I have been re-watching the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson, and the second time around I’ve been noticing a lot of stuff that actually makes it perfect.
In this blog I will talk about the changes that Disney has done to make it more this era, and what I think of the changes, so enjoy the ride!
Let me start telling about my history geekness. I’ve worked at a museum as an actor that portrayed Roman and Medieval characters and that’s where I got my real history education. I love everything that is historical correct.
I see you thinking, there are black people in this movie, there were no black people in Medieval Europe!
And that’s where you are wrong! There were most definitely African people in Europe, it has been documented since the year 1203 by Robert de Clari during the 4th crusade.
But seeing that as a problem in a tiny village in France is not important in my opinion.
So we start this movie differently than the original, instead of a beautifully animated version in the style of the church like window decoration, we see a Prince going to a party, prepared by Lumiere and Cogsworth. Just tiny hints that they are indeed these people, by a watch and a candle. But you also notice that they are his personal aides.
In the original it was pretty hard to distinct which person was what in the castle.
After the whole pompous dress up, you get to hear that the prince in question only loved beauty and he wanted only beautiful people around him. This is so Medieval France! Think of the Sun King, think of the French revolution! “Let them eat cake!”
A person in need slams open the doors and falls to the ground, she needs help, but she isn’t the beauty the prince expects and wants her gone. She offered a beautiful rose but he didn’t want anything to do with it. She asks him again and wants to convince him that it’s not the outside beauty that is important but the inside. He still wants to toss her out.
She then transforms into a beautiful floating woman and he understands that she’s a witch. He tried to beg for forgiveness, but the damage was done, she vowed to make him a beast that is ugly on the outside and needed to learn that beauty is on the inside.
Everyone in the castle were transformed into animated objects to keep him company.
After the opening sequence we are transported to the village next to the castle, the village where Belle and Maurice live. Belle stands in front of her house.
This is where another change happened, the house is not on the outskirts of the village, but near the edge of the town. You can see this by looking around at that shot, you see a tower, why is there a tower there near an arch?
That is quite normal for a city wall to have and often because of limited space, homes would be built against the walls. So the house is next to the entrance gate.
Belle walks out to the center of the village and you see that the clock strikes 08:00.
The day begins, you see the village start bursting into life, a lot of people in the town village, and Belle goes to the library. Here’s an important hint to historical accuracy, a small village like this wouldn’t have a large library, but the church would have books.
Now I hear you again, why is there a black priest?
Did you know that in Africa there was a Christian kingdom called Nubia? So there is a big chance missionaries from Nubia would travel trough Europe, and maybe even stay!
There’s also a lot of adult themes going trough this sequence. One of the first Bonjours is done by a drunk person. Now how do you see he’s drunk? He’s overly joyful to say Bonjour to Belle and he’s escorted by 2 men in the same clothing and he gets thrown into the village jail as it seems.
When we get to “Hello, good day, how is your family” she replies: “Hello, good day, how is your WIFE” with the emphasis on wife and you see a less attractive woman pop up and look really upset to, now you know, her husband. So adultery is in fact part of this lore. Kids will not pick up on this, but that’s the beauty of Disney, it brings adult themes into Disney movies that only adults will get.
Next sequence we see Gaston and Lefou, they talk about the war, which is also a new theme into this movie, and it explains much MUCH more about the relationship between Gaston and Lefou.
They might have come from the crusades, because during the time of the crusades it was normal for a knight to have a boy to accompany him. And in that time the relationship between two men in battle was different from we see it now. The boy would adore the knight and do anything for him, he would love him and take care of him.
So it’s perfectly fine that Lefou is clearly homosexual in this movie, it is historical correct.
You see here that Gaston likes the attention of the girls in the village, but he only wants the big price, he wants the most beautiful of the village, because he has learned from Lefou that he deserves only the best, that’s Belle.
Belle rejects him with a very painful look, because she is clearly not interested.
Next we go back to Belle’s house where Maurice is working on one of his inventions, at first you see it is a windmill, but then you see that inside the windmill there is an artist drawing a woman with a baby. That baby is Belle and the woman is her mom.
That gets emphasis where the camera zooms onto the same painting, but in real life.
a little while later you see Maurice walking into the castle of the Beast, and although this is pretty much the same as the original movie, you do clearly see the redesigns of Lumiere and Cogsworth. They look more like actual objects than humanized objects. Personally I loved the older designs because you saw more emotion in it, but I do understand the need of more realistic objects.
In the event of Belle finding Maurice in his cel, we get a nod back to the conversation Maurice and Bell had over her mother. He told her that her mother was fearless. When Belle negotiate with the Beast over her father, she shows that she draws strength of the knowledge that her mother was fearless, just as fearless as she appears right now.
When Belle gets escorted to her room you clearly see where they get their inspiration from, it could have been in the palace of the Sun king himself, the overly beautiful decorations are beautiful.
When we meet the dresser we get another joke that kids won’t get, but adults can see it as a cheeky reference. The dresser opens her bottom drawer and you see mots flying from it and she says: “how embarrassing”. This of course is a very cheeky joke towards not having had any intercourse in a long time, but it’s not obvious enough that it is just a cheeky reference.
