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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Fantasy > Fairy Tale > Comedy > Children > Large Frame Format > Beauty & The Beast – Diamond Edition (1991/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)

Beauty & The Beast – Diamond Edition (1991/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)

 

Picture: A     Sound: A     Extras: B     Film: A

 

 

Originally published in 1740 by French writer Gabrielle Suzanne Barbot de Villenvue Beauty and the Beast was quite a different tale, but as with most of Disney’s translations or reimagining the tale has been altered for the family friendly masses.  That is not to say that is a bad thing.  Disney tales have always been full of heart, depth and detail unlike any other; just don’t expect to see to 16th grit and scandal.  Beauty and the Beast was released in late 1991 and was one of the big contributors in the so called Disney Renaissance.

 

The tale itself is as old as time (get it?!).  The story centers on a self absorbed prince who had been cursed for his selfish nature; magically transformed into a ferocious and hideous beast.  The fairy who cursed him gave him an enchanted mirror to view faraway places and a single rose.  The rose would bloom until his 21st birthday and when the last petal fell he would be cursed as to live as a beast forever.  The only way the curse could be broken is if he found someone to love and be loved in return before the last petal fell.  We are then introduced to the beautiful and different Belle, who lives in a small town but has big dreams.  Belle loves to read and wishes for magic and adventure.  Her father Maurice is an inventor who sets off to a machine fair to display his new wood chopping machine, but on his way the inventor gets lost and comes upon the Beast’s castle.

 

Maurice is greeted by the Beast’s enchanted servants (all of which have been transformed in furniture of sorts) who jump at the chance to entertain a guest.  The Beast discovers the intruder and imprisons him.  Belle worried for her father’s safety is guided to the castle by Maurice’s horse.  In an attempt to save her ailing father’s life Belle offers to take her father’s place; the Beast accepts and sends her father away.  The tale sets off on a journey in which the cold Beast tries to remember what it is to love and Belle attempts to find light in the darkest of circumstances.  This quest for true love sets up the base of the tale, along with the stories true villain, the muscley and idiotic Gaston, who sets out to make Belle his (unwilling) wife.

 

Beauty and the Beast is a classic through and through.  The hand drawn animation, mixed with superb computer generated animation is amazingly breathtaking.  The music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, however, is what truly made the film.  There is not a single song that is not fantastic or noteworthy.  From beginning to end the Broadway inspired animated film utilizes music that has the audience singing along as they are overcome by the inspiring songs and brilliant animation.  Beauty and the Beast is only one of two animated films ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award and watching again here again on Blu-ray it is easy to see why.  Not to mention it was up against JFK and lost to one of the best films ever made, Silence of the Lambs.  Beauty and the Beast is a work of art.  It could be hung in a museum next to the Mona Lisa and be appreciated for its amazing style, depth and artistic fortitude.  I am more than certain that this already classic film will be even more appreciated as time goes on.  The film is always found on the ‘best of’ lists and stands up next to the big boys like Silence of the Lambs and Citizen Kane as one of the best films ever made.

 

When Disney wants to do it right, they do it right.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 High Definition presentation is awe inspiring and is certainly Blu-ray demo quality.  The colors leap from the screen as dark, inky blacks frame each moment.  The level of depth and detail the picture demonstrates is extraordinary.  In the pamphlet that is included in the set, the Blu-ray’s creators mention how they went back to the film’s master (which had been used on all previous releases) and found that there was a significant amount of dirt, debris and water spots.  In order to make it up to Disney and High Def standards, the creators had to go through extensive checks to remove all and any ill elements.  THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE!  Viewers want a Blu-ray to be perfect; we don’t just want another format to collect.

 

Blu-ray is not a throwaway format and it seems that Disney is realizing this; though I worry for Fantasia’s Blu-ray release.  The film’s picture is full of life and as the faces and shadows go across the screen, the pristine picture quality only heightens the experience.  The sound is a wonderful English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (created by original mixer Terry Porter) that utilizes the full speaker range from beginning to end.  The music is immersive (as it should be) as every element comes to life around you.  The viewer feels as if they are in the middle of the film as the soundscape surrounds you.  Not only are the dialogue and music perfect with crisp precision, but the amount of ambient noises and sheer volume of action going on around the viewer is out of this world.

 

The DVD does not stand up next to the Blu-ray, but as it is from the same ‘cleaned up’ transfer as the Blu-ray it is a much better DVD than previous releases also.  The Picture is anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 and the sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 (Disney Enhanced Home Theater re-EQed mix), both of which are well done but Blu-ray is the way to go.

 

The extras include the three different cuts of the film; which are the Theatrical Release (85 minutes), the Extended Release (92 minutes) with the song “Human Again” added back in, and finally the Storyboard Version with producer Don Hahn side-by-side with the original storyboards discussing the evolution of Beauty and the Beast.  Also include for the Extended Edition is an Audio Commentary with Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale and Don Hahn that is insightful, lively and fully explains everything you would want to know about the film’s production.  Other High Def bonus features include Backstage Disney featurettes such as Beyond Beauty that goes into excruciating detail about everything Beauty and the Beast, Composing a Classic that has Hahn, Menken and Disney Historian Richard Craft discussing the ‘ins and outs’ of constructing a story with song and how to make it last forever, and some Deleted Scenes (two total) are included.  The Deleted Scenes are lengthy (one a new opener and the other a library scene), but were better left out as they would have changed the entire feel of the film.

 

Other features include Broadway Beginnings, Sneak Peeks, Enchanted Musical Challenge Game, Bonjur Who is This? Game and a New Beauty and the Beast Music Video sung by Jordan Sparks; all of these extras either being nonsensical advertisements, games or a so-so music video.  Continuing with the plethora of extras Disney has also (outside of all the HD extras listed above) to port over all the extras from the previous Special Edition release.  These include The Story Behind the Story, Celine Dion Music Video and an Early Presentation Reel.  Overall, great and insightful extras.

 

Any Disney fan and/or Blu-ray aficionado would be crazy not to own this amazing Blu-ray presentation.  It is one of the best on the market and sets the bar high for what is to come.

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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