Be Our Guest

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"Be Our Guest"
Song by Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury from the album Beauty and the Beast
Released October 29, 1991
Recorded 1990–1991
Length 3:44
Label Walt Disney
Writer
Producer
Beauty and the Beast track listing
"Gaston (Reprise)"
(5)
"Be Our Guest"
(6)
"Something There"
(7)

"Be Our Guest" is a song written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman for Walt Disney Pictures' 30th animated feature film, Beauty and the Beast (1991). Originally recorded by American actor Jerry Orbach and English actress Angela Lansbury as Lumiere and Mrs. Potts, respectively, "Be Our Guest," a Broadway musical-inspired song, takes place within the first half of Beauty and the Beast in the style of a large-scale musical number by the castle's staff of enchanted servants to Belle in an attempt to make her feel welcome.

During Beauty and the Beast, "Be Our Guest" is a vibrant musical number that takes place shortly after Belle, having just recently sacrificed her own freedom in return for her father's, is imprisoned by the Beast and subsequently confined to her bedroom. Hungry, Belle soon ventures into the kitchen, where she is greeted by Lumiere. Immediately, Lumiere leads Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and the castle's staff of enchanted objects in an elaborate production number – an attempt to officially welcome Belle to the Beast's castle, warmly inviting the character to literally "be [their] guest."

"Be Our Guest" has garnered widespread critical acclaim from film and music critics alike who, in addition to repeatedly deeming the song "show-stopping," praised its catchiness, Ashman and Menken's songwriting and Orbach's performance while applauding the scene's ground-breaking, unprecedented use of computer-generated imagery, additionally citing its Busby Berkeley-inspired choreography as a strong asset. "Be Our Guest" has since been extolled as one of Disney's most celebrated and popular songs, establishing itself as one of the studio's greatest and most iconic. "Be Our Guest" received nominations for both the Golden Globe and Academy Awards for Best Original Song, ultimately losing both to the film's title song. "Be Our Guest" has been ranked highly on several "best Disney song" countdown lists, garnering recognition from IGN, M and the American Film Institute. In addition to appearing in the Broadway musical adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, "Be Our Guest" was performed by Orbach live at the 64th Academy Awards, has been parodied in an episode of The Simpsons and covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Chipettes.

Background[edit]

Originally, Beauty and the Beast, under the direction of Richard Purdum, was not intended to be a musical. Then-studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg made the decision to turn the film into a Broadway-style musical similar to The Little Mermaid (1989), Disney's previous animated film, after he, displeased with the film's initial story reel, ordered the film scrapped and restarted from scratch. As a result, Purdum resigned, and first-time feature film directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale replaced him.

Following the Academy Award-winning success of The Little Mermaid, Katzenberg asked the The Little Mermaid songwriting duo of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken to write the songs for and score Beauty and the Beast. At first Ashman, who was at the time writing songs with Menken for a recently pitched film idea called Aladdin, was reluctant to join the struggling film project, but eventually agreed.[1]

Musically, "Be Our Guest" is based on a simple melody that was composed by Menken, who initially had little intention of using it as anything more than just a "dummy." Upon singing the tune and presenting it to co-writer Ashman, Menken discovered that he was unable to come up with a melody capable of surpassing "that dumb piece of music that I wrote initially because it was just right." Subsequently, Ashman wrote the song's lyrics.[2]

Originally, the filmmakers had initially intended for "Be Our Guest" to be performed by Lumiere to Belle's disoriented father Maurice when the character first discovers the Beast's castle.[3] According to co-director Gary Trousdale, "The song had already been recorded and the sequence partially animated when we decided that it would be more meaningful if it was directed towards Belle" because "she is one of the two main characters and the story revolves around her coming to the castle."[4] Consequently, the song had to be re-written and the entire scene re-animated. Trousdale explained, "We had to bring Jerry Orbach and all the other vocal talents back into the studio to change all references to gender that appeared in the original recording."[4]

Context, scene and analysis[edit]

