Saturday Matinee #108: "Beauty and the Beast Theatrical Reviews Trailer" (1991 to 1992)
Published January 26, 2013
by Albert Gutierrez
One of my favorite movies of all time is 1942's Random Harvest. An adaptation of the James Hilton novel of the same name, the film features Ronald Colman as "Smithy," as a gentle amnesiac who falls in love with the spirited showgirl Paula, played by Greer Garson. To say any more about the film would spoil it a lot. Actually, all that's needed to be said about Random Harvest can probably be summed up in a couple stills from the film's trailer:
Never in my life had I seen a trailer so shameless in making a bid for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Granted, the film was very deserving of its nomination, though it lost to Garson's other landmark picture of 1942: Mrs. Miniver. But when watching the film's trailer in hindsight, MGM was being pretty bold including that particular audience testimonial. However, it's become merely a harbinger of things to come. Many Oscar-season trailers will often promote their films' nominations, and if they are still in theatres after the ceremony, whatever wins they may acquire.
Disney, too, is not immune to this. One of the best examples is from a "Theatrical Reviews" Trailer that was made for Beauty and the Beast. The original trailer is a timeless classic, one that I've watched time and again on DVD and Blu-Ray. However, this particular trailer has not been seen as often. It was released to theatres, but has only been included on one home media release: the Work in Progress LaserDisc. The trailer mainly features Brian Cummings (everyone's favorite Disney voiceover artist) reading excerpts from film critics' reviews, as evident by some of the screen captures below:
Like the original trailer, we get a trailer that mixes genres. It sells the film as romance, adventure, music, suspense. One of the primary features of this trailer is the selling of the film as something for adults rather than children. We have to remember that at the time, the Disney name was on an upswing. Their films from Touchstone allowed them to appeal to an adult audience, while rebuilding their animated studios with the likes of The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company, and The Little Mermaid. However, to many (critic and audience alike), the animated films were still just for the kids (even with Mermaid's Oscar wins). Beauty and the Beast was the first time in years that a Disney animated film was being given as much promotion and stature as a prestigious live-action film. Thus, this trailer makes sure to sell the adult aspect as much as it does the musical aspect.
Since I had never gone to a theatre until 1992's Aladdin, I missed out on seeing this particular trailer on that silver screen, so I'm not entirely sure when it started appearing. However, two reviews from the trailer were published in November 1991, the earlier being Janet Maslin's review from November 13. David Ansen's "Newsweek" review came a few days later, on November 17. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a date for the "Rolling Stone" review from Peter Travers.
Naturally, the final two critical assessments are the ones that really pull out the big guns. And, of course, they come from the most powerful media representation of the time: television. Joel Siegel's assessment of the film was likely done on-air for "Good Morning, America," as was the Siskel & Ebert review on their "At the Movies" series. I couldn't determine the air dates for either review, although Siskel & Ebert make a similar bid for the film to get a Best Picture nomination in their "Best of '91" episode, which aired January 3, 1992.
Unfortunately, as wonderful as this trailer is, Disney has only included it on one home media release: the already-mentioned Work in Progress LaserDisc, released in 1992. The disc was notorious for suffering laser rot, so finding a copy that still plays will be quite the challenge. Actually, finding a laserdisc player that's still in working condition is also a challenge. Either way, the ease of watching this trailer is more difficult than it should be, but is still a nice treasure to enjoy once found.