In my mind, Disney’s 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast is a perfect film. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece, and it still has a place in my top five favorite movies of all time. The 2017 live-action remake, in turn, did something I never thought it would be able to do; it came closer to matching the perfection of the cartoon than I ever thought possible. It was absolutely magical, and judging from the enormous box office returns it’s grossed in just over a week, clearly I’m not the only who thought so.
Because of this, it came as no surprise when Sean Bailey- who runs Walt Disney Studios Motions Pictures – mentioned to Deadline that the studio will be exploring prequel and spinoff ideas for the ‘tale as old as time.’ One of the more popular suggestions people are throwing out on the internet is doing a movie based on Gaston and LeFou’s time in the war, which was a new piece of backstory provided for the characters in the remake. Other suggestions I’ve seen for these potential films are ones detailing the Prince’s childhood, which leads to him becoming a terrible person and turning into a Beast, and one focusing on the romance between Maurice and Belle’s mother in Paris, long before the old man moved his daughter to the poor provincial town they’re living in at the beginning of the classic story.
Personally, my favorite idea for a possible spinoff is one that I’ve yet to see anyone throw around on the internet. I believe Disney should do a live-action reimagining of their animated Beauty and the Beast midquel, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.
For those who don’t remember, Disney released this direct-to-video Christmas musical that was set within the timeline of the original 1991 animated film in November of 1997. The movie takes place when Belle is still a prisoner in the Beast’s castle, before the two bond or start falling in love. (Sometime in-between the Beast saving her from the wolves and the Something There sequence.) Determined to bring Christmas to the castle, despite the wishes of the Beast who hates the holiday season due to the fact he was cursed during that time of year, Belle enlists the help of the enchanted staff to try and instill holiday cheer in their bitter master. Meanwhile, a pipe organ named Forte, who has found more meaning in his enchanted state than he ever had in his human one, fears that Belle’s Christmas plans will bring her and the Beast closer together and bring an end to the curse. He ends up enlisting the help of a flute named Fife, and together, the two plot to destroy Belle’s Christmas plans and get rid of her in order to prevent the spell from breaking.
If it sounds like a cheesy premise, it’s because it is – even by Disney standards, made all the cornier by the sickening sweetness that normally accompanies Christmas movies. Like most Disney sequels that were released direct-to-video in the ‘90s, this film wasn’t particularly well receive and is mostly only remembered by hardcore Disney fans. (I personally enjoy the film for what it is and believe it’s highly underrated. Though I’ll admit, it doesn’t even come close to touching its animated predecessor.)
So why am I recommending Disney use this story as the premise for a live-action, Beauty and the Beast spinoff? There are three main reasons.
Firstly, I’m not the biggest fan of prequels in general. I’ve rarely seen any that I’ve enjoyed, and so far, the ideas that have been floating around as potential stories Disney could tell haven’t excited me. Gaston and LeFou are good in small doses, but I don’t think they are characters that are deep enough to carry an entire movie on their own. Even if they were, the Star Wars prequels have demonstrated just how difficult it is to document the fall of a character into villainy when the villain in question is already incredibly iconic in the original film. I don’t think there are any fans of the original Star Wars trilogy who were satisfied by the story given to us about how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. And it certainly doesn’t help that just by the very nature of a movie being a prequel, a lot of the tension won’t be there because we know where the character will wind up at the end of the film. Though not as iconic as Darth Vader by any means, I feel like the same would hold true for Gaston. And the Prince himself as well, which is another idea I’m not fond of; I don’t need to see a whole movie about the Prince’s father treating him so horribly that he grows up to be a cruel jerk that is eventually turned into a Beast as punishment. Just knowing that it happened is enough, we don’t need to see it happen, which is why I wish Disney would take any potential prequel ideas off of the table.
Secondly, in The Enchanted Christmas, Disney already has a pretty detailed starting point to develop a spinoff from. Though the movie itself is weak, there is a good idea for a strong story and interesting characters within it that Disney can start with, expand upon, and round out to form a more complete, well-received film. Though the timeline of the new Beauty and the Beast might provide some problems (I believe the remake takes place in under two weeks vs. the original that took place over the course of a few months), it wouldn’t be a huge deal to retcon this story to fit within the newly established timeline. (Since the Beast’s castle seems stuck in an eternal winter, maybe time can work differently there vs. the outside world. Maybe what seems like less than two weeks to Maurice and the small village is actually a few months in the Beast’s realm.)
There are also certain changes that Disney made to the Beauty and the Beast tale when adapting it into live-action that would actually serve to benefit and enrich The Enchanted Christmas if they were to revisit that story. One such change is the addition of the character Maestro Cadenza, played by Stanley Tucci. A lovesick harpsichord that is unable to see his wife (Madame Garderobe, played by Audra McDonald) due to the fact they are stuck on different floors of the castle, the instrument solemnly plays music to himself down in the Beast’s dusty ballroom with nobody around to listen to his songs anymore. The character would serve to compliment the villainous pipe organ, Forte, in The Enchanted Christmas, who plays music for the despairing Beast up in the West Wing of the castle on a daily basis during the long, hard years of his curse. Pitting the two characters against one another as having been rival court composers when human would provide some interesting depth and conflict that’s not present in the animated direct-to-video movie.
The third and most important reason that I believe Disney should adapt The Enchanted Christmas over doing a prequel is due to the fact that it stars Belle, the Beast, and all of the castle’s cursed staff. The reason that people fell in love with the animated version of Beauty and the Beast back in 1991 was due to all of these characters combined, and it’s because of them that the 2017 remake is proving to be such an enormous hit. It’s one of the reasons why a direct sequel to the animated film was scrapped in the ‘90s in favor of The Enchanted Christmas. The original idea was to make a movie about Avenant, the vengeful younger brother of Gaston, trying to ruin the now non-magical lives of the Prince and Belle because of what happened to his older brother. However, the filmmakers believed, and rightly so in my opinion, that any sequel to the movie that lacked “Beauty and the Beast” themselves would lack the magic of the original. Thus, they decided to go the route of doing a midquel instead, in order to keep the literal magic of the Beast’s castle, and all who resided within it.
I think a midquel is definitely the way for Disney to expand upon its Beauty and the Beast franchise if they insist on doing another live-action film. I believe it’s the only way to replicate the magic of both the 1991 and 2017 films, and the best way to try and replicate the commercial, critical, and – most importantly in the eyes of the studio – financial success at the box office. And while, admittedly, any sort of midquel could work as long as it brings back the majority of the original cast of characters, I truly do think that Disney should at least seriously consider taking another look at The Enchanted Christmas. Not only because of my own enjoyment of the animated version (and my own impartial fondness for the holiday season and stories set around it), but because it’s already a pretty solid foundation to start developing from. It’s an entire script – as flimsy as it is – for them to expand upon and tighten to make a great movie, an easier and quicker task for them to do than just staring at a blank page with no firm prequel or spinoff ideas in mind other than the fact that they know they want to make one.
What do you think? Should Disney even be trying to expand the Beauty and the Beast universe on film? If not, why? And if so, should they consider remaking Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas? What story ideas for potential follow-ups have you seen being tossed around that would interest you? Leave a comment below and let me know!