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Beauty and the Beast
Platinum Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

 

 

Rating: G

Running Time: 90 minutes

Starring the voices of: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Odgen Stiers, Angela Lansbury

Directed by: Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features:
Disc 1: Special Edition Version, Theatrical Version, Work In Progress Version, Audio Commentary with Director Kirk Wise, Director Gary Trousdale, Producer Don Hahn and Composer Alan Menken, Sing-Along Track, Maurice's Invention Workshop Game, Break The Spell, Sneak Peeks. DVD-ROM: Register Your DVD
Disc 2: Origins Of "Beauty and The Beast", Bring The Story To The Screen, Early Presentation Reel, Finding The Story, Alternate Version: "Be Our Guest", "Human Again" Introduction, "Human Again", Musical Magic, Alternate Score: The Transformation, Strength of Character, Vocal Heroes: The Voice Talent, Character Art Galleries, The Stage Is Set, Concept Art & Design, Layouts & Backgrounds, Animation, Animation Tests, Roughs & Clean Ups, The Transformation: Pencil Version, A Transformation: Glen Keane, Animating With Computers, Camera Move Test, A High Profile Preview, Release and Reaction, Awards, Howard Ashman: In Memoriam, Trailers, TV Spots, Original Release Publicity Gallery, Large Format Publicity Gallery, "Beauty and the Beast" Music Video Performed by Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson, Broadway Bound, Broadway Musical Publicity Gallery, Costume Design Gallery, The Special Edition, Disney's Animation Magic, Chip's Musical Challenge, "Beauty and the Beast" Music Video Performed by Jump 5, The Making Of "Beauty and the Beast", Mrs. Potts' Personality Profile Game, The Story Behind The Story, The West Wing

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (22 Scenes - Special Edition, 21 Scenes - Theatrical/Work-In-Progress), 2-Disc Set, THX Certified

Released: October 8th, 2002

 

 

It's a benchmark in feature films and animation for a number of reasons. Sure it's got great tunes, beautiful animation, strong voice acting and a solid story behind it all. And yeah, it has some Oscar® wins and is known for being the only animated film being nominated for the Best Picture award. It's held in high esteem, and many have now experienced all the wonder the film has to offer. But is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" as great and pitch perfect as we all think it is, well after a whole decade? Hell yes. They simply don't make them like they used to.

Disney's follow-up to the groundbreaking "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" went on to become one cultural phenomenon. Beyond "Be Our Guest," the video sequels, the broadway show and whatnot, it is truly the mark of a perfect film - one that holds up after all this time. I still find it just as entertaining as the first time I saw it way back in November 1991, and is probably the highest pinnacle in Disney's animation empire... even if "The Lion King" happened to gross more money. It's certainly the team of Wise, Trousdale and producer Don Han's masterwork, as no one seemed to be so enthralled by subsequent follow-ups. "Beauty and the Beast" was perhaps a throwback to classic Disney all of us love (or hate). Beyond the dark period of the 1980s where "The Fox and The Hound," "The Black Cauldron," "The Great Mouse Detective" and "Oliver and Company" (my favorite!) didn't strike a key chord as hard as some other Disney flicks, "Beauty and the Beast" showcased all the ideals we know Disney animated films for while pointing those kind of films in a wildly different and original direction.

Of course, our tale follows Belle (voiced by Paige O'Hara... the only role she's actually ever really played!), who's the talk of the town always in her small French village. While she's not avoiding the pursuits of the obnoxious pervert Gaston who wants her as his wife, Belle is considered "odd" since she's actually bright, educated and loves a good book. Yet as the prologue explains, a spoiled prince (the Beast, voiced by Robby Benson) is cursed by an ugly old woman who turns out to be a beautiful young lady. His only hope is to find love before the last petal falls off of a magical rose.

So the prince becomes a beast, and all the inhabitants of his gloomy castle are cursed as well into ordinary, household objects. Yet after Belle's inventor father gets lost and ends up becoming imprisoned at the Beast's castle, Belle looks for him, finds him there and offers herself to stay with Beast instead of her father. And so begins a tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme... is Belle the one to help break the Beast's curse? And can love conquer all?

