pays you in massive amounts of gold will not end well. 
  5. Lancelot is uncomfortable when witnessing romantic displays between Arthur and Gwen.
  6. All the villages in Camelot look suspiciously similar to Merlin's home village in Ealdor.
  7. When weird things happen around your servant - like tree branches/chandeliers conveniently falling on top of your enemies - it means they're probably a warlock. 
  8. If you're in disguise mirrors will reveal your true form. Cover them up.
  9. Merlin should be trusted when he's trying to warn you about an enemy.
  10. The guards of Camelot are useless when it comes to stopping a person from getting in and out of the castle, especially when that person is Merlin or Morgana.
  11. Wearing a big red cloak is very subtle and will help you to blend in the dark.
  12. Gaius must be a very sound sleeper because he never wakes up when Merlin sneaks out in the middle of the night.
  13. According to Arthur Pendragon, destiny and chicken are all you need when it comes to wooing a lady.
  14. Even when you're on Camelot's most wanted list it's still possible to roam around the castle without difficulty and hide under the prince's bed.
  15. No-one likes to be called fat, least of all Arthur Pendragon.
  16. If you can hear a mandrake root scream that means you have magic.
  17. Merlin is the only person in Camelot who understands just what exactly a siege is and how to prepare for it. 
  18. The Tavern gets very busy when there are tournaments on.
  19. Dragons make for a good taxi service. 
  20. Dressing up as a woman is a great disguise. Right, Sir Leon?
  21. When Morgause is threatening you, you will KNOW about it.  
  22. Shouting "For the love of Camelot!" inspires every knight to fight their best. 
  23. Summoning up dragons is a useful skill to have when you're being attacked. 
  24. Otherworldly gate-keepers are creepy. 
  25. Arthur and his knights can fight in slow-motion. 
  26. Morgana still has access to eyeshadow despite living in a dank hut in the woods. 
  27. Merlin has more self-control than Gwaine when it comes to wildeoren licking your face all over. 
  28. If you and your friend argue long enough over who's going to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the kingdom, another friend will jump in and do it for you. 
  29. Merlin sounds very sexy and badass when saying that he's the "last dragonlord". 
  30. Merlin and Arthur are very good at reading each other's moods. 
  31. Arthur would rather face all manner of horrors in the world than share a bed with Merlin. Or so he claims... 
  32. A servant addressing the king by his first name and wrestling the king to the ground isn't considered inappropriate in Camelot.
  33. Merlin is a surprisingly terrible assassin. 
  34. Gaius has only one cover story for Merlin, that he's in the Tavern. It's a wonder that Arthur hasn't attempted to stage an intervention with Merlin for his alcohol problem yet. 
  35. Arthur and Merlin complain about each other constantly but deep down they love each other. Aw! 
  36. Sir Leon becomes very enthusiastic on the subject of crossbows.
  37. There must be something in the Knight's Code on how to treat an old man.
  38. Merlin's favourite chore is polishing. 
  39. The secret route through the Valley of the Fallen Kings isn't all that secret.
  40. Going horse riding with Gwaine is like being condemned to a day of mindless chatter. 
  41. Jokes about brass aren't funny. 
  42. Being known by two names is very useful and can save your life.
  43. Never touch anything at a haunted, cursed druid shrine.
  44. Merlin's favourite funeral style of choice is a Viking style boat burning. 
  45. Salt circles don't actually work when it comes to warding off spirits but Elyan believes in them.
  46. Stealing a key from Arthur Pendragon is surprisingly easy. 
  47. In Camelot don't check for monsters under your bed, check for enchanted dolls.
  48. Morgana has a bit of a thing for Gwaine. 
  49. Gaius and Sir Leon should have their own spin-off show called CSI: Camelot
  50. It gets so hot mining in caves that everyone must work shirtless.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)

Synopsis: Mary Lennox is a spoiled 10 year old girl who has been brought up in India. After her parents die of a cholera outbreak, she is then sent to live on her uncle's estate Misselthwaite Manor in the Yorkshire moors (Bronte country!) Her uncle is very reclusive and wants nothing to do with her, and neither do the housekeeper Mrs Medlock or any of the other servants. Bored, Mary explores the grounds and finds a secret garden. This garden has been locked-up, abandoned and left in ruins. Mary then befriends a boy called Dickon who is the brother of her maid Martha. Dickon is good with animals and plants, and he and Mary get to work by planting things and making the garden look beautiful again. Then Mary hears someone crying at night and discovers that she has a cousin called Colin who is also 10. Colin is a hypochondriac, he can't walk, is ignored by his father, throws tantrums, hates the thought of going outside, and is convinced that he's going to become a hunchback and die young. He and Mary fight at first but they then become friends and help each other to become nicer people. Mary and Dickon then start to take Colin to the garden in the hope that it will do him some good.

