Beauty and the Beast isn’t just another princess movie. Beyond the castle and the gorgeous gown is a story that conveys strong themes that empower the next generation of girls while teaching our boys to honor and respect strong women. Despite being the tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast has grown up from the animated musical favorite you remember from years ago into a visually stunning live-action masterpiece that does an even better job of conveying the importance of being a strong woman than the animated version did 26 years ago.
About Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a live-action re-telling of the studio’s animated classic which refashions the classic characters from the tale as old as time for a contemporary audience, staying true to the original music while updating the score with several new songs. “Beauty and the Beast” is the fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful, and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince within.
Earlier this week we attended a screening of Beauty and the Beast. I found myself singing the words to favorite songs from the animated movie in my head and enjoying the gorgeous imagery in every scene. Emily (age 13) had been watching the trailers online and after much anticipation, declared it as spectacular as she had hoped but would her 10 year old action movie loving brother enjoy it as much? Thumbs up too!
But not every movie is right for every family and if Beauty and the Beast is one you’re wondering about for your kids, there are definitely some ways to prepare your kids before you go so they are able to enjoy it even more. Here’s my list of 5 things to do before you see Beauty and the Beast and 3 topics to discuss afterwards.
5 Things to Do Before You See Beauty and the Beast
Acquaint your kids with the story
While you may be familiar with Beauty and the Beast, your kids might not be. I remember watching and re-watching my VHS version of the animated Beauty and the Beast and when the movie started, I found myself singing the words to the songs in my head even though my kids weren’t.
Emily remembered the story from reading the classic fairy tale in a picture book and watching the movie long ago. Thomas didn’t remember the story. I probably should have made sure they knew the basic premise before we entered the theater. At ages 10 and 13 they were fine with fuzzy and non-existent memories though younger ages might do better knowing the plot.
Prepare for the dark and scary moments
Knowing the plot of the story will help your kids better expect the scary moments. Like the animated version, the movie opens with a glitzy party at the Prince’s castle and turns dark when the elderly woman bearing the rose transforms him into the Beast. Other scary moments seem to come right after big musical numbers.
Expect spooky woods with incredible computer generated imagery (CGI) of life-like snarling wolves who both threaten and attack the characters as they make their way to and from the castle, a Beast who terrifies Belle when they first meet, and Belle’s father, Maurice, being tied up and left for the wolves. Seeing the action on the big screen makes everything seem darker, louder, and could be more terrifying for some kids.
Watch the clips and featurettes together
If you think that your kids are ready for Beauty and the Beast, watching the clips and featurettes on YouTube will provide some background knowledge about the movie and familiarize them with the songs, making it more fun when you see it in the theater.
Know how you’ll tackle the issue of LaFou’s sexuality if it comes up
Look, I’m just going to address the elephant in the movie that has been the source of controversy and planned boycotts. Gaston’s faithful sidekick, LaFou (played by Josh Gad), has what director, Bill Condon, called a “wonderful gay moment” when the movie premiered. Spoiler: The movie hints at confused sexuality with LaFou’s gazing at Gaston while singing a rousing rendition of ‘Gaston’ to his best friend and there are looks and one liners that adults will pick up and kids will miss.
You’ll be looking for more throughout the movie but when the entire cast is dancing in the ballroom during a spectacular scene at the very end, there is a change in partners and LaFou ends up holding hands with a man. That’s it. That’s the “wonderfully gay moment.”
Chances are this will go right over the heads of most younger kids but older kids who have been watching the trailers and hearing the buzz might notice. It might not be a big deal to your tweens and teens when they come home from seeing it but it might be something they want to discuss. Now that you know what happens in the movie, think about how you might respond if they want to talk about it with you. Hint: Let them guide the conversation.
Talking about sex and sexuality isn’t easy but if your child brings it up, it is easier to seize the teachable moment and discuss it with them now than later. Their interest lends to a natural time do talk about this topic that many parents struggle with but my advice to you is to let them guide the conversation and answer their questions honestly.
Stop it Now recommends that parents should have an honest conversation where you share your values. This shows them that you’re a good role model who is willing to talk about relationships. Stop it Now also reminds parents that our kids need guidance to understand appropriate sexuality expression and the importance of always keeping the conversation accurate and age appropriate. This helps kids better understand their sexual feelings and feel confident in talking to you, rather than relying on their peers who might be sources of misinformation.
And if you’re looking for an educational connection, contributor Lisa Frame reminded me that we can weave in a history lesson by reminding kids that men didn’t dance with women until the women were debutantes and were officially “out” to society. Women learned to dance with each other and practiced with their mothers or sisters while men practiced with fathers or brothers.
Read the Common Sense Media review
Lastly, if you have any questions about taking your kids to see Beauty and the Beast, get another opinion. I always trust Common Sense Media to provide unbiased reviews and have found that their reviews are spot on for our family.
3 Topics to Discuss After Beauty and the Beast
After you come home it’s important to continue the conversation about the movie. Common Sense Media has some great conversation starters in the Families Can Talk About section of their Beauty and the Beast review and it’s also important to discuss:
Bullying people who are different from you: Belle’s laundry is dumped out by the people in the village when she tries to teach a little girl to read. Gaston calls for Maurice to be locked up because he thinks his story about the Beast is crazy. You might want to ask kids: Why are Belle and Maurice treated the way they are by the people in their town? Do you think they’re being bullied? How do you treat people who are different from you?
First impressions: The Prince is transformed into the Beast when he unfairly judges the outward appearance of the old woman who turns out to be a sorceress but even though Belle is scared by the Beast when she first meets him, she doesn’t let his appearance get in the way of falling in love with him. First impressions are like judging a book by its cover. Ask kids: Have you ever formed about an opinion about someone or something that turned out to be wrong? Is this ok and if not, how do we keep ourselves from doing this?
Global health and how modern medicine protects us from getting sick: There is a moment in the movie where a magical book takes Belle back to the Paris windmill that she left when she was a baby. We see her mother lying in bed with black spots and telling her father to take Belle away. My kids picked up on the fact that Belle’s mother was sick with the bubonic plague, or the black death, a disease that killed many during the Middle Ages. Maurice took Belle away from her sick mother to protect her from getting the highly contagious disease. Kids who are wondering about how Belle’s mother died should know there was no vaccine for illnesses like the ones that exist today. You can talk about how flu shots and other vaccines keep us healthy from illnesses that have been known to cause death in this country and still do in other countries where kids don’t have access to vaccines from preventable childhood diseases.
Beauty and the Beast is in theaters today and available in Dolby Cinema with Dolby Atmos (the sounds flows all around you!) and Dolby Vision (features dramatic imaging with astonishing brightness, contrast and colors) at AMC locations across the country. For more information about Beauty and the Beast:
- Like Beauty and the Beast on Facebook
- Follow Beauty and the Beast on Twitter
- Follow Beauty and the Beast on Instagram
- Visit the official Beauty and the Beast website
My family received complimentary tickets to a screening of Beauty and the Beast but all opinions are my own and based on our experience. No compensation was received for this post. Images courtesy of Disney. Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.