Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tune as Old as Song - A perfect Disney soundtrack

So...I had kind of a crappy week. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say it was the perfect time to cheer myself up by spending $12 to watch a movie I already own on DVD. I was excited because this was my first time seeing Beauty and the Beast in a theater!

When I thought about why I love Beauty and the Beast, it struck me that I actually know the music better than the movie itself. As kids, my siblings and I had the soundtrack, but we never owned the VHS tape. And so I have many great memories of belting out the tunes with my sister and brother. They would have been proud, hearing me sing as loudly as Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson while the end credits rolled. I think I sounded pretty good, too, if i say so myself. ;)

Beauty and the Beast contains the perfect formula of song categories, emulated by the best Disney movies to date. Here they are, complete with videos and my favorite lines: 

1. The opening song | "Belle"
A great opening song tells us so much about the story in just a few minutes. And this one also seems to be designed for a large chorus in a Broadway show (which it eventually did become!) Since my first time watching this movie I've always dreamt of gliding across a bookshelf ladder; it looked not only fun but romantic. My favorite line from this song is actually spoken, not sung, but it's hilarious! And it reminds me of my brother, who does the best Gaston impression: "Gee, you didn't miss a shot, Gaston! You're the greatest hunter in the whole world!" "I know."

2. The reprise | "Belle (reprise)"
The best Disney movies contain a reprise of the opening song. At the slower, more dramatic tempo, the reprise embodies the deepest longings of the main character, and sets up the rest of the movie for how she will discover what she was made for."I want adventure in the great wide somewhere / I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand / to have someone understand. I want so much more than they've got planned..." 

3. The villain song | "Gaston"
Only a few Disney films give the villain his own song, because only the most charismatic villain can pull off a song without losing "villain street cred." Gaston has probably the most singing for any villain in a Disney film (featured in 3 songs plus a reprise). It makes sense with his character; he's completely self-involved. He loves hearing people tell him how wonderful he is, as well as hearing himself tell everyone how wonderful he is. "Not a bit of him's scraggly or scrawny..." "That's right! And every last inch of me's covered with hair!" I mean, who says that and gets away with it?

Note: "The Mob Song" could probably also fit into the villain song category. However, it is much more serious and dramatic, and comes at the climax of the film. Villain songs tend to come earlier to set up their character and motive.

4. The sidekick song | "Be Our Guest"
Man, Lumière is so COOL, especially considering he's a candlestick. There are two kinds of sidekick songs: they either sing about how awesome they are, or about how awesome the main character is. (In some cases, as in Aladdin, you've got one of each--"Friend Like Me" and "Prince Ali"). Here, Lumière pulls out all the stops to show hospitality to their new guest. It's a visual and musical treat--Disney animation at its best. I love the part in the bridge when Lumière and Cogsworth are under the spotlight and it looks like it's snowing, and you realize there are enchanted saltshakers are above them. Ingenious! "Flabby, fat and lazy, you walked in an oopsie-daisy!"

5. The love song | "Something There"
Sometimes the love song and theme song are one and the same. But in Beauty and the Beast, we get a bonus love song that's lighthearted and cute. And only in a Disney movie will you see characters singing inside their heads! This song has one of my favorite lyrics of all time: "She glanced this way, I thought I saw / And when we touched she didn't shudder at my paw!" I also love when Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Lumière sing three-part harmony about how excited they are that "there may be something there that wasn't there before." Hands down adorable.

6. The theme song | "Beauty & the Beast"
Who figured that a teapot could pull off one of the greatest Disney theme songs? The first glimpse of the computer-animated ballroom (which needs no 3D effects to be impressive) never fails to give me goosebumps. My sister always quotes "Off to the cupboard with you now, Chip. It's past your bedtime. Good night, love." after every Disney song with similar resolving notes (which is a lot of them, thanks to Alan Menken). This song is also perfectly within my singing range (hence the belting during the rolling credits.) It's probably my second favorite Disney song of all time. (Can you guess what my #1 might be?)


  1. I'm not brave enough to guess your fav Disney song. I was just gonna say that I was Lumiere in a production when I was a kid.

  2. i would guess that you're absolute favorite is either one from The Lion King or Little Mermaid. :)

  3. I absolutely LOVED the Gaston song. That part when he breaks the belt with his neck is amazing and I've always dreamt of being able to do that. I feel like for a young boy, Gaston is what we imagined a manly man should be - eating a million eggs and being strong and stuff. Idk I just feel like a lot of boys really liked Gaston and "looked up" to him. Maybe you've already posted about this before, but who do you think the "most popular Disney villain" would be? I just feel like as a boy, I liked Gaston more than the beast, who was kind of just an ugly, emo guy...or maybe it's just me being a stupid boy lol.

    1. that's SO interesting you say that, caleb. have you read my post about masculinity in disney movies?

      it's helpful to have a guy's perspective, i had no idea that boys loved gaston (generalizing your experience to all boys). it definitely validates some of the video essayists points more than i gave him credit for in my analysis.