We all know the story and we should all know how it ends. It may not look all that great on paper, perhaps even corny, but anyone who has seen "Beauty and the Beast" can tell you what a magical, enthralling film it is and how it succeeds as well as breaks boundaries. It really is that good. Like all great Disney films, it works great for kids and works great for the older ones watching it with them. The story is very well paced and even, with strong development in its story, characters and visual world.

The story is by the book mostly, but when it tends to stray at points when one might not expect it to (such as the darker moments), I found it being more refined in nature. Certainly, the story itself is quite entertaining. While it does have some very serious and rather touching moments, there is no denying that the "cutesy sidekicks" add some needed comic relief that is quite fun and entertaining. Still, it's hard not to get sucked into the depths of the main characters. We all know that the Beast is lonely, but what about Belle. Sure, she loves her father... but she's pretty much a loner. One has a lot of love to give, the other does not.

I still find that it's important to note the film teaches a very strong lesson in what beauty is. We've been beaten over the head with stuff like "it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside because the inside counts," yet in this day and age of violence, drugs and sex, I'm not sure if so many of exactly know what that lesson means. Times have certainly changed, arguably for the worst when it comes to values. Still, "Beauty and the Beast" teaches the important lesson of what it means to be beautiful and love. Gaston is truly the real Beast, while the Beast himself learns to love and finds himself in the process. Thankfully, the film doesn't overdo it when it comes to its lesson. It simply tells its story in the best manner and we must take away our own thoughts at the end. The film seduces us and then we know exactly what to think.

Visually, "Beauty and the Beast" is gorgeous. While animation would only improve after "Beauty and the Beast," there's no denying how detailed and fluid it looks. "The Little Mermaid" began an animation Renaissance, which "Beauty and the Beast" evolves. The Beast's castle and the village look quite nice and are very well realized, especially when used in the context of the story. The animation also has a very nice flair to it that uses so many different kinds of colors, also making it like the film has some kind of lighting system. Still, all of this adds up and certainly gives the film its own unique voice in such a picturesque way. There's an "oomph" that is all its own and unmistakingly "Beauty and the Beast." One really must see the whole film to truly understand all of its visual wonder.

The voice acting also adds a brilliant touch of life to the film. Paige O'Hara's voice for Belle suits the film quite well. There is a touch of naivitiy, but with that, a certain sense of strength as the damsel in distress and as the heroine. Robby Benson, a pretty major character actor who's probably best known for his role as the Beast, is very in-tune with the character. The Beast is certainly quite angry and intimidating, but with that, a sense of decency grows with him. Benson perfectly captures his gradual crossover. Supporting voice work from David Odgen Stiers, Jerry Orbach (love the French accent) and Angela Lansbury are equally great. Their roles do add a lot to the film.

Don't we love the music to this film though too? The beautiful Alan Menken score perfectly reflects the story and is so majestic, while Menken's tunes with the late lyricist Howard Ashman are now considered classic in pure Broadway style: be it the wonderfully classy ballad "Beauty and The Beast," the strong opening showcaser "Belle" that is more complex than one may think or the lyrical genius of "Be Our Guest," the film hits the mark perfectly when it comes to its musical roots... something animated Disney films these days sadly stray from.

After all these years, "Beauty and the Beast" is certainly a triumph and has held its own against the test of time. While computer animated films are all the rage these days, "Beauty and the Beast" is a masterpiece in any genre you categorize it in. If you hate Disney you're bound to hate this film no matter what, but for everyone else, there's so many things to like about the movie. Certainly, this tale is filled with beauty, and will always be that way for generations to come.

 

 

Okay, this is where things get interesting. Disney has crammed three (yes, three) versions of the film on the first disc: the reformatted IMAX special edition, the regular theatrical version from 1991 and the New York Film Festival work-in-progress version. Naturally, having all of these editions - as well as extras and audio tracks and whatnot - causes space problems, so there are some compression artifacts throughout. Besides that and a few other flaws, the transfers are perfectly fine for what they are.

