Wot I Think: Disney’s Beauty & The Beast Activity Centre

I did all I can to try and stop my now-three-year-old daughter from embracing the awful pink inevitability of Disney princesses. We showered her with non-gendered toys, I tried to share my love of transforming robots and Lego spaceships, we showed enthusiasm for animals and dinosaurs, but still it happened. We no longer fight it. Let the phase pass by itself. This means that my weekends are often characterised by visits to Brighton’s many charity shops, which invariably yield some squidgy-covered Sleeping Beauty book, a Cinderella doll with hair cropped by rough, stubby fingers into a brutal crewcut or, most recently, a 2001 CD-ROM based upon Beauty & the Beast. My dire warnings that it was almost certainly too old to run on my computer fell on deaf and tantruming ears, and so my fate was sealed.

Disney’s Beauty & The Beast Activity Centre is one of those CD-ROMs one might find on the single sad and dusty games rack in a supermarket or newsagent, managed by Nora from the cheese counter who used to play Chuckie Egg so she knows what she’s talking about. In fact, I would put money on Disney’s Beauty & The Beast Activity Centre still being sold in some supermarkets or newsagents, ancient, greasy copies that have been there since the turn of the millenium.

It is, naturally, extremely tempting to dismiss it out of hand as cheap and exploitative. Software bound only for the pound shop. Actually, it’s, well, not awful. In terms of target market (ages 4+), it knows what it’s doing and I rather think some money has been spent on it.

The animations and characters, though few and looped, are done well, looking impressively Disney-esque even at 800×600. There are voices, which I think are the original actors – although I believe we are sadly denied a Lansbury appearance as Mrs Potts, though it’s decent impression.

The Activity Centre offers four mini-games/design tools, but there was but one question on young Connie’s mind: could she choose which dress Belle wore to the ball? Yes. Yes she could. 10/10, *****, GOTY. And then Belle dances in said dress, in an arrangement chosen by the child/miserable parent or guardian by selecting from a handful of different step types.

Dresses and dancing, looks like the cartoon, nail on the head. We watched the dance again and again, cycling between each colour of dress. Again! Again! Again! I gazed longingly at the Civilization VI icon on my desktop.

You can make party invitations too, with pretend stickers or a stained glass window painting tool. There’s a slow, micro version of Diner Dash in there. There’s also something to do with rummaging through books to find a secret key, but the comparative absence of pink in this mode means Connie has thus far spurned it.

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we get to it, however. I expect to be playing this thing every weekend for the next 18 months.

Save me.

This article was originally written for the RPS Supporter Program.

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35 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Dorga says:

    Wasn’t there a not-actually-bad Barbie game reviewd here on RPS? Or maybe it was strangely terrifying… either way it’s what you need: if it is indeed scary than it will drive Connie away from such things.
    Yeah, I’m sure traumatizing a kid counts as good parenting

  2. JB says:

    My daughters had this Beauty & The Beast software. It was much loved by them. Alec, you have my sympathies.

  3. mgardner says:

    If you want your PC back, Nintendo has got you covered. Loan her your DS (or get her a used one), and a copy of one of the Style Savvy games. I guess it’s no use trying to convince her that computers are for “work”.

  4. Darth Gangrel says:

    That’s what you get for choosing to produce offspring. I’m glad I don’t have kids and aim to never have any. Occasionally baby sitting my sister’s kids (1 and 3 year old boys) is more than enough.

    • AbyssUK says:

      Sorry had to reply to this, talking also as a dad of toddlers here you are an idiot.
      Intelligent people (yeah you can use a computer so congrats your in the top 50%) like you are idiots, “oh kids what a bore too much work blah blah blah”… The joys of having children are incomparable to anything else in life period.. although Alec may pretend in this piece to hate this, rest assured he wouldn’t have any of it taken away from him. The first time that his daughter got to the point she could play a game and have opinions on it possibly made him cry like a baby inside. Ask him if he’d change anything about his daughter.. I can tell you for sure the answer would be hell no, and he’d think much less of your for asking such a stupid question.
      Think about that one before you make stupid statements about “never having kids” because yeah sometimes you have to do tedious stuff but trust me it is well well out-weighed with a billion other things which are awesome.

