Beauty and the Beast is the story of a young girl, named Belle, who has an eccentric inventor father, who has been working on a steam powered wood chopping machine. Her father leaves Belle behind to display his invention at a local fair but is lost along the way until he finds what appears to be a deserted castle in the woods. But it is not deserted – it is inhabited by its' original occupants who have been changed into common household objects and furniture by a magical spell. You see the Prince who lived there once felt that outside beauty was of tatamount importance, and caused him to not aid a disfigured old woman who asked for shelter from him. He refused and she then revealed herself to be a beautiful enchantress and caused him and his castle staff to transform, with the Prince being turned into a monster. The Prince was allowed to redeem himself – if he could love someone else and get them to love him in return (all while he was The Beast), all before a magical timer in the form of an enchanted rose drops its' last petal, then the spell would be broken and he would be returned to normal. Belle finds out that her father was captured, and she tracks him down at the castle, and trades places with him, becoming the Beast's prisoner. The rest of the movie tells you what happened after that.
The movie explores many different issues on several levels, but there was a reason why this movie was nominated for Best Picture: It really is good by having excellent character growth, subtle nuances with the characters, action and of course, near perfect hand drawn animation. While this release is not the first Blu-Ray release of Beauty and the Beast, the Blu-ray transfer cannot be matched for the color reproduction and sharpness that comes with the high definition format. The audio channels come through crisp and clear and complete the home theater experience. But the 3D version adds to it. More depth of field with the various elements in each scene are there, with even the 2D characters being converted into 3D for this conversion, all without losing the color, brightness, or feeling to the movie. This is an awesome 3D conversion, a must-see if you have a 3D television in your home. But if you don't have one, and you already have the Blu-ray release from last year, there is nothing else new on this release. The 3D movie shares the same interactive menu (just in 3D this time) from the regular Blu-ray release, with no special features on the 3D disc.
The combo pack includes the three former releases on the DVD – the original version, the extended special edition, and the work-in-progress version that was screened in New York before the film was finished. Now the first two were ported to the Blu-ray, while the new third edition combines the special edition with storyboarding. However, it was disappointing to not have the work-in-progress version remastered in high definition, so the only way you'll be able to see it (unless you have the original laserdisc) is on DVD.
Rather than just including the previous bonus features, Disney went a step further for this Blu-Ray release. The previous bonus features are included, and Disney even tells you this – the menu states "DVD Bonus Features", with those all under that menu option. But one of the best features is the new documentary they included for this release. Filmed recently, this feature uses the capabilities of Blu-ray almost to the max – with a documentary that has pop-ups when there is another tidbit that they recorded that goes into more detail on a subject they bring up during the documentary. So you don't have to watch it unless you want to. And then the menu will keep track of which sections you've watched – so you can skip to the parts you'd like to learn more about. At the least you'll get a history lesson, with photos from the 1980s and the story of how Walt Disney Animation was kicked off the Burbank lot. They even got an interview with Jeffrey Katzenberg for this documentary.
So, if you have a 3D TV, you will want to pick this up, or if you haven't already picked up last year's Blu-ray release, give this one a shot. At least you'll be ready to see it when you do get a 3D TV.