On Sunday, September 18, at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST returned, to thunderous applause, 25 years after it first opened there as a “work in progress.” The Film Society Lincoln Center (FSLC) hosted the special BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 25th Anniversary Screening officially, but the real hosts were, of course, Belle and Beast, who graciously welcomed each of their guests in a receiving line, before guests were offered snacks (popcorn, easily swept up, if spilled) and beverages (water and Sierra Mist – clear beverages are always wise when children are involved, as they don’t stain, if spilled). Considering what was to come during the event, it would have been wise to have clear beverages for a theater full of adults – spilled beverages are a risk when standing ovations are anticipated. NOTE: if you cannot wait for surprises, scroll all the way to the end for a special video – you will not be disappointed, g’nite love. Also, enter to win 1 of 2 Digital HD copies of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 25th Anniversary Edition via the rafflecopter widget below.
Once we were all seated in the theater, the program began with Wendy Keys, an officer of FSLC, introducing the event, telling us of how BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’s success began there in that theater, with people reacting to storyboards and animation scenes as if the movie had already been completed, beginning with joyful reactions throughout the film and culminating with a standing ovation for the “work in progress.” BEAUTY AND THE BEAST made history when it was officially released, earning the first Oscar nomination for an animated film and the first Golden Globe awarded to an animated film.
We were treated to a 20/20 segment about the making of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST that originally aired in November 1991, the same month the film opened in theaters. Then, what we initially thought was to be the highlight of the evening – a panel comprised of Don Hahn (the producer), Paige O’Hara (Belle), Robbie Benson (Beast), Richard White (Gaston), and Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts).
Don Hahn shared that Howard Ashman and Alan Menken saved the movie from being shelved and turned it into the masterful musical we know and love. Much of the music, including the ballad, “Beauty and the Beast,” was created at the Residence Inn in Fishkill, New York. Did you know that Mrs. Potts was originally called Mrs. Chamomile?
Paige O’Hara called Belle Disney’s first “revolutionary heroine,” a “geek” who becomes a princess. Her favorite moment from making the movie was when Angela Lansbury got to the studio after having flown all night, and recorded “Beauty and the Beast” in one take in the studio with the New York Philharmonic.
Robbie sang (not literally) the virtues of the cast, extolling the feeling on the stage, the love for all of the great artists who had made the movie. Paige called him the “heart and soul” of the movie. He also shared memories of one of his earliest experiences in that theater, when he was graduated from high school. Did you know that he was valedictorian of his high school?
Richard White shared how special it was to work with Howard Ashman, a man of such special energy and positive spirit. Don shared here that Howard had been just as excited to meet Richard, to have him say, “I use antlers in all of my decorating.”
Angela Lansbury shared that successive waves of children have told her the story of Beauty and the Beast, as if she hadn’t had anything to do with it and she loves it when they do. She hopes that children will put down their screens and spend more time dreaming and developing their imaginations (a little ironic, considering they were there to promote a movie).
After the panel, we were advised to stay in our seats for a surprise after the movie credits, and we then experienced BEAUTY AND THE BEAST on the big screen again. The theater was filled with laughter and gasps and applause as the movie played; it hasn’t lost any of its magic in 25 years of animation evolution, which was a bit jarring in certain spots of the film, but the wonderful Disney storytelling and the music of Ashman and Menken pull us in and keep us right there in the heart of it.
I must apologize here. I was not able to capture the entire surprise on video, but here are two highlights. I was up front in the theater, which was kept dark after the credits ended, so I could see the piano being wheeled on stage. When Alan Menken came out the audience erupted! He played and sang a medley of Disney tunes.
It was a wonderful performance and his pièce de résistance was his final number. Angela Lansbury joined him on stage and they performed “Beauty and the Beast” together and it was magical.
The BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 25th Anniversary edition is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD containing four versions of the movie. The Blu-ray includes the original theatrical film; an extended version with the “Human Again” song sequence, and a never-before-released on home entertainment sing-along version. The original work-in-progress version will be available digitally and on Disney Movies Anywhere.