Beauty and the Beast is a beloved Disney classic that’s gotten several releases, from a Special Edition to a Diamond Edition. Now the 25th anniversary of the picture has rolled around and we’ve got a brand new DVD edition- Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary Edition (BD + DVD + DIGITAL HD).
It may have been 25 years since Beauty and the Beast first came out, the picture still has a lot to offer. The songs are ridiculously catchy and often beautiful, the characters are likeable, the visuals are impressive and the story is a grand one that incorporates many themes like inner beauty, redemption and of course, love. Beauty and the Beast contains a lot of innovations and subversive firsts for Disney too.
Gaston in Beauty and the Beast
Traditionally, Disney villains had either been ugly, effeminate men or jealous and/or unattractive older women. Gaston was a first- muscular, masculine and attractive, he looked more like what Disney Prince traditionally would be than the Disney idea of the villain. As the most macho guy around, he felt entitled to anything he wanted and bullied others. While he was still cartoonish and easy to laugh at, he was far more realistic than the villains that preceded him. He was evil while CONFORMING to society’s standards rather than deviating.
Belle was also interesting and new as a protagonist. Disney was slowly starting to make more complex heroines in this time period. They didn’t have to have to have solely romantic goals. In The Little Mermaid, while Ariel was very focused on her man, she was also interested in the surface world. Belle takes that further. She comes on the scene without romance on her radar. She’s got multiple things going on. She loves to read, she wants an adventure and she’s tired of being stuck in this small town. She gets involved with the Beast to save her father and it isn’t until much later she falls in love.
We also have Belle’s real prince be an “ugly” and flawed misfit at first, in contrast to the shining perfection of other Disney princes before him. He doesn’t stay that way, but hey. It’s still the first time a prince had to undergo real character development.
So Beauty and the Beast is an important part of Disney history and an enjoyable movie. And boy, if you haven’t gotten any previous special DVD releases, you really get your money’s worth with this one. The picture is crisp and clear and this release is jam-packed with special features.
Belle from Beauty and the Beast
You get four different versions of the film! This includes a theatrical edition and a sing-a-long edition with animated lyric text to go along with each song. It also includes a special extended edition. This edition includes an entirely new musical number, “Human Again”, incorporated into the movie. There are also several edits made. Finally, there’s a “Work-in-Progress” edition, a partially done version of the movie that was originally shown as a preview, intercut with storyboards and including alternate versions of various songs. It’s all well-worth a look.
The special features are impressive, too. A big highlight is “Menkin & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration” which focuses on the composer behind Beauty, Alan Menkin. But it also contains a big treat for fans of other Disney films and of Broadway. The feature brings Menkin together with other famous composers- Kristern Anderson Lopez (Frozen, Up Here), Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) Robert Lopez (Frozen, The Book of Mormon) and Lin Manuel-Miranda (Hamilton, Moana). We learn how Menkin inspired these artists and lots of trivia about the composition of Beauty and also other Disney movies! It’s a sweet and informative feature and it’s fun to see these musical giants geeking out.
"The Recording Sessions" feature shows videos of the cast of the movie recording their songs, which is neat. "Always Belle" gives a good look at the work and life of Page O’ Hara, the voice of Belle. "#1074: Walt, Fairy Tales and Beauty and the Beast" shows us that Walt had considered making Beauty and the Beast himself back in the day, which is an interesting tidbit for sure. We also get a sneak peak at the live action version of Beauty starring Emma Watson, though admittedly there’s not much new footage. The least impressive feature is definitely "25 Fun Facts about Beauty and the Beast". It has some young Disney channel stars reciting facts about the movie you could probably look up online, but if you’re not overly familiar with Beauty trivia, it’s worth a look.
Beauty and the Beast
These are the features that are new to this DVD. The rest of the features can also be found on the earlier Diamond DVD release of Beauty. So, if you’ve got that edition, I’d suggest looking at the features I just listed and deciding if they’re worth buying the same thing over again.
As for these not-so-new features, what stands out is the deleted scenes and early drafts of the film. We have an entire 20-minute long storyboard sequence that was the original start of the movie. What is mostly impresses on me was that Beauty and the Beast could have been a much duller, more clichéd movie. The original storyline has the classic old, unattractive evil aunt making Belle’s life difficult and an equally classic snobby, dainty version of Gaston. They weren’t very entertaining. The original sequence focused a lot on those characters and Belle’s bumbling father; we saw hardly anything from Belle and nothing from the Beast. No wonder it was rejected, but it’s still interesting to see what could have been.
Beauty and the Beast on Broadway
We also get a deeper look at the composition of the songs, the making of the Broadway play based on the movie, music videos and the like.
Another plus is the audio commentary, which with commentary by both directors, producer Don Hahn and Alan Menkin, have plenty of information and talk packed into them.
The verdict? With all the stuff packed into it, this release is a steal at $22.96. I do feel a bit sorry for those who got the Platinum edition though, since people who get this release will be getting everything they got plus some new features, better menus and a digital version. However, if you haven’t gotten a Beauty DVD before and want one, you should definitely get this one. It’s great way to celebrate this timeless tale as old as time.