Beauty and the Beast: Animation or Live Action?
by Jess Sides | published Oct. 1st, 2020
Being in quarantine gives you a lot of free time. Why not fill the extra time by catching up on some movies like "Beauty and the Beast?"
Disney has gotten into the habit of reviving some all-time favorite animated movies into live-action remakes. Back in 2017, they released a live action version of "Beauty and the Beast." Some of the changes made when creating the live-action version deserve a closer look. Spoilers ahead!
There are some obvious changes throughout the film that, presumably, didn’t go unnoticed. For starters, the live-action movie is much longer than the animated movie — the difference in runtime reaches almost an hour. Also, there are many songs in the live-action film that were not in the original. Songs such as "Evermore," "Days in the Sun" and "Aria" fit well into the tone of the live-action version.
Speaking of tone, the live-action film is much darker than the original. Belle’s mother gets a tragic backstory, as does the Beast. As each rose petal falls, chunks of the castle break apart for added suspense. Also, at the very end of the movie, Belle doesn’t say the words “I love you” in enough time to save the Beast and his servants. As a result, all of the servants turn into trinkets and the Beast dies.
Another worthy note for the live action is that the opening scene does not have stained glass windows. In fact, we actually meet the prince and all his staff before the curse. The opening scene is also where we meet a brand new character, Cadenza, a pianist. This character was not in the original animation.
The last note that I have about the live-action film is that Emma Watson, Belle, is not a good singer. It’s heavily autotuned and pales in comparison to the original actress’s voice. This was incredibly disappointing to me, especially since the extra songs are incredibly moving.
Overall, I think that the darker tone is good for those who grew up watching the animated version. However, younger children may not take well to this cinematic choice.
There are some changes in the live-action film that you may not have noticed, as they were less apparent. To begin, Gaston has a war backstory. He explains that ever since the war he’s been bored and is looking for a challenge — something to thrill him. Winning over Belle is just what he is looking for. Also, he actually attempts to woo her in the live action. He brings her flowers, shows interest in her reading, tries to help her father find her and doesn’t surprise marry her.
Belle isn’t just a bookworm in the live-action either — she’s a full-on engineering wizard. She creates a washing machine way before its time, and she helps her father fix things. Speaking of Maurice, he isn’t an inventor in this version, but an artist.
In the live-action film, Belle is more empowering towards women. When Gaston tries to woo her, she very clearly states, “I’m never going to marry you, Gaston.” In the animated version, she was much more passive about this. She stated, “I just don’t deserve you.” Another example is when Belle attempts to escape the castle. She ties pieces of cloth together and throws it out her bedroom window. The general consensus is that Disney is looking to empower minorities by making these types of changes in their newer movies.
The live-action movie also added a small detail that aligns it to the original Grimm’s fairy tales. The Beast does not imprison Maurice until after he has stolen a rose from the garden. In the animated version, the Beast imprisoned Maurice merely for coming into the castle.
Let’s talk a little bit more on backstories. In the live action movie, the Beast gets a small mention that explains a lot of his bad behavior. After his mother passed away, his father treated him cruelly, leading to the Beast being cursed. Belle’s mother gets an entire scene explaining her backstory as well. Belle and her father moved to the “poor provincial town” to get away from Paris during the plague. Unfortunately, Belle’s mother had already come down with the plague, and they had to leave her there to die.
Last, but not least, Lefou is transparently gay in the live-action version, where as the original was much more subtle. There are so many more changes, but the remaining changes are fairly minor and don’t alter the plot immensely.
I appreciate that Disney filled some of the gaps left by the original. Why is Gaston so loved despite being a jerk? Where is Belle's mom? Why was the Beast an animal before he was one? I also love the LGBTQ friendliness present in the live-action film. However, I think Maurice's change in occupation was unnecessary, and Belle's intelligence is ridiculously unparalleled. It's not like she went to school, and reading fantasy novels doesn't make you an engineer. If so, I'd be Elon Musk.
Fixed Plot Holes
In the original, the movie left quite a few plot holes in its wake. The live-action version fixed these.
At one point in "Be Our Guest," Lumiere says, “Ten years we’ve been rusting.” However, it’s established at the beginning of the movie that the Beast needs to fall in love before his 21st birthday. This means the enchantress cursed an eleven year old! This was rectified in the live action version with a slight change: “too long we’ve been rusting.”
Another question viewers had after the original was, “how did the village not notice there was a massive castle just a few miles down the road from them?” The live-action explained this by having the curse extended to the entire village. The memories of those in the village were altered, and they were unable to remember the castle or their family members living inside.
There are some other small things the live action movie fixed, but I’d like to discuss more of a theory than something that’s directly stated. What makes Belle and Maurice so “odd?” Everyone in the village knows it — “look there she goes, that girl is strange no question ... She doesn’t quite fit in.” It can’t just be because she reads, right? There is a widespread theory that explains this phenomenon, but it only works for the live action version.
Belle and Maurice moved to this village to escape the plague, as established from earlier. However, they moved to this village after the curse had befallen the village. The village itself is stuck in a time loop, nothing ever changes, no one ever ages. “There goes the baker with his tray like always, same old bread and rolls to sell.” Only Belle notices these because she is not cursed. Belle and Maurice age and change, which is why they’re viewed so harshly by the village. People commonly shun those who are different.
Which Movie Is Better?
So which movie is better? The animated version or the live action? Let’s look at the pros of each.
The animated version has a sense of nostalgia that the live action fails to provide, and the singing in the animated version is arguably better. Also, the humor is more intriguing, which is likely due to the lighter tone. Lastly, the progression of Belle and Beast’s love story is much more playful, where as the live action is much heavier, similar to real life. For a Disneymovie, the playfulness of love is what people go to the theaters for — not love’s reality.
The live-action movie fixed a lot of the plot holes that the original movie produced, and it’s progressive towards women and the LGBTQ+ community. The movie also has a number of new songs and is more emotional (given the tone of the film).
In my personal opinion, after watching these movies an unhealthy amount of times, the animated film is the better version of "Beauty and the Beast." The nostalgia of the movie leaves a smile on my face throughout the entire film, and I never fail to sing along.
Both movies have their strengths and are wonderful, but overall the original animated version is just better.