      Most parents would be prepared to die for their children, playing a shitty Disney computer game from 2002 50 times is nothing.

      For the love of *a holy deity*, intelligent people of the world, start having kids already!!

      • Sin Vega says:

        Have kids if you’d make a good parent. Being intelligent does not mean you would automatically qualify, and the world will only ever be a better place with fewer shitty parents.

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        Sory if I came off harsh, but I only wanted to tease Alec that he had it coming when he decided to get kids. I mean no disrespect to him or other parents by what I said, but not everyone wants to become a parent, not everyone thinks it’s bliss. I never want to have kids, but that doesn’t mean that I hate kids or hate baby sitting them, I just feel fortunate not to have to deal with everything that comes with parenthood.

    • pepperfez says:

      Not having kids is a perfectly valid choice and no one should be shamed into parenthood. Sometimes the world needs to be reminded of that. That said, don’t be a dick about it.

  5. FroshKiller says:

    I never played this, but I did play a different Beauty & the Beast game on the PC called Beauty and the Beast: Be Our Guest. The production values were very high, with beautiful box art and some slick graphics (for DOS, anyway), though the game itself could be inscrutable for kids. No clue who developed it. A bunch of sites say it was Infogrames, but that doesn’t sound right to me.

    It’s available for play on a bunch of abandonware sites. Try it, you might like it.

  6. dahools says:

    IPad and Disney junior app is the answer. She can do princess, pirates, cowboys and mickey/minnie all in one place while you hammer Civ VI. You will be scared how fast a 4 year old can learn to enter a password you never told her and navigate iOS faster than her father. It starts somewhat satisfying and ends up truely terrifying the pace they pick it up. She can barely right her own name but can code a robot to navigate an obstical course on the cbbies app. Bonkers!

  7. PampleMoose says:

    I vaguely remember this, though I’m not sure I ever played it myself.

    However, I do remember playing the shit out of Ready to Read with Pooh, which was roughly the same kind of game but perhaps more explicitly ‘educational’. I think I was slightly too old at the time (eight or nineish) to justify playing it, but I played it cause my younger brother had it, and I snuck my own time on it. One of those point and click interactive type things.

    I distinctly remember a minigame where Tigger would play a song on the piano, and you had to select from a bunch of items the one that would rhyme with the last line of the song he sang. Half the fun was deliberately picking wrong items for the discordant break and the ‘error’ dialogue – strong Curse of Monkey Island vibes. It also had full original voice acting from most of the case of the relevant era of the TV show (Jim Cummings, Ken Samson, Michael Gough and Patty Parris, so Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Gopher and Kanga), plus apparently the likes of Jennifer Hale and the late Mary Kay Bergman doing non-specifically-credited voice work.

    TLDR I had far too much fun with this kind of thing at the time.

  8. spr00se says:

    I was a bit surprised with young Connie’s sharp turn of tongue when I first read “10/10, *****, GOTY.”

    Then ‘Ohh.. five stars.. ok’

  9. w0bbl3r says:

    I absolutely am sick of living in a society where “non-gendered toys” are a thing.
    Not just that, but this whole sickening “you’re all perfect be what you want, great things will come to you whether you try or not” age.
    If I send my kids to school I want daughters to be being GIRLS, and sons being BOYS. What the flip is wrong with that?
    And I want the sons playing with silly toy guns. What the effing eff people?

    Kids can’t even play in the flipping SNOW at school now, and conkers are banned because “children might be blinded by the shrapnel” as I was told by a teacher. Because I lost count of all the deaths and blindings at school when we played conkers. Or wait, was it…. NONE?

    Be glad your daughter loves the disney princess. I see you tried to get her into lads stuff? Lego and transformers right?
    They aren’t very “non-gender” are they? No, that’s trying to turn your lovely daughter into boy, maybe because you wanted a boy not a girl. Sure she won’t grow up to hate you for that one.

