After Cinderella crushed the box office this weekend, Disney will try to reclaim the mid-March weekend in two years with another live-action adaptation of one of their classic animated films. The studio has announced that Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast will open in 3D on March 17, 2017.
Per the press release “The beloved tale will be retold for the big screen with a modern live-action lens and the help of transformative CG magic.” I absolutely adore the 1991 animated version so phrases like “modern live action lens” and “transformative CG magic” make my stomach turn, but I’m oddly willing to give Condon’s film the benefit of the doubt simply because I thought Cinderella would be awful and it turned out to be a nice movie.
Disney has also announced that the film has added two more talented actors to the cast. Emma Thompson will play Mrs. Potts and Kevin Kline will play Belle’s father Maurice. Emma Watson has already been cast as Belle alongside Dan Stevens as Beast/Prince and Luke Evans as Gaston. While I have no problem seeing Emma Watson as Belle—the 1991 character and Hermoine share the similar qualities of being brainy and kind—but casting Mrs. Potts raises a question I hadn’t thought about before with regards to the film.
In Cinderella, Branagh used CGI mice to convey the personality of those characters. They didn’t talk or sing, but that wasn’t a problem. I’m not exactly sure how you do that with a teapot. You can anthropomorphize it in an animated film because just about anything can anthropomorphized in animation. But blended with live-action, it can easily go creepy. A talking teapot with a human face is the stuff of nightmares.
It will also be a singing teapot. The original songs will get new recordings along with several new tunes written by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. While Cinderella ditched the music, I don’t think remaining a musical is inherently a strike against Beauty and the Beast, especially since the music is so wonderful. I’m curious to see how Menken and Rice can improve upon perfection, especially when they’re without the late Howard Ashman, who provided the lyrics for the 1991 version (not that Rice is a slouch; he did the music for The Lion King and Aladdin).
I will continue to hope that Condon can at least match Branagh’s accomplishment: making a solid film that doesn’t bastardize the original.