The film that officially signaled Disney’s animation renaissance (following The Little Mermaid) and the only animated feature to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination, Beauty and the Beast remains the yardstick by which all other animated films should be measured. It relates the story of Belle, a bookworm with a dotty inventor for a father; when he inadvertently offends the Beast (a prince whose heart is too hard to love anyone besides himself), Belle boldly takes her father’s place, imprisoned in the Beast’s gloomy mansion. Naturally, Belle teaches the Beast to love. What makes this such a dazzler, besides the amazingly accomplished animation and the winning coterie of supporting characters (the Beast’s mansion is overrun by quipping, dancing household items) is the array of beautiful and hilarious songs by composer Alan Menken and the late, lamented lyricist Howard Ashman. (The title song won the 1991 Best Song Oscar, and Menken’s score scored a trophy as well.) The downright funniest song is “Gaston,” a lout’s paean to himself (including the immortal line, “I use antlers in all of my de-co-ra-ting”). “Be Our Guest” is transformed into an inspired Busby Berkeley homage. Since Ashman’s passing, animated musicals haven’t quite reached the same exhilarating level of wit, sophistication, and pure joy. –David Kronke –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.