Welcome to the Rotoscopers’ Twelve Days of Christmas! Every day until Christmas Eve, we’ll be taking a look at a holiday-themed piece of animation. Check back each day for a new review!
If you haven’t seen Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas before and you’re wondering why the Beast still looks like a beast, well, it’s because the film is sort of a midquel. It opens with the cast of characters we remember – including some new ones that I’ll get to later – all in human form. Human Mrs. Potts decides to tells a Christmas story about Belle and the Beast before the spell was broken. If you’ve seen the other direct-to-video movie Belle’s Magical World, then I don’t blame you for never touching a Disney sequel ever again. Thankfully, The Enchanted Christmas doesn’t fall into the “really bad” Disney sequel category.
The story is about Belle’s desire to bring Christmas to the castle and the Beast’s reluctance to celebrate it. To be fair to the big hairy guy, this film suggests the curse that turned him into a beast happened at Christmas. I’m going to start this review by sharing a little piece of dialogue with you:
The reason I share these lines with you is because it tells us two things. The first is shows how these are the characters we know. Doesn’t this sound like the angsty Beast and the spirited Belle from the original movie? The second is to show how the dialogue has its surprising moments of depth. There’s a scene in the movie in which Belle ventures out to find a Christmas tree in the forest, but the Beast thinks she’s leaving. He has to save her from icy waters. This leads to some emotional tension that I was really impressed by. The movie does not shy away from presenting the difficult relationship between them.
So who are the new characters? There’s a sassy angel decoration (voiced by Bernadette Peters), an annoying little flute (voiced Paul Reubens), and a stereotypical Jewish hammer (voiced by Jeff Bennett) who boarders on insulting. These guys are a nice addition but nothing to rave about. Although, I do like how all the Christmas tree decorations are little enchanted objects too. Except there are about fifty of them. How many workers did the Beast have? Didn’t he care they were all locked up in the attic never to see the light of Christmas day again? I always had a theory as a child that their job was to come into the castle at Christmastime to decorate the place, but – unfortunately for them – they were caught up in the enchantress’ curse. Bad timing. A little fan theory for a not-so-jolly Christmas.
Let’s talk about the songs next. The sequence for the song “Stories” is actually as good as anything you’d see in a Disney theatrical release. Paige O’Hara returns to voice Belle and her singing voice still gives me chills. The filmmakers give her a really solid song that utilizes her talent for ballads.
I haven’t even mentioned “As Long as it’s Christmas” yet. Now that’s a song that stops the show. The lyrics are written by Don Black (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love) and the beautiful score is composed by the incredibly talented Rachel Portman (Chocolat, The Duchess, Nicholas Nickleby). If you’re a Beauty and the Beast fan and you’re on the fence about whether to give this movie a chance, I say the songs more than make up for the bad parts.
The first thing that amazed me when I experienced this movie was the animation. When I say “amazed me,” I do mean in terms of Disney’s direct-to-video sequel quality. It’s not bad at all. And if you look at all the images in this review you can tell the movie kept its gothic fairytale theme. It also blends in some CG (some good and some not so good). The good is the snow. The opening scene with Belle and Beast ice skating looks beautiful with the falling snow. However, the giant CG pipe organ leaves a little to be desired. Take a look at the picture below:
He looks okay, his slick metal texture does lend itself to CG, but the problem is he’s placed smack in the middle of a fully 2D animated movie. This new villainous character, named Forte (it’s amazing how every character has an apt name for the object they’re enchanted into), is saved by the simple fact that he’s voiced by Tim Curry (Rocky Horror, FernGully). His humming maniacal laugh and dramatic singing voice are used to the extreme here. This brings me on to the “Don’t Fall in Love” musical sequence. Organ music can be eerie. It’s definitely not the cheeriest of sounds. So the idea of an organ being the villain works really well. Particularity since he’s bolted to the wall and has to use other means to get his way, like the use of manipulating songs. The strange thing is, however, that Forte’s song has these creepy green-lit cherubs wandering about. How or why does Forte has the power to create these? I don’t know. This does not seem fitting to Beauty and the Beast at all. They’re a far cry from the charming cherubs painted on the wall in the classic ballroom scene of the original movie. I’m not saying they’re awful. On the contrary, they’re very creative and you can’t take your eyes off them. But as a sequence for a Disney Princess movie, what were they thinking? It’s the “Pink Elephants on Parade” effect, I guess.
Now we must talk about Beast’s flashback scene. Forte is shown in human form here with a very pasty face and a gloomy expression. If the movie was released now I’m sure he’d have a small but passionate fanbase. The prince is shown in human form too, but back when he was young, selfish, and cruel. He gets melodramatically angry at an old beggar woman who disturbs his Christmas and he demands the “wretched old hag” leave. This old beggar woman is, of course, the enchantress that curses him. Heck, if I was an enchantress in disguise I would curse him too for being so unjustifiably mean. Even if it was Christmas.
This Beast’s transformation scene fits perfectly into this world. As a kid I always got the original and the Christmas movie mixed up and I’d scratch my head wondering where the fully animated transformation scene of the Beast was in Beauty and the Beast. So, because of this fact, I’m going to argue that you could splice this scene into the original movie and it wouldn’t be out of place. The problem is that we have a reason the Beast gets angry at Christmas, but we don’t have a reason why he was mean in his younger years. But maybe asking for a flashback in the flashback is too much.
I was getting ready to prod and poke at the bad in this movie when I started this review. When I pressed “play” on my television I was sure I wouldn’t like it as much as I did when I was a kid. But I couldn’t be happier that I fully enjoyed this movie in adulthood. Do bare in mind that this review is coming from a Disney fan. And someone who feels nostalgic towards it, too. I’m not saying this is Toy Story 2 where the sequel meets the first movie’s excellence. Far from it. But as a sequel to a well-beloved Disney movie, it could be a lot worse. It’s passable to most, but to me it’s now a little something special to watch at Christmastime – particularly when I’ve worn out my Beauty and the Beast DVD. So, do you have fond memories of this movie too? Don’t care for it? Never seen it and never will? Let me know what you think about The Enchanted Christmas in the comments.
What do you think of Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas? Love it or hate it?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes