Very bad form

I realize this small issue will likely interest none of you, but a short bit of righteous indignation won’t kill you, either.

Howard Ashman was the brilliant (brilliant) lyricist who penned the memorable songs for several films, including Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, and (half of) Aladdin. He died well before his time while working on the last of those, and having just completed Beauty and the Beast. As a tribute to his work, when that movie ended it didn’t segue directly into the production credits; instead, the following placard appeared:

It was a classy move, a grateful and poignant posthumous send-off for a guy who deserved it.

Keyword: deserved. As in past tense. Apparently he no longer does, because this current Blu-ray release of Beast has been retrofitted to close with the traditional “Directed by” credit. You have to go all the way to the end of the credits to see Ashman’s blurb scroll by for a few seconds, accorded no more prominence or screen time than the Dolby Digital logo.

Yes, the message is still there, but placement isn’t trivial. Whereas before virtually everyone saw the message, being that it popped up right at the end of the movie, the exact opposite is now the case – who the hell sits all the way through the closing credits of a movie? Who the hell is now going to see the memorial to someone whose work we all know from childhood?

Howard Ashman is long dead and cares not for such things, so why should I trouble myself with them? I don’t know. There’s just something unseemly about it, about the decision being made to deliberately go back and reduce the prominence of an ostensibly heartfelt bit of gratitude to a creative genius.

It also occurs to me that without Ashman’s contributions in particular, Beauty and the Beast wouldn’t have been half as well-thought of as it was and is (this was, until Up, the only animated film ever nominated for the Best Pciture Oscar). The musical numbers, which are amongst the best ever put to the screen, go a long way toward covering up Beast’s glaring deficiencies when it comes to character development, tone and pacing, not to mention some bits of flat-out lazy animation. They’re the reason it’s often cited as the best/one of the best animated films of all time (both by laymen and people who really should know better).

Next post will be more in line with people’s interests, promise. Or at least, less not in line with them. Just pointing out how behind all the cute characters and theme park rides, the House of Mouse can be a very cold and fucked up place.

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