One of the first movies I saw with my wife was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Allie and I had been dating for just about a year at that point and both were real excited to see this new Disney animated film.
We both had loved The Little Mermaid and were looking forward to this follow-up. All the talk about this crazy new CGI technology that animated films were starting to use certainly peeked my curiousity.
We both absolutely loved the film and I even began regularly belting out, “…she didn’t shudder at myyyy pawwww” in the deepest overly dramatic voice I could muster. We had the movie on VHS (that’s a video tape for you youngsters out there) and pretty much stripped the tape bare, watching it so much.
Flash forward some 25 years and Allie and I are happily married, totally enjoying watching all these old Disney films with our two boys. We had watched the Little Mermaid a few months ago and both Jason and Ryan enjoyed it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find Beauty and the Beast anywhere. The library didn’t have copies. Stores were no longer selling them. And we’d have to wait until Disney took it out of “the vault” to finally watch it with the kids.
And then… then my blogger luck struck gold. I was invited to a Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary Event at Lincoln Center in New York City. It’d include interviews with some of the cast and the chance to watch the original animated film on the big screen again. Oh, and for this super special one night event, I was even allowed to bring my family. So I did!
For the first part of the evening, I had the pleasure of meeting up with a few fellow NY bloggers to interview some of the original voice cast behind the film. It seems I can’t go to any blogging event in NYC without bumping into crazy old
Maurice Mitch from Gay NYC Dad.
After exchanging horrible dad jokes with each other, we joined up with the few other bloggers and headed down to the lower levels of Alice Tully Hall. There in one of the dressing rooms, we sat and spent a good 10 to 15 minutes chatting with Robby Benson (voice of Beast), Paige O’Hara (voice of Belle) and Richard White (voice of Gaston).
It was incredibly entertaining just watching the three of them interact with each other in truly dramatic fashion as they reminisced about filming this Disney classic. The trio clearly loved their time together creating this hit and unlike most animated films of today (or even from back then), all of them actually recorded their lines together in one room, rather than individually.
After taking a few group shots with the three of them, we were told one more person wanted to get in on the photo. And then, yes, in walked Angela Lansbury!
I’ve always loved Angela Lansbury and like most people my age, grew up watching Jessica Fletcher solve mysteries on TV every week with my whole family. And now here she was, the voice of Mrs. Potts, standing there next to us. She was unbelievably gracious, sweet and such an incredibly amazing person. I was shocked to learn that she’s almost 91 years young.
After quick photos, we all went upstairs and entered the theater. Before showing the film, we watched a short documentary that showed some behind-the-scenes footage, mainly of the storyboards to “Be Our Guest.” Then with various scenes changing on the screen in the background, we watched the entire cast, along with producer Don Hahn, answer a number of questions about the movie.
The coolest fact I learned from it all? Angela Lansbury’s teapot character Mrs. Potts was originally called Mrs. Chamomile. But apparently that’s way too tough for little kids to pronounce, so they went with Potts.
What followed was a full viewing of 1991’s hit animated film Beauty and the Beast. And I have to say, with the exception of the Star Wars films, I have never seen a movie in a theater with this much crowd excitement and interaction. Every single time a new character popped onscreen, the theater erupted in cheers and applause.
At the end, we were told to wait for a very special treat. So as the credits rolled, I asked my boys if they liked it and they both really enjoyed it. Considering they normally say “I don’t know” after any movie and wait a day or two before realizing they liked it, this was incredibly high praise right from the start!
I did enjoy looking over at their faces throughout the film to see them laughing at some of the funnier parts, especially the amazing furniture vs. man battle in the castle near the end of the movie.
When the credits died down, we were then introduced to the Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken! He not only came out to say a quick hello, but he sat down at the piano on stage and began playing roughly 10 minutes of a Disney Medley he put together.
As the man behind the music for some of Disney’s hugest hits (including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas), it was insane hearing the original composer play all these famous tunes while he sang along. Don’t believe me? Take a listen…
And then… out came… Angela Lansbury herself! I thought the theater was going to crumble from the applause that ensued, while she walked onto center stage. She took the microphone, and while Alan Menken played piano, Angela Lansbury sang the entire “Beauty and the Beast” song.
It’s been 25 years since she recorded it and Angela nailed it perfectly. Of course I took a video!