MousePlanet Home Theater - Contents  Click to go back to MousePlanet main page
 Discussion Boards | Reviews | News | Trip Planning | Shop | Travel | Site Map
Home Theater & Entertainment
Google-
Look in: MousePlanet WWW

Kevin Krock, editor
DVD Review
Beauty and the Beast
(1991/2002) | Approx. 84 Minutes | Rated G | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
Advanced Home Theater: The bigger the screen, the worse it looks...

The Movie

For its second release in their Platinum DVD line up, Disney chose one of its most highly praised feature films from its new generation of animators, Beauty and the Beast. Please raise your hand if you have not seen this movie. Well, I do not see any hands out there, so I will not belabor the nitty gritty plot details of this classic fairy tale turned animated musical. However, for those of you that may have forgotten what it is all about, here is a quick summary: Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara), a beautiful, strong, book-reading brunette, discovers that her missing father is trapped in the castle of the Beast (voiced by Robby Benson). Upon reaching her father, she decides to trade her freedom for her father’s, and during her time with the Beast, falls in love with him, ultimately releasing him and all the castle residents from their transfiguration curse. Then, like any good Disney-fied fairy tale, everyone lives happily ever after.

While the story of Beauty and the Beast seems to be your basic fairy tale fare, the concept had been kicked around the Disney Studios since Walt’s time, yet nobody could figure out how to get it to work. Then, in the late 1980s, the story resurfaced, and things started to fall into place. After Disney’s hit with The Little Mermaid, they knew that they needed to pull out all of the stops to keep the new generation of animated family movies going strong. The production team for this movie included most of Disney’s relatively young but experienced story people, animators, artists, sound technicians, and composers. Working together as a team for the first time, they put together a lushly animated Broadway-style musical with the perfect balance of humor, romance, tension, and villainy.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

The result was a huge box office success, and it is also the only animated film ever nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. In fact, it ended up earning six Academy Award nominations and won two Oscars, for best song "Beauty and the Beast" and best score (1991). It was a one-of-a-kind opportunity for Disney feature animation, and the movie looks, feels, and sounds like things were clicking right into place during its extremely short, two-year production schedule (animated films usually take 4 to 5 years to produce).

The movie was so popular and structured so much like a Broadway musical that it was expanded into a full-blown stage production (and a pretty darn good one at that). Four additional songs were added to the movie’s score, and the plot was fleshed out a bit more. Then, during planning for the movie’s tenth anniversary in 2002, Disney decided to take one of the songs from the musical and rework the movie to fit it in. In January 2002, Beauty and the Beast was re-released theatrically for the large screen format, like IMAX, with an additional song, "Human Again," which describes how much the castle objects are looking forward to returning to their human state. It is a catchy tune that blends seamlessly with the original animation and story.

The Goodies

Talk about your packed collections - Disc 1 alone almost demands that you watch the movie three and a half times to catch everything.

First, you must watch the special edition to see the spectacularly restored movie with the new musical number, "Human Again." Then, you must listen to the audio commentary by the always well-prepared, interesting, and enjoyable team of producer Don Hahn and directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale (Atlantis, Hunchback of Notre Dame). Filled with funny stories and a ton of fascinating tidbits, this commentary, recorded specifically for the DVD, is well worth taking the time to listen to, and, to top it off, there are even a few comments by special guest commentator Alan Menken, the musical composer of the film.

After watching the special edition twice, you are now ready to compare the new with the old. Start with the work-in-progress edition to see how this movie came together a mere couple of months before its theatrical debut. This version gives a wonderful behind-the-scenes view of how an animated feature is constructed. Finally, watch the last half of the original theatrical release to catch all of the subtle changes in the backgrounds and castle environmental scenes that were made in the special edition because of continuity issues that arose from "Human Again." You will have to carefully listen to the commentary to find them, though.

The last bonus item on Disc 1 is a little trivia game, but the catch is that the completion of this game is the only way to access the West Wing area on the second disc. When you finish the fairly easy questions, you are given a three-character code that you use to access the adventure game on Disc 2. Honestly, neither the trivia nor the adventure games are particularly enthralling, and the adventure game turns out to be somewhat frustrating but not impossible. The payoff for completing these games is a letdown, and it is nothing that you cannot see by simply watching the end of the movie. It is a cute concept, but in this case, the end does not justify the rather protracted means.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

Moving on to Disc 2, it, too, is chock full of treats. The disc is divided into four themed areas targeted for different audiences. I spent most of my time in the Cogsworth and Lumiere area, as it is for film fans, but the other areas have some items of interest. Fortunately, if you don’t want to go searching through the themed areas, you can go directly to the magic mirror and see a simple list of all of the bonus material on the disc.

