A Beauty and the Beast live-action remake was never going to be an easy task to get right, and it's fair to say that fans will be more critical of usual when the movie is finally released. For director Bill Condon, it's an unenviable position to be in; if he pitches the movie too close to the original, he will be accused of merely producing a copy, and not putting his own stamp on things. Introduce too many changes and he'll be accused of butchering a much-loved animated classic.
Condon seems to be aiming for a healthy mix of old and new; replicating many aspects including key scenes and costumes almost exactly, while also introducing new characters, backstories, and even new songs from Alan Menken and Tim Rice. One thing that has been kept unchanged though, is the presentation of the trailers. Both full length theatrical trailers for Beauty and the Best 2017 have played out almost frame for frame against their original, animated counterparts. Below, we break down the key aspects of the second (and final) trailer for you, and take a look at how they compare to the animated version.
The trailers both open with a shot of Belle emerging from her cottage in the small, sleepy village where she lives with her father. In the animated movie, this shot is the opening scene of the entire movie, right before Belle starts singing "Little Town." Given the other similarities, it seems reasonable to expect that this will also be the first shot of Emma Watson as Belle, too. In the new trailer, we then hear Kevin Kline, as Belle's father, Maurice, saying "My dear Belle, you're so ahead of your time." This plays over a shot of Belle walking as she reads a book, and then teaching a little girl to read. In the animated trailer, replace the little girl with some sheep, and you have exactly the same scene played out. There is also a wide shot of a crowd scene, which again can be seen in the animated trailer and comes from the opening song. "Little Town" is a perfect scene setter; a multi-layered, energetic and insightful number that could be the perfect opener to any Broadway show.
Gaston Loves Himself
Well, we all knew that this fundamental character trait wouldn't change. Played by Luke Evans, Gaston is just as boorish, arrogant and self-centered as his animated counterpart; a sure sign that though Beauty and the Beast might be live-action, it's still a Disney movie, with exaggerated, over-the-top villains that we all love to hate. Disney isn't seeking to deliver realism here, and the shot of Gaston proudly telling himself that he is the most "gorgeous thing I have ever seen," plays identically to the animated trailer. In the movie, this shot comes from the first time we see Gaston, during an instrumental break of "Little Town." However, the next brief shot is different; when Belle walks past Gaston in the animated trailer, she doesn't even look up from her book, whereas in the live-action version, Watson wears a look of disdain on her face that leads us to believe conversation with Gaston has just taken place.
A Dark Turn of Events
After the bright, explanatory opener to the trailer, things take a darker turn when Maurice strays into the forest and is attacked by wolves. It'll be interesting to know how he comes to be there this time, since in the live-action Beauty and the Beast it is Belle who is the inventor, not Maurice, so he's unlikely to be on his way back from the science fair as he is in the original. Again the trailers play scene-for-scene: Maurice on horseback, trying to find his way by lamplight, a shot of the wolves, and then the dropped lantern (or in this case, bag), signalling that all is not well. The difference comes in the first time Maurice meets the Beast. The animated movie has him coming to the castle for help, where the servants welcome him and the Beast finds him sitting in his chair, in front of a fire. In the live-action trailer, the Beast seems to disperse the wolves, and then confront Maurice, who is lying in the snow.
Belle to the Rescue
After the exact same Disney castle shot, we see Belle riding up to the castle, determined to rescue her dad. In 1991, Belle was seen as a strong heroine of her time, but looking back it's easy to see flaws in her character, such as her willingness to easily rely on the Beast who serves as her captor. This time around, though the plot won't have changed, Watson is quick to talk about Belle's strength and defiance, as well as her refusal to back down. Of course, we all know she ends up agreeing to stay with the Beast in exchange for her father's release, and again this plays out identically in both trailers - right down to the line, "Come into the light." This is sure to be an important moment in the movie, as Belle sees the Beast properly for the first time.
Meet the Servants
After a painful farewell to her father (rushed because of the Beast's impatience), Belle is moved upstairs to some nicer accommodation. The tone of the trailer shifts back to being lighthearted and invigorating once more, as we are introduced to Lumiere, voiced by Ewan McGregor, Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson). As ever, Cogsworth seems entirely exasperated by Lumiere's cheerfulness, while Mrs. Potts is bustling and bubbling away with Chip by her side. In the animated trailer we see Belle bumping into the wardrobe, but that's not seen this time around. She does feature, though, and is voiced by Audra McDonald. Presumably that means she will sing at some point, because it will be a shame to let those Broadway-busting vocals go to waste. A lot has been made of how these enchanted servants aren't as instantly likeable as the animated ones, mainly because they are made to look like real household objects, but this second trailer did present them in a better light, and the more we see and hear them, the more we get used to them.
