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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

In my humble opinion, 1991’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST ($40) marks the pinnacle of the Disney animation renaissance and my personal favorite of all modern Walt Disney animated feature films. Masterpiece is a word that is bandied about quite a bit in relation to Disney animated films, and there is no doubt in my mind the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the genuine article. My high regard for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is certainly shared by many, especially when on considers all of the accolades heaped upon this wonderful film. Perhaps the most impressive accolade was the fact that BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. That was quite an accomplishment for an animated feature, but then again, this is quite an accomplished animated feature. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST comes as close to perfect as any film could hope to be. This amazing film has a solid, well-written screenplay, fully realized characters, a big, beautiful Broadway styled score and exquisite traditional animation that is augmented with 3D CGI elements. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the kind of film that appeals to any taste, because the script effortlessly mixes the elements of music, comedy, drama, fantasy, romance and adventure.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST tells a simple story, a fairy tale, but it does so with wonderful, fully developed and individual characters. Without question, these are the best and most complex characters ever designed for a single Disney animated feature. Belle (voiced by Paige O'Hara) is the beauty of the title, an independent young woman who actually reads books and can think for herself, in a time where such activities were frowned upon. The Beast (voiced by Robby Benson) is a fearsome creature to behold; with a temper far worse than his appearance- who is in reality, a tortured soul hiding behind the grotesqueness of his enchantment. Gaston (voiced by Richard White) the real villain of the piece; more or less a self absorbed, vain, ham actor of a bully- a person not beyond squashing someone if it suits his purposes. Mrs. Potts (voiced by Angela Lansbury) is the teapot/housekeeper- a wonderful mother figure who is part fairy godmother and part Dear Abby. Lumiere (voiced by Jerry Orbach) is a wolf in candlestick's clothing- part Maurice Chevalier, part vaudeville entertainer, all skirt chaser. Cogsworth (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) is the insufferable, pompous clock of a majordomo- he is a comic master stroke, whether he's doing a double take or a slow burn, Cogsworth is a guaranteed laugh getter. The vocal talent behind BEAUTY AND THE BEAST also includes Bradley Pierce, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti, Hal Smith, Jo Anne Worley, Mary Kay Bergman, Brian Cummings, Alvin Epstein, Tony Jay, Alec Murphy, Kimmy Robertson, Kath Soucie and Frank Welker.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST features some delightful Broadway styled songs from Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, the most familiar being Be Our Guest and the title song. Of the title song, let me say this- I found Angela Lansbury's rendition of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST to be infinitely superior to the popular version recorded by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. Ms. Lansbury's rendition is simpler, more heartfelt and more romantic than the somewhat overproduced duet that graces the end credits. Nearing the twenty-year mark, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST remains one of the most romantic films to come out of Hollywood in the last two decades and certainly the most romantic animated film that I have ever encountered. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a pure love story, where love is the key element and the thought of sex is never allowed to enter the picture, making this the ideal film for any date night, one that is sure to score points with that special someone in you life.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has made BEAUTY AND THE BEAST available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST arrives on Blu-ray with a magnificent looking 1080p presentation, which is worthy of the highest praise. For this type of traditional animation, image sharpness and detail cannot be faulted; almost everything looks perfect. Animated characters and objects delegated to the foreground appear wonderfully crisp and highly defined. The multi-planed animation techniques pioneered by Disney more than seventy years ago simulates a nice depth of field, as do the CGI 3D elements that are employed in various sequences. The beautifully rendered Colors virtually leap off the screen, with the hues appearing fully saturated and totally stable. Blacks and whites are pure. Contrast is nothing short of excellent. The elements from which BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has been mastered are without flaws. There is virtually no evidence of grain or noise in the image, but the picture never appears digitally manipulated.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The sonic elements are the equal of the visuals with the lossless encode truly enhancing the Broadway styled score from Menken and Ashman. There is no doubt that one will get a thrill listening to these songs again through their home theater system and feeling enveloped by the music and the singing. The orchestrations sound rich, as do all of the singing voices. As for the non-musical passages, they are nicely atmospheric, plus the sound design gives a nice spread of active effects throughout the soundstage. Sound effects are cleanly rendered and convincing. The bass channel adds considerable weight to effects and a nice rumble to roars and bellows of the Beast. Speaking voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which are spread across the multi disc collection. Both the original Theatrical Version and the 2002 Special Edition with the additional musical number Being Human are present in their full high definition glory. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE WORK IN PROGRESS is also present on the Blu-ray, but is only available in a Picture-in-Picture pop-up window. Premiering at the New York Film Festival in September 1991 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE WORK IN PROGRESS gave an early taste of this magical motion picture. For those who have never experienced BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE WORK IN PROGRESS, the film’s soundtrack is complete, while about seventy percent of the animation appears in its finished form. However, throughout the course of THE WORK IN PROGRESS, there are individual shots, as well as entire sequences appear in the form of pencil animation and/or rough sketches. Sitting down to watch BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE WORK IN PROGRESS gives the viewer a real feel for pains that go into the creation of an animated feature. While BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE WORK IN PROGRESS probably holds the greatest appeal for the serious collector or the die-hard animation fan, it is also a very special film in its own right that is worthy of its own full high definition presentation. As a consolation, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE WORK IN PROGRESS is viewable in standard definition on the DVD version of the film.

A running Audio Commentary with producer Don Hahn, directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, and composer Alan Menken is provided for the Special Edition version of the film. A Sing-Along Track is also provided for those wannbe performers out there. Disc one’s featurettes consist of Composing A Classic: A Musical Conversation With Alan Menken, Don Haen, & Richard Kraft (twenty minutes) and Broadway Beginnings (thirteen minutes). Deleted Scenes, a new Music Video of Beauty And The Beast by Jordan Sparks and Previews of other Disney titles close out disc one. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

On disc two one will find Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind The Making Of Beauty And The Beast an extensively detailed interactive program that runs one hundred fifty seven minutes combined, and that looks at the production of this animated classic. Interactive Games include Enchanted Musical Challenge and Bonjour! Who Is This?. Disc two also includes Classic DVD Bonus Features, which have been ported from the previous DVD release and includes the following programs and other content: The Story Behind The Story, Beauty And The Beast Music Video Performed By Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson, Early Presentation Reel, Alternate Version: Be Our Guest, Alternate Score: The Transformation, Deleted Song, Animation, Camera Move Test, Trailers & TV Spots. Disc three offers a DVD copy of the movie for those who are on the fence about making the upgrade to Blu-ray.

As I stated above BEAUTY AND THE BEAST marks the pinnacle of the Disney animation renaissance and is truly worthy of the term masterpiece. The Blu-ray presentation is utterly flawless. Absolutely, positively recommended.

 
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 


Beauty And The Beast (Three-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging) (1991)

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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