I’m still slightly unconvinced about converting 2D cel animation into 3D though. The 2012 re-release is preceded by a fun (if lightweight) short continuing on last year’s Tangled. Even the most cynical Mark Kermode-Worshipping 3D sceptic can appreciate that the stereoscopic process adds depth and scale to CGI models which are already rendered in three dimensions. With traditional 2D animation however, the characters are drawn flat and never had any depth to them in the first place. Converting the film to an additional dimension merely results into making the different layers of animation seem really far away from each other. Showing a 3D CGI short draws attention to it even more. The famous CGI ballroom sequence definitely benefits from the 3D, but watching it back that actual scene is much shorter than you remember.
The film has aged a bit in twenty years since it became the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. It’s rightly remembered as milestone for Disney, repairing a reputation damaged by eighties fluff and failures like Oscar And Company and The Black Cauldron, and thrusting the studio into the 90s. However, it’s a lot less fun that a lot of the other films from the so-called ‘Disney Renaissance’. It’s all a bit solemn and serious, and while young girls may enjoy the princess-y stuff, there’s not much for boys of a similar age. Talking clock and candlestick duo Lumiere and Cogsworth are perfectly entertaining, but they are no Iago, Timon or Sebastian. Similarly, while you cannot fault the music in the film, it definitely lacks a bouncy fun number (I suppose the cutlery-crooned Be Our Guest could possibly count, but it’s been ruined by Mr Burns singing See My Vest).
There’s also a few wobbles on the animation side of things. The film had a troubled production history, with Disney bosses rushing it out to capitalise on the success of The Little Mermaid. It was also originally to meant to be directed by British animation legend Richard Williams, but he declined causing a total overhaul of the film. As a result of all this, each character was given to a different animator, and a trained animation nerd can tell the difference. The Beast is an incredible achievement, a highly detailed character design whose influence can be felt through 90s cartoons on both the big and small screens, but bad guy Gaston has is bland, forgettable and suffers from some rough line work. Generally though, it’s not that any of the animation is actually sub-par, it’s just an overall jarring inconsistency between the characters.
Despite all this (and these are very minor quibbles), the film is still a masterpiece. It’s an epic, heartfelt, perfectly plotted film, full of spectacle and Broadway gusto. It’s absolutely wonderful to see it back on the big screen, though the 3D is really an unnecessary minor annoyance.