Beauty and the Beast's fourth musical number, "Be Our Guest" is set within the first half of the film, occurring shortly after Belle sacrifices her own freedom in return for her father's, becoming the Beast's prisoner. Confined to her bedroom when she, upset, stubbornly refuses to join the Beast for dinner, Belle eventually ventures into the kitchen upon grown hungry, where she is greeted by the castle's staff of enchanted inanimate objects – Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and Lumiere. Upon insisting that they treat her more like a guest than a prisoner, Lumiere decides to go against the Beast's orders and invites Belle to dinner.[5] A "food chorus line,"[6] "Be Our Guest" is "a rollicking invitation to Belle from the castle staff."[7] As one of the film's most poignant,[8] large-scale, "all-stops-pulled production number[s],"[9] the scene features "dancing plates and other fanciful dinner guests" as they "perform for Belle, hoping to make her stay a little more comfortable."[10] As the film's heroine, Belle is served a meal in the form of "a Broadway-quality stage show."[11] Commonly regarded as the "show-stopper"[12][13] of Beauty and the Beast, the sequence both visually and musically "derive[s its] insatiable energy and excitement from the gradual accumulation of participation."[14] The Washington Post observed that "'Be Our Guest'" involves "the household gadgets enjoin[ing] Belle to live with them," comparing it heavily to the song "Under the Sea" from Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989), which was also written by Menken and Ashman.[15] Longing to be human, servant and maître d'[16][17] Lumiere is also of the impression that he is worth nothing unless he serves, singing,"Life is so unnerving/For a servant who's not serving."[18]

"Cogsworth nor Mrs. Potts can really hold a candle to Lumiere, who makes out with a pretty feather duster and later sings the show stopper 'Be Our Guest' in his entertainingly thick Gallic accent. The number - which is staged like a Busby Berkeley production, complete with rows of dancing table settings - is the closest thing in Beauty and the Beast to the bubbly 'Under the Sea' extravaganza in The Little Mermaid."
— Jay Boyar, the Orlando Sentinel.[19]

Significantly, Beauty and the Beast was one of Disney's earliest feature-length animated films to fully employ computer-generated imagery and technology, utilizing it to a significant extent, as depicted throughout its signature musical numbers "Be Our Guest" and "Beauty and the Beast."[20] Significantly, "Be Our Guest" "marks the debut of the [Pixar Image Computer] system that is featured in the ballroom dance sequence and 'Be Our Guest'."[21] Due to its elaborateness, the sequence has been noted for "tak[ing] full advantage of the advantages of animation."[22] In terms of character development, "Be Our Guest introduces both Belle and audiences to Lumiere's "musical expertise."[23] Additionally, the energetic and flamboyant[24] way in which Lumiere, a suave, French-accented candelabra, is personified and portrayed throughout "Be Our Guest" has often been likened to French entertainer Maurice Chevalier.[25][26] The Washington Post commented, "The model for Lumiere seems to have been Maurice Chevalier, and the idea is so choice, and so deftly executed, that it places him immediately among the top rank of Disney characters."[27] American actor and singer Jerry Orbach, who provided the voice of Lumiere, himself admitted to People that the character was very much him doing a deliberate impersonation of Chevalier.[28]

Described as both a "musical montage"[29] and the "magical set piece" of Beauty and the Beast, "Be Our Guest" is "a big production number featuring dancing cutlery."[30] Analyzing the scene's complex, elaborate choreography, film critics have observed the profound influence that American filmmaker and choreographer Busby Berkeley has had on "Be Our Guest",[31][32] deeming its lively "Busby Berkeley-style choreography" both "joyous and charming"[8] while commenting, "Without the confines of camera range, there are virtually no limits to how spectacular an animated Berkeley scene can be ... most notably ... 'Be Our Guest'."[33] David Kronke of Amazon.com hailed the song itself as "an inspired Busby Berkeley homage."[34] Similarly, the Dance Films Association wrote, "the 'Be Our Guest' number features practically all of the techniques employed by Berkeley in his musical comedies,"[35] while The New York Times called "Be Our Guest" a "Busby Berkeley-style number in which Belle is serenaded by furniture and dishes."[36] Film critic Roger Ebert joked that the "Be Our Guest" choreography resembles "Busby Berkeley running amok."[37] Additionally, Jerry Griswold, author of The Meanings of "Beauty and the Beast": A Handbook, observed several similarities between "Be Our Guest" and a scene from Maurice Sendak and Carole King's musical Really Rosie.[38]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Written in the key of B♭ major, "Be Our Guest" is, according to the song's official sheet music which, published by Walt Disney Music Publishing, is available at Musicnotes.com, a Broadway musical-inspired song.[39] An energetic, "turbo-charged Broadway chorus number,"[40] "Be Our Guest" was written in common time at a "free" tempo of 50 beats per minute,[39] spanning a length of three minutes and forty-four seconds.[41][42] In "Be Our Guest," Orbach's "low"[43] tenor[44] or baritone[45][46] vocal range spans roughly three octaves, from the low note of F3 to the high note of D♭6.[39] Described as a "scintillating,"[47] "jolly,"[48] "lavish and bouncy"[10] song, "Be Our Guest" is, according to TV Guide, a "boisterous" number, comparing it to songs from the Broadway musicals Hello, Dolly! and Mame.[49] With the film's "roots in Broadway," Beliefnet described "Be Our Guest" as a "rousing" and "tuneful ballad."[50] Musically, the song, according to Film.com, has a total of four key changes and modulations, beginning slowly and "gradually build[ing] ... to a thunderous, bring-the-house-down climax."[51]

