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Blu-Ray Review: Beauty and the Beast

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Belle, the Beast and the teapots are back as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast debuts on Blu-Ray on Tuesday, October 5, bringing with it not only the classic movie but loads of magical special features. A fitting set for any movie fan’s collection (especially one catering to children, of course), Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition is definitely worth buying.

It’s been nearly 20 years since Beauty and the Beast graced the silver screen, which means that it had been nearly 20 years since I saw the movie as a child. I didn’t remember much other than “Be Our Guest” and the ballroom dancing scene toward the end of the picture.

Re-watching Beauty and the Beast was like watching it for the first time and it’s still just as good as its reputation suggests, despite its “age” and the fact that I’m a 28-year old man. The songs are excellent, the story mesmerizing and the overall production entertaining and funny. Angela Lansbury is especially perfect as Mrs. Potts.

But if you’re reading this, you already know about Beauty and the Beast. Is the new DVD/Blu-Ray combo worth purchasing?

The set comes with three discs (DVD and two Blu-Rays). Both the DVD and Blu-Rays contain three versions of Beauty and the Beast, the original theatrical version, the special extended edition and a storyboard alternative, where the storyboards run simultaneously with the movie (Disney describes this as “state-of-the-art picture-in-picture technology”, though this technology has been around for some time).

The DVD also contains a sing-along mode, audio commentary and classic bonus features. All of these are also included on the Blu-Ray discs. Exclusive to Blu-Ray is “Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind The Making of Beauty and the Beast“, which, simply, is an extremely in-depth look at every aspect of the movie, from Disney politics to pre-production and beyond. Disney puts a lot of effort into their making-of featurettes and this one is no different. It alone makes the Blu-Ray set worth owning.

“Composing a Classic: A Musical Conversation with Alan Menken, Don Hahn and Richard Kraft” is another excellent feature, which has composer Menken talking through how the songs were designed and the history behind them. The featurette feels staged at first, but it quickly turns into an informative collection of interesting tidbits and personal stories.

Those looking for more Beauty and the Beast will be happy to find an alternate opening to the movie (in storyboard form) that is significantly different from what was used in the final production, as well as a scene called “Belle in the Library,” which features four new enchanted objects.

There are also several family-oriented special features I didn’t tinker around with too much, including “Broadway Beginnings”, which has celebrities sharing their experiences from the Broadway version of the story, “Enchanted Musical Challenge,” an interactive game, “Bonjour, Who is This?”, a game you play with your phone, and a music video performed by Jordin Sparks.

The only issue with the Beauty and the Beast Blu-Ray set is that Disney once again makes the bonus features structure much more complicated than it needs to be. The features are organized under “Backstage Disney,” “Disney Family Play,” and “Classic Bonus Features,” which seems more oriented toward the Blu-Ray designer’s preferences than how a standard customer would want to access the features. Disney provides a two-page organization chart to explain where everything is, and if you’re providing an organization chart, that’s not a good sign.

Still, the Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Collection is worth purchasing. The movie looks better than ever and the Blu-Ray set features several excellent collections of bonus material.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: DVD Releases, Movie Reviews
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