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Beauty and the Beast
Rating: G
Release Date: October 8, 2002
Running Time: approximately 84 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: A beautiful and independent-minded young Frenchwoman falls in love with a hideous but strangely cuddly beast, discovers that it's what's inside that counts, then gets her cake and eats it, too.
Version: Two-Disc Special Platinum Edition

Disc 1:

  • 3 versions of the film

  • Audio Commentary

  • Sing-along Track

  • Maurice's Invention Workshop Game

  • Disc 2:
  • The Story Behind The Story

  • Mrs. Potts' Character Profile Game

  • Chip's Musical Challenge Game

  • music videos by Jump 5 and Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson

  • Scads and scads of production notes

  • Scenes from the Broadway Musical

  • Break The Spell Adventure Game

  • trailers, posters, advertising campaigns
  • Choice Scene: The Beast battles wolves in a wintry forest - it's still hard to believe that's Robby Benson.

    Tech Specs: Widescreen, aspect ratio 1.66:1, English and French Dolby 5.1 surround sound, close-captioning in English.

    Never mind that its ending sort of undercuts the theme of the movie; Disney's Beauty and the Beast deserved every accolade it got on its initial release in 1991. After a few shakier experiments, it smoothly integrated computer animation, and dared to break a few Disney traditions in character design. (Though I've never seen it credited, Gaston sure looks like an homage to Image co-founder Jim Valentino's artwork.)

    The first ever (and now, thanks to changing rules, only) animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, the film still stands as a fine example of art, music, and storytelling meshing just right. And as a choice for Disney's Special Platinum Edition series, it absolutely fits.

    If only this DVD release series really stood out from Disney's regular DVDs. Of course, when the complaint is that Disney commonly takes full advantage of the DVD format's capabilities, fans are in pretty good shape.

    Actually, Disney has treated this movie with a special reverence from the very beginning. Knowing they had something special on their hands, Disney premiered a "Work In Progress" cut at the New York Film Festival in 1990. This version had the complete soundtrack, but with a substantial portion of the movie still at the pencil test stage. Some scenes existed only with concept sketches.

    As a look into the process of animation, it was fascinating, and Disney treated its die-hard fans by releasing that cut onto laserdisc with an alternate version of "Be Our Guest." Just last year, they tweaked the movie again for IMAX, adding (they occasionally claim "restoring") a number from the subsequent Broadway show, "Human Again."

    Disc One of the DVD lets you have it your way, able to watch any or all three of the versions of the film. While it gets annoying that filmmakers no longer leave well enough alone (hellooo, George Lucas?), it's reassuring to see original versions still get included. For the average viewer of this disc, however, our money is on the IMAX version being the one that gets watched the most. Aside from it being the default version to play, it's also the cut being given the most hype.

    Which is a bit of a shame. While the new/old number has a certain charm to it, it does feel wedged in, and one later visual joke from the original gets ruined for the sake of Broadway spectacle. It also gets a little creepy to have to keep thinking about all those poor subjects of The Beast turned into inanimate objects, now including the brooms from Fantasia. Sure, it gave IMAX a little bit of extra oomph, but it all seems so unnecessary.

    Walt Disney himself once said that Disneyland would never be finished as long as there was still imagination; in an included documentary, Michael Eisner updates that to mean that Beauty and The Beast will never be finished as long as there is new money to be made.

    But again, as long as the original release, a masterpiece in its own right, can still be seen, we shan't quibble.

    The behind-the-scenes extras cover just about everything you could possibly want to know about the film, including a look at that aforementioned Broadway musical. Much of the background information duplicates, and due to the appearance of Celine Dion often causing seizures in small children (oh, if it doesn't, really, it should), my recommendation is to go to the Lumiere and Cogsworth section of Disc 2 to watch the extras. It's a Celine-free zone. If not for yourself, do it for the children.

    A little outside of the norm but surprisingly interesting is a series of shorts called "The Story Behind The Story." This is only a guess, but it looks to have been originally produced for The Disney Channel. In short vignettes, a celebrity introduces and tells a brief version of a Disney movie, then goes into its source tale. Each short then covers the changes made for film. Not only does this remind kids that the Disney version isn't really the original, it guides them into finding the sources. (The exception would be The Lion King; Disney did win a court case claiming it was an original story. Sorry, Kimba.)

    This release also does a better than average job with its set-top games. Most Disney DVDs have included trivia games, but here the studio throws in a little action reminiscent of Dragon's Lair. Reaction time is still a little slow, and resetting is a bear, but if you have a young child just learning to game (hey, fanboys and girls have to start somewhere), this disc is just the right speed. Okay, okay - I let the last rose petal fall. There. I've admitted it.

    I'll do my civic duty here and also report that some sites have complained about some artifacting due to overcompression on the first disc. On huge screens, this may be a problem, but it wasn't noticeable on a 35" TV.

    Overall, this is another good release from Disney, aesthetically only marred by the odd decision to put advertising stickers directly on the slipcover instead of the cellophane wrap. Try to convince yourself it's not just about the money to be made.

    Get Beauty and the Beast (Disney Special Platinum Edition) at Amazon.com

    Derek McCaw


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