Published on SoCal.com

Recently, an online parents’ site was abuzz over a blog entry asking who, exactly, was the worst Disney Princess. The debate was heated, and respondents from all parts of the country weighed in with opinions from the lighthearted to the fiercely defended. Though the votes were ultimately too scattered to name any one sovereign the biggest loser, it was clear that the most beloved Disney Princess of all time was Belle.

From her kind heart, to her love of books, to her ability to rebuff the advances of the handsome but heartless Gaston, the winsome beauty possessed the qualities most cherished by mothers and daughters alike. And now, proving that good girls can win, she’s getting a diamond from Disney. On the verge of the 20th anniversary of its release next year, the three-disc Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, MSRP: $39.99) offers fans an enchanted castle’s worth of features and bonus material.

For those not familiar with this tale as old as time, here’s a brief recap: madcap inventor Maurice (Rex Everhart) and his daughter Belle (Paige O’Hara) relocate to a small town in France. While undeniably beautiful, the villagers find Belle strange and she, in turn, longs to live the kind of life she reads about in her many books. Despite her unconventional ways, the town hunk, Gaston (Richard White), has decided Belle’s destined to be his wife and begins to woo her (which mainly consists of him telling her he’s made up his mind that she will be his wife).

As her father heads off to enter his latest invention in the fair, he makes a few wrong turns and finds himself at the gates of a seemingly abandoned castle in the middle of a dark, spooky woods. He’s invited in out of the rain by unseen voices he soon learns belong to enchanted objects and settles by the fire. The chateau’s owner, a monstrous, enchanted Beast (Robby Benson), finds him there and throws him into a tower cell where Belle soon finds him.

Her reunion with her father is cut short, however, as she is confronted by the Beast. She makes a deal
her life for her father’swhich he accepts. Belle is soon being moved from the tower to a suite of rooms, where the enchanted objects try to make her feel at home, though the Beast is still temperamental and surly. What follows is their gradual change of heart toward each other, ending, as all good fairy tales do, with happily ever after.

In the Diamond Edition package, viewers get three full-length versions of the film on both the Blu-ray and DVD discs: the original, Academy Award-winning theatrical release (with Disney enhanced picture and sound fit for high-definition); an extended version with a previously deleted portion (a charming scene where the household objects clean the castle, featuring the previously deleted song “Human Again”); and the theatrical release with a picture-in-picture view of the work-in-progress version first screened at the 1991 New York Film Festival. Both discs also feature audio commentary of the extended edition by producer Don Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, with special appearance by composer Alan Menken. Additionally, both discs feature Disney Sing Along Mode, in which the musical numbers are subtitled, karaoke style.

If you’re a fan of documentaries, Blu-ray disc number two (or disc three in the set) contains the ultimate in behind-the-scenes peeks. Presented in a format that allows the viewer to call the shots, the in-depth “Beyond Beauty
The Untold Stories” goes way beyond the usual DVD special features. Between each segment, icons offering additional information appear. If you want to know more about the topic just covered, just click on the icon and a new featurette will seamlessly begin. When it’s over, the main documentary resumes. There’s also a special menu feature that allows you to keep track of which featurettes you’ve seen or skipped. It’s interactivity at its finest, and one of the greatest examples of what the new technology is capable of.

“Beyond Beauty” begins at the very roots: the evolution of the Beauty and the Beast folk tale, from the 1700s to the present, and Walt Disney’s fascination with fairy tales in general. Then it’s off to the ’90s, as a struggling Disney animation department is downsized and shuffled off to a warehouse to make room for its live-action franchise (a move which, ultimately, reinvigorated the medium). It’s a fascinating story, told by the artists themselves, which sheds light on both the animation process and the business of making movies.

“Broadway Beginnings” features several of the actors who portrayed Belle, Gaston and even Chip in the Broadway production, including such high-profile names as Deborah Gibson, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Nick Jonas and Donny Osmond. Budding actors will get tips on launching their own careers, as well as advice on how to mount community theater productions of the popular musical.

When watching the finished film, the soundtrack seems so organic that it’s hard to imagine it without song. In “Composing a Classic,” composer Alan Menken takes viewers on an audio tour of the inspirations and versions of the songs that ended up in (and were cut from) the movie. His impromptu piano renditions are fun to watch.

Two of the most surprising entries in the bonus features are the never-before-seen deleted scene and alternate opening. Both show how differently the movie might have played out at one time. The opening sequence, for example, recasts Maurice as the more traditionally seen widowed merchant who fell on hard times. He’s got two daughters and a meddling sister-in-law to support, and his journey to the enchanted castle is quite different. The feel is so much different, even in storyboard mode, that it’s hard to imagine the steps that led from there to the movie audiences know today.

The deleted scene, featuring Belle in the library with four new enchanted objects, was tabled in the storyboard stage. It’s easy to see why, as it doesn’t add much to the story, though it’s fun to watch. One small irritant is the need to select the introduction to the scene, then return to the menu to select the scene. A simple “play all” button should have been inserted here.

Included in the Family Play section are two games: the “Enchanted Musical Challenge” game and the “Bonjour: Who is This?” game, which also utilizes ones cell phone. The games are cute, but provide very limited entertainment. Text message rates will apply, so make sure your little ones have permission to use the feature (or an unlimited plan).

A brand-new music video for the song “Beauty and the Beast” by Jordin Sparks rounds out the bonus features; a more whimsical take than the original by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson (which you can view among the original DVD special features), Sparks’ take is a beautiful tribute.

The sheer volume of bonus features is overwhelming (they can literally take days to consume), and on the Blu-ray discs, they’re a bit difficult to navigate. In the end, however, Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition is definitely a completist’s dream, and a worthy addition to any Disney collection.

Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition is now available as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. The 2-disc standard edition DVD will be available Nov. 23.

No comments:

Post a Comment