Tale as Old as Time

So I finally saw Beauty and the Beast in 3D. It has been slightly over 20 years since I saw that film for the first time (go on, feel old, I’ll wait).

It’s still wonderful. I realize this doesn’t come as a shock to anyone, but since I seem to have developed an interest in the experience of engaging in a text (in the broader sense of the word) and the question of re-encountering a beloved story, I figured I should just let you all know that it is as good as I remembered it. Of course, I’ve seen it so many times, I have no idea which time I’m remembering when I remember it, but it has definitely held up.

Also, I can still apparently recite the entire thing by heart along with the characters. Good to know my Disney knowledge is still in fine form.

The 3D was cool, albeit a bit distracting (there were all these branches in my peripheral vision that didn’t REALLY need to jump out of the screen at me). The castle, of course, was beautiful and the library in 3D just rekindled my lust to one day own a library like that (Note to my husband: we don’t actually need a “rest of the house,” just the library). But, overall, the best part about the 3D was that it let them rerelease the movie and give me a chance to see it on the big screen again.

A good number of movies are worth watching, but few are worth experiencing on a movie screen anymore. This was worth it. I had forgotten how immersive this movie could be, how amazingly well it draws you in and just how good a job Glen Keane did on the Beast. Seriously, his expressions were fantastic. And I think you miss that watching it on a small television screen (or computer, or iPod…you get the idea). The animation was really good and being able to see it properly enhances the movie.

Of course, I’m biased. Profoundly biased. This is the first story I remember sticking with me. I don’t remember the first time I saw it, but I remember reliving it—for those of you who didn’t put yourself into books and imagine yourself as the protagonist as a kid, this might sound a bit odd, but for those of you who did, you’ll know what I’m talking about—it was one of those stories that grabs you and makes you want to be a part of it so badly that you spend half your time imagining yourself as the protagonist. I could list all the stories that caught me with that kind of intensity. (In order, I believe it goes: Beauty and the Beast, Beauty by Robin McKinley, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre—after that, I think I was a little too much of a grown-up to actually lose myself in someone else’s books. It is, however, no coincidence that 14 was the age when I read Jane Eyre and the age I started writing stories down (they were terrible and I apologize to anyone who went to high school with me and had to read the really early stuff. Also, I hope you burned it.)) But Beauty and the Beast was the first. I completely identified with Belle. I loved this story immoderately. It probably explains why four of the six stories on my parenthetical list are versions of the Beauty and the Beast archetype (an archetype I will still cheerfully admit to loving and finding everywhere).

So revisiting it was a bit dangerous. What if it hadn’t held up? What if I hated Belle? What if the Beast was no longer a compelling hero?

Fortunately, none of this happened. The story remained good, albeit colored by a few later experiences. Now I know that Gaston quotes Lady Macbeth (which makes me wonder if he isn’t secretly reading) and that Tony Jay, who plays Monseiur D’Arque, the owner of the lunatic asylum, also voices Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so it alters the way I see the characters or the movie. I appreciate it differently. I don’t think I can go back to the naive viewing of the past (and I don’t even remember watching the movie without knowing what happens next), but I can watch it as an adult and see all the things I loved about it from the beginning. It’s like falling in love all over again.

Only this time, it’s the pleasures of anticipation rather than the excitement of the new that tint my enjoyment.

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About

I'm a doctoral student in English Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My interests lie in the field known very broadly as the Digital Humanities and I focus on reading digital books (what happens to books as they become not merely digitized, but digital) and reading books digitally (how can we use computers to learn new things about literature). In what spare time I have, I read speculative fiction, transform long strings of yarn into apparel and decor and play with my friends' dogs while eagerly awaiting the day when we move to an apartment complex that will allow us to have one.

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One comment on “Tale as Old as Time
  1. Erachet says:

    I actually DO remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast. I saw it in theaters at a birthday party and I was TERRIFIED of the Beast. Especially the part where he jumps over the stairs onto the balcony and bangs on Belle’s door and the part where Belle sneaks into the West Wing and you just know something bad is going to happen.

    It’s also one of my favorite movies of all time. 🙂

    Incidentally, the latest episode of the new show Once Upon A Time was a Beauty and the Beast episode. Do you watch that show? I feel like you’d like it.

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