WRITER’S NOTE: This is a special WYSK article, as demanded by our readers in a recent poll. Thanks for voting! Also, another poll regarding changes to the WYSK format is being held below. Scroll down for more details. Finally, this article has been adjusted to fit current numbers and statistics.
‘What You Should Know’ is a Rotoscopers series that gives you a detailed and (somewhat) objective rundown of this year’s animated films. These articles exist so that readers on the fence about a particular movie can make an educated decision based on the information provided.
MOVIE: Beauty and the Beast (2017)
DIRECTED BY: Bill Condon
WRITTEN BY: Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos
STARRING: Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Prince/The Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Kevin Kline (Maurice), Josh Gad (LeFou), Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Audra McDonald (Madame de Garderobe), and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette.
MUSIC BY: Alan Menken
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Tobias Schliessler
STUDIO: Walt Disney Pictures
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Mandeville Films
PRODUCTION BUDGET: $160 Million
BASED ON: Remake of the 1991 animated film. Both movies are based on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s original fairy tale.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?:
If you’ve seen the original animated film, then you know the story of a star-crossed relationship between a cursed prince and a book-obsessed young woman. The live-action movie does expand on the backstory and characters, and in ways that are a… bit surprising.
A BRIEF HISTORY:
The project began life as an adaptation of the 1994 Broadway adaptation of the animated film. Alan Menken was attached, but the project was canned in 2011 before development moved further.
Following the first wave of live-action Disney remakes (Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, and Cinderella to name a few), a new live-action adaptation was greenlit by the studio in 2014. Evan Spiliotopoulos was hired to write the screenplay while Stephen Chbosky was brought in for re-writes (both are credited in the final film).
IMPORTANT STUFF TO KNOW:
Before Condon was signed on to direct, Disney had a different idea for the film: a more radical take on the tale similar to Maleficent and Universal Pictures’ Snow White and the Huntsmen. Condon discussed this former approach in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter: “after Frozen opened, the studio saw that there was this big international audience for an old-school-musical approach. But initially they said, ‘We’re interested in a musical to a degree, but only half full of songs.’ My interest was taking that film and doing it in this new medium — live-action — as a full-on musical movie. So I backed out for a minute, and they came back and said, ‘No, no, no, we get it, let’s pursue it that way’.”
According to Condon, the original soundtrack was a primary motivation for directing the film: “That score had more to reveal,” he says, “You look at the songs and there’s not a clunker in the group. In fact, Frank Rich described it as the best Broadway musical of 1991. The animated version was already darker and more modern than the previous Disney fairytales. Take that vision, put it into a new medium, make it a radical reinvention, something not just for the stage because it’s not just being literal, now other elements come into play. It’s not just having real actors do it.”
As such, Alan Menken’s score for this film includes most of the original songs from the animated film by him and Howard Ashman, in addition to new material written by Menken and Tim Rice. Specifically, instead of including material from the Broadway musical (save for an instrumental version of “Home”), four new songs were written just for the movie.
In a reveal that’s already proved controversial, the film’s version of Lefou (Josh Gad) is confirmed as gay. This moment happens during the musical number “Gaston”, which contains the following lyric (spoken by LeFou): “You can ask any Tom, Dick, or Stanley and they’ll tell you whose team they prefer to be on!” LeFou says this line with knowing wink, further confirming the character’s sexual orientation.
Condon had this to say about the controversy surrounding the character during an interview with Vulture: “Can I just say, I’m sort of sick of this. Because you’ve seen the movie — it’s such a teeny thing, and it’s been overblown.” Condon further emphasized the film’s unspoken diversity, saying here: “That was so important. We have interracial couples — this is a celebration of everybody’s individuality, and that’s what’s exciting about it.”
With a budget of $160 million, the film has the unique distinction of being the most expensive musical ever made.
A big-budget musical with that ensemble cast would make a fair amount of money anywhere. Attach a well-known property like Beauty and the Beast to it and it’s an instant magnet for both family audiences and musical junkies alike.
The soundtrack and the pedigree behind it is incredible as well, as one would expect from Alan Menken. Fans of the Broadway musical might be disappointed to see an absence of any of that play’s material, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to feast on from a music perspective.
Disney in general has a bit of good with their remakes recently, coming off of critically-acclaimed films like The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon. As you’ll see shortly, Beauty and the Beast maintains that winning streak.
Even though Disney has scored a few home-runs as of recent, its slate of live-action remakes remains a divisive topic in animation circles (especially on this website). If you feel strongly that Disney’s live-action remakes trample on sacred ground built by the original films, then Beauty and the Beast likely won’t change your mind.
Bad news for those that despise the live-action remakes: they aren’t going away anytime soon.
For advance ticket sales, Beauty and the Beast immediately topped Fandango’s pre-sales estimates, becoming the fastest-selling family film in Disney’s history (topping Finding Dory). Early tracking numbers were equally generous, with estimates between $100-$150 million on opening weekend.
As it stands, Beauty and the Beast has wracked up $170 million in the US and Canada, and $180 million in international territories for a worldwide total of $350 million. That’s impressive given that the film opened during a school week and during a time when the pre-summer season is unusually front-loaded with major films (Kong: Skull Island, Logan, Get Out, and The LEGO Batman to name a few).
WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 70% ‘Fresh’ rating, with the general consensus stating: “With an enchanting cast, beautifully crafted songs, and a painterly eye for detail, Beauty and the Beast offers a faithful yet fresh retelling that honors its beloved source material.”
Another day, another Disney live-action remake that’s making a boat-load of money.
I’ve said this too many times to count, but here it is: Disney will stop making these movies when the movies stop making money.
For now, Disney has another home-run under its belt and is content to keep on going.
If this article has you interested in seeing Beauty and the Beast, buy your tickets here on Fandango!
Thank you for reading this installment of What You Should Know!
What do you think? If you’ve seen the movie, discuss it down below WITHOUT spoilers!
WRITER’S NOTE #2: Thanks to a suggestion by Marielle, I’m strongly considering ditching the non-spoiler discussion articles and just having the main WYSK articles be platforms for non-spoiler discussion of the movie (that would facilitate putting a note at the end of each article warning readers who have seen the movie to not spoil anything). That being said, I don’t feel comfortable doing a drastic change-up of anything without everyone else’s input.
To that end, I’m holding another poll asking you, the readers, what you want. Do you want the non-spoiler discussion articles to stay, or are you fine with discussing the movie (WITHOUT spoilers) in the comment sections of the main WYSK articles? You have until Tuesday afternoon and the answer with the most votes will decide what I do.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes