Beauty and the Beast
Studio: Walt Disney
Film Length: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Starting with 1989's release of The Little Mermaid,
Disney began a successful resurgance in their
animated releases. For years to come, the sky would
become the limit for a studio that would take film
animation to limits it had never seen before. In
1991, the mold was broken with the release of their
30th animated feature, Beauty and the Beast.
In short, the film is a triumph of artistry where all
the elements of grand animation, show-stopping songs
and efficient story telling all came together fluidly.
As the film begins, we learn of a young prince
who is turned into a beast due to his coldness and
selfishness. A spell is cast throughout his castle,
and he has until his 21st Birthday to learn to love
and be loved in return.
Belle (voice of Paige O'Hara) is the most beautiful
girl in a provincial town in France. The daughter
of a tireless inventor, she's an avid bookworm who
dreams of one day finding the right man. Unfortunately,
the choices are rather slim amongst the townsfolk --
especially when you consider the most handsome man
in town, Gaston (Richard White), is a conceited bully.
A business excursion leads Belle's father into a
dangerous magical forest where he narrowly escapes
a pack of attacking wolves. The distraught inventor
finds himself in grave danger within the castle he
has taken refuge. He meets with up with the angry
beast and is immediately imprisoned. When Belle
hears the news her father has been taken prisoner
by a hideous beast, she sets off to rescue him.
When she finally meets the beast she sacrifices
her own freedom so that her father may go free.
Left alone with the beast, she discovers that
perhaps he is not so beastly as the Beast begins
understand the true nature of love.
Beauty and the Beast was one of the earliest
films that took advantage of CAPS, Disney's cel
painting program which used computer generated
imagery in several parts of the film -- most notably
the "Be Our Guest" sequence and in the creation of
a striking three-dimensional ballroom background,
allowing dramatic camera moves on the animated
characters as they danced.
With its ground breaking animation, enchanting story
and the inclusion of seven outstanding songs, the
film was released to strong critical acclaim and
became the first animated feature ever nominated for
a Best Picture Oscar.
It comes with great joy that Disney has done the
ultimate homage to this film by releasing Beauty
and the Beast as a "Platinum Collection" title
that presents us with three versions of the film:
The Special Edition (with an all-new musical sequence),
the Original Theatrical Release, and the highly
heralded Work-In-Progress Edition that was shown
at the 1991 New York Film Festival and later
released on the laserdisc format.
The Special Edition contains a song called "Human
Again" that was omitted from the original theatrical
film as it originally posed story problems that
couldn't be solved in a timely manner. The song
was ultimately replaced with the shorter song,
"There's Something There."
For the sake of time limitation, and at the personal
request of the Home Theater Forum membership, I have
opted to review the Original Theatrical Version
of this film.
How is the transfer?
I have been reading reviews and gossip concerning
the DVDs transfer quality over the past few days.
Certainly, there is much concern over the fact that
Disney decided to put no less than 3 versions of
this film on a single DVD. Certainly, by doing this,
one would expect that a lower transfer bit rate would
introduce artifacts into the picture.
I'm sorry to bring down the naysayers by saying
that I found the overall transfer to be exceptional.
In fact, this has got to be one of the most
beautiful, eye-popping Disney animated transfers
to date. What we have here is a recipe for a
mind-boggling transfer that starts with a totally
smooth image that contains absolutely no grain.
Add razor-sharp animated images full of vividly
bold colors that seem to leap off the screen.
Highlight it with gorgeous deep blue night backdrops.
Make certain blacks are deep and solid -- especially
those found in Gaston's jet black hair. The end result
is an eye-pleasing animated experience like none
Are there artifact problems here? I didn't see
any problems within the animation with the exception
of one area at the beginning of the film where we
learn the story of the enchanted spell through
drawings of a stained glass window. It is in these
drawings that I found a noticeable level of noise
within the animation, but it was one of the very
few times such an imperfection caught my eye. From
thereon in, I never saw these imperfections again.
The all-new 5.1 re-mixed soundtrack sounds pretty
darn astonishing. There's a wonderful robust, bass-
heavy presence here. What I immediately noticed was
the distinct stereo separation across the front
channels and the solid bass support of the LFE channel.