All of them are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (wasn't the laserdisc in 1.66:1?). The theatrical and special edition versions exhibit some minor problems such as edge enhancement, shimmering and a surprisingly large amount of noise and edge halos. Other than that, these THX certified transfers are surely amazing. The colors are very well saturated with no bleeding whatsoever, as they are incredibly vibrant and pop right off the screen (even more so in the special edition). The film is definitely known for its wide range of colors - be it the dark exteriors of the Beast's castle or the brightness of the village. Detail is impeccable (especially in the special edition), as are the blacks which are downright solid. And of course, these digital transfers are spotless. Yet I can't help and wonder... couldn't there have been seamless branching with the theatrical and special edition versions? They are the same film except the special edition has an an added scene, and it does look better (I don't think people would have minded if the theatrical portions looked better). Still, I guess it's all for the sake of having them all separate and complete.

The work-in-progress print, on the other hand, is a different story. I don't think this version is THX-certified and rightfully so. The print is dirty with scratches and blemishes as well as other little annoyances popping all over the screen. It's a rough version of the film, and since I doubt many people are going to watch it in a serious manner, there probably isn't a need to make it look the best it can be - especially it's not a completed version anyway. Still, it's there and interesting (I'll talk about it more later). So there you have it. None of the transfers are perfect, but two of them do come close.

 

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix (there is also a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track) is pretty sensational. Surround effects fly all over from the rears which is quite nice. Be it when our lamp and pott friends are coaching the Beast before dinner, the laughter in the background at the bar after the "Gaston" song, roars of the Beast, gun shots or the wide array of bustling going on throughout the village in the opening number, the effects do suck you in and sound quite natural, all backed with some great subwoofer sounds.

The songs also pack strong directional effects, filling the soundstage with many broad sounds that really capture you into the tunes. The dialogue is centered, clear and very crisp. The sound effects, music and dialogue are nicely balanced as one does not tend to overpower the other. Dynamic range and fidelity are strong and high as well. When it comes down to it, the mixing is rather creative but at times I felt there could have been more to it. Nonetheless, the 5.1 track does capture the flavor of the film and brings you into it. And that probably does count the most. Also included are English closed captions and English subtitles.

 

The second in Disney's annual Platinum Edition, no one should be disappointed by the wealth of supplements offered here (it is a mega special edition after all). Starting with the first disc, a main thing to mention there is that there are three versions of the film offered. The theatrical edition is the film we all know and love, the Special Edition has one extra scene and greater detail as seen in IMAX and large format theaters when Disney debuted it there in January 2002 and there's the Work-In-Progress print, not seen since the 1991 New York Film Festival.

The Special Edition is the same film more or less, but it sure looks sharper and brighter since Disney rescanned every single frame when it blew it up properly for those large screens. The added sequence, which took about two years to complete, is entitled "Human Again." No, it doesn't add so much to the story and is perhaps redundant since we already know how much the household items want to return to human form. Still, it looks on par with the film, has all the original voice actors and the song is pretty catchy. It's nice, if not slightly superfluous addition yet it does extend more on the Beast and Belle's relationship... even if it's slight. And since not everyone has seen the IMAX version, this is there chance to check out the sequence. In all, it's actually quite nice.

The Work-In-Progress, on the other hand, is also a nice addition but I honestly couldn't see anyone seriously watching the whole film through this way unless they are really die hard. It's basically like those angle features you see on DVD where you can see storyboards, rough animation and final film... yet it's all huddled together into one. This edition features completed animation, still storyboards, pictures and pencil tests mixed about. If some wanted to see how a scene looked rough, I guess this would be their way to go. Still, it's there for the sake of being there which I do respect, but again, I honestly don't see someone watching this if they want to sit down and see the film. Nice to have for other purposes though, I suppose.

