Monday, March 5, 2012

Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World Special Edition DVD Review

From the “tale as old as time” comes a new Special Edition inspired by the original classic, Beauty and the Beast.  Join Belle, Disney’s spirited princess, Beast, Cogsworth, Lumiere, plus some charming new friends, as they discover how teamwork and friendship can turn a once-gloomy castle into a dazzling palace fit for a princess! Bundled with bonus features, your favorite characters and enchanting songs, this lesson-filled, sequel is sure to entertain and teach young children.

Film (2 out of 5 stars) 

I’m a big fan of Diseny’s Beauty and the Beast (see my review here) so when I heard that I could review the two direct to video sequels that I hadn’t seen before, I jumped at the chance.  The first one to follow the original movie was called Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (review) which wasn’t really a sequel since the events of the movie take place during the first movie.  This third entry makes a departure from the first two since it’s not really a movie (although it’s marketed that way) and is instead a collection of stories that teach good behavior to children.  I don’t mind Disney doing that but I wish they would call this Beauty and the Beast Stories: Lessons from the Heart or something like that so people don’t think they are getting a true sequel.
Another issues that I have with this release is that they’ve made the Beast even more unpleasant and selfish than he was in the original movie just to make their lessons work.  The Beast in this collection of stories is basically a major jerk and he’s frequently verbally and physically abusive to the castle servants.  Why anyone would put up with his antics is beyond me, but maybe it’s because of his past ignorance that got them all enchanted along with him, that leaves them trapped there in the feeble hope that he might change and find someone to love him.   I always felt bad for his servants that did nothing to deserve being transformed into household items because of his mistake and my sympathy for them increased after watching these cartoons.  Here is the list of the episodes:
  • The Perfect Word – When the Beast and Belle plan to eat together, both are still nervous around each other since the Beast wants her to fall in love with him and Belle wants her freedom.  On the way to the meal, Belle and Cogsworth run into a talking dictionary named Webster who joins them.  During the meal,  the Beast gets very hot and becomes ill-tempered while Belle tries to tell him about a book she was reading.   The Beast loses his temper and demands that the window be opened despite Belle’s pleas to keep it closed so the servants don’t freeze.  The Beast has the window opened anyway and ignores the suffering of his servants and Belle who are freezing.  When Belle calls him on it, The Beast has a tantrum and he smacks Webster off the table and flips the table and food to the floor.  Afterwards, the Beast sulks and Belle fumes and the servants hatch a plan to patch things up.  The moral of this story being how easy it is to apologize and to forgive.
  • Fifi’s Folly – On the anniversary of her first date with Lumiere, Fifi shares how excited she is about what she imagines Lumiere will do to celebrate the day with Belle.  Belle later finds out that Lumierie didn’t have any plans ready since he didn’t remember, so he asks her to help him come up with something.  During their planning sessions, Fifi sees the two of them together and takes some of their conversation out of context and believes they are having an affair.  (It makes no sense but just go with it).  Fifi tries to make Lumiere jealous by flirting with Cogsworth but it doesn’t work since Lumiere is too focused on his plans.  In a final desperate act, Fifi sabotages the sleigh that she believes Belle and him are going to take by cutting the harness.  Little does she realize that the sleigh ride was meant for her and not Belle and now she’s put Lumiere and herself in danger.  In this story everyone learns that “sometimes things are just as they seem,” and that jealousy does not become her.
  • Mrs. Potts’ Party – When Mrs. Potts is sad because of the weather, Belle jumps into action and plans a surprise party for her that’s designed to cheer her up.  Enlisting the help of the castle’s servants, they start making preparations for the party quietly so they don’t wake up the Beast who was up all night fixing the roof.  Between that and not alerting Mrs. Potts that anything is going on, proves to be difficult for Belle and the others.  Lumiere and Cogsworth argue about what kind of music should be played while the rest of the servants argue about other details like the type of cake, what kind of flowers she likes, etc.  When their rivalries ruin the surprise party and make Mrs. Potts even sadder when she learns that they can’t work together, the servants learn that they should have worked as a team.  In this story the servants learn the value of teamwork and compromise.
  • The Broken Wing – Once again another meal between Belle and the Beast is ruined when Belle ignores their lunch arrangement to care for an injured bird that flew into her room.  Instead of scoring points with Belle by showing some compassion or understanding, the Beast once again flies into a rage and tries to capture the bird until he falls down and hits his head.  While recovering, he hears the bird whistle a tune and decides that he loves the sound of it, so he cages the bird and demands that it sing for him.  Being injured and frightened, the bird refuses to sing which makes the Beast even more angry.  While Beast is making a fool of himself, Cogsworth is doing much of the same with the rest of the castle staff when he starts demanding that they respect him instead of earning it.  By the end of the cartoon, both Cogsworth and the Beast learn that respect must be earned and that people and animals need to be treated kindly.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

While I think the animation for this collection of stories isn’t up to par with the original release since it looks like animation that you would find on the Disney Channel, the 1080p (1.78:1) transfer itself is very good.  There’s a lot of detail and not a blemish in sight for this release.  Colors pop off the screen and the black levels are suitably dark.  It’s a shame that the animation can’t match the quality of this transfer.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World Special Edition’s DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also excellent especially during the many scenes of the Beast losing his temper which packs a punch.  The front channels provide clear and understandable dialogue and the rear channels offer up some nice directionality to complement the action.  The music is well balanced with the rest of the movie.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars) 

There isn’t a lot on here but at least they made an effort to include some stuff for the kids.

  • Disney’s Sing Me a Story with Belle “What’s Inside Counts” –  A live action show that I wasn’t aware existed where Belle, Gaston, and some kids learn lessons together.
  • Belle’s Delightful Dinner Game
  • Disney Song Selection: “Listen With Our Hearts” and “A Little Thought.”
  • Enchanted Environment
  • Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars) 

    This is an okay release for children (especially girls) and the lessons being taught here are important ones to learn, but I wish they didn’t market this as a real sequel since it’s not that at all.  Disney has packaged other shows as story collections so I’m not sure why they didn’t do that this time, but you have now been forewarned.  While I’m not overly thrilled with this release, there’s no denying that at least it looks and sounds great on Blu-ray.  If you are hardcore fan or have some young children that might enjoy these stories, then pick this up on Blu-ray!
    Order your copy today!

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