Likely the best version of the tale of a beautiful young woman and the beast who loves hersince Jean Cocteau’s 1945 film, this one has all the strengths of Disney’s best features: top-notchanimation, lively songs, humorous characters but some solidly gothic scares as well.
Fabulous on all counts. The reproduction is flawless and distortion free. The effects arestrong in both rear speaker presence and left-right separation. The music dominates, h…wever,and comes through loud, deep and clear. The only time the audio isn’t perfect is during thecommentary, which does have some noticeable distortion. But the film itself (all three versions)sounds great.
As with the audio, so with the video. The picture is beyond reproach, with bright strongcolours when called for, and deep but never murky gloom when the atmosphere is darker. Theprint is absolutely pristine. Also nice is the fact that, young audience notwithstanding, the 1.85:1widescreen format is respected.
All right. We’re going to be here for a while. The menus are animated and scored for themost part. Some transitions are too, others are not. One very nice feature about the menus onDisc 2 is that by selecting the mirror you get a simplified, speeded up version of the menus. Theone drawback is that there are simply so many options that navigating can be a bit confusing.Thus, if you select the overview menu on Disc 2, you won’t be given the gallery options.
Disc 1 features three different versions of the film. The only real difference between thespecial edition and the theatrical release is the inclusion of an extra song: “Human Again.” Mostinteresting is the “Work in Progress” version, which has many scenes still in development. Thecommentary (which runs on the special edition) is by producer Don Hahn, directors Kirk Wiseand Gary Trousdale, and composer Alan Menken. Their talk is quite technical, and is one of theleast kid-targeted features in the package. More kid-oriented is the sing-along track andMaurice’s Invention Workshop Game. The latter provides codes necessary to play “Break theSpell” on Disc 2, but the liner notes provide you with some cheats.
Disc 2 is a maze of features. Thank God the liner notes come with a navigational overview ofthe features. Keep the charts handy, or you’ll get very lost. Some effort has been made to dividethe features up according to what ages they’ll appeal to. For older viewers, there’s “Cogsworthand Lumiere’s Library.” This consists of a 50-minute making-of documentary (“A Tale as Old asTime”) and related galleries (characters, concept art & design, publicity and so on). The gallerieshave audio commentary for selected images.
“Mrs. Potts’ Engaging Features” is for all ages. One feature is a bit of cheat: an intro by aspooky-looking Celine Dion sends you back to the documentary. The primary feature here is“The Story Behind the Story,” which has various celebrity hosts discussing the backgrounds to araft of Disney features. As you can guess from this last, there’s a pretty strong element ofpromotion going on in these extras (not to mention a somewhat smug sense of self-gratulationthat can get tiresome in the long run). Also available in this section is “Mrs. Potts’ PersonalityProfile Game” and a Celine Dion/Peabo Bryson video.
“Chip’s Fun and Games” is for young viewers. It has a documentary on animation, a video byJump 5, and “Chip’s Musical Challenge Game.” Finally, in a category of its own is the “Breakthe Spell” adventure game.
There’s so much here that the sheer plethora of choices can be confusing. Still, can one reallycomplain about a DVD having TOO MANY features? Not really.
Special Features List
- Making-of Documentary
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Version
- “Work in Progress” Version
- Galleries with Optiona Audio Commentary
- Music Videos
- “Story Behind the Story” Featurettes
- Animation Documentary
- Sing Along Track
- Liner Notes