A lovely film that ranks with the best of Disney’s animated classics, Beauty and the Beast is a tale freshly retold. Darker-hued than the usual animated feature, with a predominant brownish-gray color scheme balanced by Belle’s blue dress and radiant features, Beauty [from the classic French fairy tale] engages the emotions with an unabashed sincerity that manages to avoid the pitfalls of triteness and corn.
The character of Belle, magnificently voiced by Paige O’Hara, is a brainy young woman scorned as a bookworm by her townsfolk and kidnaped by the Beast. She finds her initial aversion overcome by a growing appreciation of his inner beauty and sensitivity. While the usually soft-spoken Robby Benson might seem an odd choice for the voice of the Beast, his booming bass voice in the early sections and the increasingly boyish timbre of his voice in the later parts perfectly capture the character’s complexity.
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s songs are witty, charming, richly orchestrated and smoothly integrated into the plot. The first-rate animation staff bring a strikingly three-dimensional look to the film, augmented in some spots by Jim Hillin’s state-of-the-art computer graphics images.
1991: Best Song (‘Beauty and the Beast’), Original Score.
Nominations: Best Picture, Song (‘Belle’, ‘Be Our Guest’), Sound