If your household is anything like ours the Christmas season means a ton of holiday movies get watched each and every year.
As Disney-obsessed as we Add More Mousers are, when it comes to the holiday season we’ve never set out to Disnify our holiday viewing. Our annual playlist is already pretty extensive with the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Elf, White Christmas, Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life and Die Hard (all the classics). But guess what? We have a Disney blog now, and much like the man-eating plant Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, this blog demands food…er, content.
We have lots of articles planned for December, but as the month progresses I’m going to watch as much Disney Christmas-themed stuff as I can and figure out what should be added to any family’s annual holiday programming and which you can skip. Our posts tend to skew positive because the world-at-large is negative enough, but if any of these movies aren’t worth your time, I’ll let you know. I’m paying for them, after all. At the end, I’ll give you one of the following verdicts: Avoid, Worth a Watch, or New Christmas Classic.
So! Let’s get Christmasy.
Available on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD at all the usual streaming sites
Note: I can only imagine that making any kind of film, animated or otherwise is an incredible undertaking. I’ve never made a film, so I do not presume to know any better than the filmmakers, but I want to offer my honest opinions on these films, good and bad, and I do not mean to offend anyone connected with making something just because it didn’t connect with me or my family.
I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this blog, you are at the very least generally aware of Disney’s 1991 film Beauty and the Beast. If you aren’t, here’s a quick list of reasons why you should be:
- It was the first animated feature film to be nominated in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards. Later, when the category was expanded from 5 films to 10, Up and Toy Story 3 were also nominated.
- It’s a major part of Walt Disney World Theme Parks. Beauty and the Beast: Live On Stage is a long-running stage show based on the film. An entire restaurant recreates the Beast’s castle ( Named Be Our Guest). There is an interactive attraction called Enchanted Tales With Belle, and more
- It’s got one of the greatest film scores and soundtracks ever composed, animated or otherwise
- It’s really good
What I’m getting at is that this is one of the cornerstones of Walt Disney’s Animated Classics, a film that seemed revolutionary in 1991 and continues to be a great film for the whole family. It features a strong female lead and incredible voice work by Paige O’Hara (Belle), Angela Lansbury (Mrs Potts), Jerry Orbach (Lumiere), and others. This is important context, because clearly if you’re charged with making a sequel to a film with such an enduring legacy, you need to bring the heat.
As proof of what the Beauty and The Beast brand meant in the 90’s, consider this: Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas was released direct to video, and according to Wikipedia it sold 7.6 MILLION VHS COPIES without any major reviews or word of mouth. That’s bonkers.
As the movie started, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the characters’ voice actors from the first film came back for this one. I honestly couldn’t believe that all of them would return for a direct-to-video sequel, but a quick check on Wikipedia confirmed it. Color me impressed!
There are a few interesting aspects regarding the set-up of this film. First, they decided to make the sequel to a popular film a holiday-themed special. Sort of weird. Imagine if Toy Story 2 was all about Woody trying to give Buzz a great first Christmas. It’s an odd choice to inject a holiday theme into a non-holiday brand…though I suppose Disney has done that fairly recently.
Secondly, if you’ve seen the original film (if you haven’t, SPOILER ALERT FOR A 28-year-old movie), the characters who live in the Beast’s castle all revert to their original human forms at the end of the film. The Enchanted Christmas finds an interesting way to play with the timeline. The movie starts a few months after the original film, as the characters are getting ready for Christmas. The characters begin to reminisce about the previous year’s Christmas, which prompts a film-length flashback that takes place somewhere in the middle of the last movie.
I imagine the reason for this was to prevent having to invent a new reason as to why the inhabitants of the house revert back to their inhuman forms for another adventure, but it also robs the film of any kind of actual stakes. Regardless of what happens, we already know everything is going to work for them because we’ve already started the film months after whatever they’re about to show us.
This may actually work to a viewing family’s advantage, because…ok, let’s just get it out:
The main villain is a pipe organ named Forte.
The main villain is a musical instrument.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well that sounds weird.” You’re right. But it also incredibly horrifying because it looks like this:
Not only is the character design pretty disturbing, the filmmakers decided to animate him solely through computer/digital animation. The rest of the film is hand-drawn, and looks pretty good for a direct-to-video piece of animation. When juxtaposed with the rest of the film, Forte looks totally otherworldly, like he was cut and pasted from an episode of the 90’s film Reboot (look it up).
So this living pipe organ (voiced by Tim Curry, who does his best) hates Belle because she makes the Beast happy. Forte likes it when the Beast is sad because then the beast requests depressing music to soundtrack his sulking, and Forte…loves depressing music?
So basically the movie is a series of vignettes in which Forte and his lackey Fife (a living piccolo voiced by Pee-Wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens) try to sabotage the burgeoning relationship between Belle and the Beast in order to prevent the curse from being lifted on the house.
These events all unfold alongside the other storyline in the movie: Beast has apparently banned Christmas, so Belle and her group of animated household objects decorate the castle in secret to convince Beast to give in to the holiday spirit. And they sing a lot of songs.
The songs aren’t terrible, but when compared to the previous film’s soundtrack that was composed by the legendary Disney songwriting team Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, they can’t help but pale in comparison.
Wrapping up: it’s not terrible, but it is…weird. Seeing the showdown at the end when Beast literally fights an unmoving pipe organ is so odd it’s almost worth the $11 I paid for this DVD. I didn’t even mention the strange green notes that are somehow concocted by the pipe organ that seem to function as lasers. That part’s weird, too.
Quite honestly, I think my 4-year-old would be totally freaked out by the computer animated Forte. For that reason alone, I won’t be adding this to any kind of regular Christmas viewing schedule.
The verdict: Avoid.