Kyle: Going in I knew that next to nobody would be happy with our choices. I wish I could say I was sorry. I'm really not.
Those of you foaming at the mouth because we "forgot" the epic masterpiece that is The Lion King, I'll continue when you are ready to let me ... okay, thank you. I love The Lion King, so very much. That movie was a big part of my evolution as a moviegoer and as a fat guy who overanalyzes Disney movies on the Internet.
But the reasons why I do actually believe Beauty is a better film is that it focuses more on the characters, it's less afraid of being dark and frightening, and it doesn't take such violent shifts in tone between acts. The Lion King jarred me as a child because Act 1 shifted from nature lessons and a kingdom motif to child murder, coups, fascism, and exile. Then before I could get used to this, we shift to Act 2, wherein we meet the greatest comedy team in Africa and let them test material on us. Then we shift to mysticism and prophesy and justice and rebellion and fire. Lots and lots of fire.
Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, I'll get back to the debate that happened. First off, Chris should have mentioned (when we were talking about the antagonists) that Jafar offered more as a villain. He actually manages to win; exile for Aladdin, slavery for Genie, and most likely rape and torture for Jasmine. And he accomplished all the hard stuff and was about 87% to a full win. The stakes were higher. Could you imagine the entire world being overtaken by this psychopath? Lucky for us that he only takes over the local kingdom and then loses focus.
Of course, if Chris had mentioned that, I would be obliged to remind him that Beauty and the Beast is a much more personal and self-contained story arc. Because of that, the third-act conflict is less about the spectacular magical beat-downs and the riddle-me-this tricks that trip up the villain. It's more about the Shelley-esque horror with which a band of humans will attack that which is different and unknown.
Gaston literally leads a band of mostly upstanding citizens up the mountain with torches, intent on killing whatever they find. Remember, they have no confirmation that a Beast exists. If Beast had fled, and all Gaston found was Belle and some talking knick-knacks, I'm betting he would have burned her at the stake. Because all that mattered to this mob of decent men was destroying that which they didn't understand. That is much more powerful than any giant snake.
Also, Chris could have mentioned that Aladdin has a scathing commentary on cultural inequalities between men and women. Jasmine is bound by law to be married before her next birthday, and her marriage must be a union of royalty to royalty. Even when the prince-related clause of that law is repealed by the Sultan, there is no change in the misogyny. Yay, "The princess can marry whoever she wishes!" Um...but the law still forces her to marry by her next birthday? What is Disney saying with this message? That male tyranny can sometimes cover its tracks with condescension? I don't know. But it makes for a movie that I'm still talking about twenty years later.
Of course if Chris had made that argument, I would have countered by stating that Beast has two or three different commentaries on the setting and time period. The concept of feudalist Europe's grasp on the lower class (servants taking a much worse magical punishment for the crimes of their master), the hostility toward progress and industrialization (Belle's father is considered insane for the mere act of inventing things), and let's not forget the duality of man that Chris took so much time to highlight during the "Two-Face vs. Riddler" debate.
Fact is, Aladdin may have had a more lasting impact on us as kids but Beauty and the Beast has more substance and more identity from the other Silver-Age Disney films. That's why we remember it at all.