Additionally described as "a spark of Gallic vaudeville that lights a flame to both [entertainers] Maurice Chevalier and Yves Montand,"[52] "Be Our Guest" depicts both "fun"[53] and "humour."[54] Extending a warm, energetic invitation towards Belle, the first verse of the song is preceded by a spoken introduction. It reads, "Ma chere Mademoiselle, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the dining room proudly presents: your dinner,"[39] immediately succeeded by the sung lyrics "Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test,"[55] continuing with "Go on, unfold your menu / take a glance and then you'll / be our guest / oui, our guest / be our guest."[56] A nostalgic Lumiere muses about being human, pining for the "good old days when we were useful."[18] Furthermore, Lumiere voices his need to serve, singing, "Life is so unnerving/For a servant who's not serving."[18]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Critical reviews[edit]

"Be Our Guest" has been universally lauded, receiving widespread critical acclaim and garnering nearly unanimously positive reviews from both film and music critics. Hailing it as a "crowd-pleasing production number," TV Guide drew similarities between "Be Our Guest" and songs from the Broadway musicals Hello, Dolly! and Mame.[49] The Globe and Mail's Jennie Punter called the song "show-stopping."[57] Similarly, Drew Taylor of Indiewire echoed Punter's statement, writing, "when the enchanted wait staff dazzle the captive Belle, assuring her that she's not a prisoner she's a guest of the castle," the result is ultimately "show-stopping."[13] Writing for the Austin Chronicle, Kathleen Maher, who generally panned the film's songs and musical numbers, liked "Be Our Guest", describing it as Beauty and the Beast's "only ... magical set piece."[30] Ranking Beauty and the Beast: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Disney's greatest soundtrack, Moviefone's Sandie Angulo Chen highlighted "Be Our Guest", noting its "infectious quality" while haling it as an "amazing food chorus line."[6] JoBlo.com wrote that "Be Our Guest" is both "eye-popping" and "impossibly catchy."[10] Orbach's performance as Lumiere has also garnered significant praise. Filmtracks.com commented, "the ever popular 'Be Our Guest' ... flourish[es] due to a spirited lead performance by Jerry Orbach."[58] Similarly, Hollywood.com cited in the website's biography of the actor, "Among the highlights of [Beauty and the Beast] was Orbach's delivery of the showstopping number 'Be Our Guest'."[59]

'Be Our Guest,' the lavish production number that is a dry-land answer to 'Under the Sea' from The Little Mermaid, may not have the identical calypso charm, but it has just about everything else, including Busby Berkeley-style choreography carried out by dancing silverware ... This demonstrates Mr. Ashman's gifts as an outstandingly nimble lyricist.

The New York Times' Janet Maslin.[60]

Several critics have awarded specific praise to "Be Our Guest"'s choreography, comparing it extensively to the work of director and choreographer Busby Berkeley. In addition to hailing "Be Our Guest" as "delightful," Candice Russel of the Sun-Sentinel wrote, "In setting the table for Belle, Lumiere and friends concoct a Busby Berkeley song-and-dance extravaganza."[61] The Deseret News' Chris Hicks described "the Busby Berkeley-style 'Be Our Guest'" as "first-rate."[62] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly highlighted the scene, writing, "The set pieces are narcotically pleasing, especially the Busby Berkeley-style dancing-kitchenware spectacular, 'Be Our Guest'."[63] James Berardinelli of ReelViews coined "'Be Our Guest' ... the animated equivalent of Broadway show-stoppers, with all the energy and audacity of something choreographed by Busby Berkeley."[64] Calling it a "wonderful musical number," Roger Ebert enthused, "'Be Our Guest' is a rollicking invitation to Belle from the castle staff, choreographed like Busby Berkeley running amok."[65] In review of the 2011 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast, Stephen Whitty of The Star-Ledger commented, "The illusion of depth does add more life to the enchanted housewares — particularly the 'Be Our Guest' number, with its Busby Berkeley geometrics."[66]

