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Beauty and the Beast(1991)
In a quaint French village during the late 18th century, Belle, a bright and beautiful young woman, 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.
For more about Beauty and the Beast and the Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray release, see Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Starring: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, Richard White, David Ogden Stiers
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
» See full cast & crew
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray Review
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Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 22, 2010
What makes an animated classic... well, classic? Is it the film's longevity? Its ability to speak to new generations of moviegoers? Its artistry? Animation? Story? Characters? Music? Family appeal? Profit margins and merchandising horsepower? Or is it something simpler? Something purer... something indescribable that stirs deep within the soul and whispers, "this, dear boy, is a bona fide classic." Beauty and the Beast has long been one of Disney's animated crown jewels, and for good reason. Critics have praised its hand-drawn grace, haunting love story and stirring music. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, and remains the first of two animated films to be nominated for Best Picture, the Academy's highest honor. Veteran filmfans have celebrated its effortless storytelling, absorbing fairy-tale aesthetic and enduring sincerity. And children of all ages have sat in stillness, eyes wide and mouths slightly agape, soaking in every rousing song, flourish of color and intense encounter it has to offer. But more than anything, Beauty and the Beast continues to resonate some nineteen years after its debut, an accomplishment many modern animated marvels struggle and fail to attain.
More than an adaptation of the timeless fairy tale of the same name, Beauty and the Beast harkens back to the Disney films of old, yet strikes the delicate balance between hallowed tradition and our modern sensibilities. While Belle (voiced by Paige O'Hara) has since been inducted into Disney's "Princess" lineup, she isn't a pampered royal, a damsel in distress or a doting queen-in-waiting. But she also isn't a product of this age, a point of potential contention directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise handle with sure-handed confidence. Under their careful guidance, Belle is strong-willed but vulnerable, independent yet dutiful, a kind and gentle girl but a smart and savvy survivalist, a lovelorn romantic and a woman who doesn't need a prince to define, or worse, rescue her. It's a fine line in each case, sure, but one the filmmakers nimbly traverse without pitching too far to either extreme. The Beast (Robby Benson), meanwhile, is as tragic a figure as Disney has ever produced. Lonely and embittered, Disney's cursed prince isn't the reclusive sweetheart-in-mourning newcomers might expect. Belle has to chisel through years of deep-seated hatred and festering anger to excavate the man at the heart of the creature, and their budding love story is more believable and impactful for it. Had the Beast simply been portrayed as a misunderstood monstrosity, their surprisingly complex emotional relationship would seem trite and contrived. Like Belle, we're asked to unearth the humanity in a walking nightmare, to evaluate his true character and motives, and question his every action; a process that makes our emerging affection for him all the more powerful.
The Beast's massive castle and its charming denizens are brilliantly conceived as well. Normally, I'd scoff at dancing dishware and chatty candelabras. Couldn't think of a way to work in talking animals, could you? Had to concoct a go-to source of exposition, right? Needed a few lively musical numbers, did ya? But again, Trousdale, Wise and their team succeed where most others would not. The castle itself is nothing short of a stonewall extension of the Beast: dark and sinister at first glance, teeming with warmth within. It evolves as steadily and subtly as he does, revealing itself as carefully and cautiously as Belle's would-be suitor. Elsewhere, his faithful servants, the aforementioned dishware, emerge as the fading light of the Beast's humanity, not to mention smartly employed and much-needed sources of comic relief, character development and light-heartedness. While the Beast sulks in torment, candelabra and resident maître d' Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), clock and loyalist Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers), maternal teapot Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) and young teacup Chip (Bradley Michael Pierce) embrace their fates with a bit more hopefulness; saddened by their ordeal, but determined to make the best of it. They stand (or waddle as it were) in direct contrast to their master, bridging the communication gap between Belle and the Beast, nurturing their trust and furthering their relationship. As the seasons pass, their role deepens and expands, and their exuberance injects welcome zest into a fairy tale that might otherwise have none.
But Beauty and the Beast is more than the sum of its characters, story and themes. Every hand-drawn frame, every hand- painted background and, yes, even the CG-born environments that house the film's most complicated shots exude the passion of the incredibly talented artists who devoted their all to bringing Disney's selfless heroine and sullen monstrosity to animated life. In an age of computer-generated flawlessness, it's actually refreshing to revisit a classic in which lines aren't always razor-sharp and proportions aren't always perfect. Don't get me wrong, CG animation can be extremely impressive in its own right -- Pixar is proof positive of that -- but there's something special to be said for the hand-crafted handiwork of men and women who rely solely on pencils and brushes rather than keystrokes and mouse clicks. Ominous forests breathe the breath of the night winds, dancing silverware tumbles and spills across the screen, curtains billow, dresses flutter in the breeze, fur ripples as the Beast charges... it's all breathtaking, particularly when you consider how much of the film was drawn by hand. Alan Menken's musical score and the late Howard Ashman's lyrics are just as engrossing, if not more so. Ashman's verses continually dig beneath the surface, Menken's melodies tell fairy tales all their own and their songs are as fitting and organic as those of any golden-age Disney masterpiece. Beauty and the Beast is as much an aural masterwork as it is a visual wonder, and it doesn't surprise me in the least that the film earned the nominations and awards it did. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to weave such an intricate animated tapestry, and yet Trousdale and Wise make it all look effortless.