    • Premium User Badge

      Marclev says:

      If those really are your views, there’s a bunch of states in the middle East where you might feel more comfortable raising your children than a modern Western democracy.

      Your daughters might have a truly miserable existence as person-objects, but hey, at least they’ll know their place instead of anybody filing their heads with dangerous ideas about wanting to play with boys toys. As a bonus you’ll probably get a good price for selling them into marriage at 14.

      In the meantime please do leave the rest of us to live in the 21st century and not be threatened by girls aspiring to be anything more than airhead housewives in life and enjoy the freedom to do and play with whatever they want to, be it “girls toys”, “boys toys”, a mix of both, or whatever else.

      P.s. I was told in school in the 80’s not to throw snow balls as they might have stones in them, it’s hardly a new thing.

      • Drakesden says:

        Calm down, bros!

        Young children don’t need any encouragement to play their gender roles with “gendered” toys. Any time in kindergarten shows that most 5-year-old boys want to be superheroes and most 5-year-old girls want to have a tea party. But it’s kind of important for boys to try out being nurturing, and girls to try being competitive, if they’re going to be a part of a world where some women are CEOs and some men stay home with the kids. A toy that any two kids can play with regardless of gender is all for the good.

        Besides, any stick or block can become a gun when you’re a young boy. And as we know, there are plenty of virtual guns to play with on computers and tablets.

      • Kelvin says:

        I never knew what all the fuss was about; maybe I just grew up in a different part of town than y’all.

        When I have a kid, I figure they’ll have a lot of questions, and their personality will develop based on my answers to those questions.

        “Billy, you are a boy; being a boy is cool. You have testosterone and you can grow a beard if you want (when you grow up). Most boys like blue, and since kids are mean if you like pink you’ll have to make sure you’re the biggest boy around. No I don’t like it, but it’s best to stand up for yourself Billy, I won’t always be around to tell them off for you.”

        “Suzy, you are a girl; being a girl is cool. You have estrogen and you can have a baby if you want (when you grow up). Most girls like pink, and since kids are mean you’ll have to find some good friends if you want to like blue. No I don’t like it, but it’s best to stand up for yourself Suzy, I won’t always be around to tell them that you’re cool too.”

        I’m pretty sure you can make sure your kid grows up to be a gentleman/lady without micro-managing the toys they play with: just address the important stuff. Respect others, hold the door/curtsy, wash behind your ears, say your prayers, and most importantly: dad is always right.

        If someone tells you you’re doing it wrong, but you’re doing what dad said you should, then you’re right; they don’t know what they’re talking about. Just smile and wave. Both of yinz.

        =P

        Edit.

        Unless it’s something mommy said. Then you follow mommy, kids. Yes, mommy told me to say that. Yes, that still makes her right.

        • Velorien says:

          I know you’re partly speaking metaphorically, but the blue/pink thing is actually a completely cultural construct. As recently as the Victorian era, pink was associated with boys (a strong, energetic colour) and blue with girls (a gentle colour).

          • Mr Coot says:

            Yes do agree. There is a reference in the Great Gatsby to a gentleman wearing pink: “An Oxford man!” He was incredulous. “Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.” The scandal of pink is not that it is an effeminate colour, but that it is a working class colour (a shade of red). Similarly, with blue, colour assoc with the BVM (espesh her veil) because blue dyes were precious and expensive. Hence, colour for girls. The reversal is relatively recent.

      • Thankmar says:

        +1, Marclev

        We tried the same thing as Alec, but went went through the Pink and Frozen phase with our daughters as well. Disney Princesses as a whole was not an issue, but there were german substitutes like Princess Lillifee which are just as miserable (side note: I do like most of the Disney movies, though (Lillifee movies are pretty crappy). Its the merch that kills me. There was a Disney Princesses phone to “learn” numbers, with mock speed dial to the florist, hairdresser, fashion boutique and cosmetic store. Its, of course, everything a GIRL ever wants to call).

