Tuesday, August 23, 2011
16. "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast
First of all, isn't that gorgeous in HD? Everyone needs to buy this on Bluray, then invite me over to watch it.
That aside, this one probably demands more explanation than most other selections, because why, you ask, out of dozens upon dozens of worthy Disney (and other animated) musical numbers would I settle on this as the best of the best. It is from one of the all-time great animated musicals, so that probably makes it easier to swallow, but even then, why not "Be Our Guest" or "Beauty and the Beast" or even the glorious "Gaston?" What about the Jungle Book and The Lion King and The Little Mermaid? I would chalk it all up to personal preference, but were that the case, I'd have gone and snuck "I Won't Say I'm In Love" from Hercules into the top 10 (and that is, incidentally, far and away my favorite Disney song).
But consider these points. First, "Belle" sets the pace for everything to follow, and it does so much the way a classic musical would. The song drives the plot, a lot of plot, and by the time it has played through, we're so thoroughly immersed in provincial France that we feel we've known it all along. The music never plays as a distraction, not as something to hold the kids attention, nor does it squeeze maudlin pop songs in just for the pleasure of eroding our souls (coughTarzancough). The song is intricate to the story in a way few other Disney songs come close to being. This is one of the many reasons why I'll always go to bat for Robin Hood and Hercules - both also make the most of their musical roots.
Did I mention Belle is also Disney's best character, and on such a list Gaston would surely factor in somewhere as well. If you're going to use your songs to tell your story, it's most welcome to have characters of this caliber strolling and strutting about. And while we're at it, the song itself is pretty marvelous, not quite a showstopper, but I maintain you could ask for a better scene setter.