“…this movie ignited an obsession in me…I was enraptured by it – the colors, the animation, the lively characters, the humor, and the story of a brilliant, headstrong woman who loved to read…Although I can’t explain what was going on in my head at the age of two and a half, I think it was Belle’s unique personality that stuck with me.”
Last Friday night, I felt like a little girl all over again…in the body of a 28-year-old. To celebrate the birthday of a dear friend, I eagerly attended the opening night of the brand new live action Beauty And The Beast. The last time I saw this movie in a theater I’d only been on earth for two and a half years…
It was 1991, and I went with my Mom, of course, surrounded by many other youngsters like myself. Although I don’t remember the specifics of that day, I do know that this movie ignited an obsession in me, for at least the next couple of years. I was enraptured by it – the colors, the animation, the lively characters, the humor, and the story of a brilliant, headstrong woman who loved to read. My recent viewing, twenty-five years later – different life place, same feelings of elation. I drove myself to the theater after leaving work, went with my boyfriend and buddies, and was surrounded not by children this time, but by other reminiscent twenty-somethings like myself. Years later, it still charms me. I felt myself beaming throughout the entire film because this movie is so near and dear to my heart. Although it was stunningly similar yet revamped in all the best ways, the message remained the same. And it is that message that has stuck with me since childhood.
This post is not meant to be a movie review, but, since we’re on topic, I do highly recommend that you take the time to go see this refreshed classic. Anyone with a heart for Disney and its old school gems is sure to enjoy the careful attention given to the original detail, as well as the fresh and fascinating new look of animation brought to life. The remake of this movie draws a broad audience. While it is a classic story well known by current youngsters, this 90’s hit definitely strikes a chord with twenty and thirty somethings who remember the original release too. I for one, was not at all ashamed to spend my Friday night watching a Disney movie. And I wasn’t alone, in an opening night crowd consisting primarily of adults and young adults.
I couldn’t tell you specifically what resonated with me as a child. I can only really guess. There were the obvious attractions of course, to Belle and her magical tale – she’s a beautiful girl, an amazing singer, is gifted with a beautiful, sparkling ball gown, discovers a handsome prince in disguise, and consequently marries into princess status (typical Disney princess perks and admirable qualities). However, as a child, I personally did not relate that closely to any other Disney princess. Belle was my girl. It was the tunes of Beauty And The Beast that I would sing from my crib in the morning, it was a Beauty And The Beast cake that I requested for my fourth birthday, it was the design of my first bed comforter, the pattern on my big girl underwear when I potty trained, my favorite cassette tape to sing along to, and ultimately it was the identity I chose to adopt. One of my Mom’s favorite stories (and my friends’ favorite as well) was my convincing introduction when I would meet new people. I would formally introduce myself as Belle. My Mom about ten seconds later would politely explain that my actual name was Elizabeth. I loved everything about Belle so much, I wanted to step fully into her shoes.
Although I can’t explain what was going on in my head at the age of two and a half, I think it was Belle’s unique personality that stuck with me. While she still met the same magical fate as the other Disney princesses, Belle achieved happiness simply by being herself. She followed her heart, spoke up for herself, and opposed injustice. She was selfless, and loved unconditionally. She read books and loved adventure – a fantastic role model who sought more than the typical princess, while still embracing education! (haha my 28-year-old feminist self, also totally relates to Belle)
While Beauty And The Beast did not dictate all of my life decisions obviously, having Belle as an early role model showed me that a woman could do anything she wanted.
“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.
I want it more than I can tell.
And for once, it might be grand,
To have someone understand.
I want so much more than they’ve got planned.”
As a woman in the arts who followed her heart as well, this movie makes me so proud. I am proud of who I have become, and I too will never stop questioning and searching for exactly what I want from life.