Sunday, March 26, 2017

'Pupa', An Irish Pinocchio Inspired Tale with a Relevant Difference

We didn't get to promote this in time for its run, which ended on Saturday March 25th, but wanted to quickly highlight it anyway to put it on your radar for the future.

Created by Limerick puppeteer Emma Fisher, who also writes and designs, as well as performs with the puppets, this show is definitely a more adult inclined take on Pinocchio, which sounds like it has parallels with The Girl Without Hands as well. (Emma's previous show, 'Spun', considered 'notable' and 'impressive', was kid and family friendly.) Shown at the Lime Tree Theater, by Beyond the Bark, in Ireland this past week., we hope there will be future opportunities for folks to catch this one.

From the press kit:
Pupa 
The freakish metamorphic tale of us. 
A puppet girl struggling with her disabled part splits herself in two, casts off her disabled part and banishes it to the room of forgotten limbs. A puppet boy falls from normality, breaking and reforming. They both go on separate quests to find a sense of wholeness. As they navigate a dark world they encounter many characters on their way- a wise bug, fragmented and broken bodies, singing mouths in jars, and silence. 
Pupa is inspired by the fairy-tale Pinocchio. Transforming and metamorphosing from abled to disabled, such as when he burns his legs of at the fire, along the way Pinocchio is helped by many characters who share their stories with him and make him who he is. 
Pupa derives from the Latin for puppet meaning girl or doll, and is also used to describe the middle stage of an insect’s metamorphosis before it re-emergens as a new creature. This is a metaphor for the transition from able to disabled within the play. 
By mixing puppetry, mask, ceramics, song and film, we will tell the freakish metamorphic tale of us. Audiences will be lead through a multi-sensory, interactive, Kafkaesque, telling of Pinocchio as never seen before.
In a land where we are all different, we question what normal even means, looking at how people with disabilities think society sees them. We are telling stories of coming out/identifying as disabled and navigating the grey area between disabled and abled.
A cool tie-in to note, Beyond the Bark hosted a special puppet-making workshop during the preparation for this show with world renowned puppet and prosthetic hand maker, Ivan Owen, along with creator and Artistic Director Emma Fisher.
A little more about the names behind the creation of the puppets for the show:
IVAN OWEN:Makerspace Lab Manager at the University of Washington, Bothell & an interdisciplinary artist exploring a wide range of topics. Co-inventor of the first open-source 3D printable hand prosthesis & a volunteer for the e-NABLE open prosthetics community. His past work has included musical composition, metal casting, jewelry, recreations of medieval armor and costume and prop making for stage and screen including Modern Family and Outrageous Acts of Science. His most recent project has been working with Emma Fischer to create a functional, wearable mechanical artistic creation & with her exploring ways in which digital fabrication can be utilized in puppetry.
Examples of some of his past & current work can be seen here: EMMA FISHER:Artistic director of Beyond the Bark inclusive puppet and installation theatre, puppeteer/puppet maker, writer and set designer. She is an Irish Times theatre award nominated designer. She has taught puppetry at The London School of Puppetry, Mary Immaculate College and schools, hospitals and community centers across Ireland and the UK. She is constantly pursuing new techniques in puppetry and is delighted to be working with and learning from Ivan Owens on a Travel and Training funded by the Arts Council. www.beyondthebark.ie and http://emmacfisher.wixsite.com/emmafisherdesign
Keep an eye out for these folks and their work! We have a feeling we'll see more adapted fairy tales in the future from these people.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

How Did Gaston and Le Fou Meet? (Disney Enlists Kids To Create Stories Inspired by BatB, and Turns Them Into Short Films!)

Possibly our favorite things about the gigantic release and popularity of Disney live action Beauty and the Beast, is the creativity boom in so many areas as a result, a large focus of which is on reading and storytelling. (Yay!)

Disney themselves are participating in encouraging this as well, which makes it even better. Some of their publications are focused on 'what you can read' if you want to read like Belle, or mining the earliest written forms of Beauty and the Beast (Villeneuve and Beamont) and republishing in various ways, not to mention emphasizing storytelling and eco-conscious creation through fashion and foot ware. The best of the initiatives we've seen to date, however, is likely a writing and filmmaking collaboration with non-profit group, Young Storytellers, who aim to give a voice to low-income students by helping them write their own stories, through a one-on-one mentorship, and see them brought to life on stage and screen.

