Beauty and the Beast was the first animated Disney film that I ever saw in theaters, which almost certainly contributed to my lifelong reverence for it. It may not be my all-time favorite Disney classic – that distinction belongs to Robin Hood, and you can judge me all you like – but it definitely ranks pretty high on the list. Even if 10-year-old me had never seen it on the big screen, I have a feeling I still would have fallen in love with it eventually.
This year marks the 25th Anniversary of Beauty and the Beast‘s theatrical release, and although the film was previously issued on Blu-Ray in an excellent Diamond Edition, the studio has seen fit to send it back to store shelves with a selection of all-new bonus features. Since the timeless quality of this Disney classic is not really in dispute, I won’t bother to review the film itself – instead, I’ll be focusing on the supplements, which will likely be the biggest factor that influences your decision to add this latest release to your collection.
Kicking off the special features is Always Belle, which focuses on the life and career of voice actress Paige O’Hara. She discusses being interested in performance from a very early age, how voicing Belle changed her life, and her more recent work as a professional vocal coach. There’s also some great vintage footage of O’Hara in the recording booth, which also pops up in The Recording Sessions, an all-too-brief look at some of the voice talent behind the film, including Richard White, David Ogden Stiers, Jerry Orbach, and Angela Lansbury.
#1074: Walt, Fairy Tales, and Beauty and the Beast chronicles the long history of the “tale as old as time” at the studio, including early documents indicating that Walt himself was hoping to develop a version of the film before his death. This segment only runs about 10 minutes, but the inclusion of audio interviews, archive photos and more make it an absolute must for Disney history buffs.
My personal favorite offering from the newly-minted special features is Menken and Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration, which finds music legend Alan Menken sitting down for a roundtable chat with lyricist and longtime collaborator Steven Schwartz, Frozen songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who will be working alongside Menken on the upcoming live-action version of The Little Mermaid. It’s a fascinating conversation, and even at 20 minutes it feels far too short.
There’s also an incredibly brief look at next year’s live-action update of Beauty and the Beast, featuring behind-the-scenes footage of stars Emma Watson, Luke Evans and Dan Stevens along with some concept art and on-set footage. It’s a nice teaser for what to expect, but only clocks in around the 2-minute mark, so calling it a “sneak peek” is a pretty apt description.
25 years after its theatrical release, Beauty and the Beast remains one of the studio’s all-time classics. If you don’t already have the Diamond Edition, then this latest Blu-Ray release is well worth the addition to your library. But if Beauty and the Beast is already on your shelf, the special features may not be enough to justify the double-dip.
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