The film stars "Harry Potter's" Emma Watson as the bookish heroine Belle, who yearns for adventure outside the confines of her "small provincial town," and "Downton Abbey" alum Dan Stevens as the cursed and cold Beast. Their supporting cast is a coterie of veterans, including Kevin Kline (Maurice), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza) and Ewan McGregor (Lumiere).
That Disney's specific vision for "Beauty and the Beast" has lived on is no surprise, and its 13-year run on Broadway helped keep it in the cultural consciousness.
"It's genuinely romantic, a genuinely beautiful story," Menken said of its lasting appeal.
And then there's the nostalgia aspect. For many (including the cast), this was a seminal childhood film.
Luke Evans (Gaston) saw it when he was 12, Josh Gad (LeFou) when he was 10, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette) when she was 8. Suffice it to say, they all knew the lyrics to the songs before they were cast.
The remake is also part of the Walt Disney Company's ongoing strategy to mine the vaults for animated fare worthy of live-action re-creations. "Mulan," "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King" are just a few already in the works.
But that doesn't mean there weren't worthy updates to be made in "Beauty and the Beast." Director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls") delighted in rooting the story in a specific time and place — 1740 France — and adorning every last corner of the production with Rococo and Baroque details.
Technology advances allowed the production to render household objects that look believable when brought to life. The Beast's look, meanwhile, was achieved by combining performance capture and MOVA, a facial capture system, meaning Stevens throughout production walked on stilts and sported a prosthetic muscle suit with a gray body suit on top. (Yes, he danced in this getup.)
The characters are more fleshed out as well. The Beast gets a backstory, as does Belle, whose independence looked refreshingly radical in '91 and goes even further here.
"She's a 21st-century Disney princess. She's not just a pretty girl in a dress," Evans said. "She's fearless and needs no one to validate her."
That the woman behind the character is also the UN women's goodwill ambassador only adds to its resonance.
"I think Emma's an incredible role model for young girls, as somebody who has two daughters but also has a young son who I want to grow up with these values instilled," Stevens said.
And, in a tribute to Ashman, who died of complications relating to AIDS at age 40 before the '91 film came out, the production even unearthed forgotten lyrics from his notes, which have been added to two songs in the new film — "Gaston" and "Beauty and the Beast."
While many of the beats, and even lines, remain the same as in '91, the world looks more diverse from the very first shots. Faces of all races can be seen in the grand castle and the country town.
"[Condon] wanted to make a film that was resonant for 2017, that represents the world as it is today," said Mbatha-Raw.