Friday, January 20, 2012

Beauty And The Beast 3D - A Review, a Rant, and a Video

So last weekend, T and I went and saw B&B in 3D and I have to say, it was pretty good! It wasn't Disney's usual Real 3D and, like I mentioned in a previous post, the Tangled Ever After short film at the beginning of the movie was well worth the 3D ticket price!

Now, here's the rant, and brace yourselves, it may be controversial to some, but bare with me!

As I have mentioned in the past, I have a background in art and I'm a Disney freak and have been since childhood. From that, it's safe to draw only one conclusion really...I'm a Disney purist. Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney movie not only for the storyline, but because it's one of the finest pieces of art ever put on film and every single film cell is a masterpiece in itself. I'm also the only person I know who can watch Fantasia and not only stay awake every single time, but usually end up crying at the shear beauty of the piece!

For those that don't know, let me give you a bit of history of animation and I hope I don't bore you:

Back in those days, they hand drew every single character and hand painted every single background and photographed every single scene. All through the history of Disney films, this was the process. The most talented artists worked at the Disney studios...Marc Davis (my personal favorite) to Mary Blair to Eric Larson to Ward Kimball to Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnson and even Tim Burton.

In the mid to late 80's, the Disney company went through horrible financial trouble and management and board member shifts...some good, and some bad. But new blood in any company means new plans, new ideas, and cuts, and the animation department, which wasn't making much money at that time, was the hardest hit. They were forced to come up with cheaper and faster ways to make animated movies for executives who knew nothing about animation so a very infant Pixar joined with them to create a software program called CAPS (Computer Animation Production Systems) to do just that.

With the creation of CAPS, no longer were animators needed to paint backgrounds or colorize characters. Eventually even animation cels were no longer used for the actual movie productions anymore so that also negated a ton of animators. The Disney company was able to massively dwindle down their animators and the actual talent was replaced with just regular employees. They saved a ton of money and from an artist point of view, put out a ton of mass produced crap.

The average joe didn't notice the difference in this new generation of movies, or Disney's renaissance as most people referred to it, because it was when the most profitable movies the studio ever produced came out...The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc... These are typically the movies everyone loves. But for years, I refused to give them the time of day. "How dare they put out that computer generated trash as art!", I used to say. I was practically militant about it! Sure, the characters were still basically hand-drawn, but even some of those were computer generated. Once a character had been hand created, it was getting easier and easier for the software to manipulate the images into animation without an animators help, just a programmer. The more advanced CAPS got, the more they used it and the less they used artists. It made my blood boil! Especially since as a kid, I wanted to be a Disney animator...if I had become one, today I would be unemployed or would be a computer graphics artist, a much different field.

Then Hercules came out and it was visually different...a larger group of animators worked on it, and some of the characterizations were created using one single line, like ancient Greek drawings. Once I heard about it, my curiosity was peaked and I went and saw it and LOVED it!!! Yes, there was tons of CAPS moments, but it was still a beautiful piece of art in a new way! All of a sudden, I started watching the 2nd gen Disney movies in bulk, starting with The Lion King, then Aladdin, then The Little Mermaid, so on, and so on, till I got to Beauty And The Beast.

Now, as a Disney freak, I am aware of the fact that the idea of doing B&B wasn't a new one, Walt had wanted to do it for many years before he died. So, just from that, it ought to have appealed to me. But other than the music, I found the animation way too much of a distraction to enjoy it and especially the ballroom scene...most people's favorite. The 2D animated characters on the extremely early designed CGI animated ballroom, it's just horrible!! Throughout the film, there are areas where she turns her head and her character face changes so much, you can't recognize her anymore, something that would have never been acceptable in Walt's day. It was obvious they were in a hurry to complete it and massive mistakes were made. I have never watched it again until we went to see it last weekend.

