HTF REVIEW: "Beauty and the Beast" (Highly Recommended) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Oct 1, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Beauty and the Beast

    Studio: Walt Disney
    Year: 1991
    Rated: G
    Film Length: 90 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English

    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!
    Special Features
    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
    Special Edition
    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
    supplemental material.
    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.
    Final Thoughts
    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
  2. CaptDS9E

    CaptDS9E Cinematographer

    Apr 18, 1999
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    I ordered 2 copies of this one. One to put away just in case :)
  3. Brian Fineberg

    Brian Fineberg Second Unit

    Sep 1, 2000
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    Excellent! I am in as usual. Thanks ron!!
  4. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

    Apr 25, 2000
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    Manchester, England
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    Steve Christou
    Another excellent review Ron.[​IMG]
    Woohoo! I'm ordering this one right this minute from my usual site, only £12.99 inc postage, can't wait till it drops thru my letterbox.[​IMG]
    I hope Aladdin and The Lion King are next in line for the "Platinum" treatment.
  5. NickFoley

    NickFoley Stunt Coordinator

    May 5, 2002
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    Good review, Ron. [​IMG]
  6. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

    Mar 16, 1999
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    Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
  7. Rain

    Rain Producer

    Mar 21, 2001
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    Other than Celine Dion's involvement, this sounds like a great package! (On behalf of Canada, I'm very very sorry [​IMG] )
  8. Kurt N

    Kurt N Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 2, 2001
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    I was psyched. Now I'm psuper-psyched.

    Great review. Thanks again.
  9. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

    Sep 30, 2002
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    North Hollywood, CA
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    Brandon Conway
    The Lion King is now officially scheduled to be the next Platinum Title released in October of next year (and it will be in IMAX theaters in January, like B&tB). Aladdin, on the other hand, was postponed in the schedule because of concerns with marketability after 9/11. Hopefully, such percieved problems won't be around for long so it can be released in Fall 2004.
    Of course, if it is still delayed further it isn't the end of the world, because that just means Bambi and/or Cinderella get released before it.
  10. Rob Tomlin

    Rob Tomlin Producer

    Jan 8, 2000
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    Very nice review. The screen shots alone look amazing!
    If this release even comes close to the quality of Snow White, which was the previous "Platinum" release, this will be a fantastic DVD!
  11. Brian Lawrence

    Brian Lawrence Producer

    Feb 28, 1998
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    Those screen captures are frickin amazing!!!
    Crystal clear and super clean with amazing colors. I can't wait to get my hands on this disc. Looks to be my favorite dvd of the year. [​IMG]
  12. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    Thank you Ron for the review. I can't wait for next week when I can pick this up and watch it. By the way Ron, can you look in on this Sleepy Beauty trailer for us, it a wonder what beholds us this classic.
  13. Michael St. Clair

    May 3, 1999
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  14. Jo_C

    Jo_C Second Unit

    Oct 20, 2001
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    Loved your review...I'll definitely buy the DVD...but I have to tell you the guys at Disney flubbed in one key area...the film was shot at VistaVision Ratio (1.66:1)--not in VistaVision itself--and cropped for the theatrical release at 1.85:1 (the pan-and-scan VHS is based on the 1.85:1 ratio). I'll probably want to keep the Work In Progress LaserDisc (for a while at least) to compare how much more picture is in the laser than the DVD.
  15. Marty Christion

    Marty Christion Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 3, 2001
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  16. Michael St. Clair

    May 3, 1999
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  17. AaronMK

    AaronMK Supporting Actor

    Oct 30, 1999
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    Aaron Karp
    Sounds excellent! I can't wait!
  18. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

    Jun 11, 1999
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    Too bad they cram so much stuff on these Platinum editions that there is no room for a DTS track (to date no Platinum edition--a collection of 10 year moratorium classics that screams for the DTS treatment--has included DTS in Region 1).

    Musicals definitely benefit from DTS. Music seems to come across better in this format IMHO.

    'Tis a shame.

    Although, if HD-DVD had at least 24/96, 6 track PCM then it would blow DTS and DD out of the water (wishful thinking to have PCM on HD-DVD I'm sure).

  19. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

    Feb 4, 2002
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    I think this one has the all-time record for the Longest Ron E. Review. [​IMG]
    Sure looks good too! [​IMG]
  20. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

    Nov 5, 1998
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    I totally agree with what Ron said. I thought it looked crisp and clean. Surprisingly so. This was on a 55" 4x3 squeezed however, and not the front projector.

    I also did not run it on the good sound system yet, so I can't judge that.

    Having watched the SE and then some of the "Work in Progress" version, I did NOT notice any seemless branching effects/pauses/what-have-you. It appeared to be a seperate version from my view, but I wasn't trying to find any tiny flaws at these points. As a casual viewer, I can't imagine someone not being very pleased with the transfer on any of the versions.

    Again, Disney has given you a solid presentation to the features on the disc. They have ambiance yet also have the backdoor to the straight forward navigation. This includes the map inside the booklet. Very similar to the Monsters, Inc approach.

    Haven't looked at the extras yet, but I don't know why people complain when the set is loaded with some of the goodies that sets like this (or Monsters) have. It even has a bit on the Broadway musical version (which my fiancee raved about BTW).

    The flippy thing (with keep case sliding inside it) is nice enough, but sheesh my Disney SEs don't match anymore. Oh well, it's a small and petty issue and the current case has a nice look to it with the shiny silver banner for the Platinum status.

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