Disney has been cranking out so many good flicks it's getting harder and harder to remember the time in the late 90s where they made sequels for just about every animated classic they had stored away in their vault. It was a dark time indeed. Disney sequels became synonymous with junk. They appeared to be quick cash-ins on fan favorites. 'Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas' is just such a release. An awfully bad mid-quel to the superior animated feature it's based upon.
I understand that Christmas is right around the corner, but did we really need a separate release for 'Enchanted Christmas'? Couldn't this one have been left in the vault indefinitely?
'Enchanted Christmas' takes place in the middle of 'Beauty and the Beast ,' as it tells the story about Belle and Beast's first Christmas together. Beast still hasn't grown accustomed to Belle living in his castle and Belle is still nervous about being there in the first place.
Beast hates Christmas. Like a gigantic furry Scrooge, Beast smashes Christmas decorations if he sees them because we learn that the night the old woman came to visit him and subsequently cursed him was, wait for it, actually Christmas. Yeah, I know. Please don't let this movie ruin what is an otherwise great original story.
To make matters worse there's an evil organ named Forte (he used to be the castle composer) deep within the castle bowels who doesn't want Beast and Belle to get back together, because as far as I can he really, really likes being and evil organ. If Beast and Belle hit it off, and get together, then the spell is broken and he's no longer a maniacal malevolent force of music.
'Enchanted Christmas' has the extremely cheap feel that so many Disney sequels have had. The songs, besides the "Stories" song at the beginning, are absolutely dreadful. Almost like they were written haphazardly. Some of them are so bad that at times you'll wonder if the words were actually written with that music in mind or vice versa. The animation feels half-assed too. It has a Disney Channel quality to it, not to mention the horrendous early CG animation used for Forte the Evil Organ. You can tell that the filmmakers were enamored with the tastefully understated way in which 'Beauty and the Beast' used CG animation, so they decided to make a whole character from it. To say it's jarring to see hand-drawn animation juxtaposed with a crudely animated CG organ is an understatement.
You can probably guess the movie's so-called plot by now. We zoom through familiar faces and situations. Beast throws tantrums, Belle gazes afar while singing, Lumiere sexually harasses any of the good looking flatware, Cogsworth worries, and we're all still dumbfounded at how Miss Potts has a child that young.
There's nothing new here. It's the same old stinky Disney sequel that made the late 90s such a dark time for the studio. Giving it its very own, special release, doesn't seem like the best move. It's just so laughably bad. Disney is banking on the extremely fond memories everyone has of the original to cause a few impulse buys. Those impulse buyers are going to be disappointed.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Disney release comes in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack. It comes with a Disney slipcover, which is standard for most Disney releases. It's labeled as a "Special Edition." It's been packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with Disney Movie Rewards code inside. Finally the movie has been pressed onto a 50-GB Blu-ray Disc and is indicated on the back as being a region free release.
Here's a little tidbit of video information. The Blu-ray features a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, but if you stick in the Special Edition DVD from 2002 you'll get a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Not too many people are going to get up in arms about 'Enchanted Christmas' coming to Blu-ray in a completely different aspect ratio, but it's worth noting. I never notice, the entire time watching it, that the 1.78:1 ratio ended up cropping anything substantial off. The picture I was presented always look natural like it belonged that way. I guess hardened fans (are there any?) may not like the aspect ratio change, but I just don't care enough about this movie to have it matter one way or the other. Still it may be hard for people to stomach the fact that this is most certainly not the movie's original aspect ratio.
Like I said above, the animation isn't up to par with Disney's masterful animation of the original film. The drawing and coloring look much more like something you'd see on the Disney Channel. The high definition makes CG Forte the Evil Organ look even worse than he already did.
Having said that, those are personal limitations I have towards the movie's overall look. As for the transfer, it's clean, and as perfect as can be. Disney has taken good care of this movie which was completed in 1997. It doesn't have an ounce of dirt or dust on it. The picture looks pristine in every way. The colors are striking, and I was particularly impressed with the underwater animated sequence. It was the only sequence that I really enjoyed looking at.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has forceful undertones. Maybe too forceful. There are times where the LFE simply overwhelms everything else that's happening. Whenever Forte strikes one of his angsty chords the sub trembles with bass. This would almost always be a good thing, but the rest of the movie is so light and airy that the hard, sudden bass is really jarring. It doesn't seem like it's been mixed well with the rest of the film. The low-end seems loud and far too brash for its own good.
However, the rest of the movie sounds great. There's good surround development when Belle breaks through the ice on the lake or when the castle splits asunder and is in danger of crashing down around everyone. Dialogue is always clear. The music for the movie's songs permeates each channel, as the vocals are delivered clearly from the front and center channels.
Besides the overwhelmingly loud bass, everything else sounds great here. Another solid lossless mix from Disney.
I know it's Christmastime, and I know your kids just love 'Beauty and the Beast,' but try your hardest not to give in to their cries when they see this sitting on the store shelves. It really is that bad. There's really nothing good to take away from 'Enchanted Christmas,' just a sour reminder of how much we disliked Disney's tactics in the late 90s. Luckily they've outgrown that phase, but they should've left this one in the past as well.