If you are a film fan or Disney DVD collector, go to the Cogsworth and Lumiere area in Disc 2 as I did. Your best bet is to start with the "Play All" option to view all of the featurettes at once. Their total playing time is about 50 minutes, and they cover every aspect of the movie’s production in excellent detail. If you don’t have the time to watch them all at once, you can access these featurettes individually. To access all of the additional bonus material, such as galleries, presentation reels, alternate scene versions, animation tests, and trailers, you will have to visit each of the 10 animation production sections to find the corresponding features.

One particular favorite is the early story development information contained in the "Origins of Beauty and the Beast" and "Development" sections. These give you a good idea of where the story came from, why Walt’s folks gave up on trying to adapt the fairy tales, and how Don Hahn and crew solved the story problems. Another neat section features all of the character development efforts. The thought and effort that goes into developing characters always amazes me, and sifting through the dozens of sketches brings home how much work needs to be done before the animation starts.

Finally, the computer animation section is interesting to watch because of the rudimentary tools used to create the beautiful ballroom scene. I was mesmerized watching how little technology they had to use relative to recent computer-animated movies, but how they were able to create a visually stunning scene that sets itself apart from the rest of the movie. It is all great, great stuff, and none of it should be missed.

The Mrs. Potts area has less for movie fans, but the "Story Behind The Story" featurettes are interesting to watch. Disney celebrities Paige O’Hara, James Earl Jones, David Ogden Stiers, Robby Benson, Jodi Benson, Ming-Na, and Angela Lansbury discuss the background stories behind several Disney classic movies. The featurettes are relatively short, but are fun to watch at least once. In addition, there is a personality profile game, much like the one in the Beauty and the Beast room in the Disney Animation exhibit at Disney’s California Adventure park. You answer several personality questions, and Mrs. Potts tells you which Beauty and the Beast character you are most like. I am apparently most like Lumiere, but without the French accent.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

Also in this section is "The Making of Beauty and the Beast" hosted by Celine Dion. Don’t be fooled; besides the introductory remarks by Celine, the body of the documentary is assembled from the featurettes in Cogsworth and Lumiere’s area. This assemblage is a bit shorter, but you can escape having to deal with Celine by just watching the "real" documentary in the other section in the first place. Finally, if you do like Celine, then you can watch the "Beauty And The Beast" music video staring Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. I skipped it, and I do not think I missed anything.

The third area to visit is Chip’s, and this is mostly for children. The "Disney’s Animation Magic" featurettes appear to be taken directly from the Disney Channel, and they feature the young stars of the Disney Channel’s show, "Even Stevens." It is basically a less involved description of the animation process for younger viewers, and while young children may enjoy it, I did not particularly care for it much. Chip’s Musical Challenge Game and the "Beauty And The Beast" music video by Jump 5 also fall into the category of "interesting for children, but probably nobody else." I think it is nice to have content that is applicable to a wide range of audiences, and fortunately, the balance between adult and child content works pretty well in this case.

The final area is the West Wing, and the only thing in this area is the "Break The Spell" adventure game. As I previously described, it may be worth struggling through once but don’t expect much for your effort.

The Video, Audio, and Interface

I have to jump ahead of myself a bit before talking about the video transfer. Disc 1 contains three different versions of the film: the October 1991 "Work in Progress" version, the original theatrical release version, and the January 2002 "Special Edition" large format theatrical release version. In order to make all this video fit on a single, double-layer disc, the video has to be more digitally compressed than if only one version were put in the same amount of disc space. From what I could tell, those with higher-end equipment may notice some occasional and subtle digital artifacts, but for the vast majority of folks, the video is fantastic. In exchange for the large volume of special video, I’ll take a little extra compression, especially since it appears that Disney was careful to strike a balance between all of the material crammed onto Disc 1.

As for some of the other video aspects, the colors are saturated, evenly balanced, and just plain beautiful throughout the movie, and the details are typically sharp and clear. Thanks to the fully digital transfer, the special and theatrical versions are absolutely spotless, and while the in-progress version has its film defects, they are completely expected and even desired for this type of behind-the-scenes version. As for the video on Disc 2, it is equally pleasing and should play well on any home theater system.

