When her slightly crazy father goes missing, young Belle ventures out into the woods to go look for him, only to find that he has been captured by a hideous beast and kept locked in the beast's castle. The only way for her to free him is to offer herself in return. The beast accepts, knowing this is the last chance he has to reverse an old curse that has been put upon himself and all those who inhabit the castle. If he can find someone to love him before an enchanted rose dies, the curse will be lifted. If not, he will be a beast for all eternity.
Truth be told, Beauty and the Beast is the movie I've seen most in my life (right now I've probably seen it about 30 times). But it had been a few years and with this new Blu-ray version (and the fact I'm the proud owner of a new Blu-ray player) I jumped at the chance to watch it again. And after all this time, it still holds up as an amazing movie. First off, the transfer to Blu-ray is, as it usually is, incredible. The picture is sharper and cleaner than ever. And the sound is spectacular, with the Alan Menken/Howard Ashman soundtrack as beautiful as it was 20 years ago when we first heard it. With the story, the music and the animation you can see why this was the first animated film nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
The new Blu-ray/DVD Combo allows you to see the movie in three different versions including the extended version which adds a song that was used in the Broadway musical, "Human Again" which was another big song in the vein of "Be Our Guest." You can see why it was removed from the original theatrical release because it was another large production number that wasn't really needed to move the story along. And there are a whole ton of other extras as well.
Disc 1 is the DVD with the three versions of the film and Disney Sing Along Mode, along with an audio commentary. But chances are if you're buying this, you're getting it for the Blu-ray. Disc 2 is the Blu-ray version of the movie along with a bunch of extras. One is called Composing a Classic and it has Alan Menken sitting down and discussing what went into the making of the soundtrack. His partner, Howard Ashman, sadly died before the movie was released, but it was fascinating hearing about how they created the songs. And we actually see Menken sitting at a piano recreating the thought process for these songs we've come to know and love.
Broadway Beginnings discusses the transfer of the movie over to the Broadway musical (which I've seen 4 times so far). Then there was something that I had never seen before, which was a very long alternate opening sequence to the film. It isn't completed animation, but it was a pretty involved story board with voices. It shows us a completely different idea of who Belle was and where she came from. Instead of living with a crazy old father who invented things, she had a sister and her father was a widower. Her aunt comes to live with them as well. It was much longer than I had anticipated and much more serious than the version we ended up with. Disc 2 also has the one extra I didn't like, which is Jordin Sparks singing the title track. I have nothing against Sparks, but this wasn't necessary at all.
Disc 3 had an in-depth documentary on the making of the film called Beyond Beauty which is very interesting as well. I didn't realize that the Disney animators were kicked out of the Disney compound when this movie was being made, and ended up in a warehouse a few miles away. Yet, they managed to produce a string of hits out of there so it turned out to be a good thing. There is also the Enchanted Musical Challenge which you can play as a family. You have to answer trivia questions (which aren't all softballs) and at the same time, search the castle for some of the characters. Oh, speaking of the castle, when you load up the Blu-ray, if you don't immediately choose what you want to watch, you can actually take a long virtual tour of the entire castle. I highly suggest doing that because it is a lot of fun. The final extra on Disc 3 was fascinating, but I couldn't do much with it because not everyone owns the Blu-ray yet. Using your internet connection and a phone, BD-Live allows you to enter a game called Bonjour, Who Is This?. Every person is assigned a character that only you can see. Then there are a series of questions that you must answer. Based on each person's answer, you can try and guess who the other characters are. It seems like it could be a lot of fun so once everyone is online and playing, I'll jump back in.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I obviously love Beauty and the Beast. But if you're wondering if the upgrade to Blu-ray is worth it, especially if you're like me and already own a DVD and a VHS version, I say yes. The picture and sound quality of Blu-ray is unmatched, and the extras will give you hours of more enjoyment on top of the amazing film.