Partnering with Young Storytellers* and Tongal**, Disney enlisted the creativity of kids by giving them a pre-release showing of the movie on the Disney lot, then asking them to come up with stories, or 'spin-offs', based on their favorite characters. (Young Storytellers is a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. "Every child has a story worth telling." **Tongal is an independent creative network with a global community of more than 120,000 writers, directors and animators) 

The title of the project was 'Beyond the Castle: Stories Inspired by Disney's Beauty and the Beast'.

(T)hey were paired with their mentors to write scripts inspired by their favorite characters from the film. Tongal* then matched these Young Storytellers'** scripts with its network of creators who turned them into live-action and animated short films...The Young Storytellers got the added surprise of seeing their projects come to life on the big screen with a premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. After the screening, they were surprised by a video greeting with actors from the film, Luke Evans (Gaston) and Josh Gad (Le Fou). (Hollywood Reporter)
Four talented young people were chosen to have their stories made into short films. Here are three of them (we can't find Acacia's story and film, Cooking Catastrophe but have no doubt it's just as wonderful as the others and hope it will be available on the Young Storytellers' YouTube Channel to see soon!).

This one is by 12 year old, Robert Nelson, who imagined how Gaston and LeFou might have met.

“LeFouston” from “Beyond the Castle: Stories Inspired by Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’"
The video was created in stop motion by Tongal creator Kevin Ulrich, with music by Trevor Gomes.
"Pug in a Cup" from “Beyond the Castle: Stories Inspired by Disney's Beauty and the Beast"



Written by Hana Morshedi (age unknown) and directed by Tucker Barrie.

“Beauty and the Curse” from “Beyond the Castle: Stories Inspired by Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’"

Written by Tamara Sims (based on her short story “Changing Ways”, age unknown) and directed by Maya Rudolph.
Many congrats to Tamara, Robert, Acacia, and Hana!
Here's a peek behind-the-scenes of these young people's storytelling adventure:
A brilliant and successful collaboration thanks in large part to the ongoing amazing work by Young Storytellers, along with Tongal and Disney. We only wish more kids got an opportunity like this, or are being encouraged to do this themselves with their own resources.

You can find out more about Young Storytellers and how to help with wonderful programs like this, by clicking the link HERE.

Friday, March 24, 2017

It's Almost Time to Bid Farewell to NBC's 'Grimm'

We knew it had to happen eventually but feel it's worth mentioning and yes, celebrating, as it goes into its final couple of episodes this week and next.

This dark fantasy procedural was a landmark show in bringing fairy tales and folklore back to the mainstream public and has been doing so for six seasons* (though props should also go to Supernatural, who have been maintaining their following and are currently in their twelfth season, albeit it to a less mainstream audience).

Original poster for season 1
NBC's Grimm began the dark fairy tale-meets-procedural with a 'monster of the week' type approach, in October of 2011. There was effort right from the pilot to show fairy tales in a different light and use the tropes in different ways, with a lot of folklore mixed in. That eventually evolved into its own show, hastily evolving past the teething troubles where it had a tendency to have damsels in distress to being more empowering for everyone, surprising more than a few executives and critics, earning it the title of 'the little show that could'.

One of the most fun aspects for folklore and fairy tale folk has been the use of quotes from tales and classic texts which, when followed (and the source figured out), provide huge clues as to the themes and underlying details included in that week's episode. More than a few lesser known tales were mined for quotes as well as some quite obscure ones, which was wonderfully refreshing to see too.

Some episodes have been more successful than others but when the show began to truly build its own mythology, and 'Scooby gang', working in tales and folklore along the way, that the series built a strong and loyal following. (Click HERE for a list of characters, including Wesen types, that have been introduced throughout the series to date - scroll down for the creature list and their episodes.) The show is currently in it's sixth, and last, season and though it can be recognized as being the same show, the season arcs have changed the feel of the show quite substantially so episodic stories aren't used as often, so much as exploring how a piece of folklore (or creature) might be at home in this universe where people are often more than they seem.

Humans live and work alongside 'Wesen', or people who are part human and part creature (often from myth or tales). The lead character, Nick Burkhardt, is both a police detective and, as he discovers in the first few episodes, a 'Grimm', a human of supernatural abilities who are traditionally 'reapers of Wesen' (read, hunters and exterminators). Our Grimm, however, seeks to find common ground between Wesen and humans and the series follows his journey as he does this (and investigates weird, and largely Wesen crimes), with varying amounts of success. His 'Scooby gang' expands along the way with at least half of them being Wesen and the viewer, along with Nick, discovers the history, traditions and 'real' folklore along the way. The more the seasons went on, the bigger and more involved this world got, along with ambitions, conspiracies and much more, all having a lot of fun with history, urban legends, fairy tales and lore along the way. More creatures are discovered with cultural traditions and rituals (all with interesting names that drive etymologists crazy in their inaccurate use of German and Latin!) showing the viewers how similar to humans all of them are.

