In spite of its dynamic nature, there are some things in life that, for better or worse, we just never grow out of. As such, I like to think that, upon extensive digging, I would find a disclaimer to the idea of transitioning into adulthood and “putting away childish things” that reads something like, “Except for the really cool ones, you should definitely keep those around.” For me, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast falls into the category of potentially childish things worthy of carrying around even after you start paying taxes. My review of Disney’s three-disc Diamond Edition release of the classic animated film after the jump.
Due to its unprecedented critical success (the film received six Oscar nods including the first “Best Picture” nomination for an animated film and two wins for “Original Score” and “Original Song”) as well as its overwhelming commercial appeal (it was the first animated film to make $100 million in the U.S. and Canadian box offices), I’m going to assume, from a pure cinematic quality perspective, Beauty and the Beast isn’t in dire need of my endorsement. That in mind, I’ll make this quick (Warning: spoilers lie ahead):
- In order to return to his roots as a prince/stud, a young prince-turned-beast must love and be loved by his 21st birthday or else remain an unsightly beast forever.
- Later, a beauty named Belle strolls through a nearby village singing of her love of books. In rare Disney form, she seems to be a fairly competent and autonomous female.
- A champion hunter and stereotypical alpha-male named Gaston courts Belle. Giving hope to geeks everywhere, she isn’t interested.
- Later, Belle’s inventor father finds himself at the beast’s (hereby referred to as “Beast”) castle for the night after his horse pulls a jerk move and abandons him in the forest on their way to the village fair.
- A concerned Belle finds her father and takes his place as Beast’s servant.
- Former inanimate objects, which now have charming personalities as well as beautiful singing voices, decide to play matchmaker with Belle and the Beast.
- Eventually, the plan works and the two fall in love.
- After Gaston clumsily falls from the top of Beast’s castle (what a loser), Beast and his servants return to their human selves. Little is heard of Belle’s father as she and Beast live happily ever after in what I like to presume is a lovingly equal relationship.
While the Blu-ray restoration (presented in 1080p, widescreen 1.78:1, and in DTS-HD 7.1 surround) gives Beauty a crystal-clear shine and overall sterling presentation, the bonus materials included in the Blu-ray portion of the 3-disc combo pack are what really set the Diamond Edition apart from previous iterations of the classic. In addition to housing three Blu-ray versions of the film (the original theatrical release, a special extended edition, and an original storyboard version), also present is the behind-the-scene featurette Composing a Classic which sees co-composer Alan Menken discussing he and the late Howard Ashman’s approach to scoring the film. Also present are two never-before-seen pieces of the film: an alternate opening and a deleted scene in which Belle is introduced to Beast’s impressive library and subsequently the mustached librarian Oxford. Finally, bells and whistles such as a sing-along mode, audio commentary with co-directors Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise and producer Don Hahn, as well as a music video for American Idol winner Jordin Sparks’ rendition of the classic title track round out the disc.
In case you power through all of the above-mentioned features, the second Blu-ray disc is made up entirely of bonus materials. With the standout coming in the form of the featurette Beyond Beauty, this disc also collects all of the classic DVD features (including the deleted song “Human Again”), as well as two family-friendly interactive games. Finally, the featurette Broadway Beginnings is also available on this disc and helps to ensure that viewers learn as much about the film as they may have ever wanted/thought possible to know.
As for the DVD disc, it consists of a few of the features included on the first Blu-ray disc: three versions of the film, a sing-along mode, and an audio commentary track. While nice to have in case you’re away from a Blu-ray player, the DVD features are not only identical to their Blu-ray counterpart (not visually speaking, of course) but are also strikingly similar to many of the materials included on the now discontinued 2002 Platinum Edition of Beauty on DVD. As such, if you’ve yet to pick up a Blu-ray player of some sort, you might be disappointed in the amount of bonus materials you’ll find teasing you from a distance.
When Beauty and the Beast was released in November of 1991, it became the 30th animated film to be released by Disney. Nineteen years later, it is widely renowned as a classic and remains a refreshing example of Disney allowing a heroine to get out of the house and, on occasion, partake in the ever-dangerous exercise of thinking for herself. As for its three-disc Diamond Edition release, while I wouldn’t recommend it for those who lack access to a Blu-ray player, for any Beauty fan who is interested in and capable of viewing the classic in all of its 1080p and bonus-features-laden glory, this is a set you should definitely consider carrying with you into your sunset years.