Only Gaston (Richard White), Beauty and the Beast's arrogant antagonist, is a distraction. Built from the ground up to be an obnoxious, repellent, loathsome villain, Gaston is... um, an obnoxious, repellent and loathsome addition to the proceedings. Trousdale and Wise clearly wanted to set the hunter's bar nice and low, but he's the only obvious, heavy-handed element in their exceedingly nuanced repertoire. A twirlable mustache and a girl tied to railroad tracks are about the only things that would make his short-sighted baddie any more Old Hollywood. Maleficent, Shere Khan, Ursala, Jafar, Hades, Scar, Clayton: all dastardly villains, all completely unredeemable. But there's a more sinister evil lurking behind the cold exterior of each one; an innate sinfulness driven by warped desire and frightening intelligence. Gaston is merely a jealous, barbarous brute and his scenes suffer accordingly. Thankfully, Beauty and the Beast's bad- apple Bad Apple doesn't spoil the bunch. Trousdale and Wise's adaptation is as timeless a tale as its well-known song suggests, and anyone -- single or married, parent or otherwise -- with any appreciation for beautiful animation, arresting music and gripping storytelling should add this must-own 3-disc Blu-ray release to their collection post haste.
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, Video Quality
But how does it all look in high definition? In a word: gorgeous. In two-hundred and sixty-five words? Disney has surpassed my every expectation, rejuvenating yet another beloved animated classic with an utterly stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer; one sure to thrill young newcomers, wow the most hard-hearted cinefiles and leave filmfans of every age in absolute awe. The first thing that struck me? The richness of the film's storybook palette. The silky sheen of a golden gown, the ethereal glow of an enchanted rose, the foreboding shadows of a moonlit forest, the warmth of an ornate ballroom... every splash of color, every vivid primary, every hearthy hue, every rosy cheeked face, earthy tuft of fur and billowing cloak is immaculate. And detail? Not to lose myself to the siren call of hyperbole, but oh, the detail. The fine textures and brush strokes that lend the film's hand-painted backgrounds such personality are intact, the tiniest imperfections in the animators' lineart have been preserved and rendered with care, and every nuance and subtlety is sharper, more refined and ultimately more satisfying than ever before. As remastered catalog titles go, I couldn't be happier. Better still, Disney's technical encode is polished and pristine. I didn't notice any artifacting, print damage, noise, ringing, aliasing or other digital anomaly -- be it negligible or significant -- and banding, the seemingly omnipresent enemy of animation transfers everywhere, is nowhere to be found. What's more, the Blu-ray edition of Beauty and the Beast puts its DVD counterparts to shame, making this an indisputably essential upgrade. It isn't often that I walk away from a video presentation without a single complaint, but I was entranced from beginning to end. Well done, Disney. Well done.
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Perfection is a lofty ideal and an even loftier pursuit. Be that as it may, Beauty and the Beast's invigorating, wholly enveloping DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track achieves sonic perfection. Dialogue doesn't squat in the center channel, it steps out into the center of the soundfield and plays with any effects and ambience in the fray. Voices are strong and sturdy, shouts and whispers are clear and stable, and every chiming clock, flickering flame, tinkering teapot and clinking dishware is masterfully prioritized. Moreover, LFE output is bold and weighty, yet agile and precise; the rear speakers are bursting with activity, transforming an already immersive experience into an absorbing one; directionality is aggressive, separation is excellent and pans are startlingly smooth; and dynamics make this one of Disney's most memorable catalog mixes. Close your eyes and listen as Alan Menken's music floods the soundstage. Note the clarity of Howard Ashman's lyrics, the swan song of each passing note and the grace of every run and crescendo. Now listen to the Beast's gruff growl as it tears through the silence of his castle, the soft tip-tap of Belle's footsteps, the rabble-rabble-rabble of an angry mob and the crack of thunder high above. It isn't often that an AV presentation wraps you in its arms and invites you into the world of a film, but Beauty and the Beast's marvelous DTS-HD monster does just that.
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Be our guest, indeed. Disney treats fans to nothing less than a supplemental feast. Two full versions of the film, a Picture-in-Picture track featuring an original storyreel presentation, an excellent filmmakers audio commentary, a sing-along track, a fantastic three-hour branching documentary, an hour of previously released material, more than an hour of new featurettes and deleted scenes, a pair of interactive games... it's almost overwhelming. In an even classier move, Disney has spread the features across two BD-50 discs, meaning both versions of the film are given plenty of room to breathe. Oh, did I mention the vast majority of the content is presented in high definition?
Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Disney has done it again. Beauty and the Beast is both a must-have release and a solid contender for the studio's best Blu-ray release of the year. Two full versions of the classic animated film, a reference-level catalog video transfer, a monstrous DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, and hours upon hours of special features including a Picture-in-Picture storyreel presentation, a filmmakers audio commentary, a three-hour branching documentary and much, much more. Without hesitation or clarification, the Blu-ray edition of Beauty and the Beast earns my unabashed recommendation.
Beauty and the Beast: Other Editions
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Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Beauty and the Beast 3D Diamond Edition Blu-ray Detailed - June 9, 2011
This fall, Walt Disney Studios will release the five-disc Beauty and the Beast 3D Diamond Edition Blu-ray. This version of the Academy Award-winning animated musical features everything from the previous Diamond Edition - two feature-laden Blu-ray discs and a ...
• Beauty and the Beast Enchanted Christmas Blu-ray - June 9, 2011
In anticipation of the holiday season, Walt Disney Studios will release Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack this November. The story of Belle's attempts to bring some Christmas cheer to the Beast and his gloomy existence, ...
• Disney Re-launches $10 Coupon for Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray - November 19, 2010
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has reactivated a printable $10 off coupon good for the purchase of the Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo of Beauty and the Beast, which was previously valid during its release week. To print it, go to the dedicated coupon ...
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