- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

LOS ANGELES Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" is ready for its close-up. The 1991 animated musical, about a bookish beauty named Belle and a romance that saves a monstrously cursed prince, is heading to giant Imax screens for its 10th anniversary.
In addition to expanding the movie's size, the filmmakers have added a new musical sequence and filled in details to make the animation more presentable in the large format.
"The new song's all about cleaning up the castle, so we had to go into about 80 later scenes and literally straighten pictures and dust furniture and polish," producer Don Hahn says.
"Then we went to several other scenes and fixed mistakes. Maybe the background characters didn't have faces or some brush strokes were visible. You wouldn't notice that at the regular multiplex, but it sticks out when the images are 6 stories tall."
The expanded "Beauty and the Beast" follows "Apocalypse Now Redux," in which Francis Ford Coppola restored nearly an hour of footage cut from his 1979 Vietnam drama, and precedes this spring's re-release of Steven Spielberg's 1982 "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," which has been altered to tone down some scenes that featured guns and rude jokes.
Although purists argue that films should not be tinkered with after their debut, the practice has become popular with many filmmakers and studios.
William Friedkin's 1973 "The Exorcist," Mr. Spielberg's 1977 "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and Cameron Crowe's 2000 "Almost Famous" are just a few examples.
In some cases, fans prefer the revised versions.
New editions of the cult films "Blade Runner," Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi thriller, and "Touch of Evil," Orson Welles' 1958 noir, won praise for minimizing elements that had been dictated by studios over the directors' objections.
The idea for a "Beauty and the Beast" special edition evolved after the success of George Lucas' revamped "Star Wars" trilogy in 1997.
Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale joked to Disney's then-studio chief Peter Schneider that they should follow Mr. Lucas' lead, add new scenes to "Beast" and send it back to theaters.
Mr. Schneider didn't laugh. He set them to work.
Although Walt Disney made a fortune re-releasing his original animated features such as "Snow White" and "Bambi" through the years, Mr. Wise and Mr. Trousdale wanted to attract audiences with something new.
They turned to "Human Again," a musical number they had originally cut because they felt it was too long and detracted from the characters of the Beast and Belle.
The cheerful waltz, by composer Alan Menken and late lyricist Howard Ashman, features the comic sidekicks Lumiere the candleholder, Cogsworth the clock and Mrs. Potts the teapot trying to make the creepy castle more conducive to romance.
The filmmakers also had felt that the song's lyrics confused the movie's chronology by implying that several months had passed.
"We kept wondering, 'What was [the villain] Gaston doing?'" Mr. Hahn says. "And Belle's father, Maurice, was still wandering in the snow all that time. Where was he?"
It needled them, however, that the Broadway stage version managed to incorporate the song "Human Again" and still tie up those loose ends, and they were sorry they had not been able to make it work.
"You get to see through the song that these household items were real people once who are suffering under the same curse as the Beast," Mr. Wise says.
For the re-release, the song has been revised to remove references to the passage of so much time.
It includes scenes of Belle's horse being cared for in the castle stables and another sequence in which Belle teaches the Beast to read.
"That way, the audience doesn't lose track of the main characters or wonder where anyone is," Mr. Hahn says.
Mr. Hahn doesn't expect a backlash over the changes to the first animated feature ever nominated for a best-picture Oscar.
"You have to take it movie by movie. Some movies, yes, I just want to see in their raw original state," Mr. Hahn says. "But as long as it's the original directors, original animators and original voice actors doing the changes, I have no qualms about it."
He adds: "It's like a painter going back 10 years later and saying, 'Let me just fix this tree over here.' You can do that because it's your work of art. Emotionally, you own it."
Disney executives didn't want him or the directors to alter too much, and set guidelines.
"We were allowed to change a few major mistakes the ones that were really going to stick out but otherwise we had to leave things the way they were," Mr. Trousdale says.
In some cases, the filmmakers came to view animation flaws as part of the film's character.
"If we saw something that was really funky and wanted to fix it, I said, 'You know what let's just chalk it up to charm," Mr. Hahn says.


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