Sad news from Peter Jackson. Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit cinematographer Andrew Lesnie has died. http://t.co/kT6IGrA3bx
Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition
DirectorGary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Release Date(s)1991 (October 5, 2010)
Studio(s)Buena Vista Home Entertainment (Disney)
When young Prince Adam is visited by a beautiful enchantress disguised as an old beggar in the middle of the night and is offered a rose in exchange for shelter, he coldly dismisses both her and her gift. By way of punishment, she reveals her true form and transforms his servants into animated household items and the prince himself into a ferocious beast. The spell cast on them can only be broken when he learns to love and be loved in return before the last petal of the rose falls.
And so begins Disney’s re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast. The animators at the Disney studios worked diligently for three long years developing and executing the project. The original version of the film was scrapped and rewritten from the ground up with a new director and the song writing team of Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman (the latter of whose contributions were so important to the creators of the film that he was given a memorial in the closing credits). Using traditional animated techniques and a newly incorporated computer animation system, the team produced one of the most memorable animated films in the Disney library, as well as one of the greatest films of 1991. It’s just as intensely popular today as it was when first released, holding up much better than many of its predecessors or even its descendants. A masterpiece of storytelling and technique, it’s also considered one of the greatest animated features of all time.
The restoration team at Disney have done themselves proud with the A/V quality found on this release. The digital clarity of the images is absolutely outstanding. Not a speck of dirt, debris or other nuisances are to be found. Colors are vibrant and crisp, animation is solid, backgrounds are lush and well-defined, and the contrast is high without going overboard. This release was created from the high definition master tapes in the Disney Vault, and great care has been taken to produce a vast amount of pristine imagery. It’s a massively beautiful presentation and deserves our highest rating. For the audio portion, there are 3 options: 7.1 English DTS-HD and 5.1 DEHT French & Spanish. The DTS track is just as remarkable as its video counterpart. Completely enveloping from start to finish, it’s one you’ll want to crank. Not just for the sonic booms, but also for the subtleties, particularly the quite moments in the Beast’s castle. It’s a massively pleasurable aural experience. Subtitles are also included in English SDH, English ESL, French and Spanish. You may also toggle the disc’s screen saver on or off plus set its delay timer.
On the other hand, the navigation of the discs themselves can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Even though all of the material contained within is spread out over the 2 discs, a single menu is designed with everything that both discs have to offer with pop-up text to inform you that an option you might select is on the opposite disc. It can be a bit aggravating at times, especially when you select one of these options without realizing it and a blank screen pops up asking you to insert the other disc to see it. Having separate menus shouldn’t be that big of a deal, as it makes the exploration infinitely simpler. While scrolling through the options, a 3-D tour of the castle plays in the background while you navigate. It’s a really nice touch and would have been great had the navigation itself been a little more linear and not quite so cumbersome.
As for the extras, they aren’t too extensive as they lean more heavily toward family-friendly. First of all, Disc 1 features 3 different versions of the film: the original theatrical version, the special extended version with the song “Human Again” edited back in, and the storyboard version of the film which utilizes the picture-in-picture option. There’s also an audio commentary by the film’s directors Kirk Wise & Gary Trousdale and co-producer Don Hahn. Additionally, there’s a Sing-Along subtitle track and Disney’s exclusive FastPlay option, which allows you to customize the features you would like to see in any particular order. There’s also an option called Recommended Feature, which will pick an extra at random and display it on the main menu. The Backstage Disney portion of Disc 1 contains the featurette Composing a Classic: A Musical Conversation with Alan Menken, Don Hahn, and Richard Kraft. Two deleted scenes can also be found in this section, both with introductions. In the Family Play portion, you’ll find another featurette: Broadway Beginnings and a music video for Jordin Sparks’ cover of the “Beauty and the Beast” title song. There’s also the Sneak Peaks (which, unfortunately, also open the disc), a Digital Copy segment and a BD-Live option.
On Disc 2, the Backstage Disney section contains the awesome documentary: Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind The Making of Beauty and the Beast. At certain points during the documentary, there will be a Points of Interest option that pops up on the screen that will allow you to toggle seamlessly to additional material related to the topic at hand. There’s also an index contained within that keeps track of what you’ve already seen (which isn’t accessible from the main menu). The Family Play section contains two games: Enchanted Musical Challenge and Bonjour, Who Is This?, the latter of which is powered by BD-Live. Also on Disc 2, is the Classic DVD Bonus Features section, which includes only some of the extras from the previous Platinum Edition DVD release. Included is The Story Behind the Story featurette, the “Beauty and the Beast” music video by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson, the early presentation reel, an alternate version of “Be Our Guest,” alternate score for The Transformation scene, the deleted song “Human Again,” an Animation sub-section containing Animation Tests, Roughs & Clean Ups, The Transformation: Pencil Version and the short featurette: A Transformation: Glen Keane. There’s also a Camera Move Test bit and a Trailers & TV Spots section.
Disc 3, the additional DVD, contains a lot of the same things as Discs 1 and 2: all 3 versions of the film, the Sing-Along track, the audio commentary, and a brief segment: Dylan & Cole Sprouse: Blu-ray Is Suite! The soundtrack for the film itself contains 5.1 DEHT English and French tracks with English & French subtitles.
What you will NOT find included from the original DVD release are all of the interactive games (Maurice’s Invention Workshop, Mrs. Potts’ Personality Profile, Chip’s Musical Challenge, Break The Spell Adventure Game), the “Beauty and the Beast” music video by Jump 5, various featurettes on the making of Beauty and the Beast, audio-guided tours of various galleries including Art & Design, Layouts & Backgrounds and Poster & Ad Designs. Also not included are the demo recordings of the songs from the film. It’s a real shame that Disney went to the trouble of only including a portion of the previous video-based extras. For myself, I would have happily paid for a 4 Disc version with everything included, and I’m sure many of you would have too. However, for those of you who currently own the Platinum Edition DVD, I recommend hanging on to it if you want all of the extras that didn’t carry over, but definitely upgrade for the new restoration and the fantastic documentary.
The bottom line here is that Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition could have been a spectacular package had everything from before been included and the menus were a little easier to navigate, but as is, it’s still a marvelous release. The quality upgrade is reason enough to pick it up, along with the new extras. The film itself is a triumph of animated storytelling and one that will be with us for generations to come, but next time around, let’s hope we get the complete package.
- Tim Salmons