Full disclosure: I saw the original Beauty and The Beast 11 times in the theater. 12 if you’re counting when the 3D version came out. You read that correctly. My friends accept this about me, they accept that I have this insane bond with the Disney classic and my family endures my endless performances of “Belle” (and even “Belle Reprise”) in times of stress or happiness. Now I understand people have attachments or obsessions to Disney movies, and while it may not seem it, I am not one of those fanatics either. Yes, I may have seen every possible production of Beauty and the Beast, from community theater to on-ice, and yes I do need Angela Lansbury to be alive when I get married so she can sing the theme at my wedding. But Beauty and The Beast is not just a movie I love; it’s a movie that changed my life. It taught me to speak English and it taught me to not fear the weird.
But Iva…how can an animated movie that portrays Stockholm Syndrome impact your life? Glad you asked friends. My parents and I moved to the States when I was 2 and a half, settling in New York City.I didn’t speak a word of English and my dad worked all day and my mom had to figure out how to deal with a new city, a new country, and a child who developed all new fears. I became anxious, I would only leave our apartment at night, and I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me. So one day, my parents took me to the movies and it just so happened it was Beauty and The Beast.
While I don’t remember exactly, my parents tell me I became entranced in that theater and that I skipped all the way home reciting the scenes from the movie. My parents even translated the movie for me. Seeing as I was happy for the first time in a while, my parents took me to go see the movie as much as I wanted. They forgot how strong willed I am and this is where I developed my addiction on binge watching. I started singing the songs in English to my mother and I started saying I wanted to read like Belle. My mom also tells me I wanted to be like Chip and Le Fou, but we’ll move past that part. Shortly after, we all went to Disney World, and I uttered my first full English sentence: “Thank you for the beautiful dinner.” We all see the “Be Our Guest” reference here, right?
So after I grew up a little (and finally learned English), we found ourselves living in western PA, and I acquired a little sister along the way. Pre-teen/teenage Iva found herself coming back to Beauty and The Beast in a nostalgic way. The “Oh my god I can’t believe I LOVED this movie so much…wait a minute…I STILL love this movie” kind of nostalgia. We’re all guilty of it. This time I found myself relating to Belle more than ever. I liked to read a lot, I was constantly dancing around the house and a lot of kids I went to school with thought I was strange, weird, and in my own head. Maybe I modeled myself after Belle subconsciously, but that’s a different post for a different day, and maybe a little too much introspection for me to handle. Truth be told, I was weird. I was a girl who grew up in a bilingual home, with dual cultures, and not being able to see any family in large chunks of time due to our immigration process.
Now, while Belle didn’t have to immigrate, she constantly found herself on the outside of the townspeople. Revisiting Beauty and The Beast made me realize that being weird or feeling like an outsider wasn’t all that bad, because like Belle, I eventually found my tribe of enchanted housewares…one of them being Ross. My friends became my second family, my family grew closer and suddenly my town didn’t feel so provincial anymore. I carried that movie with me much closer and started to cry at every re-watch. If you’re still reading, bless you.
So now, here we are in 2017 and the live-action version has come out. I recently moved to a new city, and it hasn’t been easy. The feelings of being an outsider, of being weird, and all that anxiety has resurfaced. There have been a lot of tears and while I’ve been chasing my dream, I still call my mom and say how scared I am to be doing it all on my own. She calms me down, but I can’t help but notice she’s sad that I’m sad. So, after years of waiting and watching (and re-watching) the trailers, March 17th finally came and it was time to go back to see some old friends.
26 years ago, I took you to see that movie and I am going to do it again
That is exactly what my dad said when my parents were en route to visit me and take me to the movies. I won’t review the movie, I won’t talk about the liberties and changes that were made (including removing some SEMINAL lines that my housewares and I quote all the time). All I will say is that this movie should be viewed as a stand-alone. If you go into the movie expecting to see a shot for shot remake, of course you’ll be disappointed. It’s not the same animated movie with Jerry Orbach (RIP) as Lumière inviting us to dinner and Paige O’Hara voicing Belle (oh I know ALL the actors names). The story of Beauty and The Beast is beautiful because it can be told in so many ways and still arrive at the same point. It’s a story about love and acceptance. And in today’s world, we could use a little magic and happiness. Go see the movie. Go sing at the top of your lungs all the songs you used to sing as a kid in your kitchen. Go see the characters that you dressed up as for Halloween.
26 years later, and I am still the little girl sitting in between her parents, with tears in her eyes, watching a movie that enchanted her all those years ago. That is movie magic.
But seriously, Angela Lansbury, if you’re reading this: I’m working on it. I swear, just keep those pipes warmed up.