Is there any disappointment so intense for a pre-teenage girl as that of the Beast’s post-Beast appearance in Disney’s animated classic? I don’t think so. We’ve had the dramatic death scene in the rain, the confession of love as Belle sobs over his massive white-shirted chest (where did the Beast get his tailored XXL shirts from?), the zippy neon fireworks, the French Horn of Impending Spell-Breakage, then Beast’s hands and feet do that awesome light-shooting thing and he’s carried back to earth. He staggers to his feet, the Horn steps up to the climactic chord (baaaaaaah bah! Baaaaaaaaaaaaaah bah!) as he prepares to turn around, and – aurgh. The long, girly hair. The strange pointed nose. The odd effect of wide blue eyes underneath thick ginger eyebrows. He looks like a Pre-Raphaelite. A Pre-Raphaelite woman. And that shirt now hangs off him like a circus tent.
The first impression is hardly bettered when he’s dancing around the ballroom in a blue-beribboned ponytail afterwards, though in fairness spending his formative years as a hairy, toothy wolf-man in tattered trousers can’t have honed his sense of style. I will also say, in his defence, that he at least does not appear to be wearing lipstick, which cannot be said of Snow White’s Prince Charming.
Having rescued a mint-condition VHS of Beauty and the Beast from the book table at work this week, I watched it for the first time in years last night, and was captivated all over again. I did, this time, spend a while pondering the Beast’s home life, which says something about my age (and the number of newspapers I read). When Belle enters the castle, they’ve been under the spell for ten years, and the magic rose will wilt on Beast’s twenty-first birthday. Which means when the prince refused to let that old hag into his castle overnight, he was eleven, and probably didn’t want her to come inside because she was all craggy and weird and a Stranger Danger incident waiting to happen. Also, puberty with a full-on pelt must’ve been awkward. And did he not think it was odd that quite a few of his servants already looked a bit like household objects BEFORE they got turned into them?
Apparently dysfunctional childhoods predate the ‘broken society’ David Cameron keeps whinging about. What a darkly brilliant, technically accomplished film this is – totally worth the time it took to haul the VCR out of the cupboard. Incidentally this was the first Disney film – in fact I think one of the first animated films ever – to use computer generated animation within the hand-drawn ballroom scene. The employees of Pixar thus feature in the closing credits, all thirty of them – I wonder if Disney had the slightest inkling of where that would lead?