I read lots of books as a child but The Secret Garden is one of those classic children's novels that just slipped my radar. I think it's a bit of a shame that I didn't read the book when I was younger because I'm sure I would have loved it and would have re-read it often. It's moving, very uplifting and encouraging, and is beautifully-written with some absolutely stunning descriptions. I especially loved this particular passage:

"One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. One knows it then for a moment or so. And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries. Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in some one’s eyes."

The Secret Garden is very well-paced too. It never gets boring or drags and is engaging all the way through. It could have been quite a sappy, schmaltzy read but it really isn't. The characters are very likeable too, my favourites being Dickon and Martha. Even Mary and Colin are both quite likeable. They both start off as being annoying and spoiled brats, but because you can understand why they're the way they are you can still sympathise with them and you can't really hate them for it. There's a fair bit of Yorkshire dialect in the book as well but Hodgson Burnett writes it in such a way that it's much easier to understand and follow than the Yorkshire dialect in Wuthering Heights and Dracula. Also, even though the book is clearly a child's fantasy novel it doesn't really seem that unrealistic or unbelievable. It really makes you want to take up gardening as well! There really aren't that many negative things that I can say about this book. There is quite a bit of India-bashing at the beginning however, with India always being compared unfavourably to England. It does reflect the common English attitudes of the time but it's still annoying to read and some readers are likely to find it very offensive. Another issue that I had with The Secret Garden is a scene that comes towards the end of the book, where Colin starts chanting and singing praises to the "magic" of the garden over and over again. I thought that was a really weird scene : S I still really enjoyed The Secret Garden though. It's a beautiful book and and I'd like to check out some of its film adaptations and the Broadway musical.

Rating: 4.5/5

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

You can expect this review to be very long and gushing because Beauty and the Beast isn't just my favourite Disney film, it's one of my all-time favourite films full stop. Beauty and the Beast was a film that people adored from the moment it came out. The critics loved it, audiences loved it, and it was highly successful. Beauty and the Beast even had the honour of becoming the first ever animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. This was completely unheard of at the time! The film's success also led to a stage musical adaptation and two made-for-DVD "midquels". So why is this film a masterpiece? Why is it so well-loved? Well, one of the reasons why this film is so brilliant is down to the story.

The film takes place in 18th century France and begins with a narrated backstory that makes clever use of stained glass windows. A handsome but cold, unkind and selfish prince denies an ugly, old beggar woman shelter in his castle but the woman then reveals herself to be a beautiful and powerful enchantress. On the grounds that the prince has no love in his heart, she punishes him by turning him into a monstrous beast. The enchantress even turns the prince's servants into household objects. That's harsh isn't it?! What did the servants ever do to her?! But before the enchantress leaves the castle she gives the Beast a magical rose. The only way for the Beast to break the spell and become human again is if he can fall in love and be loved in return before the rose withers away. At this point the film's heroine is then introduced, Belle.


Belle and Gaston
Belle lives in a small, provincial town and is widely considered to be the town's most beautiful woman by its inhabitants. However all of the townspeople, apart from her father, also think that she's weird. This is because Belle spends her time reading books and dreaming of having adventures. This confuses the banal, gossipy town in which Belle lives. Another thing that makes Belle stand out from the crowd is that she's the only woman in the town who doesn't pine after Gaston, the town's most handsome and popular man. She's the only one who sees him for the arrogant, vain, stupid chauvinist that he really is. However, Gaston is interested in Belle. He thinks that since he's the best-looking man in town and Belle is the best-looking woman in town that it would make perfect sense for him and Belle to get married. Don't you just love that logic? Gaston proposes to Belle but she unsurprisingly turns him down.

Maurice and the Beast
Meanwhile, Belle's father Maurice gets lost in a forest and comes across the enchanted castle in which the Beast lives. He goes inside to seek shelter but the Beast accuses Maurice of trespassing and throws him into the castle dungeon. Belle is able to track her father down and then offers the Beast her freedom in exchange for letting her father go. The Beast does so because he sees this as the perfect opportunity for love and for breaking the spell. But Belle is made so unhappy by the Beast's nasty temper and bad decisions that she runs away and gets attacked by a pack of wolves. The Beast saves Belle's life. Belle forgives the Beast and they start to become more tolerant of one another. They begin to see the good in each other and become close friends. After that we get action, magic, love, sacrifice and freedom.

