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Beauty And The Beast (1991) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
ImageI finally get to use it.  The word that I have been longing to use since the invention of Blu-ray.  And the word is…Perfect.  For the first time since the start of Blu-ray reviews on, "perfect" can be used to describe a software title.  Sure, other titles have come close, but always just fall short.  "Beauty And The Beast" takes Blu-ray technology to the limits.  Any nitpicking that one might find on this release is easily overlooked.

‚Ä®Without a doubt, "Beauty And The Beast" is one of the best classics to come from the Disney franchise.  The music from Alan Menken and Howard Shore delivers a powerful experience and a wide range of emotions.  The animation is top notch.  The story is a spin on a classic tale.  And it is all delivered on Blu-ray technology.

I don't really believe in the Oscars, but "Beauty And The Beast" was the first film to ever be nominated for Best Picture.  Unfortunately, it lost to "Silence of the Lambs."  "Beauty And The Beast" has something for everyone.  The emotions that it stirs up get more powerful each time I watch the film.  Back in 1991 the film was all about the beast, wolves and hunt.  As I got older the film turned into a great story, with terrific music and vibrant imagery.

The film has only gotten better with age, and that is what makes it a true classic.  No matter what generation you are born into this film will remain as solid as when it was first released.

The story's locations are marvelous.  The castle is enchanted and thus becomes a character within the story just like Belle and Gaston.  Disney always has magical qualities in its films, but "Beauty And The Beast" brings it to a whole new level.  The enchanted characters are so well developed that you can easily envision the actual persons they were modeled after.  Each and every voice is perfectly matched with the onscreen visual.

Aside from marvelous character development, the flow is terrific.  There is never a dull moment.  Every line, every action, every song has its purpose and advances the film perfectly.
There is simply nothing bad that I can say about this film's structure, so I will simply move on to the Blu-ray itself.

The video transfer is super.  The 1.85:1 has been closed to 1.78:1.  However, the balance of the imagery remains intact.  The very first shot zooms from the forest to the castle.  It doesn't get any more 3-D than this.  Each branch, tree and waterfall exists on its own layer.  As the virtual camera zooms in the elements pass by one by one while maintaining depth at the same time.  I have seen actual 3-D presentations that didn't hold a candle to the depth of this transfer.  Enhancing the 3-D look of the image are the colors.  Every red, blue, range and even the browns are fully resolved.  There isn't a hint of banding.  Contrast and brightness is perfectly balanced.  The dreary look of the forest retains pitch perfect contrast, allowing for terrific rendering of the trees, leaves and road.  If there is anything that tops the colors and the 3-D look, it is the amount of details and textures.  Every hand-drawn line is clearly visible.  While the blend of the CG and hand-drawn instances are not best, it still seems to work.  When the Beast shows Belle the castle's library, every book in this highly exaggerated library is clearly visible.  The shine on the recently polished dance floor glimmers without fault.  This is another amazing video transfer from the Disney studio.  I can only wait to see what they due with their next classic releases.

It isn't possible to top the video transfer, but right up there is the audio transfer.  The film was originally in stereo as it predated Dolby Digital.  However, Disney brings us a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track.  Unlike "Snow White" and "Pinocchio," this 7.1 audio track delivers.  Ambience is nicely spaced in the rear channels, giving a clear sense of envelopment.  Disney didn't go overboard trying to create funky new pans throughout the rear channels.  Although used sparingly, the directionality of the effects moving through the rear channels is precise.  Localization is easy.  The frequency response is smooth.  The dynamic range is large, but seamlessly blended.  Never does the level balance distract from the listening and viewing experience.  The LFE output is proportionate to the level in the main channels.  Belle's voice soars in the listening room and the Beast's voice commands presence.  This DTS-HD MA 7.1 track sets the bar for future releases.  For an audio track to be completely immersive throughout is the ultimate pursuit for mix engineers.  This track does just that.  If you are looking for great audio demo material that doesn't rely on the soundfield being filled with explosions and bombastic sounds, but more on subtly, then look no further than "Beauty And The Beast."

Before Blu-ray, Disney created the Platinum Edition lineup for DVDs.  Now they have created the Diamond Edition.  The release of "Beauty And The Beast" comes in two versions, both identical, just tailored to a specific market.  You can purchase this three-disc set either in Blu-ray packaging or DVD packaging.  Both have the same content.  This three-disc set contains two Blu-ray discs and a DVD disc.

In terms of special features, this Disney release blows the roof off the place.  The special features section is near perfect with only its first feature, which is the addition of three versions film, completely restored in high-definition.  There is the special edition, which has the deleted song "Human Again" seamlessly integrated.  The original theatrical edition is also included.  The third edition of the film is an updated version of the storyboard version present on the Platinum Edition DVD.  This new version shows you the theatrical version of the film with a PiP function, which shows the early storyboard version of the film simultaneously.

Next up, there is an audio commentary with Don Hahn, Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale.  This commentary contains every bit of information you could possibly want to know about the making of the film and the filmmakers' intentions.  There are no lulls in this commentary.  "Composing A Classic" is a lengthy featurette from Menken and Hahn about the importance of music in this story.  "Broadway Beginnings" has information on the Broadway rendition of the film.  There are some deleted scenes and a new alternate opening.  The Disney Sing-Along mode offers text lyrics for the Special Edition of the film.  The first disc also includes a Jordin Sparks music video.

The second Blu-ray disc is dedicated to bonus materials.  There is a near three-hour documentary called "Beyond Beauty."  This is probably the best documentary I have seen on a film.  The layout is brilliant as it keeps track of all the segments of the documentary that you have watched.  "Enchanted Musical Challenge" is a game that involves trivia and a hunt around the castle.  "Bonjour, Who Is This?" is an odd game that involves friends and your cell phone.  You'll just have to check it out if you find yourself interested.  And finally, the second disc contains all the bonus materials that were present on the Platinum Edition DVD release.  Those original featurettes include more information on the development of the film, rough cuts, camera tests and a Celine Dion music video.

Lastly, the Blu-ray package contains a DVD of the film, which contains the three versions of film, the audio commentary and the sing-along mode.

"Beauty And The Beast" is great family fun and a classic from the Disney vault.  This is one of those films that nearly everyone can agree upon on family movie night.  The audio and video qualities are beyond outstanding.  And for the first time the bonus materials are top-notch, presenting three seamless version of the film.  To date, if there is only one Blu-ray release for you to own, this would be it.  I can't wait for next year's releases of "The Lion King," "Dumbo" and "Alice In Wonderland."  Hopefully, "Aladdin" and "Finding Nemo" will follow soon thereafter.

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