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Blu-ray review: Beauty and the Beast Diamond Edition

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 | Posted by Fernando Caire

Think it’s all 2D? Think again. This landmark in the history of 3D graphics holds up pretty well almost 20 years after its original release, says Fernando Caire.

Arguably the most beloved Disney movie of modern times, Beauty and the Beast comes out of the Walt Disney vault and onto Blu-ray this October.

In this second re-release in Disney’s Diamond Edition series, no expense has been spared to deliver the ultimate viewing experience for the film: the three-disc set comes packed with extra features, including behind-the-scenes footage, concept art, interviews and three versions of the film itself.

Beauty and the Beast is more than just a cartoon: it changed the way we look at animation. The first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (and the only one to receive this accolade until Up in 2009), it has earned its place in cinema history. More to the point, it looks superb in HD.

Digitally remastered to catch every tiny detail, the colors of the HD version are vivid and the line work flows like I have never seen before. Scenic shots containing foreground and background elements create an immense sense of depth: an effect that can only be described as looking like a moving painting.

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The time when Beauty and the Beast was being made was a pivotal period for Disney. The studio had begun to flirt with the use of 3D in its films, which would ultimately lead to full-length 3D animated features like Chicken Little and Bolt.

Beauty and the Beast was among the first 2D animated films to contain 3D, most notably in the ballroom dance scene. Nearly 20 year on, it still looks subtle and beautiful – in HD, the sense of scale and attention to detail are awe-inspiring. Also remastered in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, you can listen to the score the way it was always meant to be heard.

The three versions of the film included in the Blu-ray set are the theatrical release, the extended special edition, and the line art version that was previewed at the New York Film Festival before the movie was completed. Personally, I do not like any of the extended editions of Disney’s movies. The animation is clearly different for the added scenes and they cause unnecessary hiccups in the storyline. The Lion King suffered the most from these additional, unnecessary, musical numbers and even though Beauty and the Beast only has one, ‘Human Again’, I couldn’t help but wish it would just end so the story could continue.

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In contrast, the New York Film Festival version of the film is a real treat to watch alongside the completed movie. A mixture of drawn sequences similar to the video for A-ha’s Take On Me, mixed with some storyboards, it is wonderful to watch the sketches flow in and out of detail, hinting at the artistic process behind drawing an entire animated feature.

As far as extra features go, there is a bountiful supply here. ‘Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind Making Beauty and the Beast’ offers an insightful look into the production of the film. While this plays, there are pop-ups that allow you to branch off into a separate features like the history of Disney animation, the concept art of the film, or the film’s venture onto Broadway. Should you choose to watch one of these, the person in the documentary seamlessly recognizes you have chosen this and gives you an introduction to the video. This is really well done and makes for a great interactive experience. Also included are deleted scenes, a sing-a-long option, interactive games, director commentary and deleted songs.

With three versions of the film, a vast number of extra features, breathtaking HD quality and crisp sound, this is the best and most complete version of Beauty and the Beast to date. Whether you are an avid Disney fan or have children of your own you want to share the classics with, this is definitely a required addition to your collection.

Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition is published by Walt Disney Video on 5 October, price  $39.99 (US) or $47.99 (Canada) and in the UK on 1 November, price £23.99. The set includes two Blu-ray discs and one DVD.

Click here to buy the box set on Amazon.com

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