Disney hasn’t had any trouble drumming up interest for their latest live-action remake of an animated classic. The trailer for the new Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, broke records back in November when it was viewed an astonishing 127 million times in its first 24 hours – even though the new trailer suggests that the new film is almost identical to its predecessor.
That trailer showed strikingly similar music, lines, costumes, sets and even cinematography to the animated original.
But the latest look at the new film, released last night, does have one key departure hidden in the sea of recognisable shots.
One of the most striking scenes in the 1991 cartoon comes when Belle is shown a new room in the Beast’s castle. Like Elizabeth Bennet before her, Belle falls in love with her future partner’s real estate before the man himself. Her version of Pemberley comes in the form of the Beast’s library. Avid reader Belle is awed by his ridiculously large collection of books. “You like it?” he gushes. “It’s yours!”
But there are some additional lines in the new trailer that change the dynamic in the new trailer. “Have you really read every one of these books?” Emma Watson’s Belle asks. “Well, some of them are in Greek,” the Beast replies. Belle can only give an impressed giggle – and we’re to assume that love begins to bloom between this unlikely couple over their shared love of reading.
In the 1991 cartoon, there’s nothing to suggest that Belle and the Beast have such things in common: the special edition home release of the film includes a scene in which Belle teaches the illiterate Beast to read.
In fact, Belle teaches the Beast all sorts of things aside from how to pronounce “two” – like how to eat without getting food all over his face, and how to feed small animals. They first bond over her tending to his scratches and scrapes. Belle is a domestic caregiver as much as she is a lover, a maternal figure in the Beast’s life. That her story ends with her uniting with the Beast forever after, then, can seem a little contradictory – especially as she explicitly rejects the idea of caring for a husband in a life of domesticity with Gaston, who offers her, “a rustic hunting lodge, my latest kill roasting on the fire, and my little wife, massaging my feet, while the little ones play with the dogs”.
Perhaps the new film sets out to counter that idea with Belle and the Beast’s shared love of literature. We also see Belle and the Beast bonding over some sort of magical atlas, and we know that in the new version of the film Belle has been reimagined as a career woman who came up with a kind of washing machine (in the original, her father is the inventor). Both Emma Watson and director Bill Condon have said they wanted the remake to have a feminist slant.
While it seems more than a bit of a stretch to sell this cosy tale as a radical manifesto about women’s place in the world, at least we know there might be some differences between the much-loved animation and this live-action remake. So who is going to come up with a spot the difference drinking game before 17 March?