Toon Talk: Beauty and the Beast Special Edition
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Beauty and the Beast
Something BIG There
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of this crown jewel of the contemporary Disney classics, Beauty and the Beast has been expanded and amended for a special re-release, exclusively on IMAX and other large-format screens.
For those who may not have seen one of these large-format films, these specially equipped theaters use 70mm prints, the world's largest, projected on screens of up to eight stories high.
Following in the footsteps of the big screen masterpiece Fantasia 2000, the filmmakers returned to the drawing boards to prepare their Beauty for the larger format. Lead by producer Don Hahn and directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, they worked for a year to improve visual effects and sound and to clean-up characters, backgrounds and special effects.
Unfortunately, the results leave a lot to be desired.
Beauty and the Beast was originally produced in 35mm, so blowing it up to twice the size renders the 2-D animation flat at times. Even worse, background characters and characters viewed from a distance, where little detail is needed in the normal format, are there to see in all their crudeness. It's like taking a peek through a magnifying glass and seeing something you didn't want to see.
On the other hand, some sequences are still breathtaking, most notably the opening multi-plane shot through the forest and the exquisite ballroom scene. And the sound system in these types of theaters can't be beat.
But it is frankly painful to see a film that I know is beautifully animated presented in such a way that renders it as seemingly artistically challenged as the Recess movie. To this die-hard Beauty and the Beast fan, it's tantamount to blasphemy.
The biggest and most obvious addition to this new version is the musical number "Human Again", the first time Disney has added new animation for a theatrical re-release. Long-time fans of Beauty and the Beast of course know the background of this song. Originally written for the film by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, it was storyboarded but never animated, cut during pre-production. The song was restored to the story when Beauty was transferred to Broadway in 1994. A rollicking show-stopper with heavy French musical hall influences, it is the "Be Our Guest" of the second act.
During the song, as it is rendered on film, the Enchanted Objects (led by Jerry Orbach's Lumiere, Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Potts and David Ogden Stiers' Cogsworth) sing of their desire to return to their previous lives, all the while cleaning the Beast's castle to prepare for the upcoming event. (This necessitated "cleaning up" the backgrounds of the film after the song: shining up the floors, mending the curtains, et cetera.)
With all that history behind it, the actual execution of the number is bit flippant. With clumsy gags and a preoccupation with the business attached to the scene, there is no emotional attachment between the characters and the lyrics, as is so wonderfully conveyed on stage; they might as well be singing "Whistle While You Work".
With rumors abounding about the next animated classic to receive the large screen treatment (such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin or The Lion King), one wishes that Disney would heed the advice uttered by Cogsworth in this film: "If it's not Baroque, don't fix it".
Toon Talk Rating: B-