Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 85/91 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Review Date: September 24, 2010
From its opening song to its closing waltz, Beauty and the Beast is a perfect piece of screen entertainment: a charming (though definitely not cloying), stylish, and interesting version of Mme. LePrince de Beaumont's 18th century fairy tale. It may not have the darkness and bittersweet melancholy of Jean Cocteau's 1946 live-action version (made in Paris when the war debt made filmmaking in France an ordeal comparable to Reconstruction), but it's nevertheless a stunning and altogether delightful motion picture achievement. It's saying something when an animated cartoon contains all of the elements of a successful film in perfect proportions, something that very few live action films seem able to manage: Beauty and the Beast is alive with spectacle, comedy, and romance, its music is abounding with color, spirit, insight, humor, and warmth, and it's as finely and precisely acted and directed a movie as any live action feature. Beauty and the Beast is, quite frankly, one of the greatest animated films ever made.
The famous old story is well-known: how an enchanted prince cursed into the ugly shell of a beast must find a beautiful maiden to love him for his inner goodness in order for the spell to lift. In Cocteau's version, Beauty is drawn toward the town's most handsome man Gaston and must come to love the Beast in spite of her prior feelings. In this Disney account, Beauty is repelled by Gaston and flees his egotistical advances. Her attraction to the Beast has fewer obstacles for her to overcome. As in all the most memorable Disney animated tales, the character voices make the movie. Here, they are without exception wonderful. Paige O'Hara bountifully performs the role of Belle, and her stirring singing makes her musical numbers all highlights. Robby Benson's voice has been electronically deepened to add doubly to his fierceness as the Beast, but it softens as his feelings for Belle blossom into love. And Richard White’s munificent bass provides Gaston with the boastful swagger and the profound musicality to pull off the handsome but ultimately wicked rogue to utter perfection.
Disney's animated films always contain secondary characters as delicious and exceptionally interesting as the leads (sometimes even more memorable), and three of them in this movie prove unforgettable. Angela Lansbury beats all comers as the no-nonsense Mrs. Potts, the talking teapot, who serenades the lovers with the score's most exquisite song number, the title song sung as the two fall in love. Jerry Orbach's spunky French candelabra Lumiere certainly has the film's best lines while David Ogden Stiers is full of officious self-importance as the talking clock Cogsworth. Jo Anne Worley has a cute moment or two as the chatty Wardrobe as well.
The earlier reference to the film's haunting title song is not a slight to the remainder of this magnificent musical score by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. In much the manner of a Broadway musical, there are introductory songs to get exposition out of the way quickly through song and dance (the opening "Belle"), character numbers to fill in chinks of characterization (Gaston's egocentric self-tribute), and marvelous and sweeping production numbers. One of the latter, an extravaganza of whirling silverware, dishes, and assorted crockery set to the tune of "Be Our Guest" outdoes anything short of Busby Berkeley in its largess and expansive use of rhythm, movement, patterns, and panache. The other big production number “Human Again,” added to the special edition version of the film, gives the animators and actors another tour de force sequence, but after “Be Our Guest,” it’s not quite as special.
But the quality, love, and joy put into this project is stamped onto every frame of this wonderfully vivid film. And when the Beast takes Belle for a moonlit walk around his palace, when they dance and hold hands and look into each other's eyes, it's the essence of screen romance despite the fact that these are animated characters. It has the magic of purity and truth without ever seeming corny or overly sentimental.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Color saturation and sharpness are exemplary throughout the presentation, and the lines are crisp and unaffected by artifacting of any kind: the image is practically perfect. There is, however, just the slightest evidence of banding in some of the lighter purple and blue backgrounds, but it’s practically unnoticeable and unless one is really looking for it, it’s doubtful it’ll even be seen. The film has been divided into 22 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix makes the music sound truly spectacular with the orchestra routed throughout the soundfield and singing voices mostly in the center channel with an occasional directionalized placement. The back surround speakers aren’t really taken great advantage of in this mix which makes a 7.1 mix here rather than a standard 5.1 mix something of a puzzle. Still, it’s a minor quibble. There are no real complaints about this superb sound recording or the lossless rendering offered here.
One small criticism of the bonus features is that they have been spread over two Blu-ray discs, but in a rather willy-nilly fashion (as you’ll see in the upcoming listing). Obviously this was done to utilize available space on both discs, but there seems to be no particular organizational scheme for them from disc to disc. At least the menus do identify if a bonus selection is found on disc two instead of disc one.
