My Case For the “Human Again” Sequence

It’s undeniable that the closer a work is to my heart, the less objective I can be about it. Nowhere is this clearer than 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, a film that I love completely. Yet only recently have I acknowledged the fact that my favorite movie, technically, isn’t the 1991 Beauty and the Beast—it’s the 1991 Beauty and the Beast plus an extra 6 minutes of footage and minor edits released on DVD in 2002.

I was always aware that “my” Beauty and the Beast wasn’t the original cut, but it only really became noticeable once my childhood DVD was scratched to death. In the years since 2002, Beauty and the Beast DVDs haven’t offered the film with the “Human Again” scene as the default option—the theatrical cut is the version attached to the “play” button on the menu; one has to specifically go to the settings and select “extended edition” to see the edit that I grew up with. And if you stream the movie on Disney+, you can’t find “Human Again” at all. (From what I can tell, the Disney+ version, with the exception of the final frame of “Something There,” is the original 1991 cut, but don’t quote me on that.)

Though the Beauty and the Beast re-release never received the same amount of vitriol as, say, the Star Wars special editions, I still get the impression that most people consider the original theatrical version of Beauty and the Beast the “real” one and the better experience. And, while I have nothing against that opinion—in either format, Beauty and the Beast is essentially a perfect movie—I confess that I actively prefer the film with the “Human Again” sequence.

For the most part, the critical attitude toward this scene is that it’s superfluous, but I’m sure there are some Beauty and the Beast purists out there who consider “Human Again” the equivalent of the Jabba the Hutt/Han Solo conversation in A New Hope or maybe “Jedi Rocks” in Return of the Jedi: silly filler forced into an already-completed movie in a way that not only detracts from the plot but often goes against it. There is some truth to this statement: contrary to what I initially believed, “Human Again” does not exist in a vacuum with the surrounding film untouched. Research revealed that because the song shows the characters tidying up the castle, the backgrounds in subsequent scenes were altered to make spaces seem “cleaner.” They’re small edits, but when you look at the shots side by side, you can see the difference. (For the complete list of changes between editions, see this page.)

And, yes, the film quality is much better in the images from the theatrical cut, but that’s just the difference between my 2002 DVD and whatever remastered version of the original that Disney+ currently offers.

I suppose I can’t criticize anyone for disliking those changes, but forgive me if I say that they seem truly minimal. (And, believe me, I’m someone who’s pretty obsessed with the interior design of the Beast’s castle, so I’d be the first to riot if an egregious change was made.) An uncracked mirror in the Beast’s bathroom or a no-longer-ripped curtain in the West Wing in moments where those objects aren’t essential to the scene—let alone the focal point of the shot—really don’t bother me. They don’t assassinate any of the movie’s content or contradict anything that made the original special.

Yet, even without additional tweaks, there is certainly some discussion to be had about not only how “Human Again” works on its own terms but how it quietly impacts the scenes surrounding it. In both cases, I won’t call the sequence entirely unproblematic. There are a couple of over-the-top bits, like the Wardrobe cannonballing off of a balcony into a fountain. (And this after all of the care that the animators put into the original film to maintain believability about the objects’ fragility/durability! See the pillow specially added for the moment when Mrs. Potts jumps off of the mantelpiece all for the sake of it not seeming unrealistic that she didn’t shatter into a million pieces.)

And, no matter how much I love Romeo and Juliet, the happy, contented sighs that Belle and the Beast share after the final lines are not the reaction that I have (or I imagine anyone does) immediately after finishing it.

But those are minor nitpicks and, while I don’t excuse them, I truly believe that “Human Again” is a net asset to Beauty and the Beast—more than merely being inoffensive, it’s actually a fantastic piece of storytelling that only increases the movie’s power and poignance. At the risk of sounding clichéd, this sequence really brings something to the film “that wasn’t there before.”

Possibly one of the reasons why “Human Again” feels fitting where so many subsequently-inserted bonus scenes/extended cuts do not is because it was meant to be in the movie to begin with. “Human Again” was removed because of a time inconsistency—the original lyrics talk about the seasons changing, which the filmmakers worried wouldn’t add up with the timeline of Gaston and Maurice back in the village.

Tick tock

The time goes

The days pass

The cock crows

They keep getting closer, well, don’t they?

Tick tock

The time flies

A full moon

A sunrise

They keep drawing nearer and nearer together

And as they draw nearer, the day draws near too

The day we’ve been waiting so long for is due…

The clouds pass the sundial

The days move, and meanwhile,

They keep getting closer, well, don’t they?