While Beauty and the Beast's several theatrical re-releases and reissues have been met with generally mixed reviews, critical response towards the "Be Out Guest" musical sequence has remained predominantly positive. Reviewing the 2001 IMAX re-release of the film, the Los Angeles Times' Charles Solomon felt that the inclusion of the deleted song "Human Again" was unnecessary, preferring "Be Our Guest" and writing, "a second major production number simply isn't needed; 'Be Our Guest' is sufficient."[67] Similarly, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's William Arnold wrote, "On the other hand, it's understandable why ["Human Again"] was cut from the original. It's almost too similar to the film's show-stopper, 'Be Our Guest'."[68] Reviewing the film's 2012 3D conversion, Todd Gilchrist of Boxoffice wrote that "Be Our Guest" is "effective, immersive and maybe even memorable."[69] Meanwhile, Annlee Ellingson of Paste wrote, "It's thrilling to experience this film's major set pieces on the big screen again, especially the Broadway-infused 'Be Our Guest' number."[70] The Times-Picayune's Mike Scott wrote, "But then the 3-D all but disappears until the 'Be Our Guest' number -- with its artfully surreal dance of the dishes."[71] Andrew Pulver of The Guardian, who otherwise criticized the film's songs, praised "Be Our Guest", writing, "Apart from the spectacular Busby Berkeleyesque [']Be Our Guest['], the film pretty much grinds to a halt whenever one of the songs ... starts up."[72]

Although vastly critically acclaimed, the song was not entirely void of some minor criticism. Lukewarmly, Irving Tan of Sputnikmusic commented, "numbers like 'Be Our Guest' provides evidence that Lumiere and co. are infinitely preferable as entertaining flatware." On Lansbury's performance, Tan joked, "The singer's delightfully personable contribution is almost reason enough to forgive Disney for thinking her English accent ... would not look out of place in a film set in 18th century France."[73] A more negative review was written by Pete Vonder Haar of The Houston Press. Observing that Beauty and the Beast "was Disney's first stab at incorporating computer animation," he felt that "the results are, now, pretty primitive," concluding, "I recall thinking the dancing forks during 'Be Our Guest' ... looked pretty bad and time has not been kind."[74] The song has also been compared to "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid, most of which have been mixed. Jay Boyar the Orlando Sentinel opined, "'Be Our Guest' ... is the closest thing in Beauty and the Beast to the bubbly 'Under the Sea' extravaganza in The Little Mermaid,"[19] while Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman's review was much more negative, describing the song as "merely serviceable" and concluding, 'Be Our Guest,' ... sorry to say, is no 'Under the Sea'."[75] Likewise, Desson Howe of The Washington Post panned both the song and Lumiere, writing, "the Candelabrum's Maurice Chevalier accent is clearly intended to substitute for the Caribbean-lilted lobster in Mermaid. And the ensemble song, 'Be Our Guest,' in which the household gadgets enjoin Belle to live with them, is an obvious attempt to reprise a similar Mermaid number, 'Under the Sea.' But it's just under par."[15]

Cultural impact[edit]

Awards and accolades[edit]

Alongside the songs "Beauty and the Beast" and "Belle," "Be Our Guest" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 64th Academy Awards in 1992.[76] Garnering three separate nominations for Best Original Song,[77] Beauty and the Beast became the first film in the history of the Academy Awards to achieve this feat.[78] Ultimately, "Be Our Guest" lost to the film's title song. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Beauty and the Beast producer Don Hahn revealed that Disney feared that having three songs nominated for Best Original Song simultaneously would result in an unfavorable draw. Therefore, while "Beauty and the Beast" received heavy promotion, less was spent on "Be Our Guest" and "Belle."[79] Months prior, "Be Our Guest" was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song at the 49th Golden Globe Awards in 1992,[80] losing again to "Beauty and the Beast."[81] In 2004, the American Film Institute nominated "Be Our Guest" for its "100 Years…100 Songs" list, part of its 100 Years... series.[82]

In addition to the widespread critical success and popularity achieved by the song, "Be Our Guest," deemed one of the most memorable songs from Beauty and the Beast[83] while hailed as a "favorite,"[84] a "classic"[56] and "one of [film's] greatest showstoppers,"[85] is commonly revered as one of Disney's greatest songs. As Beauty and the Beast's "most frequently heard song"[86] In 2014 BuzzSugar ranked "Be Our Guest" third on the website's list of the "25 Disney Songs We Will Never Stop Singing." Hailing the song as a "gem," author Maggie Pehanick wrote that "Be Our Guest" was "one of the first [Disney] songs to get permanently lodged in your brain."[87] According to All Women Stalk, "Be Our Guest" represents and depicts "what Disney is all about."[88]

