Q: In January, I read that Emma Watson was to star in Disney's live-action "Beauty and the Beast" film, and production was to begin at some point this year. Is there any update on the progress of the film? A release date?

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

There's been quite a bit of progress on this movie since you first heard about it, including the announcement of a release date: March 17, 2017.

Considering the fact that filming began back in May, that seems like a long way away, but it's clear that Disney is sparing no expense to get this right.

You can see it in the incredibly high-profile cast. Joining Watson, who will play Beauty, are such notables as Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans and Kevin Kline.

None of those guys is playing the beast, though. That role went to a somewhat newer, though still famous, face -- "Downton Abbey's" Dan Stevens.

Most of the aforementioned superstars will be playing the castle's servants, who were turned into household objects by the same curse that afflicts the beast.

This shows that what Disney is actually remaking is its 1991 animated version, rather than returning to the original source fairy tale. The original, written by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont and first published in 1757, had no talking teapots.

Indeed, Disney is doubling down on this aspect by adding a new hexed hireling, a piano named Cadenza, who will be played by the great character actor Stanley Tucci.

The special effects involved in making a live-action movie with talking pianos, candlesticks and teapots will surely be dazzling. They may also explain why Disney needs two full years to make it.

This film is part of a much larger trend at Disney of turning its classic animated hits into live-action movies. We've already seen "Maleficent" (2014), the Johnny Depp-starring "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), and more recently "Cinderella," which was released this past March.

Others, including a "Jungle Book" movie directed by "Iron Man" (2008) director Jon Favreau and a "Pinocchio" movie starring Robert Downey Jr., are currently in the works.


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