The show's themes and statements on inclusivity, as well as the need for cultural understanding and respect have been timely throughout the years, addressing equality (and the current remaining lack of it in surprising places), no matter the nationality or socio-economic status, as well asking the same for interracial marriages, their offspring, orientation and preferences. It's been one of the aspects that's endeared fans to the show, with the unwavering stance on acceptance and the need to build bridges when we have the power to do so, even if it's personally difficult.

Not at all coincidentally, many of these same things are what attract us to fairy tales: in reading a wide variety of tales from around the world you begin to see they show both the sameness of humans across the world, while at the same time celebrating their unique cultural identities. It's not difficult to see why fairy tales fit with these themes so well.


Though faithful fans have been running campaigns to get the show picked up on another network or by Netflix or Amazon to give it a new and longer life, the writers, knowing the show would be finishing, wrote this final season with a view to finish the stories. Interestingly, the episodes, rather than focusing on an apocalyptic scenario (though that potential is there), the emphasis seems to have been more on the 'intimate' aspects of the show for most of the season; the characters relationships to each other, to the town and to Wesen integration as part of normal society. The writing has been solid and satisfying, while not too flashy, making it look more stable than ever, as ratings would attest to. While you want a show to finish on solid ground and go out looking good, it's also bittersweet. Fairy tales aren't as obviously an inspiration in this last season (though they're in there if you know where to look), but specific folklore from around the world most definitely is. The stories, however, are told in a way that make them more about Portland and its citizens, as well as the personal journeys of the beloved Scoobies, and, in a move that's created a sophisticated departure from the original, and sometimes dismissible, 'monster-of-the-week' shows, it's only making viewers love Grimm more.
               
Some pretty neat fan art... 
... created in the style of Ivan Bilibin
by alex_jd_black
Many of this season's episodes can actually be seen to be a metaphor for the show itself as it finishes, which will make for interesting re-viewings once the whole story has been told, while the tag line for these last couple of weeks is that the show is "going back to the beginning". It was at the beginning that the use of fairy tales was the most obvious (some would say heavy handed), so we're interested to see how they bookend Grimm with its developed mythology and popular characters. We presume that 'end' aspect will become more evident in the second last episode (airing this evening), as all cast and crew have confirmed that the finale of this series is clearly an 'end', and one they're reportedly happy with.



Grimm certainly isn't for everyone. The horror/gore aspect is sometimes a challenge for sensitive folk and there is very little of the fairytale-typical fantasy and happily-ever-after vibe, that keeps viewers watching other shows, but there is humor, wonderful characters (especially in the Scooby circle - shout outs to #monrosalee, #drewwu, #hexenschade, #dianahoneybadger and #meisner), fun locations (the trailer, the spice shop, monroe's house, the cabin in the woods, the Portland forests) romance, tons of fairy tale 'Easter eggs', wonderful one-liners, mystery and overall a lot of fun playing with tropes, history and folklore, not to mention every now and then it hits you with something very important. We're going to miss checking in to see what's been developing in the Grimm universe and we'll make it a point to be watching as it says goodnight.

PS Here's some adorably-wonderful advice to baby Kelly, (Nick and Adalind's half-Grimm-half-Wesen son) on the need to step up as the show closes.


Recommended reading - we wrote a detailed review HERE


* For comparison, Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran seven season, with a break after the sixth when it finished, then was renewed on another network, giving it one unexpected last season to wrap the multiple story lines. ABC's Once Upon A Time, which began around the same time as Grimm, and is also in its sixth season, has rumors about this being the last one as well, though that is unconfirmed.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

'Beauty and the Beast's Enchanted Objects Become a Cautionary Tale For Today's 'Smart' World

Enchanted objects are one of those fairy tale elements many people love. (We posted on the appeal some time ago HERE.) When Disney's 1991 Beauty and the Beast chose to have visible enchanted servants, instead of the traditional invisible ones, people were thoroughly, well, enchanted. Everywhere people wished their own household objects would come to life and help them with their own life conundrums. It really wasn't until the live action remake's "first looks" pics appeared on the internet, that people processed just how frightening a real enchanted object could be.

