It's hard to remake a Disney animated classic. Despite the box office success of previous live action remakes Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book, every new interpretation presents a big risk. Live action remakes of Disney movies need to walk the thin line between reinventing the film for a new generation, while also staying true to the heart and soul of the original. They need to satisfy fans while creating new ones. Even more, these movies also need to be good. But really, the main challenge is figuring out how faithful to the original is too faithful. Thankfully, Disney's newest live action remake, Beauty and the Beast stays true to the original without going too far, and it's a very good thing to see.
When I go into a live action Disney remake, I just want to have the same, magical feeling the original movie gives me. Disney films aren't exactly known for being realistic, and if I'm going to see a movie about an Enchanted Castle, I want to be enchanted, too. I don't think anyone is interested in seeing a nitty gritty version of Beauty and the Beast, and by staying true to the whimsical nature of the original enchantment — like with Lumière's bombastic personality and Chip's little hop — the new live action film captures the same magic as the animated version. It might look different, but the feeling it inspires is the same. (Keeping the original music numbers and Belle's coveted wardrobe also helps.)
Before Beauty and the Beast, Disney's live action remakes have focused on animated films released before 1970. The Jungle Book, the studio's most recent hit, was based on an animated film released in 1967, but both Cinderella and Alice In Wonderland were based off movies released in the '50s. Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand, was released in 1991. Unlike most other Disney animated films, which were released in theaters at a time when in-home entertainment was far from commonplace, almost every kid who grew up in the '90s owned Beauty and the Beast on VHS. In other words, kids who fell in love with Beauty and the Beast at a young age now know the film by heart. This, in part, is what makes the live action Beauty and the Beast so great. Every child who grew up obsessively watching Beauty and the Beast will be able to watch the new film and recognize some of the classic lines or shots from the original, but also be surprised by some new details.
Beauty and the Beast truly does not stray far from the original material, something made easy by the original's 1991 release. Quite frankly, the animated Beauty and the Beast simply isn't as problematic as other Disney animated classics. Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland both made changes to the original plot to ensure their heroine was more feminist. (Whether they were successful or not is another story.) And because Cinderella and Alice were both pretty passive in the original films, this required changing a huge chunk of the story. With Belle, however, Disney had a character that already leant itself to feminist interpretations. Thus, adding in a few extra details to fill out her feminist identity aren't as forced or disruptive to the narrative fans know and love.
Disney's live action Beauty and the Beast ends up landing in a perfect sweet spot. It's not so different that it will alienate fans of the original, but it's also not so similar that it becomes pointless.