Today we are honoring the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, which went on to win in the categories of Best Song and Best Score for Broadway's own Alan Menken and Howard Ashman - Disney's tale as old as time; the much-beloved and cherished BEAUTY & THE BEAST. Based on the French fairytale of its namesake, BEAUTY & THE BEAST was a landmark achievement in animated film and proved that Disney's previous animation renaissance mega-hit THE LITTLE MERMAID - also penned by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman - was much more than merely a fluke. A new age of animated film treated totally seriously by critics and audiences alike allowed for Disney to continue on with even more success in the following years with even bigger family-friendly hits like ALADDIN and THE LION KING. Yet, BEAUTY & THE BEAST is the most elegant and enrapturing of all Disney animated films from the last century and just may be the very finest of all their animated features that came to pass during that era of renewed interest in the late-1980s and early-1990s. Featuring the vocal talents of legendary stage and screen star Angela Lansbury - check out our extensive InDepth InterView for a few recollections about that experience here - as well as Broadway's own Paige O'Hara and TV/film notable Robby Benson - both of whom will be featured in extensive InDepth InterViews right here on BroadwayWorld next week. Beginning with a prologue and opening song sequence - "Belle" - to rank among the very best not only in film, but stage musicals, as well, BEAUTY & THE BEAST is a rich French country meal topped off by a dizzying array of aural, visual, emotional, comedic and dramatic treats. "Belle" is merely the starter bread - or, should I say, pain. So, today, we pay tribute to BEAUTY & THE BEAST as it roars back to movie theaters nationwide, now in a diligently-recreated and astonishingly imagined brand new 3D realization. Before you go see all the stunning sights and sounds of the film itself, whether sampling the 3D version in your home 3D studio or out at the Cineplex, here we have some of the finest musical moments to delight in from the storied history of the immensely successful Disney classic in all three of its versions - original animated film, Broadway stage musical and 3D movie experience.
Ever As Before
BEAUTY & THE BEAST has bucked every trend in its many iterations over the years. Of course, the first of its feats achieved was the feature film surprising all concerned with its gargantuan success both financially and critically, but, then, a few short years after that, came the Broadway musical and Disney took the Great White Way by storm. Howard Ashman had passed away in the few intervening years between the film and stage versions, so Tim Rice was brought onto the project to add additional lyrics to the many significant new songs added to the already-Oscar-winning Menken/Ashman score. Now, in the 21st century, BEAUTY & THE BEAST has been released on DVD and Blu-ray in 3D and finds itself up on the big-screen once again in honor of its 20th anniversary - for a whole new generation; in a whole new way. The classic 2D film always remains, but the new 3D version breathes even more life and excitement into the proceedings and brings us into the beautifully-crafted world in an entirely new way. So, let's see a few reasons why this timeless film is sure to inspire hearts and minds for many more years to come and celebrate it in all of its terrific iterations.
First up, here is the official trailer for the new 3D film version of BEAUTY & THE BEAST, now in theaters nationwide.
Next, witness what all the hubbub was about back when the film was first released - prompting no less than Frank Rich of The New York Times to ascribe it among the best musical sequences, on or off Broadway - "Belle".
Now, check out the music video for the pop version of the title song, performed by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson.
In the first of two clip collections from the 1992 Oscars, here we have Angela Lansbury introducing the splendid and spectacular performances of "Belle" and "Be Our Guest", led by Paige O'Hara, Richard White and Jerry Orbach, respectively.
Here is the 1992 Academy Awards performance of "Beauty & The Beast", led by Angela Lansbury, which went on to win Best Song later that evening Also in this clip, see Liza Minnelli and Shirley MacLaine present the Best Song category following host Billy Crystal's hilarious introduction.
With a look at the Broadway stage adaptation of the classic animated film, here we have Anthony Hopkins introducing and narrating the Prologue for BEAUTY & THE BEAST at that year's Tony Awards, followed by a performance medley by the original Broadway cast, featuring Susan Egan, Terrence Mann and Gary Beach.
Dramatizing and musicalizing a crucial moment in the story, here we have the chilling and thrilling Act One Finale, "If I Can't Love Her", here performed by a Broadway Beast, Steve Blanchard.
Singing a song added to the show specifically for her revolutionary characterization of the role, now we have Toni Braxton as Belle performing the dynamic and dramatic pop ballad, "A Change In Me" (lyrics by Tim Rice).
See Angela Lansbury reprise Mrs. Potts along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, from a 2002 Christmas concert, in this moving live clip.
Witness AMERICAN IDOL champion Jordin Sparks taking on the eponymous anthem of BEAUTY & THE BEAST in this recent music video. Even with a contemporary R&B-flecked twist, the song still scores.
In a true Disney moment out of a dream, here are four Disney princess doing a four-part version of "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" - Paige O'Hara, Lea Salonga, Anika Noni Rose and Jodi Benson. What a final note - and what a tremendous group of leading ladies! That's a finale, for sure!
As a special bonus, check out current Broadway megastar and GLEE fan favorite Darren Criss singing a super-special solo guitar version of "Belle" from BEAUTY & THE BEAST long before he was one of the biggest stars on the rise in Hollywood and on Broadway.
What version of BEAUTY & THE BEAST is the best, in your estimation: the feature film, the stage musical or the 3D movie experience (whether enjoyed in theaters or at home)? All certainly have their strong points, but the power of the story rings through clear as a, well, bell - or Belle - in every single version, as you most certainly will agree.