The first disc also features a new Audio Commentary with Director Kirk Wise, Director Gary Trousdale, Producer Don Hahn and Composer Alan Menken. I enjoyed the trio's commentary on the two-disc "Atlantis" set, and here they deliver another solid commentary here... even if they are joined by Menken from time to time, who's comments, while sparse, are quite interesting on the film itself and the songwriting process (I wish there was more of him). There are no real pauses throughout, and share some interesting stories. The commentary seems edited to an extent, but the amount of detail in this track is pretty amazing in how they remember all the names, offer a lot of praise and share quite a few laughs. It's hard to believe that Menken and Ashman didn't exactly feel that the song "Belle" was good to begin with (especially Ashman)... I couldn't imagine the film without it. Still, the insight onto the songs, story process, voice acting, tone of the film and more is incredible. If you liked the movie, do give yourself a listen to this.

The Sing-Along Track is basically large subtitles that appear during the songs, while Maurice's Invention Workshop Game is a simple fun game for the kids mainly that's more or less trivia. Break The Spell is a preview for disc two's main "game," while speaking of previews, we have Sneak Peeks at "The Jungle Book II" (ugh), "The Lion King" on IMAX, "Lilo & Stitch," "Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas," the special edition of "Sleeping Beauty," "Winnie The Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year" and a promo for Walt Disney World. On the DVD-ROM front, you can Register Your DVD and give Disney all your personal info with it!

Moving on to disc two now, everything's broken up by a character or item. Or you can click to get a menu for everything. Origins Of "Beauty and The Beast" is a one and a half minute featurette that traces the origins of the original story. Told over stills mainly, it also tells of the most widely known written version. With Don Hahn, animation historian John Canemaker and film historian Paula Sigman talking, the main points of the story is told.

Development is broken up into Bringing The Story To The Screen and Early Presentation Reel. The first lasts a little over two minutes, as we see that Walt himself wanted to do the story long ago. It also talks about Roy E. Disney wanting to do it and the success of "The Little Mermaid." Canemaker, Sigman, Roy Disney, Michael Eisner, Hahn and film historian Robert Osborne add insight onto why it was the next logical film to do for Disney during the time period. The reel, meanwhile, is introduced by Don Hahn that is told mainly through stills and music to give a feel of the movie the filmmakers were trying to make. Interesting stuff.

Story has a few things. Finding The Story lasts nearly three minutes and goes into the original approach in developing the story. With interviews with Don Hahn, story person Brenda Chapman, Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale, head of story Roger Allers, story person Chris Sanders (who went on to do "Lilo & Stitch"), screenwriter Linda Woolverton and Paula Sigman, this is somewhat fluffy and doesn't really go into how they find the story, but rather, the jobs of people and slight talking of how the project began taking shape.

The Alternate Version: "Be Our Guest" is introduced by Don Hahn and shows a somewhat different version of the classic "Be Our Guest" song. Presented in rough pencil animation and storyboards, the other version isn't too much different, but the final version is rather superior in my opinion... probably since the character talk to Belle rather than Maurice.

The "Human Again" Introduction is with Don Hahn as he goes on about the original version of "Human Again," which is then presented as a story reel and the voice/singing talents of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Pretty entertaining, but this may have been a better time for Hahn to go into why the sequence was deleted in the first place.

Music... it has the "Human Again" features AGAIN (uh... pointless?), plus an Alternate Score for The Transformation which is introduced by Alan Menken. Played against a rough animation reel of when the Beast changes, I actually like BOTH versions. Still, Menken highlights the difference which is nicely done. The two minute and forty-one second Musical Magic has footage of Menken and Ashman working together and footage of other musicians at work, plus interviews with former Disney head Peter Schneider, Michael Eisner, Menken himself, Cakemaker, Trousdale, Wise, Chris Sanders, Disney chair Dick Cook and even Celine Dion. Basically, everyone talks positively about the songs.

