In 1991 the world of animation was rocked to it’s foundations by a release from Disney that took the genre to new heights. The rebirth of Disney’s animation division began with The Little Mermaid in 1989, but was taken to a completely new level when Beauty and the Beast burst onto our screens two years later.
The story is based on the classic fairy tale from Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont in the 18th century. It revolves around a cursed Prince who has been turned into a hideous beast by an enchantress as payback for his lack of compassion when she turns to him for shelter.
The beast’s only chance of freeing himself from the curse is to find love before the last petal falls from the rose given to him by the enchantress, if he fails in his quest he will remain a beast forever.
In the quaint French town close to the beast’s castle lives Belle, the beautiful Daughter of a local inventor and the target of the affections of the local macho Neanderthal Gaston. Gaston is unaccustomed to his affections being spurned but Belle has no interest in his clumsy advances.
In the middle of a storm Belle’s inventor father is imprisoned in the castle by the beast, Belle pleads with the beast for her Fathers freedom offering her self in his place. Thus begins an education for the Prince/beast, with the help of the castle’s enchanted staff, including talking teapots and candle sticks Belle helps the beast to rediscover the value of love and companionship, and a classic romance begins to blossom.
In true Disney fashion the household objects are given such wonderful characters that it seems almost natural for them to be able to talk. They add layers of depth to the story, onions as Shrek once said.
Undoubtedly the two stand-out features of the movie are the ground breaking use of CGI graphics and in true Disney fashion, the soundtrack. It would be appropriate to describe both of these features as being lavish, the graphics supplying the stunning backdrop for the famous ballroom dancing scene, and the soundtrack setting new standards and confirming its position as one of Disney’s best by claiming countless awards including Oscars and Golden Globes.
The recently released Blu-Ray edition has breathed new life into this classic animation, adding superb sound and picture quality to the package and enhancing the movies finest scenes and sounds. The colours are more vibrant and sharpness of the artwork provides sparkling detail from the foreground right through to the distant background. The re-mixed soundtrack is astonishingly clear with a superb balance that pans throughout the room.
Also added to the Blu-ray release are a number of special features and supplements that provide hours of worthwhile viewing, chief among which is a brand new interactive documentary about the making of the movie.
All in all this is great family entertainment, with something for everyone, the kids will love the story, Mum and Dad will marvel at the graphics and Granny will be humming the songs for days.
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Chris H. Noonan
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