There's something about 'Beauty and the Beast' that resonates deep inside. It transcends children's animation and becomes something much more. When I think 'Beauty and the Beast' I immediately think of Disney. It's a connection that has become synonymous.
'Beauty and the Beast' is full of excitement, an enthralling story, and some of the most memorable musical numbers to ever grace the big screen. There isn't a song on 'Beauty and the Beast' that can possibly be ignored. Each one demands your attention as they shower you with nostalgic memories of Disney's hand drawn animation heyday.
Because he refused to give refuge to a haggard-looking woman, a young prince has been cursed, transformed into a hideous beast, and his entire staff of servants changed into living inanimate objects, like clocks and candlesticks. Like many of these stories go, the curse can only be broken by true love.
Belle is a beautiful young girl who lives in the neighboring town. She loves reading, breaks into song on a moment's notice, and lives with her kooky father Maurice. Belle is a curious creature, and has her head on straight when it comes to life. The town macho, Gaston, has his eye on her. Gaston boasts about how many eggs he eats everyday and how accurate his spitting is. He's a man's man. Only a manly man would use antlers in all of his decorating. Gaston is sure that Belle is going to marry him, who wouldn't want to marry him? He's the finest male specimen around.
Belle's father Maurice is an inventor, and on his way to a fair to show off his new invention he gets lost and finds himself at the steps of a strange castle (it's interesting that this castle has been there for sometime, and the townspeople are only now realizing it). Maurice is imprisoned by the beast. Once Belle realizes he's missing, she goes out looking for him, finds the castle, and trades herself for her father's life.
We know what must happen from here. Belle must embark on the seemingly impossible quest of loving a beast. But compared to Gaston, the beast is a catch.
In a day and age when computer animation is all the rage, it's amazing to revisit 'Beauty and the Beast' and see just how beautiful hand drawn animation can be. The animation here is some of the most colorful and lively in all of Disney's long line of animated features. The music, created by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (the same duo that worked together on 'The Little Mermaid'), has not only stayed in our minds ever since we first saw the movie (To this day, "Be Our Guest" still pops up in my head continually.), but they have sunk into popular culture.
Nowadays, with the ten Best Picture slots at the Oscars, it's much easier for animated films to find their way into the awards picture. Back when 'Beauty and the Beast' was made, it was unthinkable that a children's animated feature could be nominated for Best Picture. It went up against movies like 'JFK,' and that year's winner 'Silence of the Lambs.'
'Beauty and the Beast' is a classic fairy tale, and with Disney's touch, it has become one of the most memorable and influential animated features of all time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The movie comes packaged in a Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack with three BD-50 discs. One houses the 3D feature with no supplements, the second has the 2D feature with some supplements, and the third contains more special features. A standard DVD copy and a separate digital copy are also included, all in a standard case with a cardboard slipcover that features some cool lenticular art.
For this 3D release, 'Beauty and the Beast' is presented in a 1080p MVC transfer in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Painstakingly converted, this is an absolutely stunning experience that opens the film up in new and exciting ways.
To be perfectly honest, I'm not usually a huge supporter of 3D in general, let alone conversions of already existing 2D films, so I went into this release with some pretty strong reservations. With that said, I must admit that this disc has certainly made me reconsider my negative stance. Overall, the video here is simply gorgeous. Wonderfully bold and rich colors light up the screen from the moment the film starts, and don't let up until the credits role. Detail is exceptional, showing off the intricately designed characters and locations, from cozy towns and spooky woods to Baroque castles and lush countrysides, revealing every stroke of the animators' hard work.
