In college I took a class about fairy tales. Because I’m a female born in the late ’80s, my favorite part of the course was inevitably the week of Disney movies. The professor, a native German, told us that he was shocked by how much Americans love these movies. I mean, love with a burning passion. We tried to explain that they were a big part of our childhood, but he probably still thought we were silly.
So when I saw the commercials for Beauty and the Beast in 3D, I reeeeeally wanted to see it. Not because of the addition of 3D — that was actually kind of a drawback. I just didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see one of my all-time favorite animated films on the big screen. An invitation to a friend’s birthday party, which included a trip to the movie, was just the excuse I needed. There’s no shame in a group of twenty-something women attending a Disney movie with no kids in sight. Right?
It’s worth mentioning that this was my first 3D movie experience. I guess the lack of theater trips throughout college caused me to be a little behind on the 3D trend. And honestly, I always suspected that it was a gimmick more than an exciting development in film. Beauty and the Beast was perhaps not the best introduction to the technique because it was never intended to be in 3D. Most of the previews were in 3D as well, and that probably gave me a better sense of what 3D can do. The illusion of an object flying off the screen was certainly a new one. (Never mind that it was a berry bounced off The Rock’s pecs. Click here is you require proof.)
But what about the main event? I enjoyed seeing a very familiar film in a new way, both on the big screen and in three dimensions. I could hear the intricacies of the musical score. I could see details that I had seemingly never noticed on a TV set. The 3D did its best work in detailed landscapes. For instance, the beautiful opening shot of the Beast’s castle through the forest or Belle exploring the castle hallways. 3D enhances the feeling of depth in a visual image (duh), so it makes sense that these scenes would have the most 3D potential. However, in shots of the characters, it felt odd to see them appear to exist on different planes. To me the 3D often felt like the image was layered. The closest layer might contain Belle, then a middle layer might contain the Beast, and the farthest layer might contain the backdrop. It was a striking effect, but not the way I experience the world through my eyes.
Perhaps the best part of the movie was the little girl sitting next to me. She was probably two or three years old, sitting on her mother’s lap. This child found the Beast absolutely terrifying. Now I’m not saying that frightened children amuse me, but her presence helped me see the movie with fresh eyes. And yes, when you haven’t seen him before, the Beast is scary! In any number of dimensions. And Belle is still the patron princess of all girls who love books.