Disney don’t often make terrible films: even those counted as the worst in the stable are still head and shoulders above 90% of the other animated releases that enter the market under a different banner, and it’s only a matter of relativity when it comes to classifying what is a good Disney and what is a bad. In some cases though, no such debate even gets off the ground.
Most of those cases involve those films which fall within the Classics “vault”, and there are some which excel even in that auspicious company. Beauty and the Beast is firmly one of the finest. Aside from being a watershed moment in the genesis of Disney’s animation, thanks to that still astounding ballroom scene, and it’s CGI innovation, it is a richly rounded, beautifully drawn story that has some of the most compelling characters in the canon, including the best human villain, and a wonderful commitment to heart that makes for a genuinely warming experience. It is a hot chocolate of a film, sweet enough but with depth and substance that lasts, and which will forever be a perennially revisited part of my collection, no matter how vast it gets.
And now, to complete the current set of available mediums, Beauty and the Beast is available to buy on 3D Blu-ray. Just so you know, the screenshots aren’t going to be in 3D, because I’m not a wizard.
The film itself is among my favourites: the songs included are all excellent, including the initially cut “Human Again”, and in “Gaston”, “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast” the film can boast three of the all-time greatest songs of the entire Disney canon. At its heart, the story is very strong, blending a compelling fairy tale with humanist, romantic elements and a group of characters, both human and otherwise who capture the imagination of viewers old and young.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the most enduringly universal stories of the entire Disney vault; it is layered in such a way that not only are children and adults entertained by levels appropriate to their senses, and their ability to recognise the specific appeal to them, but that also splits focus among more marginal characters to tie-in smaller personal stories to the primary narrative. It is not only Belle and Beast’s love affair that matters, but also the dynamics between the enchanted servants, and the underlying threat of Gaston’s bruised masculinity. These converging stories cumulatively build a very complex narrative for what is rather reductively labelled a kids’ film, and that depth is why it is impossible to be entirely invested in what is happening on screen.
The characters are brilliantly designed by a hugely talented animation team and perfectly formed thanks to wonderful colour work and the added layer of some wonderfully charismatic voice work by a collective of acting talent including Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson and Richard White – the latter three in career high performances as Belle, Beast and Gaston respectively.
But it isn’t really the movie we’re here to talk about here, because it is that 3D label in the title and on the box that really matters here…
I’d like to make this clear right off the bat: this 3D Blu-ray of Beauty and the Beast is the greatest advocate for movie lovers perseverance with the medium. I always suspected, having been introduced to the 3D world of film with Pixar’s Up that animations would be the medium’s best friend, and it seems Disney are thinking the same with re-releases for A Nightmare Before Christmas and The Lion King on the cards next. In short, Beauty and the Beast looks stunning: because it is a post-conversion, the 3D is projected backwards into the screen, making the experience akin to looking out through a window, which is the better approach for 3D, and there is less temptation to add in gimmicky composed shots where things shoot out for no reason other than to show off. And consequently there’s nothing to detract from the story.
The image quality is wonderful, as with the 2D Blu-ray. It’s an animation so we don’t have any hang-ups about realism, so the transfer must be judged on different terms. Colours are vibrant and rich, black levels deep and inky, and there is a lovely suggestion of texture in the backgrounds. Thankfully, there is little or in fact no sign of artifacting, but the source was already beautifully clear anyway, looking back at the DVD.
The sound design of Beauty and the Beast is just as impressive, but then we knew this – as it’s a Disney musical, but the transfer does a fantastic job of matching the substance with aplomb. The songs are wonderfully immersive, the orchestra soars and the voices are lavished with perfect clarity.
The 3D Blu-ray is arguably a far more essential purchase than that previously very impressive 2D release, because the 3D works so well, provided you have the facilities to screen it. And while it would be a difficult sell to suggest shelling out for a 3D TV and blu-ray player, I’m more than tempted to suggest that the expense is almost worth it for this Blu-ray. And what with Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs out in 3D, and those two upcoming Disney releases, it’s not too bad a deal…
A great selection, including the original special features from the DVD version, and also some continued over from the Blu-ray. It’s a shame there’s nothing in 3D, even trailers for upcoming releases, but it’s in no way a deal-breaker considering the vast amount of material that has made it in, including two versions of the film, plus a Picture-in-Picture set-up that includes very early footage, and a raft of featurettes, with the feature-length Beyond Beauty documentary sticking out a mile as a very strong piece. All-in-all it’s another very good, appropriate celebration of the film.
- Theatrical Cut (85 mins)
- Special Extended Edition (92 mins)
- Storyreel Picture-in-Picture Experience
- Audio Commentary: with producer Don Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale.
- Sing Along Mode
- Fast Play
- Feature: Beyond Beauty (HD, 157 mins)
- 2 Deleted Scenes (HD, 28 mins): with intros by former Walt Disney Studios chairman Peter Schneiderand story supervisor Roger Allers
- Featurette: Composing a Classic (HD, 20 mins)
- Featurette: Broadway Beginnings (HD, 13 mins)
- Music Video (HD, 3 mins): Jordin Sparks – “Beauty and the Beast.”
- Interactive Game: Bonjour – Who Is This? (HD)
- Enchanted Musical Challenge (HD)
- Sneak Peeks (HD, 15 mins)
- Screen Saver
- Adaptive Menus
- BD-Live Functionality
- Featurette: The Story Behind the Story
- Original music video of “Beauty and the Beast” by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson (5 mins)
- Early presentation reel introduced by producer Don Hahn (3 mins)
- Alternate version: “Be Our Guest” introduced by Hahn (5 mins)
- Alternate scoring introduced by Alan Menken (2 mins)
- Deleted song “Human Again”: introduced by Hahn and Menken (7 mins)
- Animation tests, Roughs, and Clean Ups (5 mins)
- Early sketch version of the Transformation scene, with introduction by Hahn (6 mins)
- Featurette: A Transformation by Glen Keane (3 mins)
- Camera test for the title song sequence (2 mins)
- Two theatrical trailers
- Four TV spots