It was actually Walt Disney himself who first considered the possibility of adapting the Beauty and the Beast fairytale into a Disney film. After the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs he considered adapting other fairy tales and Beauty and the Beast was one of them. He made attempts to make the story into a film in the 1930s and then again in the 1950s, but both times the project was abandoned because he and his creative team found it too challenging. They felt that the Belle of the original fairytale (who had two nasty sisters) was too similar to the character of Cinderella. But in the 1980s Disney Studios decided to make another attempt. They hired Linda Woolverton as the film's screenwriter and decided to base their version of the Beauty and the Beast story on the most well-known fairytale version, which was written by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont in 1757. However, the Disney film takes liberties with its source material and it isn't exactly like the French fairytale. The changes that the Disney film made are creative and interesting and in my opinion actually improve the story. In the French fairytale the prince isn't turned into a beast for being selfish and unloving. It's because he refuses to sleep with an evil fairy who's trying to seduce him. Perhaps not all that appropriate for a family film! The Beast is actually quite friendly towards Belle right from the start in the fairytale as well - and because of that I think the film pushes the idea of inner beauty harder than the fairytale does. Before the Beast can become beautiful on the outside he has to become beautiful on the inside. Belle's father is an eccentric inventor who's just as mocked by the townspeople as Belle is, whereas in the fairytale Belle's father is a merchant who's fallen on hard times. The Disney film removes Belle's sisters and makes her an only child. Another major source of inspiration for the Disney film was the classic 1946 French film La Belle et La BĂȘte (which I really want to see at some point). One idea that Disney took from that film was in giving Belle two suitors. Gaston's character isn't in the original fairytale and was inspired by the character of Avenant from the 1946 film. Disney also took the idea of having enchanted objects in the Beast's castle from the 1946 film but it was the lyricist Howard Ashman's idea to give the enchanted objects their own unique, individual personalities.

One of the things that I love most about Beauty and the Beast is that its romance is just so believable and moving. Unlike a lot of the earlier Disney films (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, CinderellaSleeping Beauty, etc) the main characters in this don't fall in love at first sight. The love between Belle and the Beast takes time which is so much more realistic. In fact the film is actually quite clever in not revealing exactly how long Belle is at the Beast's castle for. It could be anything from a few days to a few weeks to a few months. Another thing that's very realistic and modern about the film is its villain Gaston. You can usually rely on Disney films for having a good villain but, for me, Gaston is one of the best because his character actually develops. He isn't evil right from the start, or at least he isn't obviously evil in the way that Cruella De Vil or Maleficent are. At first Gaston is just an arrogant idiot and is used as comic relief at first. But as the character goes without getting his own way for longer and longer, he shows his cunning side and becomes aggressive and threatening. He tries to throw Maurice into an insane asylum, tries to force Belle into becoming his wife, and attempts to kill the Beast. Gaston does have a great singing voice though! His voice is provided by Richard White who played the Phantom of the Opera in the criminally underrated Yeston and Kopit musical.

My favourite character in this film is Belle. It would be truly remiss of me if I didn't mention just how great her character is. She's a fantastic heroine is just such a likeable character. She's clever. She takes cares of her father and encourages him to invent things. She's beautiful but she isn't vain. She's kind but she has her limits. She's not obsessed with finding a husband. She has ambitions and she stands up for herself. She's mocked by her town but she doesn't seem to care about that too much. She's independent and happy to do her own thing. Belle has much more of a personality than the bland, Barbie doll princesses of the early Disney films and I love how her character is written.

Another thing that adds to this film's brilliance is its music. It's packed with fantastic songs: Belle, Be Our Guest, Gaston, Mob Song, Something There, Beauty and the Beast. They're witty, catchy and beautiful. Even the instrumental music that Alan Menken provides is absolutely gorgeous. The songs were written by Menken and his lyricist partner Howard Ashman. This song-writing partnership had previously written the stage musical Little Shop of Horrors together and had already worked with Disney on the film The Little Mermaid. Menken and Ashman are both geniuses in my eyes. Alan Menken has won eight Oscars over the course of his career - Eight! - and Howard Ashman was an amazing lyricist. He tragically died of AIDS at the age of 40 not long after Beauty and the Beast was completed. So, so sad : ( He knew he was dying when he was working on Beauty and the Beast but was so committed to his art that he was even doing work on the film on his deathbed. The film was rightly dedicated to Ashman and at the end of the final credits you can read: "To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman: 1950-1991". All of Ashman's lyrics in this film are sheer brilliance but my personal favourites are:

"We don't like
what we don't
Understand, in fact it scares us,
And this monster is mysterious at least"
From The Mob Song
It's true, it's funny and it's got great rhythm!

