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I admit I’ve been putting this particular song off because it’s really my favorite (and I was afraid of not being able to do it justice). But having re-watched the movie for inspiration, I feel confident enough to proceed now.
“Beauty and the Beast” (also known as the Dancing scene) is the culmination of the Beast’s efforts to forge a relationship with Belle. The magical rose is already well on the way to wilting, so it is imperative that Beast confess his love at just the right moment.
Isn’t that dress just gorgeous??
The beginning of this scene is just beautiful as Belle comes down the stairs in her golden dress (fact: I loved this dress so much as a kid that I begged my mother to make one for me so I could be Belle too). The Beast, meantime, has made a complete transformation from the mostly-wild creature we first meet, to a perfect gentleman.
As the pair walk to dinner, the entire moment is graced with a song by Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury), and here comes one of the craziest stories I ever heard about a Disney song (it might just beat the story I told about “Gaston” too). See, the writers and director knew that this moment was pivotal to the story, if they got any part wrong it just wouldn’t work. And therein lay the problem for a long time, they just couldn’t figure out WHO should sing this song. For a while it was going to be Lumiere, but since he’d already performed “Be Our Guest”, it didn’t feel quite right for him to be narrating this moment. Cogsworth was also considered, as well as a Lumiere-Cogsworth duet, but that REALLY didn’t feel right.
Eventually, they felt that Angela Lansbury (as Mrs. Potts) would be just right, however, the actress did NOT want to do it; she didn’t feel right with it, didn’t think she could do the song justice, etc. In short, she politely refused. But the director knew that there was no one else to turn to, so…he used a trick. The director and Alan Menken approached Angela Lansbury and said something to the effect of “We know you don’t want to perform the song, and that’s fine. But could you please do a run-through anyway, just so we have something to help pace the scene?” The actress agreed to that and did a single run-through of the song…and that is what you hear in the final movie. Oh, I’m so glad they convinced her to do it too, it just couldn’t have worked without her.
This scene is also notable for the use of CGI in the main ballroom (the room and especially the chandelier being computer generated). There had initially been two ideas for a CGI scene, one being the ballroom scene, and the other being the climactic battle on the tower. Well, it turned out that the technology of 1991 was not quite ready to render the tower battle realistically, so the ballroom became their sole chance to show off what computer animation could do. There was even a plan B if the animation ultimately didn’t work: the animators planned to use an “Ice-capades” theme (i.e. Belle and Beast would’ve been dancing in a spotlight with darkness all around) if for some reason the computer animation failed.
I think this could be the perfect Disney scene, there isn’t a flaw anywhere, and Angela Lansbury’s rich voice perfectly complements what is going on. I especially love, during the “bittersweet and strange” verse, when the camera is panning down from the ceiling and showing Belle and Beast twirling, fully engrossed in the moment. Should I ever get married some day, I fully plan on this song being “the first dance song” during the reception (because it’s perfect).
I’m not sure what the live-action remake will do as an equivalent for this scene, but, however good it looks, it’ll be hard pressed to top this, that’s for sure.
Next time there’s “Something There” that wasn’t there before (oh what could it possibly be!)
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
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