Of course the real focus of this release is the 3D effect. So, how does it look? Well, with the exception of a few minor snags here and there, it's quite stunning, essentially offering a pristine window into a beautiful storybook world. Depth is fantastic, separating the various planes of the frame into distinct layers that still work organically together. While there certainly is a pop-up book quality to the presentation (and in this case that's not a bad thing), the 3D effect gives a slight curvature to the 2D characters and objects, making them feel a little more spatially rounded than completely flat. Wide shots tend to look the most striking, offering an immense perception of distance between foreground objects and background locations. Swirling leaves, soaring birds, and flying bats all provide some nice pop-out moments that extend slightly outward from the screen. Various forms of precipitation are particularly impressive, and a few shots that start indoors and then slowly track out into the falling snow feature a great amount of immersion. Even comparatively subtle moments, like a scene where Belle holds a flower and blows the petals away, causing them to dance inward and outward around the screen, are a treat to behold. All of the major set-pieces, including the playful "Be our Guest" performance, and the beloved title track sequence set in an extravagant ballroom, utilize just the right amount of subtlety and "wow" moments. Of course nothing really compares to the climax, which features the townspeople storming the Beast's castle. With a constant flow of rain drenching the foreground and splashes of lightning electrifying the frame, the moody atmosphere is taken to an entirely new level thanks to the 3D effect. All of the visuals swell with the rousing music in a way that simply couldn't happen in 2D alone.
While this is a wonderful transfer, there are some very minor issues. There are a couple of instances in which the converted effects feel slightly unnatural or where proportions of distance between different parts of characters or objects feels a little off. Also, in some rare instances where there is a lot of detail, activity, and motion all at once, the image can get a little jumbled and a bit disorienting. Ghosting is present, but it's negligible and mostly occurs when there is a dark object in the foreground (various statues in the Beast's castle, for example). All of these issues are very minor, however, and don't detract from what is otherwise a nearly flawless conversion.
Though I might still be on the fence about 3D and conversions in general, there is no denying that Disney has done a really great job here. At first I merely thought the 3D effect was a pretty cool novelty, but as the movie went on it really did start to enhance the actual experience of watching the film, which is about the highest compliment one can give a release like this. Basically, 'Beauty and the Beast' looks simply amazing in 3D and this transfer is a testament to the artistic merit of conversions.
Referring to the pamphlet, Disney went back to the source with original sound mixer Terry Porter, who was nominated for Best Sound in 1999, and created an all new 7.1 mix. After creating a 7.1 mix for the originally mono-track 'Snow White' and making it sound superb, I had no reservations that Disney would be able to take 'Beauty and the Beast' and remix it to perfection. In short, they have.
I can't think of a movie in Disney's library that could benefit more from a 7.1 mix than 'Beauty and the Beast.' There's so much going on, and the musical numbers alone demand a mix that can support their sheer size and spectacle.
Dialogue is spread throughout the front part of the soundfield, even finding its way into the side speakers for some stellar directionality that caused me to turn my head more than once. The Beast's voice is full of LFE, and the sub gets a heavy workout during his numerous yells and roars. Frankly, it's so deep and resonant, it's what I imagine 'Jurassic Park's T-Rex sounding like in high-def when it finally gets a Blu-ray release on the 25th. The rear of the soundfield is almost just as busy as the front. There isn't a time where the rears aren't at the least engaged. The musical numbers bring the surround sound to life as the characters sing and dance, engulfing you in the movie.
Sound effects are pristine, pans sound perfect. This is one of the best high definition sound presentations of the year, if not the best. Everything from the crystal clear dialogue and song lyrics to the chaotic cacophony of sounds that accompany the great battle scene at the end are perfectly remixed to give us the most wondrous sound design 'Beauty and the Beast' has ever enjoyed on home video.
All of the supplements are carried over from the previous Blu-ray release. It should be noted that the extended and storyboard versions of the film are only available in 2D.
Classic Bonus Features
Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast' is a true animation classic. With its timeless story and beautiful art direction, it ranks among the very best that the much beloved studio has to offer. This 3D version gives viewers an impressive new way to experience the movie, that actually enhances the original content through some wonderfully immersive effects. With the same great audio mix and all of the bonus features from the already exceptional standard release, this is an absolute must buy for any 3D TV owners.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.