October 27, 2010
The term modern classic is surely overused, but in the case of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ it couldn’t be more fitting. I can think of no better way to describe the title as it encompasses some of Disney’s best animation, both traditional and digital and easily one of their best musical scores in decades.
While I’m at a slight disadvantage with this film compared to other titles reviewed here, i.e. not having seen it in the theater, I have seen ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 times, spread out over 4 different formats (VHS, DVD, Cable and Laserdisc); so I think I’ll be able to offer an opinion on the Blu-ray’s quality overall. (Seeing it with a young cousin recently on vhs, reminded me of watching it with my daughter all those years ago.)
Plot: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ of course pre-dates Disney (by a couple of hundred years) so I’m assuming you already know the gist of the story. Lovely damsel meets a cursed prince who can only have the curse removed if he finds true love, deep breath… flash forward to 1991 and the story gets decidedly more animated, talking candle sticks, tea pots, tea cups and hilarity ensues.
Sound and Image: After updating to PS3 firmware version 3.50, I popped in the feature disc. The menu sequence with Lumière was fun and overall the entire menu system was well laid out. No real surprises here but none really necessary either, pretty much what you’ve come to expect with Disney platinum & diamond edition Blu-ray’s – a hierarchical menu system, a few extras with picture in picture on the first disc, and expanded extras on a second disc.
I gave the special extended version a quick run-through but it was the original theatrical version I wanted to compare against my memory. Within the first few seconds of Belle quipping about her provincial life, the Blu-ray put miles of distance between this version and all other viewings; the colors were lush and vivid, and to my eyes at least, perfectly saturated.
Speaking of those colors, during the opening music number I noticed shade after shade of orange in buildings, shutters, doors etc. without once seeing the color repeated on another type of structure. Clearly this detail was present originally but I doubt previous home video versions ever displayed it with this accuracy, at least not to my recollection.
I witnessed no ringing, excessive edge enhancement, noise, or any other distracting artifact during my viewing. That said, again as I didn’t see Beauty in the theater, I’m working from a set of assumptions based on previous home theater versions of the feature. Given the fact Beauty was rendered with the CAPS system, I would assume no film grain was present to begin with and, as expected, none is apparent in the Blu-ray version.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 was spot on, the ‘Like Gaston’ number was a hoot as always and the soundtrack certainly held its own. I skipped forward to another favorite and one that always garners a few giggles, ‘Be Our Guest’. I was impressed at the subtlety and decidedly non-digitalness of the music, while the dialog was planted firmly in the middle of the soundstage, Lumière has never sounded better.
Extras: As usual with Disney platinum and diamond edition Blu-ray’s, there are more extras than you can shake a stick at. A couple of notable extras include the three different feature versions including the original theatrical release, special extended edition and the original storyboard version. There’s also a sing-along-track (come on you know you want to), a PiP story reel feature, deleted scenes, interactive games, and several behind the scenes featurettes.
If your a fan (or have a little fan in the house), you’ll also want to checkout the “Beyond Beauty” documentary. As behind the scene’s, making-of type documentaries go, this is about as in-depth as I’ve seen, and certainly so from Disney.
Overall: It’s fun to embrace your inner child every now and then, we recently visited the Magic Kingdom (my first time) and had a blast. Seeing Walt Disney World made me think about Disney’s strengths and the impact of their classic films. Disney was the first studio to really make people sit up and take notice of animation, (Disney was warned no one would sit through a feature length animated film prior to Snow White) and the studio can take credit for many of the genre’s greatest titles.
Beauty and the Beast is probably my favorite of the “modern Disney classics” but personal preference aside, I think anyone who enjoys Disney animation, or animation in general, will enjoy this title as well as the numerous extras and bonus features. Highly recommended.
By now Disney has released Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Beauty and the Beast on Blu-ray, with titles like Bambi, Dumbo, Fantasia, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and more yet to come. These classic Disney titles are surely some of the best that Blu-ray has to offer and I can’t wait to see more in the coming years.
Blu-ray: Beauty and the Beast (Three-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (1991)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Studio: Walt Disney Home Video
Theatrical Release Date: November 22, 1991
Blu-ray Release Date: October 5, 2010
Run Time: 85 Minutes