This week, we looked at Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, which takes place during the events of the original film following when Belle was rescued from the wolves by the Beast. The film opens a year after the end of the original when everybody is human again. It’s Christmastime and Mrs. Potts recalls the story of what happened the previous year. As she tells the story, we see the events play out on screen. We learn that that the Beast did not like Christmas and so Belle, with the help of the servants, does her best to help him see the magic of the holiday.
Since this film takes place during the original, it does a great job of expanding the story and adding some new elements that work in the films’ favor. Firstly, we are introduced to several new characters, all of which are an enjoyable addition to the lore, due in no small credit to the character designs as well as the voice work. Several notable actors have been added to the cast as well as all the original voices from the first film returning. These include Bernadette Peters as the castle decorator Angelique, Paul Reubens (best known as Pee-Wee Herman) as a piccolo named Fife, and finally, my personal favorite, a new villain named Forte, voiced by the always incredible Tim Curry. Forte is a conductor turned pipe organ who, interestingly, favors his organ form rather than a human one. This is a large plot point in the film, as he uses his minion Fife, to help him carry out his plan of keeping Belle and the Beast apart to avoid becoming human again. We also get to see a flashback featuring Forte in his human form on the night that the Enchantress places a spell on the castle. It is fun to see this scene expanded.
Forte is easily my favorite thing about the film, as his character motivations do an excellent job of setting him apart from every other servant in the castle. This new character is the only one that is completely computer-generated here. Coincidentally, this film was released in 1997, the same year as Disney’s mainstream animated film Hercules which features another computer-generated character: the three-headed Hydra.
Besides these few noteworthy things about The Enchanted Christmas, this film suffers from the same things that have become a staple in these direct-to-video sequels: subpar animation and a simple story. The music in this film is a tad bit better than in other offerings, however, with new songs written by talented composer Rachel Portman. Specific examples include Forte’s villain song “Don’t Fall in Love”, Belle’s “Stories”, and “As Long as There’s Christmas”, sung by both Belle and Angelique. It is always great to hear songs sung by musical theatre geniuses like Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters.
Next week, we will look at another Beauty and the Beast entry, Belle’s Magical World. Happy watching!