George: The Beast Within: A Tale Of Beauty’s Prince, by Serena Valentino, is not your regular Disney book. (It almost sounds like the latest Disney exercise regime–Unleash your own personal Beast!) It’s a teen book that shares a supposed back story of the Prince that is transformed into the Beast from the 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast.
Jeff: This isn’t Serena’s first rodeo when it comes to back stories of famous Disney characters. She also wrote Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen back in 2009 about the Queen from Snow White. Both books fill in the gaps before, and sometimes during, the famous Disney films, to give us a more complete picture of these characters. But while Fairest of All was good in regards to respecting the source material, The Beast Within sort of…flounders.
George: I was really looking forward to this title, since I’ve always had questions about the timeline for Beauty and the Beast. According to the film, he has to find true love by his 21st birthday. Well, according to the film, he’d been a beast for a long time, meaning he was turned by the time he was 15 or so, right? Was he that terrible of a person?
Jeff: He must have been a rotten kid, that’s for sure! Well, the book retcons some of the movie’s story. Turns out, the witch that cursed him was actually an ex-girlfriend that he jilted. And said ex-girlfriend had three evil witch sisters as well, who torment him throughout the novel. And turn his staff into various household objects. That he can’t see nor talk to (which is weird, since he can see and talk to him in the movie). Oh, and did we mention him and Gaston used to be BFFs? You see how confusing and all over the place this is now?
George: Serena is a good writer, but I’m wondering if she was hamstrung because Disney (or someone at Disney) proposed the story and it had to have certain features. The storyline of Gaston and Beast (when he was the Prince) being besties was really weird considering how they fought in the film. There was also a storyline about a girlfriend that the Prince really could have loved but Gaston turns the Prince against her. It was kind of odd.
Jeff: As mentioned earlier, I did love her book about the Wicked Queen, so I was very confused as to why this one seemed to make no sense. A lot of things just seemed out of character for the Beast we knew from the film, even if it was filling in some gaps. The fact that Gaston and Beast were friends, and a spell made them both forget it, seems very odd to me. I really had high hopes for this one, but it just seemed to be all over the place for most of the book, and it hindered me from enjoying it. Maybe George is right, and she had certain restrictions on what she could and could not write, but the story this time around just didn’t do it for me.
George: We almost always try and find an audience for every book we recommend, even if it’s not one for theme park nerds like us. But this one is so uneven that I wonder if a die-hard Beauty and the Beast fan would enjoy the title. It seems like a harsh thing to say, but it really was an odd storyline to go along with such an amazing film.
Jeff: If you are REALLY curious about the Beast’s backstory, then by all means, you should give it a read. However, I feel like it takes away from the beauty of the film (no pun intended) a bit. If anything, I’d recommend Serena’s first foray again, Fairest of All, over this one.
Have you read this title? What do you think about creating back stories for Disney characters?
By Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor
The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor
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