By the way, the layer switch on Disc 1 (1 minute and 47 seconds into chapter 12 on all versions) did not freeze my Pioneer DV-525, as the layer switch in Monsters, Inc.  did. This also introduces an interesting question about how the disc was authored. Since all three editions share the same layer switch, they all must share some common feature. From a quick check, I noticed that Disney uses the "angle" feature to tie the three versions together, but the user is not allowed to switch between versions of the movie without first going to the main menu. There are two angles: the in-progress version is on one, and both the special and theatrical versions share the other angle. My guess is that all versions share a single audio track, but the chapter stops are organized in such a way that only the special edition includes the audio for the catchy new song, "Human Again."

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

This conveniently brings me to the audio. On Disc 1, the English Dolby Digital 5.1 (DD 5.1) surround sound track is simply wonderful. The music, voices, and sound effects are all very clean, well balanced, and spread all around the soundstage. There are plenty of surround sound effects, starting from the menus and carrying through the whole movie. In addition to the English language track, there is also a French language track which, for one of the few times on a Disney DVD, can be selected during the movie without having to go all the way to the disc setup menu. The audio on Disc 2 is also acceptable, and the menus are in DD 5.1, which makes it fun to listen to the voices and environmental sounds coming from all around. The supplemental material is mostly in basic stereo, which is pretty standard. It all works out to be a very nice audio package.

For those of you who remember the "immersive" experience of the Snow White DVD, you can expect a similar interface on both discs. All of the menus and transitions involve some sort of 3-D animation, and the sound is in DD 5.1, so you do feel like you are part of the experience. It is very well-executed, and it serves as the perfect environmental touch to get you into the world of Beauty and the Beast.

My only critical comments are that Disc 1 has "forced" previews... yes, you read correctly. Look forward to seeing ads for the Lilo & Stitch DVD, the Jungle Book 2 and Lion King theatrical release, the Sleeping Beauty Special Edition DVD (a nice confirmation that it will appear in 2003), and the Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas Special Edition DVD. Fortunately, you can select Menu at the first sign of the offending material and jump right into the good stuff.

The Advanced Home Theater

Let me start by bringing to your attention a defect the Disney's Beauty and the Beast Platinum DVD had on my player. On disc two, in the Cogsworth & Lumiere's Library, under "Animation," do not select the "Animation Tests, Roughs and Clean Ups" menu item. On my Toshiba 5700, the selection freezes on the first frame of the green trademark screen, and can only be fixed by powering down the player and turning it back on again. The only way to see the material promised in this chapter is by playing the next selection, Chapter 37, "The Transformation - Pencil Version," then hitting the back chapter button immediately to revert to chapter 36, avoiding the menus altogether. I spoke with Kevin before we went to press and his unit didn't have the defect - but several friends were able to reproduce it on their players.

As Kevin noted in his review, Disney compressed three versions of the movie onto the first disc. Unfortunately, if you have a big screen, this means you see all sorts of artifacting, particularly in the characters' faces. There also appears to be some edge enhancement, which shows up as shadows under the lines used to define the characters. It was very noticeable on a 50-inch widescreen set, even with progressive scan, and should be even more glaring in the more commonly sold larger screen sizes above that.

If you want to see the difference between too much compression and what they should have done, just pull up the large-format release trailer from the "Release and Reactions" menu in the "Trailers & TV Spots" section on disc two. This trailer has just about double the bit rate, and even though the colors aren't as tweaked as in the movie, the artifacting is minimal.

Ideally Disney should have placed the Work in Progress edition on the second disc, and since they did not offer a full-frame version, then used seamless branching on disc one for inserting the new "Human Again" number (and various fixes) for the special edition. This would have allowed more room for the movie, and made for far fewer visible artifacts.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

As with the Monsters, Inc. DVD set, Disney again seems to have dropped the ball on formatting the supplemental materials and menus on the second disc for 16x9 widescreen. The DVD becomes difficult to consider as the top-of-the-line videophile product Disney markets it, when previous releases of titles such as Atlantis more fully embraced the expectations of the high-end user. Add to this the forced previews, especially of the absolutely dreadful looking Jungle Book 2, along with Michael Eisner's boasting about how many different versions Disney will keep selling of the movie with new songs added, and it only makes it seem like Disney is thumbing its nose and sticking its tongue out at the adult consumer.