Under The Characters, Strength of Character lasts nearly four minutes and has stills of concept art, plus interviews with Hahn, Canemaker, Woolverton, Menken, Sigman, Wise and Trousdale as they explore the main characters and their personalities briefly. Vocal Heroes: The Voice Talent is a strong five minutes that has interviews with Hahn, Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Alan Menken, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach and David Odgen Stiers. Basically, the interviews with the voice actors are from when they were making the film, but these interviews are still effective and intriguing if you ask me. Stills and footage of the actors at work accompanies them. We also have Character Art Galleries with optional audio to hear more about them. So you can see stills divided into these sections: "Belle," "Beast," "Lumiere," "Mrs. Potts & Chip," "Cogsworth," "Gaston & Le Feou," "Maurice & Philippe," "The Townspeople" and "Other Enchanted Objects." Nifty stuff.

Production Art features The Stage Is Set. Featuring behind the scenes footage of creating the art and visuals, Trousdale, Wise, layout head Ed Ghertner, Don Hahn and Lisa Keene discuss the work of putting it together and how it all comes together. Concept Art & Design as well as Layouts & Backgrounds are more still galleries that feature some optional audio.

In the animation section, we have Animation. Lasting nearly seven solid minutes and featuring behind the scenes footage of people working and all sorts of clips, this focuses on where the animation came together and what makes it so interesting, let alone how to make each character so unique. . Roy Disney, head of clean-up animation Vera Lanpher, Sigman, Canemaker, animator Glen Keane, Wise, Trousdale, supervising animator for Lumiere Nik Ranieri and supervising another for Cogsworth Will Finn talk about the process.

Animation Tests, Roughs & Clean-Ups is introduced by Hahn as he explains how animation comes together through several of the film's sequences (it does total about five minutes), while we can see a Pencil Version of The Transformation. Featuring behind the scenes footage of the Beast being animated, Hahn does more introducing here and then we can see a final version of the sequence... which was already showcased in the alternate Alan Menken score. Finally, A Transformation: Glen Keane focuses on one of the most famous Disney animators where he talks about his work and inspiration for that transformation sequence. Keane is quite insightful and very interesting to hear in how philosophical and even religious here. This three minute and fourteen second watch is certainly worth your time, even showing some stills and pencil tests of the famed sequence.

Tricks Of The Trade has Animation With Computers, which focuses on the tools used to create some of the sequences in the film. Featuring more talking from Hahn and Ghertner, we all know how great and "computery" the famed ballroom scene looks. Interesting though in how they utilized the technology and how it was done. Camera Move Test has more talking from Hahn, followed by a camera move test for the ballroom sequence. Quite interesting if you ask me in the freedom that it does have and how they got an idea of what the sequence would look like.

Release and Reaction is filled with some cool stuff. A High Profile Preview has interviews with Cook, Roy Disney, Canemaker and Hahn as they discuss their invitation to the New York Film Festival and the fact that the film was not done yet. They all expected to get bashed by the "cynics," but of course, history was made. This lasts about a minute and forty-five seconds. Release and Reaction extends on the New York Film Festival to an extent as they discuss what "special" thing they had with the movie. Roy Disney, Cook, Menken, Canemaker, Osborne and Eisner. They all discuss what they think was so key to everyone's enjoyment of the film.

Awards has clips from TV spots plus interviews with Osborne, Cook and Roy Disney as they discuss the honor of getting nominated for the Academy Awards®. Howard Ashman: In Memoriam is a touching piece as Hahn, most of the story people and Menken look back at the late lyricist and how his illness of AIDS was kept a secret from many for quite a bit, and how integral he was to the film. Menken holds back tears as he remembers his late collaborator and friend... it's slightly fluffy, but has nice footage of the man and really worth watching. The man was quite a talent.

Trailers & TV Spots has an introduction from Don Hahn on the importance of advertising, plus there are two trailers (one for the original theatrical release and the other for the large format release), plus four TV spots. Original Release Publicity Gallery and Large Format Publicity Gallery showcase posters and newspaper ads for the two releases, and of course, we have that famous "Beauty and the Beast" Music Video Performed by Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson. It is introduced by Celine herself too.

