Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 20
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.”


More Flashbacks
Robert Altman November 20, 2006
Robert Altman dies

On this day in 2006, the legendary film director Robert Altman passed away at the age of 81 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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Nov. 20, 1992
Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opens

The unlikeliest franchise was born on November 20, 1992, when Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant opened in New York City. Produced by Ed Pressman, written by Zoe Lund and Paul Calderon, and starring Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant boldly yoked a tale of a distraught Catholic cop seeking redemption by pursuing the rapists of a nun to a sordid, walk-on-the-wild side panorama of downtown New York in the early '90s.

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November 20, 1981
Ragtime Starts Up

Released on November 20, 1981, Milos Forman's Ragtime presented a sweeping picture of America at the beginning of the 20th century. While based on E.L. Doctorow’s sprawling novel, the film centers on the story of Coalhouse Walker Jr (Howard E. Rollins Jr.), a young black pianist who fights to have his honor restored after being abused by racist volunteer firemen. For Forman, the film’s story of oppression connected to his own struggle in Communist Czechoslovakia. For others, the story was a reflection of America’s own new Gilded Age, especially as the holiday season approached. But all saw the 155-minute spectacle, with a massive cast that included actors and celebrities like James Cagney, Donald O’Connor, Pat O’Brien, Elizabeth McGovern, Norman Mailer, Mandy Patinkin, and many more, as a movie event. It took an impressive $17 million and was nominated for 8 Academy Awards, and even spawned a Broadway musical; today, however, Ragtime, a historical epic to remind of past excesses, has sadly been all but forgotten.

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