...And don't even try to fathom why they went through the trouble of creating a special silver embossed cardboard slipcase, only to mess it up by applying marketing stickers directly onto it, instead of on the outside shrinkwrap where they belong. Peeling them off results in the removal of the glossy varnish layer – marring the appearance of your "special edition."

Overall, I have to say they did a poor job producing this title. While the intent was noble in providing the three versions of the film, along with all the bonus material, it seems that budget considerations took precedence over assembling a quality product. While we all understand the DVD market is competitive and cutthroat right now, I think higher-end consumers and collectors would have paid a few dollars more to have this title compressed properly. If they really wanted to do it right, it should have been a three disc set.

Try to pick up this item during the first week while it is on sale, before it returns to normal retail price at your dealer. The less you spend for it, the better you'll feel in the long run -- especially if you may have to exchange a defective disc.

- Al Lutz

The Final Evaluation

For the $20 or so you will pay at your local warehouse store for this set, I think Chip put it best, "You guys got to try this thing." Simply don’t miss adding this set to your collection.

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

This one now makes back-to-back winners for the Platinum DVD collection, and I look forward to a "threepeat" next fall when Lion King gets the Platinum treatment.


You can e-mail Kevin at: dockrock@mouseplanet.com

Promotional art © Disney
Promotional art © Disney

DVD FEATURES

Disc 1 Goodies

Three versions of the film:

  • Special Edition - Includes the all-new musical sequence "Human Again"
  • Original theatrical edition
  • Work In Progress Edition - As shown at the 1991 New York Film Festival

Special features:

  • Audio commentary from the filmmakers (special edition only)
  • Karaoke/sing-along track – song lyrics appear on screen
  • Maurice's Invention Workshop trivia game

Disc 1 Technical Specifications

anamorphicdvd.gif (2563 bytes)

  • Anamorphic widescreen - 1.85:1
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • High-definition digital transfer
  • THX-certified
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1) and French language tracks
  • Closed captions
  • Region 1 encoded

Disc 2 Goodies

Disc is divided into four areas:

MRS. POTTS – FUN FOR ALL AGES

  • The Story Behind The Story – Celebrities talk about the background stories of several Disney movies
  • "A Tale As Old As Time" - "Making of" featurette (shorter version of the same material in the.Lumiere and Cogsworth area)
  • Character profile game
  • "Beauty And The Beast" music video staring Celine Dion & Peabo Bryson

CHIP’S – PERFECT FOR THE YOUNGER ADVENTURER

  • Disney’s Animation Magic - Go backstage with the young stars of the Disney Channel’s hit show, "Even Stevens"
  • Chip’s Musical Challenge Game - Test your memory and musical ability with this all-new game. Plays in 5.1 Surround Sound.
  • "Beauty And The Beast" Music Video By Jump 5

COGSWORTH & LUMIERE – FOR THE ULTIMATE FILM FAN

  • "Play all" documentary - plays all featurettes as a single documentary
  • "Bringing The Story To The Screen" development featurette
  • Early Presentation Reel
  • "Finding the Story" story featurette
  • Alternate Version: "Be Our Guest"
  • Deleted Song: "Human Again"
  • "Musical Magic" music featurette
  • Alternate Score: The Transformation - Original Demo Recordings With Introduction By Alan Menken
  • "Strength of Character" character featurette
  • "Vocal Heroes: the Voice Talent" character featurette
  • Designing Beauty And The Beast
  • Art & Design Gallery
  • Character Design Galleries
  • "The Stage is Set" production design featurette
  • Concept art & design gallery
  • Layouts & background gallery
  • "Animation" featurette
  • Pencil Version: The Transformation
  • Animation Tests
  • "Animating with Computers" special effects animation featurette
  • Camera Move Test
  • "A High Profile Preview" featurette
  • "Release & Reaction" featurette
  • "Awards" featurette
  • "Howard Ashman: In Memoriam" featurette
  • Poster & Ad Design
  • Trailers & TV Spots
  • "Broadway Bound" stage play featurette
  • Broadway musical publicity gallery
  • Broadway costume design gallery

WEST WING – THE FORBIDDEN WORLD

  • "Break The Spell" Adventure Game

Go to: Top | Section Contents | MousePlanet Main Page

Copyright © MousePlanet® Inc. | Legal Information & Privacy Policy | About/Contact MousePlanet | Link to us

MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at www.disney.com. This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.