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Monday, November 7, 2011

Beauty and the Beast 3D/2D Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

One of the biggest movies in Disney history,  Beauty and the Beast has already been released to Blu-ray, but it’s being re-released as a 3D/2D package to offer a whole new experience!  With its incredible blend of traditional animation with computer generated images, Beauty and the Beast was the only animated movie to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture until the Disney/Pixar release of Up eighteen years later.  All in all, the movie received two Academy Awards for music in 1992, three Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture, (the first animated movie to do so), Best Original Score, and Best Original Song in 1992, and two Grammy Awards in 1993.  Beauty and The Beast was also the first Disney animated film to inspire a Broadway stage production by the same name.   In addition to the film’s fantastic music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, seven new songs were written for the stage musical. The resulting stage production was nominated for nine Tony Awards in 1994 and ran on Broadway for 5,464 performances until 2007, becoming Broadway’s sixth-longest running production in history.

The original story was based on a traditional fairy tale that was  first published in 1740 but the best known version of the tale is by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont who published her version in 1756.  Walt Disney attempted to bring this story to the big-screen both in the 1930’s and again in the 50’s but could not come up with a  script that he liked.  It wasn’t until 1991 that Disney was able to release this to theaters although they did make some alterations to the original story.   It may have taken a long time for Disney to bring it to life but when they did, they did it with a bang!

Film (5 out of 5 stars)  

The film opens in a small provincial French village during the late 18th century, and a lovely young woman named Belle (Paige O’Hara) really doesn’t fit in there and finds an escape by reading books.  The villagers think that she is odd and and they have an even worse opinion of her father Maurice (Rex Everhart) who is an eccentric inventor.  They do however love the boorish village huntsman named Gaston (Richard White), who along with his sidekick LeFue (Jesse Corti) has been courting Belle despite her lack of interest.  Gaston, one not used to being refused anything, decides that Belle will marry him no matter what it takes and begins to plan his wedding ceremony.  Meanwhile, Maurice has finally perfected his automatic wood chopping machine and wants to take it to the fair to show it off.  He leaves Belle but quickly becomes lost in a mysterious forest and ends up seeking refuge in what appears to be an abandoned castle.
What Maurice doesn’t realize is that this is an enchanted castle where long ago a Prince (Robbie Benson) was transformed into a Beast by an enchantress for refusing her request for shelter in exchange for a rose.  Because of that, the Price wanders the castle as a monstrous beast and the only way he can remove the curse is to find someone that he can learn to love and who will return his affection before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose.  If no one is found before the last petal falls, he and his servants will remain transformed forever which is very unfortunate for his innocent servants who have been transformed into animated household objects.  When Maurice  enters the castle, he quickly discovers some of the enchanted servants including Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), Mrs.  Potts (Angela Lansbury), and Chip (Bradley Michael Pierce) who give him food and try to help him.  When the Beast discovers the unwanted visitor being taken care of, he angrily throws Maurice in his dungeon.
When Belle realizes that her father is missing, she mounts a rescue mission and finds the enchanted castle herself and her father down in the dungeon.  Once again, the Beast is furious at another intruder but when Belle offers to take her sick father’s place if the Beast will let him go, the Beast agrees but with the caveat that she will promise to never leave the castle.  Maurice is sent back to the village while Belle and the Beast begin an uneasy companionship which doesn’t start well when he demands that she join him for dinner and she refuses.  The Beast also orders Belle to never go into the south wing of the castle and of course she does only to discover a trashed room and the enchanted rose which infuriates the Beast.  Belle runs away only to be attacked by wolves and almost killed until the Beast comes and rescues her and is injured as a result.  Touched by his protection of her, Belle returns to the castle and nurses him back to health. Lumiere and the rest of the servants do their best to help their master control his anger and learn to love while Belle starts to see the kinder side of the Beast and the person inside.
Back at the village, Maurice begs the villagers to help him rescue Belle from the Beast and he is mocked and called crazy for his wild claims.  Although Gaston dismissed Maurice’s claims, he begins plotting a scheme where he would bribe the authorities into declaring Maurice to be insane unless Belle marries him.  Desperate to save Belle and receiving no help from the villagers, Maurice heads back to the castle to rescue Belle alone.  What he doesn’t realize is that things are going well between the Beast and Belle as they have developed feelings for each other and the Beast has even given his entire library to her which is a dream come true for her.  As happy as she is about the library, the Beast knows that Belle is still sad about her father and lets her look into a magic mirror to see him again only to discover that her father has failed his rescue attempt and has collapsed and is near death.  Belle begs the Beast to let her return to her father and he allows her to break her promise even though he is aware that it will cost him his one chance to regain his human form.
Belle returns her father back to the village but when she refuses Gaston again he puts his plan into motion and they come to take Maurice away to an asylum.  To prove that her father isn’t insane, Belle produces the mirror to show that the Beast really exists and that she cares for him.   This drives Gaston mad and he sends the crowd into a frightened frenzy with lies about how dangerous the Beast is.  The villagers lock up Belle and her father and set out to kill the Beast.  Of course being that this is a Disney movie, Belle will attempt to rescue the Beast and perhaps help end his curse and live happily ever after, because this is a fairy tale after all.
This movie was part of the “Disney Renaissance” that started with The Little Mermaid and continued on after this movie. This movie successfully combined the artistic sensibility of Disney with the staging and showmanship of Broadway.  Combining animation with computer generated graphics allowed Disney to do highly choreographed sequences never before attempted that made the movie look more like a big budget live action musical brought to life.  By using the limitless flexibility of animation and live action angles and  techniques, it brought out the best of both worlds and expanded the expectations of what an animated movie could be.  The movie is even better with the fantastic lyrics from the late Howard Ashman and the lush music by Alan Menken and it just put this movie over the top.  The Ashman/Menken team was a powerhouse for Disney and they had already had considerable success withThe Little Mermaid and would again later with Aladdin.  Beauty and the Beast is a landmark Disney movie and easily is one of the best along with the other legendary Disney movies.  It is more adult than most of the Disney movies up to that point and led the way for a new direction for the company.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)  