"Screw your courage to the sticking place!"
From The Mob Song
A reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth!

"Here we come, we're fifty strong
and fifty Frenchmen can't be wrong"
From The Mob Song
It's funny, it rhymes and it's got great alliteration.

"As a specimen, yes, I'm in-
From Gaston
For rhyming "Specimen" with "Yes, I'm in"

"No one plots like Gaston
takes cheap shots like Gaston
plans to persecute harmless crackpots like Gaston!"
From Gaston (Reprise)
Because it's funny and I just love the rhyming that's going on here.

"Oh! Isn't this amazing?
It's my favourite part
because, you'll see!
Here's where she meets
Prince Charming,
but she won't discover that
it's him till chapter three!"
From Belle
Because it's witty and it foreshadows what actually happens to Belle!

The whole of the Beauty and the Beast song
Because it's so moving, heartfelt and sincere.

The singers deserve mention in this film as well especially White, Jerry Orbach, Paige O'Hara and Angela Lansbury. I love Lansbury's version of the title song. In fact I even quite like the Celine Dion-Peabo Bryson version that's played over the final credits!

Finally, since Beauty and the Beast is an animated film I'll comment on the animation. It's beautiful and I especially love the castle. It's very dark, eerie and sinister to start off but - as Belle's relationship with the Beast begins to develop - we get to see the brighter and more beautiful parts of the castle. We see the library, the gardens, the dining room and finally the ballroom. The final image of the is especially beautiful as well.

I feel I should also mention what the Beast looks like in his human form though because it attracted some controversy. The animators have said that no matter how the human prince had been drawn that people wouldn't have been happy because people fell in love with him as a Beast and not as a man. Now I suppose that's might be true but... hmm, I don't know. I can't see many people complaining if the human Beast had looked similar to Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid. As for me, I think the prince is almost attractive but there's just something missing. He looks quite attractive from the side but when you see his face full-on ... hmm.

Another thing that bothers me is that we never get to learn the Beast's real name. Did Belle still keep calling him "Beast" after he transformed?! I should point out that this is something that bothered me when I was little, this isn't a case of me becoming more critical now I'm older! I think that the animators gave the human Beast the name "Adam" after the film was completed but I'm not satisfied with that name. No offence meant to any Adams out there but the name just doesn't sound very prince-like. Prince Adam? It just doesn't sound right. And Adam isn't even a French name! But I'm just nitpicking really. This film is a pure Disney fairy tale done to the absolute best and is a fantastic film. I'd recommend seeing it but I'm sure you already have : )

Rating: 5/5
Film Certificate Rating: U

Finally, before I finish my review I thought I'd give the stage version a mention. It opened on Broadway in 1994 and starred Susan Egan as Belle and Terrence Mann as the Beast. Terrence Mann originated the role of Javert in the Broadway production of Les Miserables and Susan Egan eventually went on to play Megara in Disney's film Hercules. The stage musical was a big success and ran for 13 years before it eventually closed in 2007. I haven't seen Beauty and the Beast live myself but I would love to! From what I've heard it's full of spectacle, is very true to the film, and I think it sounds like a better Disney adaptation than The Lion King stage musical. The stage version features more songs than the film in order to pad the show out and the lyrics were written by Tim Rice. Most of these songs aren't brilliant I have to admit. On the whole Tim Rice's lyrics lack the passion, wit and intelligence of Howard Ashman's lyrics from the film. The lyrics in Home make Belle seem whiny, which she definitely isn't in the film, and there's a rhyme in No Matter What which I really dislike: "And every daughter tends to say her father's tops! She pulls out all the stops..." However, the songs are still pleasant to listen to because of Menken's music and they're better than most of the added songs that were written for The Lion King. Also, there are a couple of songs in the stage version in which Rice's lyrics are great. I love Gaston's line in his solo song Me: "We shall be the perfect pair, rather like my thighs!" I really love the Beast's solo song If I Can't Love Her too. It's a beautiful song and is very heartfelt and moving.