In 2009 Oh No They Didn't ranked "Be Our Guest" eighth on the website's list of the "The Top 25 Disney Songs of All Time."[89] In 2013 IGN ranked the song third, with author Lucy O'Brien writing, "Of all the brilliant numbers peppered throughout Beauty and the Beast, it's the turbo-charged Broadway chorus number [']Be Our Guest['] that's the stand-out," deeming it "one of the best songs ever devised by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman."[40] In 2014 "Be Our Guest" was ranked seventh on M's "Top 20 Disney Songs of All Time" list, with author Stephanie Osmanski selecting the phrase "Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test" as her favorite of its lyrics.[55] In 2014, HitFix ranked "Be Our Guest" sixth on its list of "The 20 Best Disney Songs of All Time."[90] Additionally, while ranking Lumiere the thirty-ninth "Best Animated Movie Character" of all-time, Empire hailed "Be Our Guest" as the character's best moment and "Stroke of genius," writing, "The song ... sees Lumiere introduce perhaps the greatest dining experience in animation history."[91]

Upon the release of Disney's animated musical Frozen (2013), Film.com ranked "Be Our Guest" the thirteenth "Greatest Musical Number ... in Movie History," describing the song as "a masterpiece of showtune construction" while lauding its Busby Berkeley-inspired choreography. "Be Our Guest" was the only animated musical number included on the website's list of 50.[51]

Covers and parodies[edit]

In 1995, Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Chipettes recorded a cover of "Be Our Guest" for their Disney-themed concept album When You Wish Upon a Chipmunk.[92][93]

More common are parodies. In The Simpsons sixth season episode "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" (1995), "Be Our Guest" is parodied by the character Mr. Burns when he performs the song See My Vest". New York magazine-run website Vulture.com ranked the song eighth on its list of "The Ten Best Simpsons Songs".[94] In the Animaniacs parody episode "Cutie and the Beast", Yakko and Wakko Warner sing a version entitled "She's a Pest."[citation needed]

An Oscar-themed rendition of the song was performed by Seth MacFarlane at the 85th Academy Awards.[95]

In 2013, English television personalities Ant & Dec appeared in a Christmas television advertisement for the supermarket Morrisons.[96] In the minute-long commercial, a computer-animated gingerbread man named Ginger serenades Ant & Dec to the tune of "Be Our Guest," inviting them to enjoy the store's products.[97]

Live performances[edit]

"Be Our Guest" performed at Walt Disney World's Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, distinct from the Broadway production, in September 2009.

In 1992 Jerry Orbach performed "Be Our Guest" live at the 64th Academy Awards.[98][99] Meanwhile, Beauty and the Beast co-stars Paige O'Hara, voice of Belle, and Richard White, voice of Gaston, performed "Belle,"[100] while Angela Lansbury performed "Beauty and the Beast" alongside recording artists Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson.[101]

Broadway musical[edit]

"Be Our Guest" was also featured as an elaborate production number in the Broadway musical adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, which ran from 1994 to 2007.[102] Originally performed by American actors Gary Beach and Beth Fowler, who originated the roles of Lumiere and Mrs. Potts, respectively,[103] "Be Our Guest" was "a spectacular dance of illuminated saucers, showgirls bedecked with spinning plates, and giant-size bottles spewing streams of brilliant sparkles."[104] In addition to "performance[s] by eye-catching cutlery, plates, a tablecloth and napkins,"[105] the musical number featured "a show-stopping routine [from] a dancing doormat."[106]

Reception towards the Broadway treatment of "Be Our Guest" has been generally mixed. While some theatre critics, such as Alex Bentley of CultureMap, felt that "Be Our Guest" "remain[s] as timeless as ever,"[107] The Christian Science Monitor's Karen Campbell criticized the number's lavishness, feeling that it compromised the story Campbell wrote, "Only in the fantastical 'Be Our Guest' number ... does the show's extraordinary technological magic threaten to derail the story line."[104] However, some critics did positively comment on the fact that the Broadway adaptation of "Be Our Guest" was more than simply a "cookie-cutter" carbon copy rendition of the original version featured in the animated film.[108]

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