        Anyway, the daughters are a little older now and like to build sth. in Minecraft more, thats better. They even tried out WoW because they could be a Night Elf. My son, who is four years old, likes sitting on my lap when I play Racing Games, or any game at all. I think he would like DB&tBAC as well, as he sometimes likes to wear nail polish and don a tiny ponytail (more like a unicorn horn) to kindergarten, like his sisters do (he once performed Let it go in an Elsa dress for us).

        So, hold up the gender neutrality thing, Alec, your sowing the seeds now to seemingly no avail, but I’m pretty sure there will be something that sticks. As parents you can only do so much, because peers and their sanctions are a mighty force.

        PS: Just yesterday I found this picture which I think is kinda cute link to deviantart.com

      • pepperfez says:

        If those really are your views, there’s a bunch of states in the middle East where you might feel more comfortable raising your children than a modern Western democracy.

        Never fear, modern Western democracies are working on getting to that level.

    • lesslucid says:

      These days, if you say you’re English, you’ll literally be arrested and thrown into prison.

    • GeoX says:

      You DO realize, don’t you, that your ideas of what counts as “masculine” or “feminine” are one hundred percent social constructs? Sheesh.

    • Sin Vega says:

      Conkers were shit though, even when I was a kid nobody wanted to play that crap.

      Also: the reason it, and other games, are banned in some schools is nothing whatsoever to do with gender or offending people or any of that daily wail nonsense. It’s because if a kid gets hurt, some greedy shithead will sue the school. Blame tort law, not some imaginary culture police.

      Also if the mere existence of ungendered toys upsets you that much… honestly, I think you need to talk to your doctor. There’s no shame in feeling overwhelmed by the world.

    • Kala says:

      Ok. To unpack this a bit. I understand you feel that ‘non-gendered’ toys is a new imposition, in the same way that you’re linking health and safety and PC gone mad together as impositions (and you’re right, not being able to play conkers anymore IS ridiculous) but – it’s worth considering that just because you’re used to it and it’s ‘normal’ doesn’t mean gendering can’t be an already a pre-existing imposition.

      (and because it’s ‘normal’, and a thing we’re all used to, it’s kind of difficult to recognise and tackle when it is)

      “If I send my kids to school I want daughters to be being GIRLS, and sons being BOYS. What the flip is wrong with that?”

      Well, that depends on what you mean. A girl being ‘girly’ tends to mean feminine and the traits we associate with that, and a boy being ‘boyish’ tends to mean masculine and the same. Nothing wrong with that. Apart from, what happens if you have a daughter who has ‘masculine’ traits (e.g an outgoing ‘tomboy’) or a boy who has ‘feminine’ ones (e.g sensitive and quiet)?

      Do you see how teaching your son to be masculine or your daughter to be feminine could be an imposition on them, in that case? Insisting your son plays sports when he just wants to read a book, or that he shouldn’t have feelings because he’s a boy? Or that your daughter needs to wear dresses and play with princesses because she’s a girl?

      “Be glad your daughter loves the disney princess. I see you tried to get her into lads stuff? Lego and transformers right?
      They aren’t very “non-gender” are they?”

      Firstly, I think he was trying to give her a choice. That things don’t have to be demarcated into ‘lads stuff’, that they could be her stuff too, IF she wants them. (and with lego you can make anything your imagination provides, so I’m not sure why that would even be gendered).

      Secondly, and importantly, he let her make her choice. And for the moment, she chose princesses. And instead of trying to shame her, or give her the impression that’s not what he wanted, he’s evidently spent enough time with her in Disney’s Beauty & The Beast Activity Centre’s to be informed enough to write a review on the topic ;p

      • Kala says:

        I missed the edit window ;(

        but as an addendum – it’s probably more helpful to consider gender on a spectrum rather than the traditional model of masculine on one side and feminine on the other, purely because the things we associated with either sides can easily co-exist and swap.

        E.g in my example, the outgoing tomboy girl could ALSO like pink. The shy book reading boy could ALSO like martial arts. Etc.

        Overall point is not to try and pigeon-hole them into something they’re not but to accept whoever they are.

  10. Someoldguy says:

    It is pleasing when you find games that were obviously made as movie tie-ins for kids that weren’t made with the lowest possible production values and riddled with bugs.

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