Retrospective Review: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Retrospective Review: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

“Tale as old as time, true as it can be, barely even friends then somebody bends… unexpectedly… Beauty and the beast” – Mrs. Potts

Without a doubt, Beauty and the Beast (1991) is one of the greatest Disney animated films of all time. In fact, it is one of the greatest movies of all time. Even though it is intended to be a kid’s movie, it stands the test of time as a magnificent, charming, and fun love story. The main theme of the story is a very important one: not judging others solely by appearance. Re-watching the film as an adult, I am very impressed at the complexity of this simple virtue in a G-rated animated movie. In the prologue at the beginning of the movie, the narrator explains how a young prince lives in a castle and has everything. However, he is “spoiled, selfish, and unkind”. On a cold winter’s night, an old beggar pleads for refuge in exchange for a rose. Disgusted by the beggar’s feeble appearance, he turns her away twice. Afterwards, she reveals herself to be a beautiful enchantress. Upon this realization, he begs for mercy but he is too late. For his cruelty and miserable personality, she punishes him by casting a curse to transform him into a beast. The spell extends to all of his castle and his servants who suffer with their master. The spell can only be broken if he is able to love someone and she learns to love him back. It is also linked to an enchanted rose he keeps inside a glass dome. Eventually, all the petals will fall and the curse will become permanent. As the years pass, he loses hope because he succumbs to the sober thought that no woman could ever lose a beast. Naturally, he is devastated and ashamed of his monstrous appearance. For this reason, he becomes a recluse in his castle. His only view into the rest of the world is a magic mirror that allows him to see anything or anyone he chooses. The story’s use of a prince is a very clever choice. It sends a message that even the most powerful individuals are not above treating others with respect. Moreover, the twist that he cannot use his looks to persuade a woman to fall in love with him to break the curse emphasizes the point of having substance over form and judging others in a similar manner. Another reason Beauty and the Beast is a phenomenal film is the great characters. In particular, Belle (Paige O’Hara) is an amazing, strong female protagonist that I did not fully appreciate until I watched the film again as an adult. Of course, the movie is also a beautiful love story that is done flawlessly. In addition, it features an incredible soundtrack that includes some memorable musical numbers and the legendary “Beauty and the Beast” song, which is most well-known for Celine Dion’s perfect version.  The movie also incorporates everything in a tidy running time of less than 90 minutes. For all these reasons, Beauty and the Beast is a “tale as old as time” that stands the test of time.


After the initial narration, the film begins by introducing Belle walking through her village. She is a stunningly gorgeous women and it is “no wonder her name means beauty”. On the other hand, she is perceived as “peculiar”. Her passion is reading and she always has her head down and stuck in a book seemingly unaware of the real world around her. Of course, her favorite spot in town is the bookshop. Her favorite book is about “Far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, and a prince in disguise!” Obviously, it is foreshadowing because she will soon embark on the same journey and live a similar story. Moreover, there is a bit of a spoiler when she notes “It’s my favorite part because, you’ll see! Here’s where she meets Prince Charming but she won’t discover that it’s him ‘til chapter three!” She has her head in the clouds fantasizing about living a fairy tale story instead of her own life. However, it is truly admirable that she educates herself and dreams big as a woman instead of conforming to the societal norms of her time to get married, tend to her husband, and give birth then only raise children. Nevertheless, she feels the pressure of being “odd” and different from the rest of the village. She is a social outcast who has no one to talk to. In many other ways, Belle is a strong, modern woman. It is refreshing that she does not play the damsel in distress in any point of the film. She can take care of herself. She shows great courage, grace, and class throughout the movie. She shows her greatest strength when she finds her father imprisoned by Beast. At the sight of her father in despair, she instinctively volunteers to take his place and agree to “promise to stay here [Beast’s castle] forever”. Even though she is frightened at the first sight of Beast’s monstrous appearance, she remains resolute and agrees to the deal despite her father’s pleas that “I’m old. I’ve lived my life”. As one could conclude, she is undeniably selfless and brave.


