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Toon Talk: Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas SE DVD
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Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas
Special Edition DVD
Regarded, along with Aladdin and the King of Thieves and The Lion King II: Simbas Pride, as one of the few direct-to-video sequels that is actually somewhat watchable, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas has now been granted the Special Edition DVD treatment, presumably to sit alongside the recent Beauty and the Beast Platinum Edition DVD on your video shelf.
(And the mystery of the I on the spine of the original Beauty DVD is revealed: Enchanted Christmas has a corresponding II on its spine, to go along with the III on the upcoming special edition of Belles Magical World, to be released next Spring. A special DVD collectors case for all three is available through mail order. Its safe to assume that one can expect the same to be done with Aladdin, The Lion King and Mulan, with their two sequels each, in the future.)
And while it would seem that a special edition of a lowly video sequel is a bit presumptuous, especially considering that such official animated features as Alice in Wonderland, The Sword in the Stone, The Aristocats, The Rescuers, Pocahontas, Hercules and Mulan (not to mention the package features of the 1940s) have yet to be released (or at least announced to be released) on DVD in such a fashion, it appears that, unlike the recent The Santa Clause special edition, some creativity was actually put in to this Yuletide collection. (See Bonus Feature Highlights, below.)
The Enchanted Christmas (which was actually one of Disneys first DVD releases) is not so much a sequel as a midquel: instead of taking place after the events of the first film, this story is set in the midst of the original, although the cast is seen in their human forms in the prologue and epilogue, which is fun considering theyre not shown like this very much in the original.
All of the original cast returned for the sequel (Paige OHara as Belle, Robby Benson as the Beast, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth and even Frank Welker as Phillippe the horse and the footstool, now named Sultan; although he doesnt speak, Belles father Maurice can be seen during the prologue; Gaston and LaFou do not appear). All, that is, save for Chip, here voiced by Hayley Joel Osment, long before he became that I see dead people kid.
Rounding out the cast are new characters voiced by Tim Curry (always drolly wicked, here he is the castles former court composer, Forte, now transformed into a huge pipe organ with his own plans in regards to the Enchantress curse), Bernadette Peters (whose French accent as the castle decorator, Angelique, at times slips into an unfortunate mirror of the Mrs. Swan character from Mad TV), Paul Reubens as the high strung woodwind Fife, and Jeff Bennett as an overly characterized Jewish axe (named, well, Axe), complete with a Yiddish accent that borders on outright offensiveness. His one true purpose, it seems, is to claim Happy Hanukkah! at one point, a painfully obvious stretch to be all-inclusive that is entirely unnecessary and distracting.
Produce by Disneys Television Animation division in Canada, the character animation is shockingly sloppy at times; the exception being some truly impressive CGI work on Forte. The film lacks the true visual splendor of the original, which is as would be expected, and the animators go a bit overboard with the enchanted objects just how many servants were in that castle anyway? Its one thing to having a kickline of cutlery, but all the little Christmas ornaments hopping about is simply ridiculous.
Film composer Rachel Portman replaces Alan Menken (whom she beat out at the Oscars with her Emma score over his for The Hunchback of Notre Dame earlier that same year), providing an effectively thematic score. Her songs, along with lyricist Don Black, are mostly hit or miss though: while Stories stands out as a stirring ballad that could have easily been included in the first film (or at least the Broadway version) and As Long As Theres Christmas is a serviceable new holiday tune, the token Villain Song for Forte (Dont Fall in Love) tries to hard to be witty, and the out-of-left-field, overly presentational A Cut Above the Rest (sung by Lumiere and Cogsworth) breaks the cardinal rule of Disney songs: that is it has absolutely nothing to do with the story, nor does it advance the plot in any way. And its a crime that the talents of the two-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical Actress Peters is relegated to a mere reprise.