The Broadway Musical section is somewhat of an advertisement for the musical and "The Lion King" video. Broadway Bound has the origins of the film going to Broadway with more talking from Sigman, Roy Disney, Thomas Schumacher (President of Buena Vista Theatrical Group), Michael Eisner, Woolverton and Menken. It's interesting to note how Eisner was reluctant at first (and was a theater major at college), and explains how Menken expanded the story to Broadway. Woolverton discusses what new elements she added to the story as well. Oh yeah, there are clips from the show and are ads for other Disney broadway musicals (okay, they're not direct ads... but the mentions might as well be). Broadway Publicity Gallery has stills for the Broadway release and the Costume Design Gallery has stills for the costumes used. Nice stuff.

The Special Edition discusses the reissuing of the film. Roy Disney, Cook, Sigman, Hahn, Woolverton, Menken, Wise, Trousdale and Eisner. There is talk of how the idea came about (thanks "Star Wars"), what to do for the reissue (the suggestion of "Human Again"), why it was cut and how they put it back in and then the process of creating the sequence. Very cool stuff, and I do think it is a good sequence that fits the film. There is also behind the scenes footage of the animation and musical process of it.

Disney's Animation Magic doesn't directly deal with the film exactly, and it is aimed for the younger set. Still, "Beauty and the Beast" are mainly used for some examples. The stars of the Disney Channel show "Even Stevens" host this feature where we learn all the elements of making a Disney animated feature. Personally, I could do without all the "hip" muzak and the flashy editing, but in the content of all of the features for the section are done quite well. For those who know how animated films to some extent, you probably won't find anything new here. But the behind the scenes footage of it all can be pretty cool. So besides the introduction, you can view stuff on "Storyboard," "Character Design," "Animation," "Effects Animation," "Computer Animation" and "Sound Effects."

Chip's Musical Challenge is a fun little game that deals with music for the kiddies, while we have another "Beauty and the Beast" Music Video, this time performed by Jump 5 (and in non-anamorphic widescreen). So yeah, those three features under Chip are mainly for the younger ones.

Under the Mrs. Potts section, we have features aimed at uh... middle-aged women? I don't know, but I think everyone can enjoy them to an extent. We have the ORIGINAL "Beauty and the Beast" music video again, plus The Making Of "Beauty and the Beast" is introduced by Celine Dion... but it's basically some of the main featurettes rehashed together so besides the intro, there isn't really any new content. Mrs. Pott's Personality Profile Game is where you answer a few survey questions from Mrs. Potts and presto... you'll find out which "Beauty and the Beast" character you're like. In case you're curious, if I was cursed by some old lady/princess and in some French castle, I'd be Lumerie.

The Story Behind The Story is sorta like that "Snow White" DVD feature... here you can watch some talent (usually one that deals with the movie being talked about) talk about another Disney movie through its plot and some of its origins. There's also a somewhat cheesy intro, but if you need recaps or ads on "Cinderella," "The Lion King," "Pocahontas," "The Jungle Book," "Sleeping Beauty," "Mulan" or "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"... then here you go.

Of course, we also have The West Wing game (just keep clicking the Rose until you gained entrance). This is one annoying game... you've actually needed to play through the other game to gain entrance, but you can always guess. So there's some random little games you're used to on DVD that don't add up to much. They're all not hard and are aimed for a much younger age set, but there is a good deal to go through. And what do you get? I don 't want to ruin the surprise... but if you've worked on this, you'll probably be disappointed.

Also, one must note the disc's excellent menus that really make you feel like you're part of the castle or Belle's village (some of the menus even feature Dolby Digital 5.1!), plus a pretty nifty booklet outlining the DVD in the keepcase. Overall, this is a full plate serving of extras here that Lumeire would be proud of.

 

"Beauty and the Beast" is one of Disney's best animated films, and those awaiting its DVD release are in for a real treat. Despite the compression problems, all three versions of the film look excellent, the 5.1 mix suits the film well and the supplements are plentiful and very strong in content. I can rave more and more about the film, but do I have to? This one is worthy of the Platinum Edition banner, and certainly lives up to it. One for the collection, no doubt about it.