For the entire nostalgia crowd, most of whom adored the animated talking objects (and preferred their object form to human form, if they admitted it) seeing the direction the live update was heading in via pics released on the internet, was a wake-up call: one, that some things should not, perhaps, be transformed from animation to 'real', and two, that having (truly) sentient furniture and accessories (and homes) in real life could actually be a pretty creepy notion. It turned out to be one of the biggest challenges of the creative team: to produce believably real enchanted objects that still appealed to audiences, instead of horrifying them.

Even with a lot of effort and (eventually) enthusiastic responses from audiences to the trailers showing the results, one of the most consistent negative comments we've heard from enthusiasts and critics alike (including the exiting audience when we saw the film) is how sinister they felt the enchanted objects were throughout the movie. There was additional dialogue from the enchanted servants in the film, which added to this impression, but in the new movie, it was pretty clear the household were very personally motivated (ie. had their own agenda) to keep Belle in the castle, and prevented her from leaving multiple times, when a truly friendly object would have done the opposite. In fact, toward the end, there was quite a divide between the feelings the Beast had for Belle and the servants. It was only out of respect (and possibly love) for their Master, that the objects accepted the Beast releasing Belle to go see her father. Household objects preventing you from leaving  - something Belle managed to narrowly outwit at one point, thanks to taking advantage of an oversized 'doggie door' - is pretty chilling.

There is a whole line of questions and story issues behind this drift to the dark side but dubious motivations, and turns of cute Disney sidekicks to the sinister aside, there's another aspect to this storyline that's pertinent to our modern world. The idea that angry household objects could take revenge, and/ or protect their turf, from intruders or visitors, is frightening.

And suddenly our Smart Homes and devices come into sharp focus.

Doing a little research as we started writing this article, we came across one in WIRED, titled Beauty and the Beast, Still a Cautionary Tale About the Smart Home, which was clearly thinking many of the same things, and stated the 'smart object' concerns wonderfully, so we thought we'd share some excerpts:
That’s not to say that things are all bad. Honestly, these are some great smart devices. They anticipate the needs of human/Beastly occupants perfectly. Mrs. Potts offers tea; Lumière dims the lights just at the right moments, while somehow escaping the incessant firmware upgrades that plague our real-world smart lights. They offer sound advice: When the Beast asks Cogsworth how he would know if he’s in love with Belle, Cogsworth responds by saying “You’ll feel slightly nauseous.” Would an Amazon Echo give it to you straight like that? Doubtful. 
... perhaps most importantly, the smart devices exhibit actual forethought, tweaking Belle’s environment to make her comfortable despite the Beast’s humbuggery—which ultimately creates the conditions for romance. 
Twenty-six years ago, all this animated meddling was adorable. (When a teapot sounds like Angela Lansbury, it does what it wants.) With the advent of CGI, though, the Beast’s castle seems to have relocated to be closer to the Uncanny Valley. Mrs. Potts looks like something you could pick up at an antique shop; Lumiere’s candles seem really to ignite. And in a time when connected devices can bicker and develop relationships, the repartee among the staff starts to feel less like a workplace sitcom and more like a dystopian sci-fi novel. 
... the most problematic device in the castle by far: the Beast’s magic mirror, a voice-activated screen that allows the user to view anyone, anywhere. (What does it think it is, a microwave?) (FTNH Ed: Or the camera on your smartphone or tablet?) Some might argue that the magic mirror’s invasions of privacy can be used for good, as when Belle discovers that her townspeople have apprehended her elderly father. The information allows her to save her father, or at least end up stuck in a locked—but not autonomous!—carriage with him. Just because surveillance can be used to fight crime, though, doesn’t make it a one-solution-fits-all technology. The first time the Beast uses the magic mirror, after all, it’s to spy on Belle in her room. He’s checking her out, and while the moment isn’t the slightest bit tawdry, it could have been. And when the magic mirror falls into the wrong hands, the device’s true sinister potential becomes clear...
As science barrels toward creating true 'AI' (artificial intelligence) at the same time as smart devices become more and more integrated into our daily lives, work and homes, the sinister scenario of S.A.R.A.H. (Self Actuated Residential Automated Habitat) becomes more and more possible.