There's a wonderful song at the beginning of the
film called "Belle" that triumphantly marches
across the 5.1 spectrum with toe-tapping bass and
the sounds of "bon jour" coming from the townspeople
in the rear channels. Speaking of the rear channels,
there isn't a whole lot of activity here, but we
are treated to some nice effect sounds from a howling
wind during a snowstorm as well as thunder before
an approaching rain shower. You'll really come to
appreciate the low-end LFE support that adds a lot
of punch to Alan Menken's musical score....and just
wait until you hear the Beast roar!
Beauty and the Beast arrives as a 2-disc
set inside a single Amaray case with flap insert.
Inside the case is a collector's booklet that
gives the viewer a complete outline of the contents
contained on this DVD Special Edition as well as
hints on how to successfully complete the games
As you pop in the DVD, a brand new animated
sequence greets us with a book of Beauty and
The Beast that opens itself up and takes
us inside its black and white pictures of the
film's provincial town in France as colorization
makes everything old new again. A narrated voice
welcomes us aboard.
Upon reaching the Main Menu, the first
thing you will want to do is select Set Up.
It is here that you can indicate which version of
the film you wish to watch. As noted above, the
DVD contains the Original Theatrical, Special
Edition and Work-In-Progress versions.
Once you select the version you want to watch,
you will be placed in that version's proper menu.
The Work-In-Progress edition has a nice
opening introduction by Producer Don Hahn, who
sets the tone for what you are about to watch.
Go into Bonus Material to see some
interesting playback options that are available
to you. There is a Sing-Along Track that
will place the words to the songs up on the screen
during those musical sequences. Before you go to
the Supplemental Disc, you may wish to play
Maurice's Invention Workshop Game. By
answering questions about the film, you help
help Maurice put his invention together, thus
earning you an access code that allows you to
enter the forbidden West Wing on Disc 2.
Fortunately, it wasn't too hard to get the
code. Wrong answers always prompt retries.
A full length commentary can be played
along with the Special Edition only. It
features Producer Don Han, Directors Kirk Wise
and Gary Trousdale as well as Composer Alan
There are Sneak Peak trailers that include
upcoming theatrical trailers for Jungle Book 2
and The Lion King. Trailers for upcoming
video releases include Beauty & The Beast Enchanted
Christmas, Lilo & Stich and Sleeping Beauty
You can imagine that once I completed looking
at the first DVD disc, I was not too happy that
I still had hours of review material ahead of me
as I inserted Disc Two, which houses the
Disc Two begins with a cool animated menu sequence
that beckons you inside the castle gates as you enter
the fortress and its immense hallway. Helpful
narration explains different routes you may take
inside the castle in order to see special features.
All these routes are marked by four distinct stain
glass windows. You are warned not to select the rose
window, as that leads to the dreaded West Wing. You
may click on the enchanted mirror at the bottom of
the screen to see a complete list of disc features.
Let's start with Cogsworth & Lumiere's window...
If you ever want to take a film and totally
dissect it from start to finish, you may be very
interested in Origins of Beauty and The Beast,
which takes us through the tale that is old as time
as we learn about the film's origins from a book
written in 1756 through every aspect of the this
film's production. We learn Walt Disney had always
been interested in this story since the early 30s
(and later again in the 50s), but often shelved the
idea. Producer Don Hahn introduces us to an early
presentation reel that outlines the world that
the animators wanted to create. It is within this
documentary that we find the alternate version
of Be Our Guest as sung to Belle's father
Maurice, as well as the deleted song, Human Again
(both in storyboard and sketch form). As we move
forward through this featurette, we are introduced
to the Vocal Heroes: the voices behind the
characters. It was sort of weird to see that a timid
Robby Benson provided the voice for the Beast. Of
course, the center of this film revolves around the
voice of Angela Lansbury, who talks about how she
originally perceived her teapot character. Her
title song was recorded in one take! There nine
Character art galleries that contain pages
upon pages of conceptual drawings for all the film
characters. You can browse through them using
your remote as well as adding the option of audio
commentary during selected artwork. As you look
through Production Design, you meet Directors
Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise who take you through
the mood changes of the film represented by the
change of seasons. There is an extensive gallery of
conceptual art and designs as well as various layouts
and backgrounds. All of this can be browsed using
your remote with the option of audio commentary. In
Animation, we get a cool look at some early
animation tests of the Beast, Maurice and Belle.
Three different artists had to bring their talents
together to make the interactive animation flawless.
We watch how animator Glen Keane put together the
film's stellar transformation sequence where the
Beast turns back into a man. In a separate interview,
Glen talks about the original time constraints he
thought he was under to put this sequence together.
