and the Beast on DVD
Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a wonderful film, almost
as much a Broadway musical than a normal cartoon, and a timeless classic
in the grand Disney tradition.
It’s also the only animated feature to have ever been nominated
for a “Best Picture” Oscar and, in the wake of The Little
Mermaid, it showed that Disney studios’ animation arm was back with
And the Platinum Edition DVD does the movie justice.
The story is well-known: in order to save the life of her father, the
lovely Belle (Paige O’Hara) agrees to live out her life in the Beast’s
enchanted castle - while the beast discovers that she could be his ticket
back to human form. They have a rough beginning, but eventually fall in
love and, in one way or the other, save each other’s lives and (naturally)
live happily ever after.
Okay, that’s a pretty quick and superficial look at the classic
fairy tale, the story of which really is beautiful and timeless. Plus,
we get terrific animation, wonderful voice performances (especially O’Hara,
Robby Benson as the Beast, and Angela Lansbury as “Mrs. Potts”)
and another masterpiece of a musical score courtesy of the great Alan
Menken and the late, great Howard Ashman - musical geniuses who also brought
the wonderful scores for “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The
Little Mermaid.” Once again their score soars, and once again they
won the “Best Song” Oscar (for the title song) as they did
with “Under the Sea” with “Mermaid” and "Lean
Green Mother.." from "Horrors."
From the opening production number “Belle,” which sets the
scene and the tone wonderfully (reminding one of “Consider Yourself”
or “Who Will Buy” from “Oliver”), Beauty and the
Beast draws you in and alternately thrills, excites and even frightens
you. Frightens, because there are some pretty violent and vicious scenes
that really put you on the edge of your seat, in the best Disney family
In all, it’s a marvelous achievement, a classic film that everyone
can enjoy - in short, what Disney did first and best, then forgot how
to do for a couple of decades but has now learned how to do again.
The DVD is a cornucopia of stuff, including three versions of the film.
There’s the original theatrical version, the new “special
edition” that includes the restored song “Human again”
(which is another great production number!), and the “work in progress”
version that came out on laserdisc many years ago and which is interesting
to see but pales to the finished versions.
We liked the Special Edition best, and the “Human Again”
number (which was apparently a big hit in the story’s Broadway incarnation)
is a first rate production number that, despite the apparently heavy use
of computers, fits with the overall look and feel of the original (which
also used computers though not as extensively) very well.
Then there are the extras, which stretch over two discs. As with the
Platinum Edition of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, there’s so
much stuff that Disney has seen fit to include a legend to help one navigate
the cornucopia of goodies.
Unfortunately, many of the “experiential” extras seem there
to take up space, or act as babysitters for the kids. Some are pretty
interesting, like the many and varied inside looks at the making of the
film, but some of the games would be better served as part of a games-only
But you don’t have to watch them - and they’re included in
the mainstream price anyway, so it isn’t as if you’re getting
The THX-Certified DVD incarnation of the movie is nothing short of spectacular.
It’s presented in a new, digitally mastered (from a high definition
video source) anamorphic widescreen (16x9 TV compatible) edition that’s
bright and sharp and colorful; it looks great! Audio is presented in an
all new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack, and it’s also beautifully
done, a real treat for the home theater.
A beautifully made DVD of a true family classic. We look forward to more
Disney classics if they’re given this type of treatment - including
some existing DVD titles (“Mermaid” and “Mary Poppins”
come to mind) that need to be redone to fully exploit the DVD and home
Beauty and the Beast, from Walt Disney Home Video
90 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring the voices of Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White,
Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury
Produced by Don Hahn
Written by Roger Allers, Linda Woolverton, directed by Gary Trousdale,
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