Special Edition versions of Disney films suck. The slightly improved picture quality with some optional bonus content I have no problem with, but occasionally there is an additional song slipped into the film that was never part of my youth. The Lion King has the Rowan Atkinson sung “The Morning Report” while Beauty and the Beast has the catchy, if inconsequential “Human Again”. The songs were cut originally for definite reasons, that they were not good enough or they slowed the pace of the film – putting them back in the film is negating the quality/pace issue from original release and so decreasing the overall enjoyment of the film. Their inclusion is a betrayal to nostalgia and though the new song may be alright, they do not match up with my memories and therefore are surplus to requirement.
Additional songs aside, Beauty and the Beast is arguably Disney's greatest achievement, a link between Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Disney's 90's Renaissance and then beyond to the modern CGI Princess films Tangled and Frozen. Most of my delight in watching Frozen was its feeling of familiarity; while Princess and the Frog and Tangled dipped its toes back into the princess stream, Frozen made Disney re-realise their strengths as fairytale reimaginators. Its story also has more than a few similarities with ...Beast: a cursed character exiles themselves from everyone else, an adventurous young woman seeks a better life from the monotony in which she lives plus an added undercurrent of feminist ideals and personal betterment. But the real nostalgia jolt was the score: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Christophe Beck's musical cues being all so reminiscent of the 90's Disney of my youth.
Lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken wrote all the music for ...Beast, having previously been known for their work on Broadway, including the songs for Little Shop of Horrors – a masterclass in musical writing. Beauty and the Beast starts with Belle's eponymous introduction song which shows, her character, setting and traits of not fitting in, devotion to literature while also introducing her would-be suitor/antagonist Gaston. “Belle” paints her as an outcast, looked at with suspicion by the rest of the town because she reads and can think for herself, and yet despite this Gaston deems her to be “the best” and therefore wife material. Two years previous The Little Mermaid's Ariel changed species and gave up the ability to speak for some guy she found to be dreamy; Belle's refusal to marry Gaston can be seen as a reaction to princesses' behaviours in previous Disney films – more than willing to fall in love and change themselves for the man with the perfect jawline.
In any other Disney film Gaston would make the perfect prince type – brave, good looking and willing to fight for the one he loves – the fact that his feelings are unrequited makes him antagonistic. As such his motivations, though selfish, are not entirely evil and are justifiable within the context (apart from throwing Belle's inventor father into an insane asylum to barter for her hand in marriage, that's despicable!) Morally he is much less black-or-white than previous villains, most of his actions are out of concern or misguided belief that Belle's feelings will change. If your, admittedly unreciprocated, beloved was imprisoned by a monster, you too would mount a rescue mission to save them. If Gaston was a little more ready to improve himself the lyrics from the film's title song could be about him: “Barely even friends/Then somebody bends/Unexpectedly”. Instead the opening lyrics of “Gaston (Reprise)” are more telling: “LeFou, I'm afraid I've been thinking”/”A dangerous pastime”/”I know”. They show that Gaston's mindset is that of anti-thinking, and Belle conversely loves thinking – Gaston and Belle's romance was never meant to be.
See also: Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Aladdin (1992)
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