Disney’s ‘Beauty & the Beast’ comes to USA Region free Blu-ray with an absolutely stunning 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Although nowhere near as old as some of Disney’s early classics, ‘Beauty’ has undergone a restoration to remove white dirt and water spots from the HD master. The result is something that hits you right between the eyes in terms of picture quality. Pristine is a fitting word to describe the resultant image. There is a clarity here that makes you want to reach out and touch the characters. The lines of the hand drawn animation are so clearly defined that you can just imagine the animator drawing them on his light table. The colours are amazingly vibrant and the skin tones of the human characters (particularly Belle) just look so very healthy. The rich dark blue of the sky when Belle and the Beast sit in the castle garden right after the ballroom sequence has a warmth of its own that shouts ‘QUALITY’ in a loud voice. The aforementioned ballroom sequence, which has to be the highlight of the film in animation terms, just makes you want to smile in admiration. Anyone who claims they can see film grain in this picture must be right up against the screen with a magnifying glass as I could see none. In actual fact, the only word that I can think of to take into account all the plus points of this transfer is ‘Wow!’. I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing ‘Beauty & the Beast’ in demo rooms throughout the country very soon.
For the Blu-ray release of ‘Beauty & the Beast’, Disney called back original sound mixer Terry Porter to produce a new DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround mix to bring it bang up to date with advances in technology. I can only think that he was told to ‘make it enveloping’ as this is exactly what it does. All seven speakers and the sub get a thorough workout. During the musical numbers, you’re smack in the middle of their large scale presence and it’s a joy to be there. This is one mix that uses the full width of the front sound stage for the dialogue as well as the front side speakers to add impressive directionality. When the Beast roars, he really yanks on the subwoofer and there’s great bass in his voice at all times. As characters move from left to right of frame or go past camera, the sound steering follows them faultlessly.
A good musical causes a swelling in the chest and the presentation of the numbers in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ achieves this, causing the spirits of the audience to soar.
It’s very hard not to sit with a huge smile on your face during the songs as they just simply sound superb. Probably the best soundtrack of the year.
As with most Disney releases, ‘Beauty & the Beast’ comes with a barrow load of extras. The version reviewed was the 3 disc Combo Diamond Edition which consists of 2 Blu-ray discs with the feature on disc 1 and the extras spread over both Blu-ray discs but organised under section headings. The NTSC DVD contains the movie as well as extras. While there are new HD extras, they've also ported over all the original bonus material from the previous DVD release under the heading Classic Bonus Features.
- Original Theatrical Release (HD, 85 mins)
There are several versions of the movie you can choose to watch, so it’s included in the special features. This is the version that was originally released in cinemas back in 1991.
- Special Extended Edition (HD, 92 mins)
The main difference between this version and the original release is the inclusion of the originally cut musical number called "Human Again." It doesn’t feel as if it has been shoe horned in at all and the quality is obviously no different to the rest of the production.
- Original Storyboard Version (HD, 85 mins)
In this version, Producer Don Hahn appears in a picture-in-picture track that runs alongside the theatrical version and he explains how the movie developed from storyboard to the final product with overviews of the complete production.
- Audio Commentary
The audio commentary is linked to the Special Extended Edition of the movie and features Don Hahn with co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale. The trio discuss the changes made to the original fairy tale for the movie version as well as its place in Disney animation history. They cover the, then, ground breaking animation techniques used on some of the sequences, with special attention to the ballroom scene. It’s great to hear all of this production detail straight from the horse’s mouth and it never gets boring, so it’s not a chore to listen.
- Sing-Along Mode (HD)
Just like it says on the tin, budding stars can join in and sing along as they belt out those great musical numbers.
Classic Bonus Features
- The Story Behind The Story (SD, 25 mins)
Here we take a look at a few original fairy tales and the changes made to them in order to turn them into Disney animated films.
- 'Beauty and the Beast' Music Video (SD, 3 mins)
This is the music video from the time of the picture’s release performed by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. I always thought Angela Lansbury’s version had real charm and this one was a case of ‘maim that tune’.
- Early Presentation Reel (SD, 35 mins)
This includes a collection of rough animation tests together with a camera move test.
Don Hahn and Alan Menken cover an alternate version of "Be Our Guest," as well as the musical number "Human Again" deleted from the original release. They also tell us about the alternate score for the final transformation scene.
- Sneak Peeks (HD, 15 mins)
Here come the adverts folks! We get trailers for the Blu-ray releases of 'Bambi,' 'The Lion King,' 'Toy Story 3,' 'Alice in Wonderland: Special 60th Anniversary Edition,' and 'Fantasia/Fantasia 2000'.
- Beyond Beauty (HD, 157 mins total)
This is probably the most ‘in depth’ look at everything that went on behind the scenes of 'Beauty and the Beast’ ever produced. It plays as a central featurette that can branch out to more specifically detailed areas via selectable icons that appear on the screen. A menu keeps track of all the scenes you’ve watched so you know which ones you have still to watch.
It has all been put together with great care and an obvious love for the film.
- Composing a Classic (HD, 20 mins)
Don Hahn, composer Alan Menken, and Disney historian Richard Kraft discuss the wonderful original music created for the movie. They also explain why music is a perfect way to tell a story, and Disney’s use of it in almost all of their animations.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 28 mins)
The two deleted scenes include a 20 minute long alternate opening to the movie, that would have totally changed the movie, presented as storyboards. The other deleted scene features Belle exploring the Beast's library and meeting four other, until now, unknown characters which would have made it all a bit complicated.
Disney chairperson Peter Schneider introduces the two deleted scenes in a clunky kind of way as you have to play the introduction and then choose the actual scene from a menu.
Disney Family Play
- Broadway Beginnings (HD, 13 mins)
A little promo piece for the Broadway show of the movie featuring Donny Osmond and Debbie Gibson among others.
- Enchanted Musical Challenge (HD)
This is an interactive game for the whole family where you have to search the castle and answer trivia questions about the movie. Just the thing for a wet Sunday afternoon.
- Bonjour, Who Is This? (HD)
Another interactive game for between 2 – 8 players that requires the use of domestic phones or mobiles. Someone must have shares in the phone companies. Just keep it simple is what I say. Let the kids run up a huge phone bill as they try to decide which character they are pretending to be.
- New 'Beauty and the Beast' Music Video (HD, 3 mins)
As if Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson hadn’t done enough damage, Jordin Sparks has a go at ruining the ‘Tale as old as Time’ number with this more modern version. It’s a nice song, leave it alone!
The Disney classic animation ‘Beauty & the Beast’ bursts on to USA Region free Blu-ray with an absolutely stunning 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The restored picture has an amazing clarity and our eyes are treated to vibrant colours as the movie progresses.
The original audio has been remixed in a DTS-HD MA 7.1 surround track that envelops the audience with the great Broadway show style songs. Dialogue uses the full width of the front stage while the steering makes great use of the surrounds. When the Beast roars, so does your subwoofer.
Like most Disney releases, ‘Beauty & the Beast’ is not left wanting when it comes to bonus materials. There are featurettes galore and a fascinating commentary track from producer Don Hahn and the two directors. Everything a production buff could wish for (upon a star).
Based on the well known fairy tale, it’s the story of love that blossoms between small town girl Belle and big castle guy, the Beast - aided by a whole host of colourful Disney characters. The songs are fantastic.
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- Original Theatrical Release (HD, 85 mins)