The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p 3D transfer that is Region Free.
This is obviously another 2D to 3D convert, and whilst that opening statement is usually read with utter dread, fear not, for this conversion is so outstanding as to make this 3D rendition as good as any native 3D that exists – in simple words it is absolutely stunning.
Right from the off we are treated to incredible depth to the frame, overlooking the village, or Belle walking away from her small house, exhibit a breathtaking distance that resembles the real world. Fore, middle and background are expertly seen to give tangible distance between the individual layers; very foreground leaves and branches give way to middleground hills/trees/bushes that are clearly in front of the distant mountainous/forest background. And what is more there has been attention given to the individual layers meaning that each now has a solidity and volume and is not simply a flat plane moving into the distance. Indeed characters and objects also exhibit this solidity, the Beast's hair sweeps ‘around’ his body, Belle’s ballroom dress cascades around her, Mrs Potts' spout extends from the teapot body and the insane asylum manager’s spindly fingers and hook nose protrude from his arms and face. In fact every frame has a noticeable dimensionality, from the simplest two shot of characters, to the wide expanse looking along the town high-street (quite one of the best 3D images I’ve ever seen) and all without felling gimmicky and pulling you out of the story line. Disney have accomplished a miracle with this conversion, it really is so good as to rival the best of any natively shot CG 3D animation, even their own! Attention to detail is sublime, check out the way the Beast’s castle layers into the background, how the enchanted rose sits within the glass jar, watch as rain is both in front of, next to and behind a character standing in it, and how Belle and the Beast move into and out of the shaft of light in the dungeon, highlighted with the dust that sparkles as is moves around. This would be stunning 3D in a native production, but for a convert it is incredible.
And the rest of the picture fares just as well to really bring it to life. Detail is as sharp as the artist’s pen will allow, with the background mattes coming off with the most impression; sun sets against forests, or rain on tiled castle tops look exquisite, while the cell drawn characters display equally dramatic features – Belle’s rosy cheeks, the designs inherent in her ball-gown, the ‘wet’ looking eyes, all are extremely impressive.
Colour is gorgeous; bold, bright and lush with no hint of bleed or wash. Check out the blues of Belle’s dress against the oranges of her surroundings, or the wonderful earth tones of the forest colours, the night-time purples or the red of Gaston’s cape, truly vivid and strong.
Contrast and brightness are set to give some strong blacks that contain some decent shadow detail when the artist pen allows, look at when the Beast makes his first appearance at how ‘in the shadows’ he really is. The deep black (with the usual 3D caveat) further increases the depth of the frame enhancing, even more, the 3D elements.
Digitally there are no compression problems, banding, or edge enhancement. Using passive technology I spotted crosstalk on maybe one or two occasions in one or two scenes (basically fast moving, out of the screen moments such as when Gaston is throwing around LeFou) but it is blink and you’ll miss it, the same technology also showed up a few lines of aliasing but nothing that will really distract. On the whole this is an astonishing picture and one that can easily be considered reference.
I concentrate on the English dts-HD Master Audio 7.1 track. Well, once again Disney enhances their picture with an incredibly emotive surround track that matches its visual counterpart with flair and elegance and truly lifts the experience to something wonderful. Dialogue is very natural sounding, given plenty of directionality when needed and always a dominant part of the mix coming through the many songs with clarity and precision. Stereo effects are limited by the on screen action, though when they occur they show remarkable steerage around the speakers. Effects, such as thunder, rain, wind, forest, tavern of street life add to the overall ambience from the surrounds. Dynamically the mix is excellent, from high top end right down to the thundering roar of the Beast which gives the sub plenty to do. Bass doesn’t go as low as I’ve heard the very best, but it's not that type of film, where it does excel is in its attention to the score. Here is where the term ‘surround’ really comes into its true meaning – the score picks you up, transports you around the room and places you back in the centre, it is utterly absorbing and comes not only from left/right, front/back but also top/bottom which is a trait seldom achieved; and so good that it brings the room alive with its beat. Precision and excellent set this one apart and, again, it gains a reference mark.
This 3D Blu-ray package only differs from the Blu-ray Diamond Edition that has been out since November 2010 by the inclusion of the 3D film; the extras, indeed the rest of the set is exactly the same as the existing discs, and, as such, I haven’t gone through everything with a fine tooth comb, instead I offer a brief description of what you can find within.
- Original Theatrical Release – The film but in its original 2D incarnation.
- Special Extended Edition - Slightly re-edited version to contain the song “Human Again” that was removed from the original theatrical run.
- Original Storyboard Version - A picture-in-picture track that has producer Don Hahn discuss how the movie developed from the script, through to the storyboarding process and to the final product with overviews of the complete production, plays over the theatrical version only.
- Fast Play – Make up your own speed version of the film based on time and scenes.
- Audio Commentary – Not to be out done the special Extended Edition of the movie gets its own ‘extra’ featuring Don Hahn with co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale who discuss the changes to the original fairy tale for their Disney incarnation as well as the (at the time) all new CG animation techniques used as well as plenty of other production information.
- Sing-Along Mode - Sing along with the film.
- The Story Behind The Story – Overview of the original fairy tales and the changes made to turn them into Disney.
- Beauty and the Beast Music Video - Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson perform the title song of the film.
- Early Presentation Reel - Rough animation and camera move tests with alternative musical numbers and score.
- Beyond Beauty – An incredibly detailed look at everything thing that went on behind the scenes to bring the film to the big screen, the central documentary is expandable into specifically detailed features by clicking on the icons that appear on screen.
- Composing a Classic - Don Hahn, composer Alan Menken and Disney historian Richard Kraft discuss the music created for the movie and its place in telling the story.
- Deleted Scenes - Peter Schneider introduces two deleted scenes; an alternate opening to the movie and Belle’s exploration of the Beasts library.
- Broadway Beginnings – Ad for the Broadway show featuring Donny Osmond and Debbie Gibson.
- Enchanted Musical Challenge - Interactive game; search the castle and answer movie trivia questions.
- New Beauty and the Beast Music Video - Jordin Sparks version of Tale as old as Time.
- Trailers & TV spots
Beauty and the Beast is the second in Disney’s ‘renaissance’ period, where everything from story to character model and from tone to music design (especially music design) came together to form a perfect whole. The story itself is very simple and does not need repeating here, but it’s the way that Disney tells it that makes it just a joy to watch and enjoy time and again – the very definition of classic.
As a 3D blu-ray package, Disney have outdone themselves with regard the 2D to 3D conversion and have produced a picture that rivals the best of the natively filmed material available – I was blown away by how good this picture looks – and when combined with a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining surround sound track, the whole experience becomes one of immersion, and finally add on top an extras package (including three 2D versions of the film) that simply cannot be beaten, you have a set that is future proof and a must to be picked up by fans of the film and the format alike. Highly recommended.
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