This is another stunning 1080p (1.78:1) 3D transfer from Disney that surpasses all of their previous 3D efforts.  I’ve reviewed a lot of movies from Disney that have been post converted to 3D and I’ve been impressed with all of them, but this film represents the culmination of all of their efforts.   Beauty and the Beast is Disney’s finest conversion and is the new demo disc for 3D Blu-ray which I’m convinced will sway people  into buying 3D TVs.  The film always had a depth to it that almost felt like 3D and now that it’s in 3D it’s even better!  Not only do the musical sequences look fantastic, but the sense of depth that’s been provided to the rest of the movie is simply amazing.
The shots of Belle and the Beast swirling around the ballroom or the “Be Our Guest” number come to life like never before.  Even the scenes that don’t involve a showstopping number are impressive and offer a strong sense of reality.  Ghosting isn’t really an issue and there isn’t a blemish in sight for this stupendous transfer.  The colors are vivid, the blacks are solid, and the detail is magnificent.  This looks better than it did in the theaters!  And I’m not just talking about the 3D Blu-ray either.  The regular Blu-ray version is also amazing and  would have been more than enough to make me happy if I hadn’t already seen the 3D version.  This 1080p/AVC encoded transfer is perfect with no dirt, scratches, uneven colors, or anything else.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

Another perfect score for Disney!  This brand new DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is absolutely awe-inspiring!  Every channel is used with this new mix and you will hear every detail coming at you from every directions.  The crisp dialogue comes in nice a clear between your front speakers while the Beast will give your sub-woofer a chance to shine with his growls low voice.  It’s nice to have a movie that doesn't just use the rear speakers on occasion as this one has them utilized throughout the movie.  Thanks to this new sound mix the songs have never sounded better or as enveloping as they do now.  Crank the sound up for the “Be My Guest” number and sit back and enjoy perfection!

