Credited with sparking the revival of the animated musical and Disney, "Beauty and the Beast" remains a peerless retelling of the classic love story, a decade after its original release. It may be a cliché to call a fairy tale enchanting, but no other adjective suffices as the film still has the wit, slapstick, and romance to enrapture children and adults alike. It's easy to see why it received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in 1991.
The 600-year-old story is faithfully, if irreverently, retold. Belle (O'Hara) is desperate to escape her "provincial life" in a late 18th century French town, where she must constantly fend off the advances of the dashing but ignorant Gaston (White). But when her dad gets lost in the woods and is captured by the vicious Beast (Benson), she gets more excitement than she bargained for.
Swapping places with pops, she's confined to the Beast's magical mansion, where a talking candelabra, clock, and teapot try to convince her that there might be more to her hirsute host than meets the eye. Will true love blossom? What do you think?
Unusually, for an animated movie, the visuals in "Beauty" aren't its primary strength. In fact, compared to the likes of "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc.", the action now seems desperately primitive. But it's the story and characters that count. And the songs. The unforgettable, hilarious songs. Composer Alan Menken's instantly hummable compositions are gilded by the witty lyrics of the late Howard Ashman (who died eight months before the movie opened) - showcased to full effect in the sequence added for this special edition, Human Again, in which the spellbound household objects fantasise about being back on two legs.
That the film was adapted into a Broadway hit serves to highlight that its enduring appeal is not down to moving pictures, but moving music. The genius is in the tunes.
"Beauty and the Beast" is showing at the London IMAX from Tuesday 1st January 2002.