Since Belle is the most beautiful woman in her village, every man lusts for her. Consequently, she draws the eye of Gaston (Richard White). He is textbook narcissistic. He literally stares at his own reflection to admire himself. Nevertheless, he is a physical specimen and a great hunter. Most women fawn over him. In particular, there are three blonds that swoon at the sight of him. Gaston is accompanied by his goofy sidekick, Le Fou (Jesse Corti), who worships Gaston. Le Fou often strokes Gaston’s ego: “No beast alive stands a chance against you…and no girl for that matter!” Le Fou is portrayed as a bit dopey. Nevertheless, he makes a lot of astute observations throughout the movie. However, the relationship is an abusive one. Gaston hits Le Fou often whenever he pokes fun of him or says something he does not like. Gaston plans on wooing Belle and making her his wife simply because she is the most beautiful girl in town and he feels entitled to the best. When he greets her for the first time in the movie, he grabs her book and stupidly states “How can you read this? There’s no pictures!” Despite Belle’s insistence that “Well, some people use their imaginations”, he throws her book into the mud. He is all brawn and no brain. Although he is clueless to the fact, he can never appeal to someone like Belle. He does not get the hint to get lost when Belle calls him “primeval”. When she later talks to her father about Gaston, she notes “He’s handsome all right, and rude and conceited and…Oh Papa, he’s not for me!” Nevertheless, Gaston thinks he is God’s gift to women. Accordingly, he later proceeds to go to Belle’s home and ask her to marry him. It is inconceivable to him that she can or will turn him down. He is so arrogant that he has the wedding procession waiting outside to marry them immediately after she says yes. His arrogance and ignorance follows him as he enters her home and notes “There’s not a girl in town who wouldn’t love to be in your shoes” and “This is the day your dreams come true”. He rambles about his vision of a fire roasting his latest kill, Belle as his wife massaging his feet, and six or seven kids. Although she is repulsed by Gaston, she handles the situation politely and gracefully. When he pins her against the door and moves in to kiss her, she subtly reaches for the handle and opens the door. She responds “I’m very sorry, Gaston but… but I just don’t deserve you” as he stumbles and falls into the mud. Afterwards, it is hysterical to see Gaston’s precious ego easily bruised and moping because he is rejected. In order to get his spirits back up, Le Fou initiates a musical number about how great Gaston is and how every man wants to be him. As one could clearly see, Gaston is an egomaniac and a jerk. He is definitely one of the better Disney villains that we love to hate.


Belle’s father, Maurice, is an inventor. He seems aloof at times but he is very smart and creative. He finally invents something great that works, a machine that chops wood. As a result, he heads to the fair on his horse, Philippe, to enter a competition and sell it. His journey initiates the main story. During his voyage, he gets misdirected and lost in the woods where he is attacked by wolves. As he runs for his life, he is pushed to Beast’s premises and forced to take refuge for the night. He wanders into the castle where he meets anthropomorphic objects, which is the fate of the human staff who still serves their master. The most fun and entertaining of the staff is definitely Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), who was turned into a candlestick. He is kind hearted and jolly. He is a free spirit who likes to push the envelope with the rules. He even challenges Beast (e.g. encouraging him to woo Belle) before he eventually gets put back in his place sternly. He is also a lady’s man who still romances the sexy maid even though she has been turned into a feather duster. There is even a suggestive scene when Lumiere, the candlelight, and the feather duster are fooling around and she notes that he “burned” her the last time they tried it. Lumiere is often seen with Cogsworth, who has become a clock. He is the head of the household staff. He is a stickler on the rules. He is a groveling yes man who bends to Beast’s will and is absolutely petrified of his master’s wraith. Since Lumiere and Cogsworth are total opposites, it is a cooperative yet contentious relationship. Another beloved character is Mrs. Potts, who has turned into a teapot. Her young son, Chip, is fittingly a chipped teacup. Not surprisingly, she is a motherly figure and source of sage advice to other characters. Other notable characters include Wardrobe who comforts Belle, Sultan who is the dog turned footstool, and the castle’s chef who is now a stove. When Maurice initially enters the castle, Cogsworth wants to ignore him so he leaves. However, Lumiere protests “Cogsworth, have a heart”. Consequently, they show great hospitality to Maurice. They invite him to sit in the master’s chair while Mrs. Potts pours him some tea that he drinks out of Chip. Of course, Beast is incensed at the developments. His entrance into the film is done perfectly. He lurks in the shadows before he scares us with his monstrous appearance and unleashes his fury for the first time because Maurice is trespassing into his castle. As such, he throws Maurice in the dungeon. As we know, Belle eventually comes for her father and makes the deal to save him.