Special Features (5 out of 5 stars) 

This is a five disc set that comes with everything but the kitchen sink!  These are the same quality extras that were included in the previous three disc edition Blu-ray that came out earlier.  Nothing has been added to this set but I don’t think there’s much left that hasn’t already been covered.  In addition, all of these extras with the exception of the original DVD extras are in high definition!  Take a look at this package of goodies…
Bonus Features include the following and more:
DVD Edition:
Three Versions of the Film
  • Original Theatrical Release
  • Special Extended Edition – An additional 5 minutes song (“Human Again”) has been added.
  • NY Film Festival storyboards of the film – A picture-in-picture that plays along with the movie with Producer Don Hahn discussing the behind the scenes progression of the movie.
Disney Backstage
  • Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind Making Beauty and the Beast – This interactive experience allows fans to expand areas of the documentary to uncover even more about each topic making have up to 3 hours of additional content. Areas include the story of Beauty and the Beast, Walt’s fascination with fairy tales, the Purdum Reel and Kurt Wise/Gary Trousdale short, tribute to Howard Ashman and more.  At 157 minutes, it will cover anything you wanted to know from the creators of this award-winning animated film.
  • Broadway Beginnings: Up-close and personal celebrity interviews with Nick Jonas, Donny Osmond, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Deborah Gibson and others who have starred in the Broadway production.
  • Composing A Classic: A Musical Conversation with Alan Menken, Don Hahn & Richard Kraft where they reminisce, sing songs and share personal stories of the times during production of Beauty and the Beast.
Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Opening and Ending
  • Belle In The Library – never before seen moment where Belle meets four new characters in the Library
Music And More
  • Jordin Sparks “Beauty and the Beast” Music Video
  • Sing-Along – when you select this option, the words to the song appear on the screen so you can sing along to your favorites.
  • Audio Commentary – by Don Hahn (Producer), Kirk Wise (Director), Gary Trousdale (Director) and Alan Menken (Composer)
Family Games & Activities
  • Chip’s Musical Challenge
  • Mrs. Pott’s Personality Profile Game

Blu-ray Edition (All of the above plus…):
Additional Version of the Film
  • Original Storyboard – Original theatrical version with a picture-in-picture of the storyboard version running simultaneously throughout the entire feature. With introduction by Don Hahn.
Music And More
  • Beauty and the Beast Music Video Performed By Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson
  • Alternate Version of “Be Our Guest”
  • Alternate Score of “The Transformation”
  • Introduction To Deleted Songs By Don Hahn: “Human Again”
  • Introductions To Deleted Song By Alan Menken: “Human Again”
  • Deleted Song: “Human Again”
Family Games
  • Bonjour, Who Is This? A Disney TelePlay Game powered by BD-Live. Using any phone, guess the identity of the other players before they guess yours. Available in the US and English speaking Canada only. Requires BD-Live enables Blu-ray player and internet connection.
  • Enchanted Musical Challenge: A DisneyQuest Game
DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE:
  • The Beauty of Voice Acting – Learn about the extremely talented and creative actors who have performed some of Disney’s most memorable and endearing characters – from Walt Disney himself (the voice of Mickey Mouse), to Cliff Edward’s Jiminy Cricket, to the cast of Beauty and the Beast. Paige O’Hara (Belle), Robby Benson (Beast), Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts), Richard White (Gaston), Jerry Orbach (Lumiere) and David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth) tell in their own words how some of the movie’s most sensational moments came to be. Featuring rare archival interview footage of the late Jerry Orbach and exclusive new interviews with Richard White and David Ogden Stiers.

Final Thoughts (5 out of 5 stars) 

The earlier Blu-ray release of this movie was the first one to receive a perfect score across the board  from me but this new 3D version blows that one away.  This is a excellent movie and the amazing picture and audio quality makes this a must buy even if you don’t have a 3D set up yet.  While you save up for that, you can enjoy the Blu-ray version which also looks incredible.  If you have a 3D set up already, then you should definitely pick this up when you can.  With every release Disney does they get better and better at their conversion and this is their finest effort to date.   Get your copy while you can as they are only available for a limited time before it returns to the Disney Vault!
Order your copy today!

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