Not long after this we get the now infamous tavern scene where a lot of people had problems with Lefou. Now in the original I already understood as a kid that Lefou was in love with Gaston. This new Lefou, (played wonderfully by Josh Gad who also plays Olaf in Frozen) puts a whole new dimension on Lefou. Not only do you see that he is clearly homosexual, but you also see his serving side more.
At the start you see him massaging Gaston, and because Lefou wants to cheer up Gaston he walks away, but he doesn’t want Gaston to go without his earlobe rub, so he gets a dirty looking drunk fellow to do it for him. Gaston doesn’t want anything to do with the drunk fellow and he walks away.
You see Lefou give coins to the band that is playing to play with his singing, and throughout the song you see him giving coins to several people. Even a bar maid so everyone gets drinks.
Even though Lefou wants to be the only one for Gaston, he needs his “master” to feel special, so he gets the whole bar to revolve around Gaston.
Another nice change comes from just before Be Our Guest. The beast asks her to diner and she says no, because she can’t understand how he wants to have diner with his captive. She gets invited by Miss Potts to come to diner anyway, and then you see Lumiere preparing for diner. But it’s not just diner, he wants to put on a show.
In the original movie you get the show, but not the preparations. I think that Disney has listened to the audience when they found it weird that people just go into song out of nothing.
*fun fact: if you are ever in Disney World and you happen to eat at the castle of Beauty and the Beast, ask for the grey stuff, they actually have it there!*
When Gaston and Lefou go with Maurice to see the castle there is another important change! Gaston gets really upset because he thinks that Maurice is an old fool who is lying to him. He even gets close to being violent. But Lefou gets him to calm down to think about the war. “Think of the blood, all the explosions, think of the widows”, that brings Gaston back to his happy place, normally this would be different with PTSD but every case is different. But that they include PTSD in such a movie is a really big step forward for people who suffer this condition.
I don’t think that the original movie did anything to say anything about the past of the Beast, but in this movie at least they cover it. After the Beast his mother died his tyrannic father turned him into himself and that’s how he became a selfish person who wouldn’t do anything for anyone else. I think that is a great addition.
The moment Maurice gets saved by Agathe, I wondered what this was. She looks like the woman in the street Gaston warned about if Belle wouldn’t marry him.
Weird thing is that Maurice seems to know her wel, but she is said to be the Enchantres that turned the prince into the Beast. So in this movie she isn’t just a character that punishes, she is the one who helps the good and punishes the bad. I really like that!
At the ballroom scene I think it’s brilliant how they used the decorative musical instruments as the real instruments. We have seen in the prologue that there were musicians, so it’s understandable that they changed into the decorations to forever play music. But I hope they won’t fall to far down when they do get turned back into humans!
When Gaston wants to lock up Maurice and Belle you can clearly see doubt with Lefou, he wants the best for Gaston, but not when others are hurt.
When they ride to the Castle he has a line that he is not sure if it’s a good thing that they are doing this, because he thinks other beasts are now released. Which means that Gaston is leading a mob that won’t listen to all his commands and might make it way worse than it is.
After Lefou gets squashed by a Piano he learns that Gaston doesn’t care enough for him to help him out because “It’s Hero time”. I believe that is a big turning point for Lefou, he has dedicated his life for him, and this is how he gets repaid.
During the fight 3 men try to go to Cogsworth but the dresser steps in and dresses the men in dresses. Interestingly enough one man loves his new attire. Now you would think that Disney tries to please the people who are transgender or anything like that. But to be fair, there always have been people who love the clothing of the other gender, and that is more than ok!
When Misses Potts falls down she sees one of the men and she comments: “Mr Potts?”, that would mean that Mister Potts wasn’t in the castle when it happened. Maybe he was one of the people who delivered food to the kitchen from the village.
Also I love how Josh Gad plays Lefou when he switches sides, because “we are in a bad place right now”, it’s brilliant!
After Lumiere lights blackpowder to scare them off, which is pretty succesful, we see Agathe walk up the stairs like nothing is happening. This makes for a new way of aproaching the story.
After Gastons death and after every animated object turns to just ordinary objects again, we see Belle at the prince’s side and Agathe is at their side next to the rose. You see that her face is younger now, you see blonde curled hair and you see that she’s using the power of the rose to turn back the spell. Because the prince has learned, he has learned to love and someone has learned to love him.
Personally I love this transformation of the Beast to the Prince a lot more. When I was young I couldn’t indentify myself with the prince because he looked like perfection, way too perfect in my opinion. But this time around he’s just a guy with long hair.
The transformation of the castle is beautifuly done, all the shadows are disapearing and everything is turned back to its old state.
The transformations of the staff is also done brilliantly, and finaly Mister Potts remembers his family, which is a beautiful conclusion of the transformation.
Even Cogsworth finds his wife again, but he’d rather turn back into a clock which is brilliantly funny in my opinion.
Lefou finaly finds his man in the ball scene, which gives him an happy ending after all this time, one that he really deserves. He ends up with the man who liked the dress so much while the others ran. Lefou always deserved better than what he got from Gaston, and now finaly he can be himself.
All in all the changes they have made, made this story a much richer story. Much more is explained, much more detail. For a Disney fan like me, this is very needed.
Do I think this is the best Disney movie? Not the best, but he is defenitly up there!