The idea of object anthropomorphism is often behind how technology is created, though not usually consciously. While we don't really want our objects to be as smart as us (especially not with personalities that have opinions that differ from ours), making something 'user-friendly' is often about making the user feel comfortable and, well, friendly, toward the device/ program. By masking most of the technological workings and making them invisible - like magic! - and creating an interface (the way we use it) to require actions we use, both with other people (especially children, and others we're in charge of) and animals/pets, we become familiar (in the literal, and bordering on the folkloric, definition) with our machines. As a result it's not uncommon for people to get attached. (Try taking a phone away from someone who usually has it in their hands, or better still, don't...)

People inevitably, to an extent, get attached to machines they use regularly anyway (cars, boats etc). The drive for humans to connect, even to non-humans, is very strong, but there's an even deeper dynamic with smart devices - the devices which hold your information, passwords, preferences, memories, secrets and even hopes and dreams. Not only do people get attached, they become dependent, letting their guard down around their devices, making themselves vulnerable to losing regular skills (like navigating streets) but particularly to being taken advantage of by the invisible puppeteers behind the programs.

No, we're not in the age of AI devices (yet), but there is intelligence and motive, behind every one of the devices and apps we use - even if they're benign and/ or perceived as 'good' - and we would be less vulnerable if we remembered that. The responsibility is still ours. When we are taken advantage of it can't be blamed on the machine. It's 'user error'. Literally.

It may seem we've strayed far from the fairy tale and considerations about the 'love story' of Beauty and the Beast, but actually, it's quite 'on the nose'. Anna Vlasists, writer of the Wired article, puts it succinctly:
... while it’s tempting to blame the IoT (Internet of Teapots) for the bloodthirsty townspeople, or for the Beast’s fate soon thereafter, the true culprit isn’t the smart home... Only when the Beast falls in love with Belle does he breach his own best security practices, giving her the mirror that ultimately proves his downfall. A reminder to all who share their passcodes and devices: Love can make us hasty with our information. And that information—or misinformation—can do IRL harm.
Don't let the real invisible servants take advantage of you every day. Be smart with what you write, click and share. Protect your freedom. Be the user, not the used.

Note: We recently attended a special introduction to coding for kids, and it opened with a short video explanation of the importance of being able to use and/ or understand code, which boiled down to: "program or be programmed. "If you don't know what the software* you're using is for, you're not using it, but being used by it." The 2 minute introduction explains how to not be scared - or be taken advantage of - but how to be aware of how the internet and software on smart devices is used, so we can have a choice about it. You can view it HERE.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

'Wolfwalkers' Concept Trailer Released (& Funding Puts Film Officially Into Pre-production)

Things are moving along very well for Wolfwalkers right now! Today a concept trailer, as well as a look behind the scenes of the development to date, was released - take a look:
It was also announced that:
Wolfwalkers has received development funding from the Irish Film Board and Creative Europe MEDIA. Cartoon Saloon are currently in the process of pulling co-producers and financiers together to allow full production to begin in early 2018. (IrishFilm)
Wonderful news! If you missed the pitch trailer released very recently and are wondering what this film is about, you can catch up HERE.

This film harks back to the gorgeous stylings of both Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, but adds it's own elements and visual language too.
(Co-directors) Moore and Stewart have spent time developing a graphic language that reinforces the themes and values of their story through the visual design of the film. As seen in scenes from the trailer, the Puritans and English army are rendered in an ascetic woodblock style, while the wolfwalkers and wolves exhibit a freer, more expressive line style. 
“When we see the world from the point of view the wolves, it’s animated in charcoal with a very limited palette and color only where there are scents,” Moore said. “In contrast to the block print style in Kilkenny we have a much looser look to the forest — lots of ink splats and loose watercolors and scribbly pencil lines.” (Cartoon Brew)


The film's story takes place in the 1600's, during the English Civil War, in Kilkenny, Ireland, which makes for a unique research opportunity for the crew, as this is also the location of the studio Cartoon Saloon. The folklore and history of the local area have been wonderfully preserved and getting out and about is a great way for the crew to get to know the town, and the production better. They made a behind-the-scenes film of the crew doing just that. (And you get glimpses of even more folkloric, artistic goodness!)
Tomm Moore, part owner of Cartoon Saloon and director of Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, along with one of the animated short films within The Prophet, has as strong commitment to hand drawn animation, and though, he's open to using technology to enhance production, hand drawn animation will be the medium for this film too.
Drawing isn’t simply a defiant aesthetic choice in our cg times, but integral to how Moore wants to tell his stories. “We are hoping to show how the characters feel with great acting, movement and facial expressions, but also with how they are drawn,” he explained to Cartoon Brew. “As our characters moods and emotions change, the linework can become more expressive.”
Being willing and able to develop a human-driven graphic style that can adapt to the storytelling and characters guarantees a unique look and feel, part of which is 'the human connection behind the pencil', something which audiences today are responding to as strongly as ever.
We know we have a while to wait yet but we'll keep you posted on developments are they happen. We're really looking forward to this one!

