Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 17
Beauty and the Beast November 13, 1991
Beauty and the Beast premieres

The first animated film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opened in New York theaters November 13, 1991. Directed by Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, with music by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Beauty and the Beast mixed computer animation techniques with traditional animation as well as old-fashioned Broadway-style songs. Wrote Janet Maslin in the New York Times about this blend, “No live-action musical could ever match the miracles of anthropomorphism that occur here, or the fantastically sweeping scale. Nor could a live-action work achieve this mixture of elaborate, painstaking technique and perfect simplicity. Beauty and the Beast is filled with affectionate homages to the live-action sources that have inspired it, and indeed those influences are strong. But its overriding spirit is all its own.” The film is also known as the high point of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s “Disney renaissance,” when executive Jeffrey Katzenberg rode herd on a team of new young animators. This creatively fruitful but also turbulent time has been dissected in countless magazine articles and books, but it was also recalled recently by two men who were there, Don Hahn and Peter Schneider, in their doc Waking Sleeping Beauty. In a Filmmaker magazine interview, Schneider commented, “What people failed to capture amidst all the drama was the joy that exists while you are making a creative project. I wanted to capture the extraordinary joy of that period of time as well as the personal drama. It took the entire team to make these movies successful. It wasn’t just one individual, two individuals — it took a collective group of people working in a unique manner. It always gets put out there that Jeffery did this, or that Michael did that, but I wanted to show the inspirational teamwork. That was my motivation.”


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Dec. 17, 1946
Eugene Levy born

Whether it's as Jim's dad in the American Pie movies, Max Yasgur in Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock or the dastardly Walter Kornbluth, one of the scientists out to nab Daryl Hannah in Splash, Eugene Levy has become instantly recognizable to movie audiences.

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December 17, 1982
Tootsie Not a Drag for Hoffman

26 years ago today, when Tootsie was released in the U.S., Dustin Hoffman went from being one of the most respected dramatic actors working in film to, well, something very different. Hoffman, who had his breakthrough role in Mike Nichols' wry charmer The Graduate in 1967, had never truly shown his comic side on screen, despite the fact that he played Lenny Bruce in Bob Fosse's biopic of the controversial comedian, Lenny. Instead he had carefully picked roles, in films like Little Big Man, Midnight Cowboy and All the President's Men, which played to his incredible skill as a committed method actor. As a result, he was incredibly nervous about his idea to make a movie about a struggling actor who drags up as he pretends to be an actress in order to get a role in a soap opera. The film had a troubled and prolonged history, taking four years to reach the screen, during which time directors Dick Richards and Hal Ashby dropped out of the project, to be replaced by Sydney Pollack. The film, however, was a huge success: Hoffman's female foils, Jessica Lange and Teri Garr, excelled in their roles while Charles Durning (ala Joe E. Brown in Some Like It Hot) gave a killer supporting turn as the man who falls for Hoffman's “Dorothy.” And Hoffman himself was a revelation, displaying impeccable comic instincts and brilliant timing in a role that could easily have been his undoing and the source of infinite mockery from his peers. Tootsie was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Actor and Screenplay, while Lange beat out Garr for the Best Supporting Actress award. Most importantly for Hoffman and Columbia, the studio that bankrolled the movie, Tootsie was a box office titan, rapidly passing the $100 million mark and ultimately racking up nearly $180 million.

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