The only animated movie to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination, and it deserved it.
Magic from the opening prologue to the final credit, "Beauty and the Beast" is the last real classic to come from the Disney crew before John Lasseter came along. This was one of the few movies I happily paid to see twice in the cinema, and sitting in a sparsely-populated Friday night audience (I was living in Barbados at the time, and it was hardly the most artistic place on Earth... it was a crying shame that there was hardly anyone there while "Home Alone 2" went through the roof) the second time, the magic remained.
You all know the story, so apart from pointing out the movie's one flaw (the prince's spell had to be broken before he turned 21 or he would remain a beast forever; so if it was cast ten years before the events of the movie, wouldn't that mean he was 11 when the spell was cast...?), let's look at how well the movie works. You have a monster who's more human than the movie's medallion-man villain; you have a heroine who's PC but engaging with it; you have a supporting cast of magic utensils who wisely never upstage the couple at the centre of this love story (and despite the Disney animated trappings, it IS a love story); and you have a captivating story, beautifully told.
The movie's also got wonderful design of its French setting and characters, with the ballroom scene a standout (the tiny but appreciative audience were impressed by the sight of the Beast and Belle in their evening wear - the only time I've ever seen cartoon characters get wolf-whistled in a cinema); and Alan Menken's score is his finest work for the Mouse, with matchless lyrics from the late and much lamented Howard Ashman - how many musicals can you name where ALL the songs are brilliant? But ultimately it's the movie's very real heart that makes it a keeper; the cliche "You'll laugh, you'll cry" is all too true in this case. A lot of movies called 'classic' don't deserve that appellation, but this one does.
I'll be slaughtered by anime fans, but what the hell... one "Beauty and the Beast" is worth a thousand "Akira"s. And "Shrek"s. And, I'm willing to bet, "Treasure Planet"s. This is a truly adult animated feature that's also one for the entire family. Forget "The Silence of the Lambs" - this is the real best picture of 1991.