Sands fill the hourglass

The moon’s waned

The sun’s passed

An evening, a morning, a week intervenes

They keep getting closer, you know what that means…

The lyrics in the Broadway show and the special edition were altered to accommodate the movie’s timeline (not that that was ever really clarified, anyway), and it was such an easy fix that it hurts me quite a bit that they didn’t think of it during the film’s production. All that ended up changing was that the “tick tock” segments listed above were omitted—a shift that amazingly doesn’t hurt the song’s momentum or spirit one bit. Most songs would choke if you cut out a couple of their verses, but the original “Human Again” demo was so substantial (over 9 minutes long) that it was almost more than one complete musical number. The fact that chopping several verses from “Human Again” didn’t gut the song, but only brought it down to the length of other Disney/Beauty and the Beast numbers (3.5 to 5 minutes, depending on whether or not you count the spoken interlude) and that the finished product still had a perfect build, crescendo, and narrative throughline is an example of pure Disney/Menken/Ashman magic and such a beautiful case of serendipity that it practically justifies the song’s post-theatrical existence all on its own.

(But, if you want to get into the film’s timeline inconsistencies—which the Internet loves to jump on—I will direct you to the words of Tim Brayton, who captures my feelings on the issue perfectly: “How far is it from the village to the Beast’s castle, and how many days does Belle spend there? The easy answer to these questions, “about thirty minutes” and “three days” are both clearly unacceptable to maintain the film’s atmosphere; but necessary on the evidence presented. Somehow, this huge violation of the film’s firm grounding in the real only makes it all the more appealing to me: it proves that Beauty and the Beast really is a fantasy, just a fantasy of particularly sharp observation.” Besides, it’s common in fairytales for time to move differently in a place of enchantment and magic—which the Beast’s castle definitely is—than it does in the “real world.” Other Beauty and the Beast adaptations have explicitly said that the hours and seasons within the castle grounds don’t align with those beyond the gates.)

However, if “Human Again” hadn’t been removed from the original film, Menken and Ashman wouldn’t have written “Something There” to take its place, and I would not lose “Something There” for the world. My love for the number aside, I believe that had the movie been released with just “Human Again,” it would have lost something vital. Belle and the Beast singing about their own feelings for each other is critical and goes a long ways toward making the audience buy their relationship. With only “Human Again,” where the objects observe them from a distance, the movie wouldn’t have nearly that level of intimacy or connection between the titular characters.

Also, from my understanding, since the original “Human Again” storyboards go right from Belle cleaning the Beast’s wounds to the ballroom scene, that would have meant no scene where the Beast gives Belle his library. And that would have been completely unacceptable.

But with the 2002 release, we got “Something There” and “Human Again,” and I think that’s the best of all possible worlds.

Now, just because something was originally meant to be in a movie doesn’t always mean that it should be. After all, that Jabba the Hutt/Han Solo exchange in Mos Eisley was originally meant to be in the theatrical Star Wars (hence, why they had the footage in the first place), and I think everyone agrees that the movie is better without it. But Howard Ashman and Alan Menken are not George Lucas, and Menken and Ashman’s work with Disney contained some of the most insightful and powerful character beats and storytelling ever told through musical format. When this team penned a song for a movie, it was essential to the story (the only exception to this argument is The Little Mermaid’s “Les Poissons,” but I’m not discussing The Little Mermaid today), and “Human Again” is no different.

I think it goes without saying that, context aside, I love “Human Again” as a song. I’d say that I couldn’t imagine anybody disliking it, but then I heard someone whose opinion I respect call it “super boring” and say that they hated it, so…to each their own. But I actually find it one of Menken’s top melodies, and every time that I hear it, it cuts straight to my core in the best possible way. Ashman and Menken were a dynamic duo, and I can’t think of another song that so perfectly channels a feeling of hope. I’m no music expert, but the format in which the number slowly builds from a small kindling of excitement to an explosive, joyous celebration by the end is utterly contagious, and one can’t help but get swept up in the characters’ dreams and long-awaited happiness.

Beyond being a brilliant song, “Human Again” fits into the story because it plays right into its emotional arc. One of the most remarkable things about Beauty and the Beast (that became all the more obvious when the 2017 film got it so wrong) is how perfectly balanced the characters are; though it is undeniably Belle and the Beast’s tale, the enchanted objects have just the right role in the narrative, going on the journey with the protagonists, with their goals linked to the Beast’s.

This is the reason why sliding immediately from “Something There” to “Human Again” doesn’t kill the narrative momentum in the way that it might if, say, Aladdin jumped from “A Whole New World” to the Genie and Abu singing about their feelings on Aladdin and Jasmine’s budding romance. For the whole movie, the enchanted objects’ destinies and dreams have been directly tied to those of the Beast, and these characters have played nearly as big of a role in his development as Belle. They have been watching and cheering on this relationship throughout—it’s no accident that the final part of “Something There” is sung by Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts—so having a musical number from their perspective isn’t yanking audiences into a side story so much as it is continuing the main one. Because the Beast’s and the objects’ fates are intertwined, the tantalizing anticipation and fantasies of humanity in “Human Again” are as much an expression of the Beast’s feelings as he contemplates the end of his curse as they are the objects’ own visions.

