I distinctly remember one summer when I was a little girl when I watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid every single day. Every. Single. Day. Unsurprisingly, I knew every word to every song. Needless to say, I loved The Little Mermaid.
Beauty and the Beast was released a few years after that, and I loved Belle’s story as much as I did Ariel’s. And although Aladdin was a male-driven story (it’s all about the princesses when you’re between 4 and 10 years old), Lea Salonga providing Princess Jasmine’s singing voice ensured the movie’s place in my heart.
So, feeling rather nostalgic, I asked for DVDs of these movies in our annual cousin Kris Kringle. And, happily, my cousin complied and gave me these (thanks, A!):
I watched them both over the holidays, the first time in years (possibly a decade) and was finally able to evaluate them without the giddy, crazy-over-castles-and-tiaras awe that I had when I was six years old. My conclusion, however, is still the same: these movies are brilliant. Absolutely BRILLIANT.
What’s not to love about these movies? Even if you weren’t a princess-obsessed six year old, there is still something about girls living out fairy tales that is irresistible to us (case point: the number of people who watched William & Kate’s wedding). And both princesses (well, princess-to-be, in Belle’s case) in these movies are feisty, charming, a little peculiar but overall lovable. You can’t help but root for them.
The same can be said about The Little Mermaid’s and Beauty and Beast’s supporting casts. Flounder? King Triton (if you didn’t shed a tear when he turned Ariel into a human, there is something seriously wrong with you)? Mrs. Potts? Maurice? Heck, I even love Ursula for her fabulous evil-ness.
But there’s one thing that I think MADE these movies the icons that they are now. And it’s the same thing that I think was central to the string of movies now referred to (and rightfully so) as the Disney Renaissance: the music.
Under the Sea. Part of Your World. Kiss the Girl (my fave!).
Belle. Be Our Guest. Something There (my fave!). Beauty and the Beast.
Even the villains’ songs, Poor, Unfortunate Souls and Gaston are great songs.
The music for both movies, by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman (who heartbreakingly did not live to see Beauty and the Beast completed), is nothing short of wonderful. The Menken (score) and Ashman (lyrics) pairing was nothing short of genius. And they have the Oscars to prove it, too. Both movies won for Best Score and won AND had multiple nominations each for Best Song (Under the Sea and Kiss The Girl for The Little Mermaid; Belle, Be Our Guest and the title song for Beauty and the Beast).
Awards or no, though, the songs are just wonderful and so central to the already beautiful stories being told. You only got proper insight into Ariel’s fascination with the human world through Part of Your World (which they actually considered taking out of the movie, the horror!). You understood how Belle felt so out of place in her “poor, provincial town” through Belle/Little Town. And on top of that they’re catchy and so much fun to sing along to. I mean, how can you NOT sing along to “Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!” from Belle or “Sha la la la la la, my oh my” from Kiss the Girl? Impossible.
To put it simply, the music from these movies are unforgettable, wonderful and brilliant.
And the music made the movies unforgettable, wonderful and brilliant.
My six year old self had it right all along.