Fortunately the studio gave him all the time he
needed to do it right. I really enjoyed Tricks
of the trade where I got a first-hand look at
how computer aided technology was used to create
the ballroom sequence. As an extra treat, we get
to see the very first computer rehearsal that was
done for that scene. As we near the end of this
featurette, we take a look at the aftershocks of
the film starting with the Release and Reaction
area that takes us from the work-in-progress showing
the reaction of the critics to the awards the film
received. It is also here that we find two
trailers as well as four TV Spots. There
are Publicity Galleries for both the original
and large format (IMAX) release of the film. A
fitting and very moving memoriam is given to the
late Howard Ashman by his co-talents. It's a
shame Howard never lived to see his final product.
Finally, we get to see the Beauty and The Beast
Music Video as performed by Celine Dione and
Peabo Bryson. A small area is dedicated to film's
move from screen to Broadway Musical. There
are galleries here filled with publicity stills
for the Broadway musical as well as a Costume
Design Gallery. And finally (we mean it this
time), we find out how the film was reborn as a
Special Edition with the inclusion of the
deleted song, "Human Again." It's kind of cool
that the idea was born in the aftermath of the
release of the Star Wars Special Edition.
Back to the main hallway, we now click on the
window of Chip the Teacup...
This area is designed for kids who may know
very little about the animation process.
Let's begin here with Disney's Animation
Magic that takes us behind-the-scenes of
Disney's animation factory. Stars Christy Romano
and Shia LeBeouf who take us through Disney's
animation facility where we learn the basics of
storyboards, character design, cell animation and
computer animation, as well as the use of good
sound effects vs. bad sound effects.
(length: approx. 14 minutes)
An all new Music Video introduces us to a
brand-new musical recording of the song "Beauty
and the Beast" by the pop sensation group Jump 5.
I gotta tell you, this ain't too bad.
Chip's Challenge is a memory game where
kids listen to a musical sequence and then are
prompted to repeat the notes by selecting on
musical items with their remote control.
As we find ourselves back in the hallway, we
select the window containing Mrs. Potts.
Hosted by Celine Dion, The Making of Beauty
and the Beast is a basic look at all aspects
of the film production including early development,
music and character design. We also meet the new
breed of animators that came after the animation
dark ages of the 70s and early 80s. It's interesting
to find out that the people involved with this
project were mostly inexperienced -- they were in
essence kids taking a road of self discovery. This
is a rather informative piece, but a mere gloss-over
compared to the material in Cogsworth & Lumiere's
(length: 23 minutes)
The story behind the story is another
featurette hosted by Celine Dion and a host of
other celebrities that include James Earl Jones,
David Odgen Stiers, Robby Benson and Page O'Hara.
It's a look at the development of 7 Disney classics
and how they were inspired from a classic fairy
tale, a well-known book, a historical event or
in some cases, a brand-new idea. This is a nice
little retrospective that kids will enjoy watching
the most, as it will certainly remind them of many
of their favorite Disney classics.
(length: approx. 26 minutes)
Mrs. Pott's Personality Profile game is
a very interesting game that lets kids answer
questions that ultimately show them which Beauty
and the Beast character they resemble. Me? Well,
I was profiled closest to Cogsworth.
Well, with nothing more to do, I decided to
ignore the warnings and venture into The West
Wing. If you are scared away more than twice,
try to return one last time.
Did you write down the code that you found in
Maurice's Invention Workshop Game on Disc
One? Hope you did, for it is the only way you
will quickly enter the padlocked door. Once
inside, you'll find an interesting assortment
of games that you must complete before the last
rose petal falls. These games involves dodging
candlesticks across a table, matching the film's
non-human characters against their human counterparts,
and dodging loose balls on a stairway. Complete
these games and a surprise awaits you.
Well, I think I covered everything here.
Remind me to nominate Disney as the studio of the
year. The studio has given us perhaps the best
collection of really "special" Special Edition
product this year. It's amazing that Disney has
put so much effort into Beauty and the Beast
by providing us not only with three versions of the
film, but a wealth of supplementals that will
entertain kids and adults alike.
Once again, it's so nice to see this sort of
effort from a studio that was once regarded as
an enemy to both laserdisc and DVD. It shows that
there truly is Beauty within the Beast.
I don't think I need to convince anyone to go
and buy this DVD as soon as possible.
Release Date: October 8, 2002