Monday, March 20, 2017

That Problem With Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'(s) and Why It's NOT There in the Original* Fairy Tale

All images in this post by Mercer Mayer, retold by Marianna Meyer (based on the Villeneuve version of BatB)
Note: There is a LOT going on in these illustrations, which are from one of our favorite picture books for Beauty & the Beast, especially regarding symbolism. Look beyond the foreground and main character portrayal to the background and details.
Longtime readers will be aware of this but in case you aren't, our Fairy Tale News Hound is one of the few fairy tale folk around for whom 'Beauty and the Beast' is not a favorite fairy tale. Most people look at us slightly stunned and repeat "Why?" a few times, so we thought we'd attempt to explain it.

Mostly this is a matter of taste but with the 2017 live action Disney movie freshly unspooled into theaters, we thought it was a good time to try, and why, though we enjoyed the 1991 Disney movie, we couldn't bring herself to outright 'love' it, either. The reasons for each are very different.
Note: Yes, we have read many versions of 'Beauty and the Beast' novels, including Robin McKinley's versions (plural), but none have really had much personal impact, as wonderfully written as they were. We should also note that at least two fairy tale friends and bloggers, whom we greatly respect and like, adore 'Beauty and the Beast' as their favorite fairy tale and, as a result, are much better authorities on the details than we are. This post is to share our point of view and the reasons why - not to persuade you to agree with our opinion. As we repeatedly state, we understand much of this point of view is due to taste only. That said, Cocteau's film is one of our all time favorites and we've enjoyed various stage and film explorations/ adaptations of the tale in a way, we never could the actual tale/s.

First: let's briefly discuss the original* fairy tale by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, which was abridged, rewritten, and published by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. (Villeneuve's is essentially, the version reproduced, condensed and popularized in the Andrew Lang Blue Fairy Book as well). This fairy tale is... long. Really long. And it's full of what feels like extraneous, self-indulgent, utterly un-fairy tale like reams of unimportant detail. (Fairy tales, as a rule, tend to be succinct, spare, which is one of the reasons we love them so.. but that's another topic.) Both the Beaumont and Lang abridged versions are lengthy and the story takes a long time to happen.
The other main reason it's never stuck (to us) with great affection is that neither the Beast, nor Beauty, go through many real changes as people (only form/ externally). They are essentially the same people from beginning to end. (Other people will argue with this but although we see them going through a situation, we don't see the essential people changing in any notable way, and that includes at the end. And yes, we understand that others read this differently.) Villeneuve's tale, novella really, adds layers and layers of motives from outside the couple - various fairies, including the one that curses the prince in the first place, Beauty's sisters, the fairy kingdom, which it turns out Beauty belongs to in the end... it feels quite complicated, yet the main characters don't really change or develop as people - at least not until the end when it's clear Beauty, at least, has had a shift in perspective, even if she's not really changing who she is.
Villeneuve's Beauty dreams of the prince in his human form and becomes convinced he's being held captive in the castle somewhere so is on a mission to find him, but never does. (This we have to wonder at - is she just slow on the uptake here? Or is she just not willing to acknowledge the truth yet?) The transformation at the end makes for a very different surprise and reveal for Beauty, from what is now the familiar morph-to-man, and meshes the two aspects of the prince together - human and Beast, showing her she now has both. It's certainly easier to swallow than seeing the furball you've come to truly love, change form completely, so you lose what you should have gained.
For those who need a refresher, here a summary of the elements Villeneuve includes that Beaumont doesn't:
Villeneuve's original tale includes several elements that Beaumont's omits. Chiefly, the back-story of both Beauty and the Beast is given. The Beast was a prince who lost his father at a young age, and whose mother had to wage war to defend his kingdom. The queen left him in care of an evil fairy, who tried to seduce him when he became an adult; when he refused, she transformed him into a beast. Beauty's story reveals that she is not really a merchant's daughter but the offspring of a king and a good fairy. The wicked fairy had tried to murder Beauty so she could marry her father the king, and Beauty was put in the place of the merchant's dead daughter to protect her. She also gave the castle elaborate magic, which obscured the more vital pieces of it. Beaumont greatly pared down the cast of characters and simplified the tale to an almost archetypal simplicity. (Wikipedia)

