I recently lost a bet with my friend Mark Diba, and now he’s making me watch seven dreadful movies produced by DisneyToon Studios. Follow along with my decent into madness HERE.
When my friend Mark Diba gave me the list of movies I was to watch for losing this bet, he gave them to me in descending order of quality, with Patch’s London Adventure supposedly the “best” of the bunch, and Cinderella II: Dreams Come True in dead last. After entering the back half of this list with the infuriatingly terrible The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, I was expecting nothing but the worst from here on out.
So it comes as a huge surprise that I weirdly enjoyed parts of Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World.
Let’s put a big fat disclaimer on the word “enjoyed” here, because I have a particular affection for things that are so ridiculous that they have no right to exist. It’s the reason I adore The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, and it’s how I was able to derive enjoyment from this. Also, please don’t mistake this for the ironic “it’s so bad, it’s good” type of enjoyment that’s so popular; no, I enjoy these things with the utmost sincerity. I’m not smugly snickering at their badness, but rather falling in love with their complete disregard for sanity and good taste. I didn’t enjoy this movie because it’s bad, but because it’s absurd in every sense of the word.
That being said, much like Breaking Dawn – Part 2, this movie is way too long and huge swaths of it are hopelessly boring. In fact, the only part of this movie – a movie that, like Atlantis: Milo’s Return, was salvaged from the scraps of an abandoned TV series – that’s really worth watching is the first segment: “The Perfect World.”
At its best, this movie feels like a poorly animated adaptation of a Disney fan fiction forum. This is amazing! The fact that no one ever looked at this and said “you know, maybe we shouldn’t…” fills me with so much joy, because the end result is so wonderfully silly. In the great tradition of fanfics, this film profoundly misunderstands who these characters are, and ends up creating wildly different personalities to suit its own ends. Belle in particular is such a different person than the one we see in the original film (which, by the way, supposedly takes place both before and after this movie) that she doesn’t even read as the same character. This is further helped by the fact that she is frequently drawn off-model. The woman who was characterized by her strong will and adventurous spirit is portrayed here as being the most passive, most demure character in the whole Disney Princess line-up. This should offend me, but I’m too busy giggling at the insanity of it. Meanwhile the Beast is frighteningly abusive in this film, and yet the movie still thinks he reads as being good at heart. The core dynamic of this film is a volatile, abusive monster and the sweet, milquetoast girl who continues to pine for him. Again, this would all be horrifying in any normal context, but it’s so perfectly fan fiction-ey that I can’t help but laugh.
That’s why the first segment is by far the best of them, because it’s all about this dynamic. The central conflict revolves around a petty squabble over the room temperature during dinner, that escalates to the point where the Beast is threatening to murder a few of his servants for forging an apology letter. Oh what I wouldn’t give to listen in on the pitch meeting for this one.
The two middle segments focus more on the antics of the castle’s community of enchanted objects and are mostly boring. The final segment is about the Beast going into full villain mode and torturing a bird with a broken wing for his own amusement, so there’s some good stuff there, but even that doesn’t match the wonderful insanity of the first episode.
By all accounts Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World is a terrible movie, but it’s the only one of these silly things that I’ve enjoyed at all. It’s so wonderfully wrongheaded that I was just constantly giggling. It’s a series of children’s morality tales that displays wildly irresponsible judgement, and I can’t help but be delighted by that.