Song of the Day #4,434: ‘Be Our Guest’ – Beauty and the Beast cast

Continuing my personal ranking of the 25 movie musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute…

#19. Beauty and the Beast – 1991
(#22 on the AFI list)

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the only animated film on AFI’s list of essential musicals, and I’m not wild about its inclusion. While the film is indeed a musical in the traditional sense, for me the animation puts it in another category, one that shouldn’t be compared to the live-action films on this list.

Additionally, if we are to include animated musicals, I can think of at least a half dozen I would rank above this one (Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Moana leap to mind, for starters).

But Beauty and the Beast has a certain status because it marked a resurgence of the art form, and I assume it landed here based on that reputation.

In fairness, the songs are pretty great. Opening number ‘Belle’ plays like a classic Broadway set-up, ‘Be Our Guest’ features clever wordplay and an infectious melody, ‘Gaston’ is quite funny, and the title track is simply lovely.

The ballroom sequence in which Angela Lansbury delivers that song is truly a stunner, utilizing computer animation to create a three-dimensional space around the hand-drawn characters. It’s the highlight of the film.

The plot hasn’t aged as well as the visuals. As my younger daughter reminded me when I started watching the movie, Belle is a prisoner who falls in love with her jailer. I’d forgotten that she really does spend the bulk of the film’s running time — and all of the romantic scenes — as a captive. A well-dressed one, sure.

I was also turned off by the casual violence inflicted upon Lefou by Gaston, which serves to highlight Gaston’s villainy, I suppose, but is mostly played for laughs.

Things like that stand out anytime you watch a movie from an earlier era, something my wife and I have discovered when showing beloved films from our youth to our kids. It makes me wonder what in today’s entertainment will seem problematic to my future grandkids.

One of the greatest pieces I’ve read about this issue came from the actress Molly Ringwald, who wrote in The New Yorker about the movies she made with John Hughes — movies that are both deeply troubling in hindsight, but still beloved for a hundred valid reasons.

That was a bit of a digression in a post about Beauty and the Beast, but the whole phenomenon of revisiting older work through today’s lens is appropriate to this ’25 Essential Musicals’ exercise. The undercurrents of racism and misogyny in many of these films is uncomfortable and undeniable. And yet most of them remain exceedingly entertaining.

Anyway… Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film nominated for Best Picture, and remains the only animated musical ever nominated in that category. It lost to The Silence of the Lambs, another movie about a monster who keeps a young woman trapped in a dungeon.

[LUMIÈRE, spoken]
Ma chère Mademoiselle, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents: your dinner!

(sung)
Be our guest! Be our guest!
Put our service to the test
Tie your napkin ’round your neck, cherie
And we’ll provide the rest

Soup du jour
Hot hors d’oeuvres
Why, we only live to serve
Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious
Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes

They can sing, they can dance
After all, Miss, this is France
And a dinner here is never second best
Go on, unfold your menu
Take a glance and then you’ll
Be our guest
Oui, our guest
Be our guest!

Beef ragout
Cheese soufflé
Pie and pudding, en flambé
We’ll prepare and serve with flair
A culinary cabaret!
You’re alone
And you’re scared
But the banquet’s all prepared
No one’s gloomy or complaining
While the flatware’s entertaining
We tell jokes! I do tricks
With my fellow candlesticks

[Hook]
And it’s all in perfect taste
That you can bet
Come on and lift your glass
You’ve won your own free pass
To be our guest
If you’re stressed
It’s fine dining we suggest

Be our guest! Be our guest! Be our guest!
Get your worries off your chest
Let us say for your entree
We’ve an array; may we suggest:
Try the bread! Try the soup!
When the croutons loop de loop
It’s a treat for any dinner
Don’t belive me? Ask the china
Singing pork! Dancing veal!
What an entertaining meal!
How could anyone be gloomy and depressed?
We’ll make you shout “encore!”
And send us out for more
So, be our guest!
Lumiere:
Be our guest!
Chorus:
Be our guest!

[Lumiere]
Life is so unnerving
For a servant who’s not serving
He’s not whole without a soul to wait upon
Ah, those good old days when we were useful…
Suddenly those good old days are gone
Ten years we’ve been rusting
Needing so much more than dusting
Needing exercise, a chance to use our skills!
Most days we just lay around the castle
Flabby, fat and lazy
You walked in and oops-a-daisy!

[Mrs. Potts]
It’s a guest! It’s a guest!
Sake’s alive, well I’ll be blessed!
Wine’s been poured and thank the Lord
I’ve had the napkins freshly pressed
With dessert, she’ll want tea
And my dear that’s fine with me
While the cups do their soft-shoein’
I’ll be bubbling, I’ll be brewing
I’ll get warm, piping hot
Heaven’s sakes! Is that a spot?
Clean it up! We want the company impressed
We’ve got a lot to do!
Is it one lump or two?
For you, our guest!
(She’s our guest!)
She’s our guest!
(Be our guest! Be our guest! Be our guest!)

[Hook]
Be our guest! Be our guest!
Our command is your request
It’s been years since we’ve had anybody here
And we’re obsessed
With your meal, with your ease
Yes, indeed, we aim to please
While the candlelight’s still glowing
Let us help you, we’ll keep going

[Lumiere with Hook]
Course by course, one by one
‘Til you shout, “Enough! I’m done!”
Then we’ll sing you off to sleep as you digest
Tonight you’ll prop your feet up
But for now, let’s eat up
Be our guest!
Be our guest!
Be our guest!
Please, be our guest!

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,434: ‘Be Our Guest’ – Beauty and the Beast cast

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I generally love the songs of this movie, and I have no problem classifying it as a musical, which I define as any work in which much of the dialogue is sung by the characters in furtherance to the plot. .

    My issue with Beauty and the Beast has always been the transformation of the Beast back to the quintessential handsome prince. The story would have been so much more powerful if he remained “ugly” even after he was redeemed for his transgressions and Belle nevertheless remained with him, or like in Shrek, Belle joined Beast in an unattractive state.

  2. Peg says:

    Loved your post today! Laughing out loud. However I do think we have to realize that the times people live in has an effect on what is considered “normal” behavior. When a Movie star condemns his marriage on a plantation setting 12 years ago I start to think the world has gone mad. Just saying 😊

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