Beast film looks like a beauty

By Lindsey Bahr

Director Bill Condon was only interested in turning Disney's animated classic Beauty and the Beast into a live-action film if he could use Alan Menken's Oscar-winning score.

He remembers fondly when it came out in 1991 and how it not only solidified Disney's animation renaissance after The Little Mermaid, but also helped revitalise the movie musical at a time when the genre was basically dead.

It's fitting, then, that the twinkling instrumentals of Menken's prologue are the first thing you hear in the new trailer for the film, released this week by Disney.

Set for a March 2017 release, the film stars Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast and a robust supporting cast including the likes of Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

The film will feature re-recordings of Menken and Howard Ashman's songs, as well as a few new ones.

Anyone who has seen the animated film is sure to be struck by some familiar imagery in the trailer - like the grand ballroom and Belle's yellow gown. But Condon was not restricted to solely drawing from the animated film.

The new movie also contains nods to Jean Cocteau's ornate black and white version from 1946.

Belle is even more modern than she was in 1991, when it was somewhat extraordinary to have the star of a Disney film be more interested in books than boys.

In this version, she's an inventor too, and being portrayed by an actress who is a humanitarian and a UN women's ambassador.

Also, Condon, whose films frequently deal with subjects pertaining to gay identity, is embracing that context here, too. He said the late lyricist Ashman, who had Aids at the time, closely identified with the Beast's story as "somebody who is cursed and whose curse is breaking the hearts of those who love him and the fantasy that this curse could be lifted".

• Beauty and the Beast is due to open in New Zealand cinemas on March 30, 2017.

- AP

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