Blu-ray Review: Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary Edition


RATING: 5 out of 5

Beauty and the Beast returns in a 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray!

THE SET-UP
A selfish young man is cursed to be a hideous beast until he can earn the love of another. Features the voices of Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, and Angela Lansbury.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise.

THE DELIVERY
Twenty-five years later, Beauty and the Beast not only holds up over time, but its greatness is even more evident. The film was the first full-length animated feature to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, which it would eventually lose to Silence of the Lambs. In retrospect, as good as Silence is, a strong argument could be made that Beauty and the Beast is a more deserving film. But that is an argument for another day.

For its 25th anniversary, Disney has re-released the film on Blu-ray as part of their Signature Collection, with a host of new special features. For this review, we won’t focus on revisiting the film itself, but rather the different versions of the film the Blu-ray includes. Three different versions of the film are included on the Blu-ray: the original theatrical version, the 2001 special edition with an added song, and a “sing-along” version.


The original theatrical version really needs no review, but Disney managed to actually improve the film in 2001 by adding a previously discarded song, “Human Again,” for a tenth anniversary special edition. The song added about six minutes to the run time, and it manages not to stick out as a cheesy add-on (yeah, we’re looking at you George Lucas). By reassembling the original animators and voice actors, Disney ensured the scene blends seamlessly into the rest of the film. The animation quality itself looks only slightly different, but not enough to be a distraction.

Also included is a “Sing-Along” version that includes on-screen lyrics during the film’s songs. A shortened version, which only shows the songs and skips all non-musical scenes, can be accessed through the special features menu.

Beautifully constructed and perfectly executed in both animation and voice performances, Beauty and the Beast remains timeless and entertaining twenty-five years later. Picking up this 25th Anniversary Edition is a no-brainer if the Blu-ray isn’t already in your library.


VIDEO AND AUDIO 

The high-definition transfer appears to be the same as the 2011 Blu-ray release, which is stunning in its clarity. There appears to be some digital cleanup of the image, as there is little to no grain visible in most cases. Colors are bright but not over-corrected, and there is some good detail in the hand-drawn animation. Digital cleanup can often degrade the quality of the detail, but there is little evidence of that.

Audio is an excellent 7.1 DTS HDMA mix, and it sounds far better than a 25-year-old film should. There’s fantastic low-end, and the songs feature excellent clarity.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Disney included some nice, new extras for this Signature Collection Edition of the film. I personally love seeing behind-the-scenes footage of the voice actors for Disney animated films, and we get some of that with some new special features made just for this new release.

My only complaint comes at their handling of the “classic” special features, those extras included on previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. For past Blu-ray releases, Disney included the “classic” extras on the actual disc. For Beauty and the Beast, the Blu-ray instructs viewers to go online to Disney Movies Anywhere (DMA) to view them. No less than a couple of dozen “classic” extras are accessible through DMA. While it may be convenient for some, with so many internet providers limiting data and speeds, it would have been much better to make the extra effort to include some (if not all) of the classic extras on the disc.

Special features included on the disc include:

“Always Belle” featurette. Paige O’Hara discusses her iconic role, and talks about her life in the theatre and career on Broadway. This is a fantastic featurette that allows fans to learn more about person behind the voice they all know. Running time: 11:32


“Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration” featurette. In this pretty entertaining piece, Disney music creators Stephen Schwartz, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, and Lin-Manuel Miranda sit down with Alan Menken at Feinstein’s/54 Below and discuss the impact of his music for Beauty and the Beast. Running time: 19:06


“#1074: Walt, Fairy Tales, and Beauty and the Beast” featurette. Walt Disney had planned on doing a Beauty and the Beast film for decades, but never got the chance to do it. The history of the story, and the journey from idea to finished film is detailed here. Running time: 9:36


“The Recording Session” featurette. Producer Don Hahn introduces video clips of the studio recording sessions of the film’s voice actors. I love this kind of stuff, and though it’s short, it’s a great little featurette. Best part: watching the late Jerry Orbach singing “Be Our Guest.” For anyone who watched him for years on “Law & Order,” seeing him bring Lumiere to life is a revelation. And a little bittersweet knowing he’s gone. Running time: 3:48

“25 Fun Facts About Beauty and the Beast” featurette. Disney Channel kids Kayla Maisonet and Gus Kamp introduce little-known facts about the movie. Running time: 5:24


“Beauty and the Beast” Live Action Movie Sneak Peek. Director Bill Condon discusses the upcoming live-action version of the animated film. Running time: 1:24

“Song Selection” mode. This mode takes the “Sing Along” version of the film accessible in the main menu and allows the viewer to only watch the songs. The songs can be selected to be watched individually or all of them in order, which cuts the film down to twenty-three minutes.

Classic Bonus Preview. A preview explaining how to access classic bonus features on Disney Movies Anywhere. Running time: 43 seconds.

Digital Copy. A Disney Movie Rewards code, which unlocks a digital version of the film, is included.

Audio Commentary. Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, as well as producer Don Hahn and composer Alan Menken, provide a fantastic commentary, available only on the extended version of the film. There are plenty of anecdotes about the making of the film provided by the makers, along with some honest observations.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Beauty and the Beast Signature Collection is a must-have
Disney continues to do right by its films on Blu-ray. Beauty and the Beast looks absolutely fantastic, and there are a nice group of new extras to enjoy. It’s a great release that should be in every film lover’s library.

BLU-RAY SPECS 
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Rating: G
Running Time: 85 minutes (theatrical version), 91 minutes (special edition)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS HDMA, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish
Special Features: “Always Belle” featurette; “Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration” featurette; “#1074: Walt, Fairy Tales & Beauty and the Beast” featurette; “The Recording Sessions” featurette; “Beauty and the Beast” Live Action Sneak Peek; Sing-Along Song Selection; Classic Bonus Preview; Digital Copy.
Audio Commentary: Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, producer Don Hahn, and composer Alan Menken all participate.
Label: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Click here to order Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray on Amazon! 


Victor Medina is a freelance writer based in Dallas. He is the editor of several websites, and his writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, Cinelinx.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com.

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