As soon as the deal is struck, Beast quickly throws Maurice out of his castle and hurries him into a carriage that takes him back to the village. Obviously, Belle is totally distraught at her fate as a prisoner. To make matters worse, Beast does not even give her a moment to say goodbye to her father. For these reasons, she is naturally inclined to hate him. Of course, he has become socially inept, self-loathing, and miserable as a reclusive Beast self-imprisoned in his own castle. Getting Belle to warm up to him is an uphill climb. Getting her to love him seems nearly impossible. Lumiere is the first character who tries to coach Beast and smooth out his rough edges when he suggests “I was thinking that you might want to offer her a more comfortable room [instead of the tower she is initially relegated to]”. At first, Beast roars in anger at Lumiere before realizing the wise advice. Moreover, Lumiere suggests Beast invite her to dinner. Unfortunately, Beast offers in a rude and bossy tone that makes her feel like a prisoner instead of a guest: “You will join me for dinner. That’s not a request”. Although Beast desperately wants Belle to be his true love that breaks the curse, he knows the odds are against him because she is so beautiful and he is a beast. His staff tries to offer him advice such as “make yourself presentable”, “straighten up”, “act like a gentleman”, “give her a dashing, debonair smile”, “impress her with wit, be gentle, shower her with compliments”, and “be sincere”. Above all, they remind him to control his temper. It is definitely his biggest weakness. Although he anxiously awaits her presence at dinner, she rejects the request. Naturally, his temper erupts and he rushes to her door and threatens to knock it down. Nevertheless, she stands up to him and will not be intimidated the way every other person is when he huffs and puffs. Afterwards, he uses the magic mirror to look at her and laments “She’ll never see me as anything but a monster. It’s hopeless”. Again, the main theme of the story is that the person someone is in the inside is worth much more than outer appearance. He thinks his problem in his Beast form but his monstrous character is the real issue. Fortunately for him, Belle is a special person who can see past looks and rough exterior to judge someone for who they truly are even if it takes a little work to uncover his better side.

