It’s only been six years since the last time this Disney princess was allowed out of the video vault, but this year’s 25th anniversary and an impending live action remake served as ample incentive for another cash grab. Thankfully, the Disney marketing folks saw fit to include an ample selection of brand new bonus features for this release, although the technical specifications of the film’s video/audio presentation are exactly the same. The Blu-ray package also includes a digital copy, another perk absent in the prior release. Finally, viewers again get the option of watching three different versions of the film, just like the original Blu-ray: the original theatrical release, the “extended edition” which adds the song “Human Again” into the film, as well as a sing-a-long option for the theatrical version.
If you’ve somehow avoided this Disney classic for the last quarter century, the story focuses on an innocent but fiercely independent young lass named Belle as she navigates her French provincial town while caring for her crazed inventor father and fending off the unwelcome advances of the local lothario, Gaston. When her father goes missing, she sets out to find him and stumbles upon an enchanted castle filled with sentient furniture and a fierce and hideous beast lord. The story stresses looking below the surface to find someone’s true character, whether it’s a cursed prince in a beastly guise or the true lout Gaston in his aesthetically pleasing exterior.
The Blu-ray image presentation appears identical to the previous superb release, and the audio is once again expertly separated 7.1 DTS-HDMA, so if you already have that version and aren’t interested in new bonus features there’s really not much reason to opt for the current release. Instead, this package seems more geared to the hardcore Disney fans and new parents who weren’t part of the target demographic during the past release.
This being a tie-in for next year’s live action movie, the bonus features include an exclusive look at the making of that film. The segment isn’t much to get excited about since it’s only 1 ½ minutes long, but viewers are treated to a few more glimpses of footage than we’ve seen so far, along with brief complimentary comments from the cast and crew.
The best bonus feature brings together Disney Princess composers and lyricists from across eras as they reminisce about their favorite Disney scores and fawn over Beauty and the Beast composer Alan Menken and his vast body of work. Menken is seated and playing his classics at a piano throughout the feature, surrounded by Stephen Schwartz (Pocahontas), Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez (Frozen), and rookie recruit Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana). It’s a real treat for Disney music fans, and clearly a blast for the participants as well. Sure, it’s self-congratulatory, but also illuminating at times such as when Robert Lopez and Miranda reveal they went to the same high school, which was a mind-boggling little nugget for me.
Elsewhere, producer Don Hahn wheels out old VHS footage of the voice actors from the original recording sessions, originally used to assist the animators in bringing the characters to life but now repurposed to allow us to see the actors on screen side by side with their animated counterparts. Speaking of those actors, Belle star Paige O’Hara gets her own feature where she discusses the impact the film has had on her life. The features also include a trivia segment with 25 fun facts hosted by a couple of current Disney Channel stars. Finally, the disc includes some historical perspective as a feature reveals that Walt Disney himself ordered treatment preparation of the story decades before it was finally produced. For the new fans, the package also contains a preview of bonus features from the prior Blu-ray release.