BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: SPECIAL EDITION
Reviewed October 14th, 2002 by Brian White
The seventies and early eighties were a dark time for Disney. The studio put out some weak films that rested on their past glories. In fact, other than the theme parks, Disney was just about reruns. These were dark days indeed.
In the late eighties, an effort was made to return Disney to the place it once held, as the makers of timeless animated features that would get everyone singing. By selecting Howard Ashman and David Menken to compose music for The Little Mermaid, Disney made a great step forward in quality. By nurturing a team of animators through its dark years, Disney’s was able to produce animation that matched the quality of the music. Mermaid was a huge hit. Disney was back. Now what?
Walt himself wanted to make Beauty and the Beast when the company initially had success with films like Snow White and Cinderella. He felt that the technology of the day was not up to the task, and the story is a little complicated for a fairytale. The project was resurrected in the eighties, to follow Little Mermaid.
Where the Little Mermaid began the trip back toward the quality of previous Disney years, Beauty and the Beast confirmed Disney’s return to form. The film is fantastic and the music is great. This animated feature is on par with any film that Disney created in the past.
Beauty and the Beast was huge. It made the studio loads of money, and received critical accolades. Even more surprising is the fact that the film won the Golden Globe for best picture, and was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The Oscar nomination was a first for an animated feature, and hasn’t been repeated.
The animated feature was transformed into a hit Broadway play that has been performed around the world, and is nearing the 3000-performance mark in New York. The movie was given a “Special Edition” treatment for the IMAX screen, where a discarded musical number only heard in the Broadway show: Human Again, was placed back into the picture, using the original voice talent.
Finally, Beauty and the Beast, one of Disney’s biggest pictures, makes its way to DVD as part of the Platinum release series. Like last year’s Snow White special edition, the movie is loaded with extras, and will be discontinued shortly.
How does the movie look? Well there’s been a lot of talk around the web about compression issues with the transfer. Y’see, they put three cuts of the film on disc one, along with a commentary. As a result, something had to suffer. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve got to say it isn’t really that bad. Sure some curves could be smoother, but you really have to look for these issues. I am, of course, talking about the IMAX special edition. The theatrical release and a “work in progress” release are also included. The special edition looks the best of the three. Fear not, it’s not bad at all, just a little plain. All three versions of the film are 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The packaging makes mention of a high-definition transfer process. That’s where Disney scans all of the cels into a computer for a solid, digital presentation. As a result, the Special Edition transfer is quite steady.
The “All New” 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is pretty good. Like the video, the sound is a little plain but more than acceptable.
Ultimately, I wish that they had placed only the Special Edition on disc one, and put the other two cuts on disc two. That way, the Special Edition could have been given the audio and video space that it deserves. Will your kids care? No way. Will non-enthusiasts care? Nope.
Extras. Extras. They’re all over the place. You get a great commentary, discussing both thematic, and filmmaking issues. The two directors, and Alen Menken are included on the informative track. There are several featurettes about the various aspects of the production. However, this “making of” footage is repackaged on the same disc “hosted” by Celine Dion. Strange. The three versions of the film are certainly significant extras, when you think about it. There are a couple of games and that video with Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson singing the title track. There is a generous supply of extras. Highly recommended for the entire family.
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