There are few companies that you simply can’t hold a grudge against when it comes to releasing their catalog of titles repeatedly on home video. Disney is one such company. When it comes to their animated classics, you’ll never find a shortage of people who want to buy it again and again whenever a new format comes out so that we’re able to enjoy it even more than before. Even though the previously released DVD edition of Beauty and the Beast was more than adequate (in fact it was more than that—it was probably one of Disney’s most supremely assembled releases to date), fans clamored for a Blu-ray release and after laying eyes on the film for only a few seconds its easy to see why—fans clearly knew what kind of amazing job Disney would do bringing this film to Blu-ray in full 1080p glory.
Set in and around a quaint French village during the late 18th century, Beauty and the Beast follows the fantastic adventures of Belle, a bright and beautiful young woman who finds escape from her ordinary life, and the advances of a boorish suitor, Gaston, by reading books. Meanwhile, off in a castle in the distance, a cruel young prince is cast under the spell of an enchantress who turns him into a tormented beast, while transforming his servants into animated household objects. In order to remove the curse, the Beast must discover a true love who will return his affection before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose. When Belle’s inventor father stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and is taken prisoner, Belle comes to the rescue and agrees to take her father’s place. With the help of the castle’s enchanted staff, she sees beneath the Beast’s exterior and discovers the heart and soul of a human prince.
As I’m sure I’ve said countless times before, Disney films were huge in my house. There was nary a movie post Little Mermaid that we didn’t own on VHS (though I think we stopped at Mulan) and Beauty and the Beast was always a frequently watched tape in the house right next to The Lion King. Although Beast wasn’t a film I enjoyed quite as much as the others, it was still a great story to watch. You see good triumph over evil and done so in a very adult way that’s just scary enough as a child that it engrains in your memory. Even before I watched it on Blu-ray for the first time in probably a decade I had mental flashbacks of that rainy fight between Beast and Gaston.
It’s true that the film did skew a bit more towards the female audience with such a strong lead with Belle, but even so there was plenty to enjoy for all ages and genders. The main thing to enjoy was the collection of songs that are now as classic as the film itself, but there were also the numerous characters that are so engrained now. Everything from the candlestick to the clock to the tea pot, everything not only stuck out as “original” in the sense of other Disney films but they were also so memorable that to this day you find yourself quoting them or impersonating them without realizing it. At least for me those characters will forever be planted in my mind simply because I grew up with this film.
While the animation in the film was never something I thought about when I was a kid (except for the limited CGI work the film used—even as a kid I was obsessed with CGI for some reason), watching it now makes my jaw drop to the floor. The fluidity and just sheer gracefulness that accompanies every frame is really just flat out astounding. Combine that with the impeccable coloring (the ball room scene made my eyes bug out when it came time for it on the Blu-ray) and there really isn’t a single thing about this film that doesn’t floor you. Not only because it’s nearly twenty years old now but because it’d still be amazing even if it was just made today.
There is so much to love and enjoy about this film its crazy. Perhaps you won’t share the same sentiment if you didn’t grow up with it as I did, but watching it again after all these years was a real treat. It didn’t hurt that it was on a bigger TV and in high definition either, but it should really just go without saying that this is definitely one of Disney’s Must See classics.
Disney unleashes Beauty and the Beast on Blu-ray in the greatest combo-pack of all: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy. All three in one box is a definite treat, plus you have a nice reflective foil/embossed slipcover on the outside to help pop off the shelves. Regardless if you have a Blu-ray player right now, definitely pick up this release over the others—it doesn’t even matter at this point since it comes with a normal DVD copy as well, so once you do upgrade you’ll be able to drop your jaw at the Blu-ray clarity without having to fork over more money. Inside the set is the usual assortment of inserts and whatnot, but nothing overly exciting unless you really like looking at advertisements. As a side note, Disney is releasing this set in the way they’ve been doing the past year or so with the Blu-ray set in both regular DVD and Blu-ray packaging. The contents are the same, just the packaging is different.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded 1080p transfer that…well, there’s no real way around it. This video combined with the audio (a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix) make for what may be the most beautiful demo disk for a home theater I’ve ever seen. Animation has always been the pinnacle of showing off what the digital disc format is capable of, but this is just truly stunning. Not only is the animation itself flawless, but so is the transfer with just rampant amounts of detail, clarity and a color palette that will cause your eyes to tear up from the sheer beauty of it. Ok I might be overselling it a tiny bit, but it truly is one of the most stunning and jaw-dropping A/V transfers I’ve seen in recent years and while I said that about Princess and the Frog too, it’s really about the same quality level…which is astonishing considering this one pre-dates Frog by twenty years. Without a doubt this is a true representation of just how beautiful a Blu-ray can look. I could go on and on about the image depth and clarity or remark about how solid the sound field is in the 7.1 mix or talk about the throaty LFE output…but I won’t. I honestly believe if I keep typing about it I’ll just end up using a thesaurus to find different words for “amazing,” so I’ll just spare you (and myself) that process and just simply call this one what it is: amazing.
The full extras list includes:
• Three Versions of the Film
o Original Theatrical Release
o Special Extended Edition
o NY Film Festival storyboards of the film
• Deleted Scenes
o Alternate Opening and Ending
o Belle In The Library – never before seen moment where Belle meets four new characters in the Library
• Backstage Disney
o Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind Making Beauty and the Beast This interactive experience allows fans to expand areas of the documentary to uncover even more about each topic making have up to 3 hours of additional content. Areas include the story of Beauty and the Beast, Walt’s fascination with fairy tales, the Purdum Reel and Kurt Wise/Gary Trousdale short, tribute to Howard Ashman and much, much more…
o Broadway Beginnings: Up-close and personal celebrity interviews with Nick Jonas, Donny Osmond, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Deborah Gibson and others who have starred in the Broadway production
o Composing A Classic: A Musical Conversation with Alan Menken, Don Hahn & Richard Kraft where they reminisce, sing songs and share personal stories of the times during production of Beauty and the Beast
• Music And More
o New Jordin Sparks “Beauty and the Beast” Music Video
o Sing-Along – when you select this option, the words to the song appear on the screen so you can sing along to your favorites.
o Audio Commentary – by Don Hahn (Producer), Kirk Wise (Director), Gary Trousdale (Director) and Alan Menken (Composer)
o Beauty and the Beast Music Video Performed By Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson
o Alternate Version of “Be Our Guest”
o Alternate Score of “The Transformation”
o Introduction To Deleted Songs By Don Hahn: “Human Again”
o Introductions To Deleted Song By Alan Menken: “Human Again”
o Deleted Song: “Human Again”
• Family Games
o Chip’s Musical Challenge
o Mrs. Pott’s Personality Profile Game
o Bonjour, Who Is This? A Disney TelePlay Game powered by BD-Live. Using any phone, guess the identity of the other players before they guess yours. Available in the US and English speaking Canada only. Requires BD-Live enables Blu-ray player and internet connection.
o Enchanted Musical Challenge: A DisneyQuest Game
Yes…that’s a huge list. And it will take you probably the equivalent of five or six viewings of the film itself to get through, there is truly that much content to sink your teeth into. The devastating thing is it’s all really well worth watching if you enjoyed the film as much as I did, so set aside plenty of time to delve into this set.
Overall a Must Own set for Disney fans.
Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition arrives on Blu-ray on October 5th and on DVD on November 23rd.