First released in 1991, Disney’s Beauty And The Beast was a phenomenon. Not only was it the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, it was also the first to rake in over $100 million. It spawned a long-running Broadway musical, a truckload of merchandise and a few straight-to-video sequels. Now 19 years later, Disney has released its powerhouse on Blu-ray. So is Beauty And The Beast still worthy of the hype after all this time? Yes! Absolutely! In fact, this classic has never looked, sounded, or felt as good as it does now.
I’m sure that almost everyone knows the plot but just in case you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing the movie or hearing the classic fairy tale it is based on, I will give a brief synopsis. Once upon a time, an enchantress turns a handsome but exceedingly selfish young prince into a horrible beast. He has until his 21st birthday to learn how to love and be loved in return or else the spell will never be broken and he will remain a beast forever. Time is almost up and the Beast has made no progress whatsoever when a beautiful young woman named Belled stumbles across his castle. She is looking for her father who has disappeared. Upon finding him in the Beast’s prison, she sacrifices herself and becomes his prisoner in her father’s place. After spending time with the Beast, Belle realizes that he isn’t so bad after all. And the Beast finally learns how to love. But will Belle return his love in time to break the spell?
What makes Beauty And The Beast better than almost any other film is that it appeals to both children and adults equally. I hate nothing more than a line or joke in a kid’s movie that blatantly goes over the heads of children to somehow pander to the adults in the audience. That sort of garbage has become par for the course in recent years but Beauty And The Beast proves that it is possible to please both demographic groups without resorting to gimmicks. It succeeds in this by using elements of action, romance, comedy, and of course – music. There is something in here for everyone. And I know it’s not just nostalgia that sustains my love for this film as an adult. I still remember that both of my parents had misty eyes the very first time they took me to see Beauty And The Beast in the theatre. That sure didn’t happen during Fievel Goes West!
Beauty And The Beast would have been a good film without music but it is the soundtrack of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman that push the film into greatness. Every song is a classic. The best of course, are “Beauty And The Beast”, “Be Our Guest”, “Belle”, and “Something There”. But even the lesser songs like “Gaston” are thoroughly catchy, enjoyable, and even hilarious at moments. The Blu-Ray disc includes a number that wasn’t included in the theatrical release. In “Human Again”, the magical inhabitants of the castle (minus the Beast) sing and dance while dreaming about the spell finally being lifted. It is memorable, beautifully choreographed and fits right in with the film’s other musical pieces. With songs this good, it is no wonder that the musical adaptation had so much success on Broadway!
In an advertisement, Disney reports that Beauty And The Beast is their most requested film. That’s not a surprise! And this Blu-ray truly does it justice. It’s a magical restoration for a magical film!
The Beauty And The Beast arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG4-AVC encode framed at 1.78:1. Is there another word that I can use to identify the way this movie looks other than excellent, oh yeah, gorgeous, beautiful, stunning, captivating, enchanting (maybe?), and there’s probably many more ways to describe the perfection that is this transfer. Disney has not only done enough to make a classic look good, but has also taken the time to an extra mile or two to have this be the bar to top when it comes to cartoon animation. The Beauty And The Beast doesn’t just look nice, that’s a complete understatement in every sense of the word, The Beauty and the Beast looks beyond anything we ever expected prior to release.
The picture is gorgeous, I know I can’t stress that enough, but the colors are vibrant and vivid retaining everything from the personality, art, and backgrounds in the same way the artist intended them to look. The entire picture is inky and lively all throughout the film. The film is rich in details showing all excellent hand work the film has to offer. The picture is clean and pristine. Best of all is the fact there are no signs of obstructing objects, no ringing, no banding, etc. The film is simply stunning from the moment it beings to the end credits. If Disney made it difficult to top previous animated cartoons, Beauty And The Beast just took it to a whole another level. Bravo.
The Beauty And The Beast Arrives on Blu-ray with a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. If we thought the video transfer was excellent, wait until you hear what Disney has done with the audio. This new 7.1 mix is superb and brings the movie to live. Dialogue is clean and crisp. The bass is active at all times and getting livelier as the action intensifies, but it’s clear that it means business when Beast first shows up and his roars rip cleanly through the soundstage. The music completely benefits from this mix, it’s loud, is clean, is just pure sonic perfection. Music fills the entire sound stage and takes advantage of the robustness of the audio mix in its entirety, coming out with such fidelity that is a pleasure to sit and listen through each musical scene. All in all, Beauty And The Beast is simply amazing to listen to.
There are so many special features that it was almost intimidating to get through them all. However, as a true aficionado of Beauty And The Beast, I can gladly report that everything I ever wanted to know about this film is here. There is an incredible volume of material but it is all top notch – except for the cheesy kids’ games. And never fear, Disney has provided an organization chart so you can find everything.
Beyond Beauty – An in-depth behind the scenes look at the making of the film, as well as some background concerning Disney films, in general. This is a must see for any Disneyphile!
Composing A Classic – Alan Menken and producer Don Hahn share memories about the songwriting experience for Beauty And The Beast. And there’s singing! This is also a great feature.
Deleted Scenes – There are two scenes here. One is an alternate opening and the other is a scene of Belle meeting some new enchanted characters in the Beast’s library. They are both good but I like the opening that was used in the film better and the library scene is cute but doesn’t add much. Still, I am glad that they are provided here!
Broadway Beginnings – This is a feature about the Broadway musical based on the film.
Enchanted Musical Challenge – This is a cheesy little game but I’m sure kids might enjoy it.
Bonjour, Who Is This? – Another game for kids, this time involving the phone
New “Beauty And The Beast” Music Video – Here Jordin Sparks of American Idol fame sings the title song. It’s alright – but the original is better!
Classic Bonus Features – These are the features that were included on the DVD release. There is another behind the scenes piece, another music video, and a few other odds and ends.
And More – The set also includes storyboard and sing-along versions of the film and an audio commentary with co-directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise and producer Don Hahn.
Everyone needs to own this Blu-ray. It’s an addition to your collection that you’ll keep coming back to again and again. I always joke that Disney never puts the copyright date of their films on the box because they are “timeless”. But Beauty And The Beast, really truly is a “tale as old as time”. And now that it has been so beautifully restored for the Blu-ray format, it looks just as good as the very first day it was released – possibly even better. If you’ve never owned the film before, now is the time to make the plunge. And if you have an old DVD copy lying around, this is most definitely the time to replace it because the Blu-ray just simply puts it to shame. I give Beauty And The Beast my highest recommendation.