The love story is developed very well. It does not ignore or skip over the challenge of the very contentious and different personalities of Belle and Beast when they first meet. Although she ignores the dinner request, she eventually comes out and goes to the kitchen. In response, the staff is happy to show her their welcoming hospitality. The famous musical number “Be Our Guest” breaks out. She instantly falls in love with the staff despite her disdain for their master. When she was given a tour of the castle, Beast warns her about the forbidden West Wing. Of course, telling someone that someplace is forbidden only makes them want to explore it even more. Accordingly, she finds her way there. She sees the remnants of a portrait of the former prince in his human form. Beast rips it with his claws because of his disgust of his monstrous transformation. In addition, she sees the enchanted rose and lifts the glass dome protecting it. Beast obviously flips out because destroying the rose would make the curse permanent. He lashes out at her and frightens her so much that she breaks the promise and flees for the woods. However, she does not get too far because she is attacked by the same wolves that chased after her father. Before they move in for the killing strike, Beast intervenes. He fights them off but sustains serious wounds. They go back to the castle where Belle attends to his injuries. He is livid at the pain of his wounds. His staff is completely petrified by his screams. Nevertheless, Belle remains poised and holds her ground to nurse him. Of course, they argue over the incident. They go back and forth about who is at fault because she ran away but he frightened her. He ultimately submits when she points out his temper since he knows it is his biggest problem. Nevertheless, she thanks him for saving her life and he says thank you. It begins to thaw their icy relationship. Ironically, one of the most contentious moments in their relationship is the break when “somebody bends unexpectedly” to initiate their love story. Again, it is developed brilliantly and slowly. Beast falls in love with her by just watching her. She is gentle, smart, and caring in addition to her beauty. Everyone else at the castle falls in love with her too. Consequently, he wants to do something for her to show his affection. Cogsworth makes sappy suggestions that include “Flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep”. On the other hand, Lumiere is a romantic and encourages Beast to do something truly special. Accordingly, Beast surprises Belle by asking her to close her eyes and enter a unique room. When she opens her eyes, she is amazed at his extensive library: “I’ve never seen so many books in all my life”. The way into Belle’s heart is books. It showcases how his love for her is changing him for the better. He is finally thinking about others instead of only selfishly looking inwards at himself. He is becoming attuned to Belle and her passions and interests. Consequently, he is able to pick the perfect gift to win her affection. It is a sharp contrast to how Gaston tries to woo Belle, which is similar to what Beast used to think would impress her. Gaston dismisses Belle as an independent, strong woman who has her own aspirations and dreams. He just assumes she will fall madly in love with how awesome his looks and strength are. Accordingly, he also represents a typical pitfall men run into in terms of focusing so much on talking about how great they are (e.g. strength, money, intelligence) that they forget to pay attention to how great a girl is and what makes her tick. Speak but also listen. Appearances and resume bullet points may get you the initial attention but who you truly are and how well you treat and respect another person will either sustain or destroy a relationship.


Beast also becomes a better man by osmosis through her grace. For example, there is a scene when he eats like an animal by putting his face in the soup bowl and gobbling everything up savagely with his mouth. In response, Chip politely pushes a spoon in his direction to use. However, he physically has a difficult time with it because of his Beast form. Astute to the situation, Belle does not lecture him nor even say a word. She gracefully lifts up the bowl with her hands to meet him half way to drink the soup. Other sweet scenes include Belle teaching Beast how to be gentle with birds and engaging in a friendly snowball fight. Of course, we know she loves books. As such, she also reads to him (e.g. Romeo and Juliet) and vice versa although he needs a little help since it has been a long time since he has read. I like how their love is developed at a moderate and realistic pace. They become friends and work hard at their relationship before they truly fall in love. One of the musical numbers perfectly describes the feelings she develops for him: “There’s something sweet and almost kind. But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined. And now he’s dear and so unsure. I wonder why I didn’t see it there before… That he’s no Prince Charming but there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see”. Of course, these events culminate in one of the most famous scenes in the entire movie when she enters the ballroom in a beautiful yellow evening gown to dance with him in a handsome blue suit. When they enter the room to greet each other, Mrs. Potts begins to sing the song “Beauty and the Beast” which starts with the words “Tale as old as time” and runs through the duration of their dance. Obviously, Celine Dion’s version is incredible and the most memorable. Celine’s voice is powerful and epic. Mrs. Potts voice is calm and soothing. For this reason, Mrs. Potts version is the perfect one for the scene in the movie because Celine would steal the show with her amazing vocals when the emphasis of the scene is on Belle and Beast. Afterwards, Beast asks if Belle is happy staying at the castle. Although she is, she clearly still misses her father. When Beast allows her to see him through the magic mirror, she is horrified to see her father suffering “all alone and dying” of the cold out in the woods trying to look for and save her. In response, he releases her as his prisoner to go to her father. In this moment, he completely proves his love for her. It is a truly selfless act because the enchanted rose is quickly wilting away so he knowingly condemns himself to the Beast form. Nonetheless, he is putting her needs above his own. It is a far cry from his origin at the beginning of the film. He also gives her the magic mirror so she can she him and never forget him.