The Enchanted Rose
The focal point of Beauty and the Beast is the enchanted rose that lives under a glass cloche in the west wing of the Beast's castle. When the Prince is turned into the Beast, the enchantress tells him that he must find love and earn that person's love in return, before the last rose petal falls on his 21st birthday. If he can't do that, as Lumiere tells us in the trailer, the prince will remain a beast forever. Despite being told not to go in that wing, Belle is intrigued and finds the rose shut away. When the Beast finds out, once again the animated and live-action versions play out in the same way, as the Beast loses his temper. His reaction stems from a mixture of fear and embarrassment, but the fright of seeing him so enraged means that Belle takes flight from the castle.
The Wolves Descend
Perhaps the moment from the live-action trailer that plays most exactly like its animated counterpart is the sequence in which Belle is attacked by wolves. This points at the whole scene being replayed very close to the original. Surrounded, Belle tries to fight the wolves off herself, but is outnumbered. The Beast arrives, but this time the wolves are prepared for his attack and they fight back, injuring the Beast in the process. Belle starts to leave, and is just about to mount her horse, when her conscience gets the better of her, and she decides to help the Beast instead. Every shot, right down to Belle's facial expression, plays out side by side. Once they are back at the castle, the trailers differ from each other in minor ways, such as the Beast being nursed back to health in bed, rather than sitting in his chair. Belle's tender devotion to him remains the same though, and then the trailer takes another turn.
A Budding Romance
"If she is the one who can break the spell," Lumiere says, "You must finally learn to love." No pressure then. The magic well and truly begins when the snow falls and Belle and the Beast head out into the castle gardens. In the animated movie, it is at this point that "Something There" is played over the top of a montage of Belle and Beast feeding birds and throwing snowballs. Each character voices their innermost thoughts about the other through the medium of song, and what could be more Disney than that? Belle and the Beast discover that they have a lot in common, particularly their love of books, which Belle's other suitor, Gaston, can't see the point in. Again, the trailers play identically here, right down to the infamous moment when the Beast can't use a spoon for his porridge and they both slurp from their bowls instead. Best of all, we get to hear the beginning strains of "Tale as old as Time," performed for the live-action movie by Ariana Grande and John Legend.
The Perfect Montage
As the song takes flight, we are whisked into the most wonderful montage of scenes from the movie, that promises so much to look forward to. It begins with a brief shot of Lumiere singing "Be Our Guest," another of the many musical numbers we are looking forward to seeing played out in all its glory on the big screen. Following that is a shot of LeFou's number, "No-One's Slick as Gaston," and the highly stylized choreography is so utterly Broadway-esque that it's a real spine-tingling moment to behold. Every shot is similar or exactly the same as can be seen in the animated version, including the climax of the movie, when Gaston leads a baying mob up to the castle to kill the Beast. But of course, we've saved the best until last...
The Ballroom Scene
It's not only a classic scene from Beauty and the Beast, but the ballroom scene is probably one of the most iconic cinematic moments ever, and undoubtedly one of the moments that contributed to the 1991 movie becoming the first ever animated film to be nominated in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards. Everything - from the music, to the background, to the costumes - is perfection, and to see this played out in live-action is even more heartwarming than the original.
Here, there is no mistaking that Condon has every intention of recreating the ballroom scene exactly as the original - from Belle's curtsy, to the Beast lifting her as they dance, plays exactly as the original, including the final moments of the trailer, when Belle takes the Beast's arm as they stand in the ballroom together.
To conclude, this trailer seems to point toward Beauty and the Beast being a live-action enhancement of the animated original more than anything, and that is encouraging. It is, after all, a favorite movie of many, and widely regarded as one of the best animated films of all time. Yes, the plot has its flaws, but it's Disney through and through: full of humor, emotion, romance, and of course, magic. It looks very much like Condon might just manage to deliver a wonderful live-action homage that perfectly blends the old with the new.
- Beauty and the Beast (2017) release date: Mar 17, 2017