Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray Review

One of the biggest movies in Disney history,  Beauty and the Beast has finally been released to Blu-ray as a new Diamond Edition release!  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  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.  The movie is also listed as number seven on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Animated Films.  The film also led to a direct to video sequel called Beauty and the Beast – An Enchanted Christmas which takes place during the events of the first movie.

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.

Back at the castle, 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 with The Little Mermaid and would again later with AladdinBeauty 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)

Another amazing job by Disney! I’ve given a perfect score to the last three movies Disney has released so they are on a roll!  And I’m not just talking about the Blu-ray either.  I wasn’t paying much attention when I put the disc in and I accidentally put in the DVD version of this 3 disc set and that looked fantastic as well.  As good as that looked it was blown away when I realized what I had done and started playing the Blu-ray.  This 1080p/AVC encoded transfer is perfect with no dirt, scratches, uneven colors, or anything else.  The colors are vivid, the blacks are solid, and the detail is magnificent.  This looks better than it did in the theaters!

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 three disc set that comes with everything but the kitchen sink and for some reason a digital copy of the film which is rare for Disney. Take a look at this package of goodies…

Bonus Features include the following and more:
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
  • New 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 (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
  • 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)

For the first time writing for this site, this is the first movie to receive a perfect score across the board but this packed disc deserves it.  This is a excellent movie and the amazing picture and audio quality makes this a must buy for anyone who likes musicals or is a Disney enthusiast although I’m pretty sure anyone would enjoy this great movie. 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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