Additionally, the extra five minutes between the “Something There” and “Beauty and the Beast” scenes give Belle and the Beast’s relationship a little extra breathing room. Granted, their romance was already superbly executed, but the time between the Beast saving Belle from the wolves and choosing to let her go is barely 10 minutes in the original cut. “Human Again” doesn’t make or break the development of their relationship, but I always appreciated watching slightly more time pass and another scene of them connecting. It gives their final embrace and Belle’s profession of love a greater foundation.

Actually, if there’s anything in “Human Again” that I’ve heard criticized, it’s this scene in between verses, where Belle and the Beast read together—or, more accurately, Belle reads out loud to him, after which the Beast confesses that he cannot read and Belle begins to teach him. People seem to think that the Beast, who grew up as a privileged royal, not being able to read is ludicrous. But I’ve never viewed this as a problem.

There’s a lot of Internet squabble about the age of Disney’s Beast at the time that he was cursed, and I have no interest in diving down that rabbit hole—mostly because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t make a difference. Whether the Beast was a young man or a child when the Enchantress showed up is irrelevant: either way, he was a petulant, selfish brat who needed to grow up, and that’s the journey that the film takes him on. Learning (or relearning) to read plays into that arc because it encapsulates the character’s maturation. He begins to admit his shortcomings, accepts help, and puts in the work to become better. Reading is also one of the ultimate acts of empathy—as the Beast experiences stories, he is exposed to lives and narratives other than those in his castle and caring about something beyond himself. The fact that he’s learning to read Belle’s favorite stories only adds to that because, as he becomes invested in these works of fiction, he also discovers more about Belle and what matters to her.

If you’re not on board with that argument, then here’s another. One of the staples of Beauty and the Beast stories, long before Disney adapted it, is that the Beast’s curse makes him forget what it’s like to be human—the presence of Beauty/Belle and her interactions with the Beast are always what bring that dormant part of him back to life. When we first meet the Disney Beast, he walks on all fours, and he roars or growls almost as much as he speaks, falling closer to the animal side of the spectrum than the human one. He has spent so long not living as a human that, once Belle arrives on the scene, he’s basically starting from scratch, whether that’s walking upright, eating at a table, or brushing his hair/fur. Even if the Beast was fully literate at the time of his curse, I always interpreted his not being able to read as just one more aspect of his forgotten humanity that returns as he connects with Belle.

Finally, I appreciate the presence of “Human Again” because it was famously Howard Ashman’s favorite song from the movie and he was devastated when it got cut. I won’t say that Disney’s reasons for the 2002 re-edit weren’t primarily commercial, but I also get the impression that the “Human Again” addition was meant to honor Ashman and, in a sense, right the wrong that came from scrapping the song over 10 years before. Perhaps that’s just me creating a sappy narrative in my mind, but every time that I hear about the making of Beauty and the Beast and the disappointment that Ashman and Menken felt when “Human Again” was lost, it pleases me to know that, even if it was after Ashman’s death, their beloved song ultimately made it into the movie after all. And it didn’t do so in a cheap, hackneyed way (despite what some people claim); it’s a wonderful section that, if not quite the original vision of the song, fits comfortably into the theatrical narrative while deepening the themes and relationships that were already at play.

Of course, I didn’t grow up in the 10 years without “Human Again.” (I watched the original Beauty and the Beast VHS for a couple of years before the 2002 DVD release, but those dim childhood recollections aren’t at all the same as those of fully-grown adults who knew the original beat for beat by the time that the re-release arrived.) So I’ll never really be able to see this situation in the way that some others do. But, as someone who loves Beauty and the Beast with every fiber of my being and hates practically every lazy cash-in that has leeched off of its legacy (The Enchanted Christmas—no thank you; the live-action remake—absolutely not; the Broadway musical—meh), I truly find “Human Again” a welcome and worthy part of the movie. The film was already a masterpiece without it, but its presence doesn’t diminish it in the slightest, and now that it exists in the world, no part of me wishes for it to be removed again.

I'm Faye Pearson and I own Q Nails and Spa. I love providing high-quality nail services to my clients and seeing their reactions when they see their new nails. I take pride in my work and always aim to give my clients the best possible service. I opened Q Nails and Spa because I wanted to create a relaxing environment where people could come to escape the stresses of daily life. I believe that a little bit of pampering can go a long way, and I'm happy to be able to offer that to my clients.

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