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Ever just the same

Betsy likes this one.

Betsy likes this one.

“Roger, didn’t you know that everything goes back to ‘Beauty and the Beast?'” That was Deborah Stevenson talking to me sotto voce in 1989 or so after listening to our boss Betsy Hearne make yet another connection between some new book or other and the classic French tale to which she had given her scholarly life. Betsy was, as always, very convincing in the literary genealogies she could uncover, and my years working with her have given me an instinct to look for the archetypes behind every story. Even B&B–that’s what Betsy called it so why not the rest of us?–goes back to “Cupid and Psyche,” she taught me.

Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast movie goes back to Disney’s last Beauty and the Beast movie, skipping over (as I understand) the Broadway musical in between. I saw those but retain hardly anything. (I do remember the Forbidden Broadway parody of an underfunded revival of the latter.) So my experience of the new movie felt mostly informed by my viewing of Disney’s last live-action remake, Cinderella. That was gorgeous and so is this. I found the plot sometimes hard to keep up with (wait, Belle was born in Paris?), but there was always something pretty to look at while you waited for the story to sort itself out. The filming and scoring of the great dance was disappointing as both the music and the camera lurched about while Belle and Beast fell in love. Emma Thompson’s singing was excellent, though, as was her whole performance as Mrs. Potts; equally adorable was Kevin Kline as Belle’s father sweetly singing a new song in classic Disney style, “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” later steamrolled by Queen Celine over the closing credits. Emma Watson was a bit wan but fine, and Cousin Matthew… well, Betsy taught us that the Beast is always hotter than the Prince. As in life.

P.S. In preparing the image for this post I discovered I already had a file labelled B&B.jpg in the image gallery; here it is:







P.P.S. Oh and that gay thing. Malaysia wanted (but relented) to excise a few seconds where one guy is dancing with another, but how did they miss “Gaston“? Gayer than an Easter basket filled with kittens. I’m reminded of when Richard and I took Betsy’s then-young daughter to The Little Mermaid, who, witnessing her chaperones cracking up to the high-camp antics of Ariel’s bosom-covering hairdo dancing in time to the music, asked with anxious, honest perplexity, “Why are you guys laughing?”

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. I always wonder how Robin McKinley’s Beauty possibly influenced the Disney B&B? I see on her website that there was no official exchange of permissions between her and Disney, and she realized she could never pursue anything. Does McKinley’s version reference an earlier version as well? Belle being a bookworm seems to come right from McKinley, yes?

  2. I’m a big fan of McKinley’s Beauty, but Beauty the bookworm goes back much earlier. This is from Le Prince de Beaumont’s 1756 version: “They [the sisters] went out every day to parties of pleasure, balls, plays, concerts, and so forth, and they laughed at their youngest sister, because she spent the greatest part of her time in reading good books.” A 19th century version describes her delight in the Beast’s library. Re. Disney’s latest over-the-top distraction from the story . . . well, I’m not supposed to use vulgar language here.

  3. And thanks, Roger, for remembering everything I taught you!

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