Blu-ray Review: Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition
By John Corrado
Notably the first animated film to ever receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, and in my humble opinion it should have won, Beauty and the Beast firmly established the fabled Disney Renaissance that began two years earlier with The Little Mermaid. It remains one of the studio’s best productions.
This is an iconic film that is still just as rewarding and emotionally resonant a quarter-century after it was first released, boasting richly drawn characters, gorgeously rendered animation, and a wealth of classic songs courtesy of composers Howard Ashman and Alan Menken that still hold up. It’s a timeless classic, and the animation of the ballroom dance sequence, groundbreaking for its time, is still breathtaking.
The Blu-ray features three versions of the film, including the original theatrical version from 1991, the 2002 special edition, and a brand new sing-along version. Although none of the extra material from the prievious Diamond Edition release have been transferred over, bonus features on this edition include commentary on the extended cut with directors Gary Trousedale and Kirk Wise joined by producer Dan Hahn and composer Alan Menken, as well as five brand new featurettes.
These include Always Belle, a charming piece that features Paige O’Hara reflecting on voicing the main character and being crowned a Walt Disney Legend, and #1074: Walt, Fairy Tales & Beauty and the Beast, which offers a look at the early development of the film under Walt Disney, who was interested in the original story but never got it produced in his own time. Then there’s The Recording Sessions, which assembles a selection of brief videos from the cast performing their lines in the booth, and 25 Fun Facts About Beauty and the Beast, a short puff piece hosted by a pair of Disney Channel stars.
The longest and most delightful of these featurettes is Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Music, which sees Alan Menken sitting at a piano engaged in an enjoyable and illuminating round table discussion with fellow Disney composers Stephen Schwartz, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. It’s a blast to listen in to their conversation, especially when they start a sing-along. There’s also a very brief preview included for next year’s highly anticipated live action version of Beauty and the Beast, which doesn’t come out until the spring but already looks splendid.
Beauty and the Beast is 85 minutes and rated G.