Last week I watched (for the second time) one of my favourite Disney animated films become live-action. It was truly magical and yes I did cry; pretty much the whole way through the first time around. In my opinion, the casting couldn’t have been more perfect with a range of fantastic actors and actresses. Emma Watson was a brilliant Belle, Dan Stevens, well I will talk about him later, the wonderful Ian McKellan, Ewan McGregor and of course Luke Evans, who did a brilliant job of making you like Gaston, if even for just a moment.
Some people have an issue with Disney but I think films like this will always have a place. They are pure escapism but I think Beauty and the Beast, like many of the classic Disney films, has a message. Growing up, Beauty and the Beast was a favourite alongside two others which never seem to be as popular; Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. These deal with issues of prejudice and tolerance; accuracy obviously is not always present but for a child they were great. I do think the things you grow up with have a big impact on your personality; I remember watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame in the cinema; I would have only been four or five and can still remember getting upset at a scene where Quasimodo is mocked. This has always stuck with me.
Of course I’ve always loved the ‘Princess’ ones and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. True, they aren’t all brilliant role models for girls but unfortunately they are quite accurate to the times they were set in. Women were supposed to wait around to get married, and if that ended up being a prince then they would be much better off than the rest. Belle was always my favourite though and unlike the others, she shows something different. Firstly, she’s a bookworm which was obviously the big draw for me as I’ve always ‘had my nose stuck in a book’. Secondly, she wants to break the mould and go further than the small town she lives in. She doesn’t want to follow the path set out for her to become a silent and doting wife. Granted they do make a big deal of her being beautiful on the outside but I do think the film’s main message is that inner beauty is what counts overall. Shrek is another fine, although non-Disney, example of this
Of course I am a romantic, I can’t deny that and along with Disney, I love nothing more than a classic period drama or a bit of Nicholas Sparks. However, I was also (maybe wrongly?) brought up on James Bond. I used to watch the reruns on Saturday afternoons from quite a young age and unlike the majority of my friends, I’ve always loved a good action film. To go back to Disney I am always drawn to the more feisty female characters such as Pocahontas, Belle and Esmerelda who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in and occasionally fight for it too.
This has been my longwinded attempt of showing the world that I love Disney and I’m not ashamed. (Still waiting on that trip to Disneyland Sam :p). I think on one level they can be seen as entertaining films that all ages can enjoy but if you look deeper, the best ones do truly have a heart and a moral message at the centre.
Oh yes, did I mention how amazing Dan Stevens is as the Beast? You may have noticed the picture. By some miracle I was sat in the same restaurant as him on the weekend. I plucked up the courage to speak to him and ask for a photo as I knew I would always regret it if I didn’t. I have loved watching him since Sense and Sensibility in 2008 and he then became my favourite character in Downton Abbey. I managed to tell him how he ruined Christmas for me the year he was killed off. He was charming and lovely and a perfect choice for the Beast who underneath all that growling and fur really is Prince Charming.
If you haven’t already, go out and see Beauty and the Beast. If you’re a die-hard fan you won’t be disappointed. Just be aware that if you’re like me you might like the Beast a bit too much.