There are three versions of the film offered on the disc: the original 1991 theatrical cut, the special edition cut with “Human Again” added in, and the original film with a PiP window showing the work-in-progress cut of the movie.
The audio commentary features producer Don Hahn, directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and composer Alan Menken. It’s a lively remembrance of the work filled with funny and also touching stories which last right to the end of the disc. The commentary is only available with the Special Edition version of the movie.
The sing along mode can be selected so that the family can sing the lyrics as they appear on the screen.
The bonus features on disc one are all presented in 1080p.
“Broadway Beginnings” is a series of reminiscences by various celebrities (Debbie Gibson, Andrea McArdle, Donny Osmond, Joe Jonas) who have performed in the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast and who offer encouragement for those viewers who might have an interest in performing. It runs 13 ¼ minutes.
A new music video of the title song is given an updated rendering by American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. It plays for 3 ½ minutes and features clips from the film along with live action video of the singer.
“Composing a Classic” features Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken along with the film’s producer Don Hahn and film historian Richard Kraft discussing the composing of the film’s songs. Menken plays and sings excerpts of several of them and also discusses with reverence his late lyricist Howard Ashman and his contributions to the movie. It runs 20 ¼ minutes.
There are two deleted sequences (done in storyboards and rough animation with audio demo tracks): an alternate opening for the film with different characters and tone that runs for 18 ½ minutes and “Belle in the Library” with four enchanted characters who were never developed (8 ½ minutes). Each scene has an optional introduction which runs ½ minute.
There are trailers for Tangled, Bambi, Toy Story 3, A Christmas Carol, The Lion King, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Dumbo.
The disc is BD-Live enabled, and the network was active, but other than a trailer, there were no specific new materials for Beauty and the Beast.
“Beyond Beauty” is the most expansive bonus feature in the package. It’s a comprehensive look at the making of the film with interactive features which allow the viewer to branch off into supplementary featurettes, art galleries, and short subjects that further discuss points made in the documentary. Among the more memorable featurettes that seamlessly branch off the primary documentary are a loving biography of lyricist Howard Ashman, a discussion of the aborted first attempt to animate the story (seen in its entirety on disc one and also available here), the original version of “Be Our Guest” (also available elsewhere but not in 1080p), four of Walt’s Laugh-o-Gram silent shorts, some selected Silly Symphony cartoons, and a history of early animation techniques, some which predate movies themselves. If one viewed this documentary and all of the bonus featurettes available via seamless branching, it would run in excess of 2 ½ hours in 1080p.
“Enchanted Musical Challenge” is a family game which is a combination of trivia questions and search and find puzzles.
“Bonjour! Who Is This?” is a BD-Live enhanced game involving a combination of the internet and the telephone.
The following bonus features (presented here in 480i) were ported from the previous DVD release:
- “The Story Behind the Story” summarizes several famous fairy tales as they have been animated by the Disney studios.
- Original music video of “Beauty and the Beast” by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson runs for 4 ½ minutes.
- An early presentation reel of the film introduced by producer Don Hahn runs 2 ¾ minutes.
- The alternate “Be Our Guest” number introduced by Hahn runs 5 minutes.
- An alternate bit of scoring for the transformation scene is introduced by Alan Menken and runs 2 minutes.
- The deleted song “Human Again” is introduced by both Hahn and Menken in separate ssegments and then runs 7 minutes in rough pencil sketch form.
- Animation Tests, Roughs, and Clean Ups run 5 minutes and are narrated by Don Hahn.
- The pencil sketch version of the Transformation scene runs 5 ½ minutes and is introduced by Hahn.
- “A Transformation by Glen Keane” features the animator who drew that scene talking about its intense personal meaning in a 3 ¼-minute segment.
- The camera move test for the title song sequence runs 2 minutes.
- There are two theatrical trailers (original runs for 2 minutes, IMAX version runs 2 ½ minutes) and four TV spots (from ¼ to ½ minute each).
Disc Three is the DVD version of the film which also contains the three different versions of the movie.
An enclosed booklet does aid in navigating though the contents in this package though the booklet does not indicate which disc holds which bonuses.
5/5 (not an average)
Beauty and the Beast is a rare bird among even today's films, an unashamed musical romance that's right for every member of the family. The Blu-ray combo package offers beautiful high definition versions of the movie with superb sound and a raft of interesting bonus features both old and new. This Beauty is a real beaut!