Beauty and the Beast (1991)

[8.5]

Disney goes Broadway in the first animated motion picture ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (in the days before they rolled out a separate category for the medium). This version of the classic fairy tale is fueled by power-house songs from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, memorable characters, and a calibre of design and refined skillsmanship unseen for decades in the studio’s output. Linda Woolverton’s script is lean but dense, and the voice cast (who double as singers) are inspired selections — especially David Ogden Stiers as a tightly-wound, enchanted mantle clock. Even though I know how calculated animated films are (by necessity), I still find it hard not to get choked up in the final minutes, even 19 years after the film was released. While I prefer a darker take on the story, Disney’s family-friendly approach is infectiously joyous — the pinnacle of the studio’s late 80s/early 90s renaissance. Little Mermaid, you’re cute. But B&B is a class act.

Academy Awards: Best Score, Song (“Beauty and the Beast”)

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Sound, Song (“Be Our Guest,” “Belle”)

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