Beauty and the Beast appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Virtually no problems emerged during this excellent presentation.
Sharpness appeared immaculate. The movie always came across as crisp and well defined, as I noticed no signs of softness at any point. Never did the detail waver during this accurate and distinct image.
Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I detected no signs of edge haloes. Print flaws seemed totally absent. At no point did I discern any specks, grit, marks, or other issues during this clean and fresh presentation.
Beast employed a varied and vivid palette, and the tones seemed terrific from start to finish. The colors always appeared vibrant and lush, and they displayed excellent clarity without any bleeding, noise, or other issues. HDR added range and impact to the tones.
Black levels also were rich and dense, while shadow detail presented clear low-light sequences that lacked any excessive opacity. HDR brought power and punch to whites and contrast. Overall, Beauty and the Beast looked terrific.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Beauty and the Beast didn’t quite compare with the visuals, but it worked well for the material nonetheless. The track usually featured a forward emphasis, though this broadened during logical sequences.
Music showed excellent stereo delineation, and quite a few isolated elements appeared in the side channels during production numbers. Effects also created a nice sense of atmosphere, and bits such as carts or other moving pieces panned smoothly from one side to the other. Overall, the various elements blended together cleanly.
As for the surrounds, they usually supported the music and effects, but a few exceptions occurred. Most of those happened during the movie’s action climax, as the surrounds kicked into gear more compellingly.
The wolf attacks also brought noticeable dimensionality from the rear speakers, and we got some decent and accurate split-surround material at times. Nonetheless, this mix remained oriented toward the front, which seemed appropriate for this sort of film.
Audio quality appeared solid. Speech came across as distinct and natural, and I noticed no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.
Effects sounded clean and accurate for the most part. They never displayed any signs of distortion, and they boasted positive dynamics.
Music sounded bright and clear, and the songs offered fine range and delineation. Ultimately, Beauty and the Beast won’t be your demo soundtrack, but it worked just fine for this film.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the 2016 “25th Anniversary” Blu-ray? The Atmos audio expanded the BD’s 7.1 a bit, but both felt largely similar.
On the other hand, the 4K boasted improvements in definition, colors and blacks. As great as the Blu-ray looked, the 4K topped it and became the more impressive presentation.
No extras appear on the 4K disc, but we get a mix on the included Blu-ray copy. The Blu-ray two different versions of the film itself. In addition to the original 1991 theatrical release (1:24:54), we get the 2002 Special Extended Edition (1:31:44).
How do the two differ? The SE adds one song: “Human Again”, though some of the art after that song alters the material seen in the original.
The servants clean the house during “Human Again”, which meant the animators needed to tidy up things from the decrepit state seen in the original movie.
Does this scene make the movie any better? Not really.
The original remains very good and is probably the best version. “Human Again” is a fun curiosity to see but not something that helps the film.
Next we find an audio commentary from directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, producer Don Hahn, and composer Alan Menken. The first three sit together for a running, screen-specific track, but Menken’s remarks seem to come from a separate session.
Wise, Trousdale and Hahn cover many aspects of the production. From casting to story changes to animation challenges, you’ll learn tons of details about Beast, and due to their light and engaging style, you’ll have a lot of fun along the way.
As for Menken’s contributions, he adds some useful details. He covers the creation of some songs and also provides cool notes like the direction that late co-composer Howard Ashman gave to Paige O’Hara for her “There’s Something There” vocals.
Although I like Menken’s remarks, I still don’t understand why the disc’s producers try so hard to create the illusion that he sat with the other three. Maybe I’m wrong and he really did tape his comments alongside that trio, but I strongly doubt it.
Why bother to attempt to fool us? It seems odd and pointless, but even so, this remains a terrific commentary.
Beast provides something called a Sing-Along Edition. This provides subtitles for all the movie’s songs, so with this feature activated, lyrics pop up when any of the tunes appears. It does nothing for me, but some may like it.
Always Belle runs 11 minutes, 32 seconds and provides notes from actor Paige O’Hara. She discusses her career and aspects of her work on Beast. Expect a highly fluffy piece that remains wholly superficial. O’Hara seems like a nice woman but this becomes a dull program.
Next comes the 19-minute, six-second Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration. It offers comments from Menken and musical writers Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stephen Schwarz, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
They chat about Beast and some parts of their work. Like “Belle”, a couple of minor insights emerge but “Friends” mostly focuses on happy talk. That makes it bland and forgettable.
After this we get #1074: Walt, Fairy Tales and Beauty and the Beast. It lasts nine minutes, 36 seconds and provides statements from Hahn, Walt Disney Archives director Rebecca Cline, supervising animator Glen Keane, animator Frank Thomas’s son Theodore, and Disney art collector Dennis Books. It also includes archival recordings of Walt Disney.
“Tales” looks at Walt’s long-ago interest in the Beast property and what happened to it. After the last two featurettes, “Tales” comes as a relief, as it actually provides useful information. We get a nice look at the possibilities created by this abandoned version of Beast.
The Recording Sessions goes for three minutes, 48 seconds and provides an intro from Hahn. After his quick lead-in, we see footage of the voice actors as they work. It’s way too brief but it’s still a cool peek at these sessions.
Finally, we find 25 Fun Facts About Beauty and the Beast. It fills five minutes, 24 seconds with info provided by Disney Channel actors Kayla Maisonet and Gus Kamp. As expected, they give us 25 trivia tidbits connected to the movie. A few minor insights occur but not anything especially memorable.
The Blu-ray disc opens with ads for Moana and Finding Dory. Sneak Peeks adds promos for the 2017 live-action Beauty and the Beast, The BFG and Elena of Avalor.
Under the “Special Features” menu, a separate one-minute, 24-second preview of the 2017 Beast appears, but we don’t get a trailer for the 1991 film.
What does this circa 2016 Blu-ray lose from the 2010 release? A lot – at least in terms of materials on the disc itself.
Fans can access many of these extras digitally, which is some compensation, I guess – but not much. These elements should be on the disc itself.
32 years after its debut, Beauty and the Beast remains one of Disney’s best. It gives us a charming, emotional and entertaining fable. The 4K UHD provides very good picture and audio but loses most of the prior disc’s bonus materials – and subjects us to largely superficial new features. I still really enjoy the movie and think it looks better than ever, but the continued absence of pre-existing bonus materials disappoints.
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