The Disney magic faded for a little while during the 1980s. There were still animated features, but they weren’t the groundbreaking triumphs of the studio’s golden age. All of that changed as we entered the 1990s. The Little Mermaid is considered the first of the new wave of Disney classics. It certainly signaled a change in the direction of animation at Disney. While the change may have begun there, I believe it was Beauty And The Beast that started a wave of productions that would peak with The Lion King. With Beauty And The Beast, everything is cranked up a notch from the mediocre affairs the studio had been churning out for a time. Beauty And The Beast had the epic proportions, fluid animation, and bright colors that set the Disney Express back on track.
With that much importance, is it any wonder that the folks at Disney kept the theme going for as long as they could? There was a television series that featured a live-action Belle who would sing stories to children and teach valuable lessons along the way. There were also some direct-to-video follow-up stories that took us back to the days in the middle of the original animated feature. That in and of itself isn’t all too extraordinary. Disney, like any other studio, knows how to milk a cash cow. What is quite extraordinary in this business, even for Disney, is that they kept the original voice cast pretty much intact. It was a bold move that likely cost a few more dollars but was well worth the extra effort. With the return of Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Jim Cummings, Robby Benson, and Paige O’Hara, the connection between this holiday film and the original material is unmistakable.
As the castle begins to prepare for the first Christmas with Belle (O’Hara) as real human beings once again, Mrs. Potts (Lansbury) recounts a Christmas that almost wasn’t during the days of the enchantment.
Belle wants very much to celebrate Christmas, but Beast (Benson) has forbidden the holiday to be celebrated at the castle since the curse. But her enthusiasm is contagious, and before long the entire staff are caught up in finally having Christmas once again. All except the former Court Composer, Forte (Curry), now a huge pipe organ. Life during the enchantment has actually been good for Forte. His music soothes Beast’s moods, and he has plenty of attention that he didn’t have before. He doesn’t want the enchantment to end. He uses Fife (Reubens) to spy on Belle and uses that information to drive a wedge between Beast and Belle. If he can keep them from falling in love before the last rose petal falls, they will remain as they are forever. Belle’s defiance of Beast’s Christmas edict is the perfect way to create a rift.
The film contains many of the elements that made the original film such a hit. The animation might not be quite up to the blockbuster standards, but this is pretty superior stuff for a video sequel. The surfaces are wonderfully rendered. Reflections in the floors help to provide a very sweet animation environment. There are plenty of hummable songs to be found here, and as I’ve already mentioned, the original voice cast makes this an unusual sequel, indeed. All of your favorite characters are here with enough new ones to make it an interesting addition to the franchise.
Of most interest is the main bad guy here, Forte. First you have the marvelously devious voice acting of Tim Curry. There is also a rather unusual way to depict the towering character. While the film is primarily traditional animation, Forte is actually a computer-generated character that looks more like something from a Pixar creation. It’s quite a significant change and makes the whole character that much more dynamic.
The Enchanted Christmas is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of nearly 40 mbps. There’s a lot to love here as long as you don’t get too bogged down comparing it to the recent high-definition release of the first film. Colors are bright and magical. Detail allows you to take advantage of the fine animation and texturing. Black levels are excellent.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is not as engaging as I had hoped. It works fine for the dialog. There isn’t much in the way of true surrounds. I was a little disappointed in the dynamic range of the music here. It falls just a little flat. There’s not much sub, and depth has been sacrificed this time around.
Disney Sing Me A Story Episode: (22:57) This live-action television episode has Belle teaching the children the value of sticking with it and not giving up.
Enchanted Environment: A virtual fireplace.
Music Video: (3:20) As Long As There’s Christmas by Play.
Behind The Scenes: (15:03) This feature also has a Mickey icon that allows you to access even more information.
Sing Along Options
It’s faithful to the original style if not near so lavish. You really don’t get the sense of a huge Broadway production here as you did in the original. Of course, there’s no Howard Ashman to guide that kind of an experience. He was the guiding force of the Broadway style of that film but died before the film actually was released. Now, of course, we’ve lost Jerry Orbach, and it’s hard to believe that anyone can voice Lumiere as well. Castle and Firefly’s Nathan Fillion has taken over the role recently, but I’ve not had the opportunity to hear the work. The film does manage to provide a bit of a double-header. You get a rather nice Beauty And The Beast story with a potential Christmas classic. But you can enjoy it now, thanks to a pretty solid Blu-ray release. “What are we waiting for … Christmas?”