Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
April 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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