“Beauty and the Beast: a 30th Celebration” is a television special that celebrates the legacy of the 1991 animated movie “Beauty and the Beast” that was recently released to Disney Plus. It is currently featured in their Valentine’s Day Collection. It is a mixture of animation, live action performances and behind the scenes extras.
The 1991 animated film was and continues to be the gold standard for storytelling in animation, even being the first animated film to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards. It is no wonder why Disney would want to celebrate not only the story itself, but the hard work that contributed to its success.
Unfortunately, the behind the scenes extras that showed this aspect had the effect of interrupting the story. Although they were interesting, they would often be placed directly after a live action performance of a musical number and I found myself wishing I was watching more of the story instead.
That being said, the live action performances were phenomenal and extremely creative. H.E.R. delivered a strong vocal performance as Belle. Josh Groban, who also sang the song “Evermore” for the live action “Beauty and the Beast” soundtrack, was terrific as the beast. Groban not only has an amazing voice, but does an amazing job of portraying his character’s emotional vulnerability. However, the best actor was Joshua Henry, who plays the role of Gaston. He is so expressive and portrays Gaston’s self obsession incredibly well.
The live action segments had well done stage design. Every scene performed in live action feels as though it came directly out of the animated film, even the opening number, “Belle,” which was filmed outside. The costume designs were also creative with the beast and the wolves being particularly impressive. The beast’s costume is a hulking, almost mechanical puppet that still allows the audience to see Groban’s face and the wolves wore similarly metallic masks with glowing red eyes.
The only aspect that was really disappointing about the live action segments were the musical numbers that weren’t included in the special. Songs that were featured in Broadway performances of “Beauty and the Beast” such as “Human Again” and “If I Can’t Love Her” are not performed here, which was disappointing.
The animated segments were taken directly from the animated film, so of course they were amazing. Some parts were clearly edited for time but that is to be expected.
The edited transitions between the segments were done nicely as well. It was never a jarring transition between any of the three aspects, and this added to the flow of the story. The only obnoxious transitions were the ones that would have taken place before a commercial, but that is also to be expected since the special originally aired on television.
Overall, “Beauty and the Beast: a 30th Celebration” has some fantastic elements, but it is not for everyone. For viewers who especially enjoy musical theater and the animated “Beauty and the Beast” in particular might enjoy the special in spite of the interruptions. For viewers who are interested in more detailed behind-the-scenes, I recommend “Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind The Making of Beauty and the Beast.”