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 with two BD-50s. One houses the feature while the other houses most of the special features.
The special menu is a fun addition. It takes you on a tour through the castle, and also suggests special features for you to watch, which was nice. Lumiere talks to you as he guides you through the menu. There was a lot of time spent creating this menu, and you'll want to watch it all the way through.
Tremendous, fantastic, awe-inspiring, beautiful… I think I could just sit here with a thesaurus open for the rest of this video portion using ever synonym of "amazing" that I can find. Disney's 1080p transfer of their classic film looks absolutely magnificent in every conceivable way.
According to the pamphlet insert, when Disney went back and reexamined the film's master elements, they found that they were covered with "white dirt and water spots," but on previous standard definition releases these defects weren't visible. In order to create a pristine transfer, Disney had to go through "extensive spotting sessions with the film's creators" and restore the elements in order to make them high definition worthy.
All that care and meticulous pampering pays off in a big way. You can tell the folks at Disney took their time on this to get it just right, because this literally looks like it was drawn yesterday. In a word, it's majestic.
Throughout its entire runtime, not once did I notice a speck of white dirt, or a fleck of source noise. It's as clean as a high definition image can get. No banding, blocking, ghosting, or any other anomalies that might hinder your viewing experience. Colors are the definition of vibrant. They burst off the screen with life. The computer animation that was used for the ballroom has never looked better either. Although, by today's standards the animation does look a tad dated, it still looks amazing as the Beast and Belle dance slowly around the room. Detail is so fine that you can see hesitations in the lines that create the characters, and I even noticed on a couple of occasions a few instances where the coloring of objects crept ever-so-slightly over the bordering lines. The richness of Disney's hand drawn animation shines through in a magnificent way. Belle's famous golden gown is a sight to behold. It's never been seen in such clarity before. Just one of the many treats that lay in wait for you to discover during this amazing presentation.
Darker scenes fair just as well, the shadows are perfectly cast. Contrast works wonders during the scene in which the Beast bargains with Belle in the dungeon for her father's life.
It's hard to wait so long for our favorite Disney releases on Blu-ray, but it's worth it if they're all going to be treated with this much care and attention to detail. High definition catalog titles don't get much better looking than this.
Referring again to the pamphlet, Disney also 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 (if it gets a Blu-ray release). 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.
Disney makes an effort to not only produce a variety of new special features, but they've also ported over all the original bonus features from the previous DVD release. These can be found under the heading Classic Bonus Features.
Classic Bonus Features
Seeing the time and effort Disney spends on its Blu-ray releases makes it easy for me to have to wait so long between titles. Their catalog is slowly being released, and because they're taking their time, the films are coming out perfectly. 'Beauty and the Beast' is a stunning audio and visual feast in high-definition. Hand drawn animation was meant to be shown in HD. The colors jump off the screen and the all-new 7.1 remix of the sound engulfs you like never before. 'Beauty and the Beast' is one of my favorite Disney films and to see it treated with such care makes me excited for the rest of the Disney catalog that will be released in the years to come. This is one of the best catalog releases of the year, and comes as Must Own for any Blu-ray collection.