OK, back to my new review now that you've gotten an earful. In 3D, I did find myself not noticing the CAPS so much as I used to, but the ballroom scene was still horribly annoying and I even had to turn my head away at the one part where she puts her hand on a tree and she has toothpicks for fingers because someone wasn't paying attention! But overall, on the big screen, it is still better than TV and the depth of the 3D distracts from the CAPS work considerably.

As far as the 2nd gens, Hercules is still my favorite and much underrated because the music is brilliant and Hades is the best villain since Maleficent hands down! I'm the closest to Megara than any other Disney Princess and I think she's the most easy to relate to. I do love The Lion King and Aladdin, but I'm not too big on the girls Ariel and Belle. And don't even get me started on Pocahontas! What were they thinking! I know that the Hercules story is not accurate either, but come on - could they possibly have gotten history more wrong? And lastly, Hunchback of Notre Dame is just way too dark, even for me!

Nowadays, CAPS and CGI has come a long way. As far as the 3rd gen Disney movies, i.e. The Wild (an underrated Disney film), The Princess And The Toad, and my personal favorite, Tangled, as well as many others, I'm back to being in love with them. Tangled is the closest Disney has come back to the original feel of the classics, which is why it was such a big hit and why it's my favorite of the newbies.

Pixar has become a giant on its own and it also took me awhile to come around to pure CGI animation, but I finally did. Nemo is my favorite, but the others are OK as well, but still better on the big screen than the small. BTW, Nemo is going to be in out in the theaters in 3D this September.

One can only hope that the 4th gen of Disney movie is a return to the originals! That's my hope anyway, but I have learned to accept the 2nd gens for their history and their place in the Disney-verse and that's definitely a step up for me (especially since we have moved on to the 3rd gen and the 2nd gen is now "classic").

But as a parting soapbox dismount, here's Meg singing the best song from Hercules, and possibly one of the best top 5 Disney songs ever (oh, and for the Disney freaks, see if you catch the Haunted Mansion reference and let me know if you found it-that is if you managed to make it through this entire diatribe!):


Abbybeth said...

Well, I'm a BATB girl and Belle is my favorite of the princesses by far. I remember going to see it in the theatre when it came out and being in awe of the ballroom scene especially. I do prefer the hand drawn, hand animated look, but BATB was certainly an advancement technology-wise. I think the music in BATB is some of the best that has come out of a Disney movie. I was pleasantly surprised with how the 3D came out with BATB - I knew they couldn't do the realD, so was worried it would be stiff and wooden, but I think it ended up with a nice depth and I enjoyed it.

Of the newest ones, I too love Princess & the Frog and Tangled. I feel like P&F got back to more of the classic, hand drawn feel and Tangled had the great storyline and music. It's so nice to see films coming from Disney again that you know will have the longevity and relevance of the old classics.

I cannot wait for Brave (I know it's Pixar, but still) to come out in the spring though - I'm thrilled that they're setting a storyline in Scotland and with a female heroine to boot!

Joysze said...

Oh... I'm such a Disney girl, so I love them all. LOL!! But, I do agree with what you said about the ballroom scene. The dinner scene is not one of my faves either.

I love the 2nd gen Disney, cos that was the golden age of song and lyrics for me. It was heartbreaking when Howard Ashman died.

Hercules, I loved. Meg was totally different, as you said, and as a result, she was easy to identify with.

One of my fave Disney songs is actually from Hunchback... God Help the Outcast. That song speaks to me. As does Mulan's Reflection. Favorite song will still always be Ariel's Part of Your World.

That said, I could listen to Disney songs all day!

OH!! And Enchanted. LOVE Enchanted.

Keebles said...

Abby - I agree that the storyline and the music in B&B is top notch, but it's the artist in me that just won't let me enjoy it!

I am also totally drooling over Brave! How cool to finally have a Scottish heroine!

Joysze - I also love Reflection but NOT when Christina Aguilera sings it! It's almost painful to my ears!

I often do listen to Disney songs all day - but mostly Disney World park music!