Creating the live-action reinterpretation of a beloved Disney movie was always going to be a tall order no matter how careful the creative team were with the material. But with box office numbers and critical reception suggesting that order has been met, what does this mean for the legacy of new Beauty and the Beast and Disney’s line-up of live-action remakes?
It’s truly a beautiful film with beastly impact: Disney’s 2017 live-action version of Beauty and the Beast is officially a smash hit. It surpassed the $500 million mark at the global box office in its second week and broke the record for the biggest opening at the North American box office for a PG-rated film. The Hollywood reboot/remake machine has been unstoppable (and definitely not a pretty one most of the time) and commercial success doesn’t always mean widely positive critiques. However, with a decent 70% “Fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes, the new Beauty and the Beast has gone fairly well with critics and moviegoers alike.
Re-Living Disney’s Renaissance
Director Bill Condon’s revitalization of the tale is special for many reasons. Whereas Disney has already released live-action adaptations and spin-offs of classic films like Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, and Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast is the first adaptation of a film from the decade from 1989 to 1999 known as the Disney Renaissance. This period was when 2D animation reigned supreme and singing characters fueled every story.
The coveted millennial audience (I call ourselves “The BuzzFeed generation”) remembers the animated version of Beauty and the Beast fondly along with titles like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Mulan. It’s no surprise that 20 and 30-somethings would especially want to relive a big part of their childhood in a new way.
Doubling Down on Nostalgia
Adding to the nostalgia factor is the fact that the remake doesn’t stray too far from the original. The shots in the trailers were meant to mimic scenes from the animation. Then, of course, there’s that familiar music. Alan Menken was the maestro of the 1991 animation along with the late Howard Ashman. Menken’s Oscar-winning score is reprised and revamped for the 2017 version. Tim Rice, who stepped in for Ashman on other projects after his death, penned the lyrics for three new tunes just for the movie: “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” “Days in the Sun”, and “Evermore.”
The other big updates came in the form of more intriguing character backstories and development. Throw in the brilliant cast led by Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, and Josh Gad to deliver romance, comedy, and adventure in whole new ways, and you’ve found the formula for a remake done right.
Song as Old as Rhyme
In the remake, Maurice tells Belle that she is ahead of her time–well, he could have said the same for the 1991 movie. The OG Beauty and the Beast delivered a message to Hollywood that animated films can – and should – be taken seriously. That message translated into accolades: Beauty and the Beast became the first-ever animated film to receive a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. It picked up Oscars for Best Score and Best Original Song for the title track, and “Be Our Guest” and “Belle,” received nominations in the latter category. The score and song also won at the Golden Globes and the film picked up the award for Best Picture in the Comedy/Musical category.
Let’s also not forget that Beauty and the Beast was the first Disney movie to have a pop version of a song play over the end credits (thanks, Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson!)–now that’s how you know an animated movie has street cred.
In a perfect world, Menken’s rousing score and the new versions of the old songs would receive Oscar nods in 2018, but unfortunately, that’s against Academy rules. The good news is that the new vocal tracks do qualify for Best Original Song nominations, and my money is on “Evermore” to win the category. The Beast’s operatic and heart-wrenching theme of angst offers characterization not found in the animated film.
Awards and Accolades
The live-action film is also likely and worthy of receiving nominations in technical categories such as Production Design, Costume Design, and Visual Effects. The big question is if live-action Beauty and the Beast can avenge animated Beauty and the Beast’s Best Picture loss to The Silence of the Lambs. Answer: Probably not. But with the expanded Best Picture category from five to up to ten nominated films, genre films now have a better chance at recognition. So there just might be room for the new Beauty and the Beast to bask in Best Picture glory, just like its animated predecessor.
If for some reason the film completely misses out on any Oscar category next year, expect to see it acknowledged at the much more lenient Golden Globes. You may even see a cast member or two nominated in acting categories given that there are separate ones for Comedy/Musical and Drama. In any case, Beauty and the Beast’s spring release does present a disadvantage, as it won’t be fresh in the voting body’s mind come awards season.
Tale as Old as Time
Whether or not the 2017 Beauty and the Beast receives any nominations, it won’t be a shadow of the animated classic that paved the way for it. New talent and new creative treatment has given new life to this tale as old as time while staying true to the core of the ’90s film. It’s modern Disney at its greatest, and I look forward to seeing what else comes out of the other upcoming remakes.