"Ohhh, isn't this amazing, /It's my favorite part because, you'll see /Here's where she meets Prince Charming /But she won't discover that it's him 'til chapter three!" - "Belle"
Finally, after being locked in the Disney Vault for a long while, Beauty and the Beast is available once again for purchase, this time in the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Diamond Edition. Disney released this newly restored version last week, on October 5th (the 2-Disc standard definition DVD releases on November 23). The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes two Blu-ray Discs plus a bonus DVD for regular disc players. Thanks to Disney, we recently had the chance to watch this newest Blu-ray version.
I'm not going to rehash the synopsis because the tale is so familiar and the film so popular it hardly needs an introduction. Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney's most beloved and highly-regarded films, receiving two Academy Awards for music in 1992, three Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture, Best Original Score and Best Original Song in 1992, and two Grammy Awards in 1993. It was previously re-released on DVD in 2002. What this newest version brings to the plate is a brightly restored picture, a new audio in 7.1 Digital Surround Sound, and tons and tons of new behind-the-scenes stories and bonus features.
My daughter had the opportunity to watch a community production of the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast this summer and has been patiently waiting for this movie to come out. My kids both enjoyed watching this new DVD (and hiding their eyes during the scary wolves and beast scenes). The restoration in this Blu-ray edition truly makes the pictures in the movie brilliant and clear. The French countryside never looked better. There are three versions of the film available for viewing on both the Blu-ray and DVD: the original theatrical release, a special extended edition that includes the previously cut "Human Again" musical sequence, and an original storyboard version that shows the film simultaneously with the original storyboard sketches. If you feel so inclined you can even watch the movie in a sing-along mode.
All of that is well and good, but what I really enjoyed in this new edition was the bonus features. I spent several hours watching the informational features and learned much about the development of the film and the people that created the movie. Navigating through all the bonus features is a little difficult. The menu text is hard to read and the cobbled together organization leaves a lot to be desired. But, these background stories are truly fascinating and you can't call yourself Beauty and the Beast fan without seeing these features.
The most interesting bonus in my opinion is the interactive "Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind the Making Of Beauty and the Beast." This piece-by-piece documentary is divided into several acts and is found on Blu-ray Disc 2. The creators discuss the rocky beginnings and an initial attempt in the 1980's, a much darker and non-musical version (The Purdum Reel), was completely scrapped. Thankfully, Disney changed directions and hired Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise as acting directors and decided to develop it as a musical, hiring composer by Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, the same amazing team responsible for the music in The Little Mermaid. There's also plenty of information on the process behind the animation. I always wondered who created the Beast character (he's a combination of various animals) - it must have been extremely challenging to find the right balance between scary and lovable. Those passionate about fairy tales and renditions will enjoy the background information on Walt Disney's love of fairy tales and his silent Laugh-o-grams. The Broadway aspect is also discussed in features like "Full Circle to Broadway."
Other fascinating features include the deleted scene, "Belle in the Library." The scene introduces four new characters: a bookstand named Oxford, a globe named Cambridge, a statue full of various quotes, and a telescope. This scene doesn't really advance the story and I can see why it was dropped, but it is still fun to watch. An alternate version of "Be Our Guest" shows that the famous song was originally sung to Maurice, Belle's father.
This classic and beloved film is well worth owning. I'm so glad that Disney finally released this Blu-ray version and we're happy to put in a place of honor in our personal Disney DVD collection.
$5 Coupon off Blu-ray Combo Pack - Expires 10/31
Disney Website - Beauty and the Beast (activities, crafts, videos and more)
Princess Belle Disney Website
(DVD Source: review copy provided for review purposes by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)