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Saturday Matinee

Saturday Matinee #140: "Beauty and the Beast TV Spots Collection" (1991 to 1992)

Published September 7, 2013

by Albert Gutierrez

Walt Disney Logo

Thirty seconds lasts longer than you think. Count three of them out right now. One-Mississippi. Two-Mississippi. Three-Mississippi. And so on and so forth. When you're aware just how long each second lasts, stringing them together can seem like an eternity. Especially when you're watching a program-interrupting commercial on television. No, sir, I do not need to know about the latest cleanser for those dirty dishes; just give me back my stories!

At the same time, thirty seconds goes by much faster than you'd expect. Did you notice that the time it took for you to read my first paragraph was roughly thirty seconds? Thus, thirty seconds can be both forever and never. When it comes to marketing, thirty seconds is vital. You have to make it interesting, make it count, make it memorable. Why do you think so many commercials are so in your face? They have a limited time to grab your attention and keep it, regardless whether you feel it's coming along at a snail's pace or whizzing by at light speed.

Beauty and the Beast Trailer

And that brings us to this week's Saturday Matinee. For some reason, I had a hankering to pore through the supplements on the home media releases for Beauty and the Beast. The documentaries always provided information and entertainment (especially the interactive version on the 2010 Blu-Ray). But one thing I always enjoy checking out are the marketing strategies that Disney used for the film. Earlier this year, I had discussed the Theatrical Reviews Trailer, showing how it focused primarily on the adult aspect of the film via professional reviews in respected print publications. This time, we'll check out the small collection of television spots for Beauty and the Beast, included on both the 2002 "Platinum Edition" DVD and 2010 "Diamond Edition" Blu-Ray.

Beauty and the Beast Trailer

From Walt Disney Pictures, she was a young girl who dreamed of romance.

Belle:

I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere.

He was a prince, cursed to live in the body of a beast.

Beast:

She'll never see me as anything but a monster!

But when she looked into his heart, she found the man of her dreams. It's Disney's all-new, 30th animated full-length picture: Beauty and the Beast, rated G.

*****

This first spot can best be called the "Romance" spot. The emphasis lies squarely on Belle and the Beast. Indeed, they are the only ones seen, save for a few fleeting glimpses at Lumiere and Mrs. Potts during one scene. Thus, this promo clearly aims at the adults in the viewing audience. I imagine a spot like this might have been on the air during primetime, maybe during a Top 10 program from the 1991-1992 television season. I can easily see this airing during a commercial break for ABC's "Full House," thus bringing in that multi-generational audience, though still tailored for the adults. Or, if Disney wanted to do some cross-promotion, buy a spot during Angela Lansbury's "Murder, She Wrote" on CBS, a Top 20 program at the time. Either way, this is a very mature promo, one that subverts the expectations of animation at the time by cleverly editing into thirty seconds some of the most intensely-adult moments in the entire eighty-four minute film.

Beauty and the Beast Trailer

From Walt Disney Pictures, a beautiful young girl pursued by a ruthless villain.

Gaston:

Belle is mine!

And surrounded by danger!

Belle:

Aahh!

But now, a brave beast and his magical army -

Lumiere:

NOW!

- will come to the rescue. Together, they will do whatever it takes to save Belle. It's an incredible adventure you will never forget. Disney's Beauty and the Beast, rated G.

*****

Now, we get a rather misleading spot, but one aimed squarely towards the action and fantasy. Had this promo aired today, cynics may claim this is Disney's attempt at getting the boy audience excited for a "Princess" film. But we should remember that this came long before Disney's "Princess" line became both a marketing juggernaut and fandom stigma. Disney still knew they had to market the film towards specific audiences, even when it came to children. Thus, this one appeals to the adventure, the excitement. But it appeals to both genders as well. Both can identify with either saving the damsel, or being the damsel. And we still have shots of said damsel in action. Children will know who the enemy is, as narrator Brian Cummings clearly identifies Gaston as the ruthless villain, though we're led to believe he's known about Beast all along. And I've certainly never heard the enchanted objects referred to as Beast's "magical army" before. Overall, this spot does exactly what the "Romance" spot did, and that's edit together clips to present a different perspective towards the film.

Beauty and the Beast Trailer

For the first time in motion picture history, an animated feature has received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture of the Year. Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Belle:

I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere.

And now, the most successful new animated film of all time has become the most acclaimed with six Academy Award nominations. Don't miss the movie that's making motion picture history: Disney's Beauty and the Beast, rated G.

*****

At this point, the prestige enters. This television spot naturally was made during the film's successful run in the theatres, and as early as February 19, 1992 (when the nominees for the Academy Awards were announced that year). Due to the expected familiarity the marketing team would assume the audiences have, we see many of the money shots from the film, including a few from the ending, providing a bit of a spoiler for television viewers who had yet to view the film. Truthfully, the real star of this spot is not necessarily the film, but the attention it's receiving. It's almost circular. You're giving your attention to a commercial about a commercially-successful film, itself getting more commercial business and attention from elsewhere. Prestige spots like this often serve as a celebration of a film's success, using it as a sly reason why you should see what all the success is about.

Beauty and the Beast Trailer

Disney's Beauty and the Beast is making history as the only animated movie ever to win the Golden Globe for Best Picture. Don't miss the movie that's won three Golden Globe awards, Beauty and the Beast, rated G.

*****

In the last, and shortest, of the four television promos, we get the most obvious celebration of success. Beauty and the Beast has deservedly won the Golden Globe. This spot simply reminds viewers of the fact, while also suggesting that they check out (or check out again) a film that's earned such a prestigious award. Naturally, they had me at "Beauty." Then again, I'm a bit biased; more often than not, I'll side with the Golden Globes' selection of Best Picture for a year. Beauty and the Beast truly stands out as one of the most memorable, well-made, and successful pictures of 1991. Ironically, even though we see such an accomplishment as history-changing today, at the time, the nomination also felt a bit "dark horse" in the industry. At the time, having the nomination was often seen as "enough" since many expected this decision would help open up more doors for animation. While it did, that came with both benefits and hindrances, though such discussion would be better saved for a future Saturday Matinee.

 

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