The end of the film provides a fitting finale. While Belle and Beast are falling in love, Gaston comes up with a dastardly scheme. Earlier in the movie, he has Maurice thrown out of the tavern when he asks for help to save her from Beast. The tavern and Gaston scoff his pleas off as ramblings from a lunatic. However, he knows Belle’s weakness is her father. Consequently, he bribes the sadistic Monsieur D’Arque (Tony Jay) to put Maurice in the insane asylum unless Belle agrees to marry him. It is a plot that definitely symbolizes how much of a dirt bag Gaston really is. Instead of trying to win Maurice over to win Belle’s heart, he tries to threaten her beloved father to hold her heart hostage. It is an example of how a depraved person can be more of a monster than a beast. After Belle brings her father home to nurse him back to health, Monsieur D’Arque, Gaston, and a mob arrive to take Maurice away. However, Belle uses the magic mirror to reveal Beast to prove her father is not mad. Naturally, they are terrified. On the other hand, Gaston is jealous rather than feels fear because Belle has feelings for Beast. As such, he uses fear mongering (e.g. Beat coming to the village to take the children) to rally the mob to storm the castle so he can kill Beast. Gaston also locks Belle and Maurice in the cellar to prevent them from warning Beast. The battle in the castle is ridiculous and silly because it is a Disney movie. Mrs. Potts and the cups pour tea on one intruder. Another man gets sucked inside Wardrobe and runs away when he comes out in lady’s clothes. Cogsworth slides down the stairs to stab Le Fou in the buttocks with scissors to save Lumiere. The entire fight between the castle staff and the mob unravels in similarly comical ways. However, Beast does not have the will to fight because he is heartbroken at losing Belle. He is ready to die and welcomes the mob. Gaston takes advantage of Beast’s apathy to shoot him with an arrow. Beast only fights back when Belle breaks out of the cellar and arrives at the castle. Naturally, Beast easily overpowers Gaston. He also spares Gaston when he begs for his life. Of course, it is a mistake. When Beast runs to embrace Belle, the villainous Gaston mortally wounds Beast by stabbing him in the back when his guard is down. Fittingly, Gaston falls to his doom when he slips attempting another stab. Nonetheless, the damage has been done. Beast gives his final words simultaneously with the last flower petal falling down. Obviously, a Disney fairy tale cannot end with Beast’s death. Belle’s true love’s tears drops on Beast and turns everyone back to human. Beast’s body is lifted in the air where a bright light transforms him back into a gorgeous prince. The film ends with a “Happily ever after” finale with Belle, in her iconic yellow gown, and the prince, in his blue suit, dancing in front of everyone looking on in their human form. It is a picture perfect ending.

Beauty and the Beast is a brilliant film. It reminds us to never judge a book by its cover. Instead, we should read it like Belle would. The characters are great. Belle is totally an amazing, strong female character who inspires young women to dream big instead of settling for what may seem expected or realistic. Of course, the movie also features a beautiful love story and iconic music. For all these reasons, it is a tale for all of time.

Tale as old as time

True as it can be

Barely even friends

Then somebody bends



Just a little change

Small, to say the least

Both a little scared

Neither one prepared

Beauty and the beast


Ever just the same

Ever a surprise

Ever as before

Ever just as sure

As the sun will rise


Tale as old as time

Tune as old as song

Bittersweet and strange

Finding you can change

Learning you were wrong


Certain as the sun

Certain as the sun

Rising in the east

Tale as old as time

Song as old as rhyme

Beauty and the beast.


Tale as old as time

Song as old as rhyme

Beauty and the beast.


Beauty and the beast.

Pat Wong

About Pat Wong

Patrick is a contributor for Rookerville. He is an avid sports fan. Before joining Rookerville, he was part of a defunct New York Yankees message board, NYYankeefans, where he was its top poster and was inducted in its Hall of Fame for his contributions. Patrick is also a passionate fan of movies. He has enjoyed reading movie reviews over the years and is excited about the opportunity to review movies. Patrick is also a passionate foodie. He is Yelp Elite for three years in a row and shares his great finds in New York and his travels.


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