Beaumont's version is much simpler (including the very telling change of transforming Beauty from royal personnage to down-on-his-luck merchant's daughter, that is, a working class girl) but it's very didactic (read, preachy). It's also still long, and in removing the fairies and the spite, jealousy and politics of Faery, and the dream prince mystery, a large part of the conflict in the tale disappears too - which then makes it feel rather aimless for much of the time, especially among the lavish descriptions of the castle and gardens, which Beauty spends many months wandering. Even the jealous sisters seem tame. Beauty is so perfect it's no wonder her sisters are irritated by her, though wishing she'd be eaten by the Beast is extreme. Told at length, even that conflict is tedious though. 
If the tales are blended and summarized, however, the tale has a lot going for it. (Which is, perhaps, why various stage and film explorations that nod to both have more appeal to us.)
When Beauty, who is both a good person and a brave and selfless one (as opposed to her sisters), takes the place of her father, it's by her choice and strong will, actively stepping in to complete a contract her foolish father got himself into by stealing. Surprising the Beast with her resoluteness and honesty to follow through on the contract, (which, yes, seems extreme - to take the father's life for a rose, though royalty at the time were known to mete out more for less) she is never treated as a captive. Instead she is welcomed as the proper mistress of the house, with all privileges and luxuries she could imagine. She spends her time trying to unravel a mystery and learn the ins and outs of the castle and grounds. The Beast never forces himself on her company except for a cordial dinner, at which he asks her, as becomes a ritual, to marry him. At first frightened by this, but then understanding the choice remains hers, the dinners become a way for them to get to know each other. For the time this was written, a woman having choices in any sort of matter like this was almost unheard of. There is a lot of quite overt feminism in this tale to begin with. Women were, essentially property - first of their father, and then of their husbands and both Villeneuve and Beaumont challenge that.
In this way Beauty and the Beast feels like a fairy tale - the change comes from the characters and their reaction/ adaptation to the situation. Like many fairy tales, the choice of action (and consequences) are made by the protagonist, even when she's a woman. The tale is just, for our personal taste, is not an interesting journey - perhaps also because most of the magic has happened before the protagonist appears and she's just adjusting to a new situation in which magical things 'are', like visiting Fairyland. Nothing is really 'different'. There's no threat, and she's the same upstanding person and so is the Beast. The end gets interesting, of course, with the magic mirror and ring, as well as the realization Beauty has, that the Beast's life is in her hands - she has the power of death or life over him and very nearly makes a tragic mistake. This, we feel, is the part that most resembles a canonical fairy tale, with the wonder element occurring and the protagonist then making their choices/reacting as a result and having to deal with the consequences. The final transformation of Beast to prince, is meant to be a good thing - showing all is finally back as it should be, after things almost changing for the worst.
We won't go into the rest of the plot but you get the idea - for about 80% of the text it's a plodding story with not too many interesting story arcs until the end (for our News Hound's taste any way). It's a slow growing friendship and, eventually, love - though erotic aspect of that love is something we just can't read into any version, just the sort of "I'll die for you" friendship, which is wonderful and rare, but still not one you put a ring on (usually), in which two people adapt to each other over time - a lot of time. Lovely but just not our style.
The Beast, in both original versions is, in many ways, a true Beast in form - something that frightens Beauty at first, though he never sets out to alarm her. If anything he goes out of his way to NOT frighten her and to be the gentleman-prince he is on the inside. And this key difference changes the entire emphasis of the story. Beauty doesn't have to accept or learn to love "a beast". He is never a danger to her. She has to accept that he looks like a beast, but she has to also recognize he is , in essence, a good man that she can truly come to love.
Which removes the entire notion of anything to do with Stockholm syndrome and doesn't even have shades of #whyIstayed (the second of which is more of the problem we have with the Disney versions). We can get on board with this, even if we yawn every now and then in the telling of it.**
Which brings us to the 1991 Disney movie. There's nothing slow about this retelling. Although it's filled with problematic issues (such as why on earth the Beast would imprison Maurice) the pace of the story is good, the tension works and there's a well-earned happy(ish) ending. The one problem we always had, however, is that the Beast is a bully and a tantrum-throwing man/beast-child. He's been under this curse - initially for bad behavior - and is just as bad as he ever was - after almost 10 years he hasn't improved. Belle runs for her life, literally, when discovered in the West Wing looking at the rose and yet... she comes to have feelings for him? She's portrayed as smart, brave and not apt to conform to conventions, yet, knowing there's a countdown (nothing like romance on the clock) she... what...? Decides she likes - no, loves - him now because he's no longer baring his fangs at her and looking like he's going to eat her? No matter what has 'changed', this is completely deserving of the hashtag #whyIstayed. (It should also be noted that when people fall in love, they tend to act like they believe the other person wants them too. It's only once the initial romance-high has worn off and things are familiar that those initial temper issues, are shown in their true form. Have they really changed. Sadly, the answer in the ninetieth+ percentile, is 'no'.) It's actually more backward than either Villeneuve or Beaumont's versions.
We understand how people believe Belle makes her own choices throughout the movie, because it does seem that way, but knowing even a smidge of how this scenario would play out in real life it also looks like a very bad situation. (Someone who throws things, is controlling, verbally abusive and threatens your life isn't someone you're smart to hang around with - at least, not unless it's proven they need medication, they get medication and there's a lot of work in self-retraining - even then most would say that's a no-go zone until the 'new healthier self' is well established!) 
It's the one reason we could never 'love' this movie, though we really wanted to. We were always uncomfortable that such a seemingly smart, independent and capable young woman would put herself in such a situation.
Abby Olsece, on seeing the new 2017 version, summarized this concern and maintains that the problem remains in the remake as well. She doesn't reference the original tales of Villeneuve and Beaumont, but is looking at the Disney movies on their own merit:
So, yes, this 2017 edition of Beauty and the Beast brings a little more compassion and an extra dose of feminism, along with its gorgeous visuals and great songs. But it would take a monster overhaul to fix what’s always been the central problem of this story — a smart, independent woman sticking with a partner who’s prone to unpredictable bouts of violence because she believes he can change. That uncomfortable aspect still sits front and center of the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, and it’s a problem that added musical numbers won’t solve. It’s true that redemptive romance makes for a great fairy tale. But it’s important to remember, especially when talking about a movie that’s been influential for generations of little girls, that the reality of a situation like this one is often very different. So yes, this new version of Beauty and the Beast is fun, exciting to watch, and beautiful to look at, every bit as enjoyable as its animated predecessor. But it’s also still every bit as problematic, even with new-and-improved trappings. (from 'Beauty and the Beast' Remains Enchanted — and Problematic by Abby Olcese)

