Well, that was weird.
I haven't watched "Beauty and the Beast" for a long time. As far as Disney products go, it's about as good as they get. Part of it is the hand drawn animation. In 1991, when it was released, computer generated graphics were experimental. They appear in the background of a couple of scenes, but Beast was mostly hand drawn. It's a quality you don't see much today.
Another reason it's so good is the music. It was scored and librettoed by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
. These two guys were an unbelievable team. Who knows what they would have come up with if Howard hadn't died of AIDS in late 1991. Howard was the lyricist. He was a genius. I was reminded of this as I watched the movie this afternoon with my kids.
Beauty and the Beast is not a political movie. It is a fairy tale. It is a cautionary story with a moral or two, as most fairy tales are. One moral is that things that are pretty on the outside may not be pretty on the inside. Another moral is the converse: that things that are ugly or difficult at first glance may in fact be worth a great deal, if you give them a chance to prove themselves.
There is another lesson, too.
Let me digress a bit. It will come together soon, I promise: I love Star Wars. I saw episode III in Flint, Michigan when I had a little time between flights. The dialogue was horrible. The acting was even worse. I loved it.
The right wing yammerheads spent a fair amount of time complaining at Episode III's opening, that it was George Lucas's political anti-Bush statement. This whining was mostly justified by taking quotes from the mostly crappy dialogue. One of the quotes that the right found most objectionable was this:“If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy”
This was thought to be a direct slam on Bush's post 9-11 speeech, when he made virtually the same statement to the world, thereby putting the entire planet on notice that the US was officially pissed off and unlikely to play nice anymore. Of course, the fact is that this phrase has been used often throughout history. Usually by very poor leaders, who bring calamity on their people..
This historical fact wasn't lost on Howard Ashman. Although he never lived to see George Bush elected governor of Texas, much less President of the United States, he knew what this phrase and this attitude meant when it was voiced by political leadership: Gaston, the puerile, self absorbed and charismatic villain of "Beauty and the Beast" utters these same words
during the "Mob Song", as he whips the villagers into a frenzy to attack the Beast.
In spite of evidence that said Beast is not a threat.
Like I said, it was very weird.