Disney’s animated feature Beauty and the Beast has endured as a classic for generations since its release 25 years ago. Among the myriad of reasons for the films success are the memorable characters, including Mrs. Potts, who sang the classic song “Beauty and the Beast”. Voiced by Angela Lansbury, the legendary actress spoke with EW about the original films legacy and her thoughts on the upcoming live-action reboot.
Angela Lansbury commented on how she has been thinking of the original films legacy as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
“I think we all had a sense that we were involved with a kind of earth-shaking product that was going to be fairly extraordinary and special. I think we all sensed the way it was so lovingly put together by Roy Disney, who was Walt Disney’s brother, and this was his really great contribution to the Disney World. He took such trouble and care with it. It was his baby, and I was so glad it worked. It had all the elements of the original works. And this is the finest that Disney ever made, I think. So I’m very proud to be part of it.”
Lansbury also commented on how the film is particularly memorable for those who were children when it was originally released.
“It is, it was, and it will remain so. Because they don’t make them like that anymore. Ever since Toy Story, I think was the first time when they used a different process, and they were no longer drawing each movement of each character individually, as they did then. They don’t do that anymore. So it’s a very rich, extraordinary piece of work in every respect, from that point of view. It’s a treasure. A legendary treasure as far as cartoon work is concerned.”
Lansbury explained why the film is important to her, personally.
“It has brought me into the lives of so many young kids, children, babies. They know my voice. And today, I’ve said this before, I can be talking to a friend in a supermarket, and if a kid happens to be around me at the time, some little child who’s with his mom, he’ll say, “Mom, that’s Mrs. Potts!” [laughs]. They recognize the timbre of my voice. And they’ve watched the movie so many times, because kids don’t just watch movies once. They watch them over, and over, and over again, because they can never get enough. When I did Bedknobs and Broomsticks, kids used to watch over and over and over. They know my voice, so… They don’t know me. And they don’t connect me with the voice. But when they see me in the flesh…”
Lansbury shared her reaction when she heard a live-action remake of the film was going to be made.
“I was a bit taken aback, naturally. I thought, ‘Why? Why are we doing this over again?’ But I guess, I don’t know why they’re doing it. But they are, and it will be interesting to see what they do with it. These are live action pieces and I know very well the actress who’s playing Mrs. Potts and she’s a very good friend of mine. It’s Emma Thompson.”
Lansbury elaborated on her reaction, explaining she believes it will difficult to outdo the original animated film.
“Oh, absolutely. I don’t quite know why they’re doing it. I can’t understand what they’re going to do with it that will be better than what we’ve already done. And how they’re doing it live — it may turn out to be very entertaining and wonderful. It won’t be like the cartoon that we did, but it’s a good story — it’s one of the famous fairy stories that is known worldwide by children. Therefore, why not? I don’t blame them for doing it. But, I’m sorry, they’re not really on our territory. We did it as cartoon characters, and that is quite different from live actors.”
Lanbury concluded by sharing why she feels the film’s legacy will endure and why the film is unique.
“Yes, that is lovely. To be connected with something that is so memorable and was made with such quality. I mean, it really, really was — I think it was a complete “one-off,” as we say, and it will never be bettered using that style of presentation. Those drawings, those cartoon drawings were so perfect and so lovely. Each character was lovingly represented by the artists who drew us. We were drawn by men and women and we weren’t in any way copying something else. This was all original work. And for that reason, it will never be seen again. It was seen prior, because all the movies, the Silly Symphonies Disney made when I was a little girl, they were all done the same way. It was all hand drawn. There was nothing mechanical about it. When cartoon drawing became mechanical, it lost its humanity, I think. That’s where we will always be years ahead of everything else. And will remain so.”
Beauty and the Beast will be released in theaters on March 17, 2017.