Friday, July 15, 2011

Disn-A-Thon: Beauty and The Beast (1991)

Belle is a girl who is dissatisfied with life in a small provincial French town, constantly trying to fend off the misplaced "affections" of conceited Gaston. The Beast is a prince who was placed under a spell because he could not love. A wrong turn taken by Maurice, Belle's father, causes the two to meet. [imdb]
Beauty and The Beast is another story Walt had considered (and tried) to turn into a feature film, only to be dropped and then picked up half a century later by the revived studio.  In the late 1980's, the animation department tried working a script together for a non-musical version of the story, and after a few rewrites, a new team was brought on board.  This included Alan Menkin and a semi-reluctant Howard Ashman (also working on Aladdin at the time) who would turn it into a Broadway style musical film.

The result is a fantastic and gorgeous animated motion picture, a bit more mature than many of the films that came before it.  Returning to the Cinderella and Snow White "princess" style fairy tales, Beauty and The Beast was a bit less "happy-go-lucky" and brought to the screen a female lead that was more proactive than reactive.  Instead of letting things simply happen to her, she was strong and secure and took charge of herself and her surroundings.  Following on the heels of success brought about by The Little Mermaid, this new style of heroine was becoming a standard for Disney princesses.

This was my first time watching the blu-ray release, and boy am I glad I have a high definition TV.  There were more than a few times I found myself muttering "Holy shit..." and rewinding simply to see the scenes again.  The transfer and depth is just beautiful.  It made me immediately disappointed to find out the next film on my -thon is only on DVD and not blu-ray.

And the amount of special features... Well, for starters, there are a few different versions of the movie to watch.  There's an extended version, containing an added song that had been cut from the original film.  It's sad to think such a wonderful song had been cut, but in the behind the scenes and commentary, a good explanation was given.  I can't complain too much, because it's back in and wonderful.

Then we have the original theatrical version of the film, followed by a picture-in-picture with the original un-completed screening version...  There's commentary for the extended, so this made a nice special feature for the theatrical version.  Then there's a few games, at least two(2) music videos, and about a gazillion (estimated) various bits and pieces about the background of the film.  And to top it all off, they threw in a really long interactive behind-the-scenes feature.  As you watch the documentary, pop-ups allow you to click through to watch even MORE features, sometimes moving even another level deeper beyond that... and then at last returning seamlessly back into the original documentary.  All of this has a special index, allowing you to see if you've missed anything....

I was in special-feature heaven (or hell for some people).  This was easily one of the best sets I've seen during my -thon, and I hope as much care goes into each and every subsequent release.