I wish I could tell you how wonderful Beauty and the Beast 3D was. Or I wish I could tell you what a waste Beauty and the Beast 3D turned out to be. However, dear readers, fate has equipped me with neither of these responses. The lights went down, the previews came on, and my date (my sister) and I excitedly flipped on our 3D glasses to watch a trailer announcing the 3D release of the Star Wars Trilogy. It seemed a little out of focus. Oh well! We know from the trailer that the 3D effects don’t enhance THAT viewing! Phew, don’t have to waste our money on THAT ticket! Except, the next trailer was fuzzy as well. And…the preview cartoon (an otherwise adorable epilogue anecdote to Disney’s Tangled). Surely the movie itself will be aligned to 3D perfection! …Or not. We found ourselves two projector restarts later with no better results. Yes, it seems as though the great big cineplex I visited was experiencing some technical difficulties, despite what seemed to be their best efforts. In the depth of the enhanced projection, everything falling in the background was hopelessly projected in fuzzy double vision. Everything falling into the middle ground (most often the moving animation) ranged in and out of clarity. Everything enhanced in the absolute foreground was lost in well-defined double vision. I am fortunate in having good eyesight thus far in my life. I don’t think I ever appreciated this fact quite so much as the initial zoom in to the beast’s castle, with a pair of identically moving doe in the foreground. My sister leaned in to me and said “This is what not wearing my glasses looks like.”
After collecting our customary free ticket vouchers, my sister and I decided to stay in hopes that clarity would be found. While the theater had maybe thirty people to begin with, a good third of them left, possibly to vomit or go watch safe old 2D Beauty and the Beast in the comfort of their homes. I found myself unable to leave. The beautiful stained-glass tableau opening has always been a favorite, but who can leave once Belle begins to sing amidst a chorus of townspeople? Having not seen this movie in a theater in approximately 20 years, I was thrilled by the surround of familiar music, and theater enhancement of expected sound effects. The traditional animation (when not doubling itself) was comfortable in its movements; not so smooth as slick 3D animation, but still with a realistic sense of weight and motion. Beauty and the Beast is one from the Disney collection that hides deep in the hearts of many, myself included. This was the movie that taught me what the words ‘provincial’ and ‘expectorating’ meant. I owned both a plastic toy magic mirror and a plastic Chip teacup. More than anything, I remember being five years old and having the lyrics “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere” stick in my mind, before having any concept of what Belle’s motivation could be. I still lapse into a poor impression of Lumiere any time I attempt a French accent.
This isn’t to say that the movie is all nostalgia. I found the theater experience refreshing in noticing small details or lyrics I had glossed over before, or forgotten over the years. These range from the creepy beetle noise the Beast’s enchanted carriage makes while it carries Maurice away to the lyric “[No one] plans to persecute harmless crackpots like Gaston!”. There was still wonder and discovery after countless re-watchings and twenty years of sentimentality.
I cannot comment on the quality of the 3D enhancement, as I spent many a castle pull-away imagining how majestic it could be while wincing. Scenes that should have been heartwarming (the layered Be Our Guest, the grand and innovative sweep through the ballroom) were instead somewhat heartbreaking in feeling as though you were missing something. I truly hope that the technical difficulties displayed by my theater are not a common problem. However, while I came for the 3D, I stayed for the story that I know and love. Seeing and hearing those in the theater who also stuck around, I know I wasn’t alone. The protests of a teenage boy a row in front of my sister and I filtered back to us, “I WASN’T crying, you liar!”. So while adding a dimension may be more trouble than its worth, Beauty and the Beast is still worth a viewing.