Made during the second renaissance of animated classics,
‘Beauty and the Beast” has aged remarkably well in fact
better than the more popular “Aladdin” and “The Lion King”
that followed in its wake. What made the film so successfully
wasn’t just the lush design or beautifully rendered characters
but the storyline and songs of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.
The duo who had composed “Little Shop of Horrors” immediately
injected the films with witty, involving, catchy songs that
complimented the writing and direction of the film making
“Beauty” the most appealing and powerful Disney film of
the decade. ***
Although it may lack the stylized and more adult, darker
hues of Jean Cocteau’s French live action film, the film
manages a the fine balance between drama and humor that
always made the best American musicals in film and on Broadway
both appealing and powerful. A young prince (Robbie Benson)
cursed by an enchantress for his lack of empathy to become
the monstrous Beast wanders isolated within his enchanted
castle where all of his servants have also been turned into
objects that most clearly represent their personalities.
In a local French town the misunderstood and bookish
but beautiful Belle (Paige O’Hara) wants nothing more to
learn about the world and escape the provincial town where
she often finds ignorance rules the day in the form of the
blustery and vain bully Gaston (the late Richard White in
a brilliant performance). Her brilliant but absent minded
father Maurice (Rex Everhart) an inventor takes refuge in
Beast’s castle during a horrible storm, Belle comes to the
rescue discovering the enchanted Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury),
Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers) and Lumière (the late Jerry
Orbach) the servants of the house who have been turned into
various items (a pot, a clock and a candle opera respectively).
Belle agrees under duress to stay if Beast (who believes
they have come to spy on him) will stay behind as his prisoner.
Gradually Beast learns to trust Belle and rediscovers his
lost humanity which gives the house staff hope that he may
yet reverse the curse which will soon become permanent if
Beast doesn’t fall in love. ---
Image & Sound:
This deluxe edition has three different versions of
the movie on both the DVD and Blu-ray discs included. The
Blu-ray obviously looks better with its higher bit capacity
rate and resolution but even the DVD looks quite solid with
nice detail, colors that pop and nice textures reproduced
throughout. The Blu-ray though looks positively brilliant.
Audio sounds remarkably strong with dialogue always
front and center. Dialogue comes across crisp and clean
with nice detail sprinkled throughout the surround speakers.
The music positively comes to life on the Blu-ray with a
lossless presentation that approximates the original theatrical
presentation of the film. I doubt the film has looked or
sounded this good since its original release in 1991 and,
in fact, it might look better.