So now that we've seen the movie, what's the consensus in the Fairy Tale News Room? It does seem Disney has gone to a bit of effort to address this failing of the 1991 movie, but it's definitely still there. Some key differences make the transition to friend-love and respect understandable now, but... we'll have to discuss our overall impressions in a separate post, as this one is quite long enough!
... and, if you'll remember, were transformed to become aware-stone statues by the fairy, to forever exist in the Prince & Beauty's garden, so they would always have to look on Beauty's happiness. Ouch.

* Please don't get stuck on this idea of 'original' and that we are using it incorrectly. Beauty & the Beast has ancient origins that should be acknowledged, even earlier than Cupid & Psyche, but this is the first time the Beauty and the Beast tale was recorded 'in this shape' and Villeneuve should be credited with influential authorship for the fairy tale loved and known to this day.
** Slight aside on Cocteau & Gans' French filmsCocteau's version (1946) dealt with all this wonderfully well, with the only disappointment being that the prince at the end is just not Beauty truly wanted and she, like the audience is left unsatisfied. It's Cocteau's updating of the fairy tale and his own statement on society and appearances, done very purposefully. It was a retelling with something different to say. Christophe Gans' 2014 film (that only became available for US folk to purchase and watch very recently, and with no advertising at all) pays homage to Cocteau's filmmaking but also references Villeneuve and Beaumont's versions in a number of ways. Belle is even more sneaky and headstrong in Gans' version, and Gans takes us in and out of the Beast's new and different backstory, told through Belle's dreams and mirror visions, developing a hauntingly beautiful and mythic origin story for the Beast. The journey for them both is equal in terms of trust and acceptance and that's made clear because there is no violence toward Belle at the start - just her fear since she believes the worst of someone who, in outer form, is a beast. By the time Belle wishes to go home, it's clear she's changed and has no intention of abandoning the Beast. He believes her, but also knows the risk, and allows it, because he truly loves her.