Beauty and the Beast-The Enchanted Christmas: Special Edition (1997)

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Released 4-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Click The Mouse
Game-Forte's Challenge Game
Music Highlights-Enchanted Environment - Music And/or Sound Effects
Music Video-Play - As Long As There's Christmas (3:14)
Music Highlights-Song Selection (6) , With Optional Lyrics
Song Lyrics-Sing Along With The Movie
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 67:48
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Andy Knight
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Paige O'Hara
Robbie Benson
Jerry Orbach
David Ogden Stiers
Bernadette Peters
Tim Curry
Paul Reubens
Angela Lansbury
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Rachel Portman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Titling
Spanish
Portuguese
Spanish Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Nearly three years ago, I reviewed the original release of this film on Region 4 DVD. Whilst the transfers were thoroughly competent indeed, the extras package was non-existent. That DVD has not been available since the switch from Warner Home Video distribution to in house distribution for Disney. Now that it is available again, it is good that Disney have added some extras to the DVD, even if they really don't amount to a whole hill of beans. Since I am too darn lazy to write something fresh for the plot synopsis of this direct-to-video effort, and I really don't want to get overly cynical once again about Christmas (I am with Ebenezer on this one - humbug!), you get the full delights of the original plot synopsis basically as written.

    In the spirit of the season that seems more important than the real reason for Christmas, another blatantly commercial showing gets a DVD re-release in time to gather a few more bucks of the public. It is the Christmas season, so that means for commercial reasons, we get the obligatory Christmas releases including Beauty And The Beast-The Enchanted Christmas: Special Edition. Now don't misunderstand me, this may be an exploitative made-for-video effort, but it is actually a reasonably enjoyable, albeit short, film. It simply is a denigration of the original film to very large extent.

    If you are unaware of the original animated Beauty And The Beast, you may not understand some of the references here. Suffice it to say that the Beast (Robby Benson) is suffering, along with his household staff, from the effects of a curse placed upon the castle as a result of his self-centred behaviour. His salvation will only come when he meets a woman who will love him for what he is, and thus enters Belle (Paige O'Hara). Naturally, the original ends in true Disney fashion with everything working out and all living happily ever after. It is now a little after those events, Christmas, and the household staff in the form of Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers) and Mrs Potts (Angela Lansbury) are reminiscing about how Christmas was returned to the castle by Belle the previous year. The story is simple enough: Beast is in love with Belle, Belle wants to make Christmas special, Beast is not too keen, Belle is infuriatingly single-minded in her pursuit of a happy Christmas. The rest is as they say, history - or more correctly, herstory.

    Even in these made-for-video presentations, the general quality of the animation is very good. A pity that this is often better than the story, but that is also part of the Disney tradition. The story here is really very simple, and its presentation here is just about spot-on in terms of the length that it could sustain. Most of the vocal cast return from the original film, plus a couple of new additions in Bernadette Peters as Angelique, the house decorator, and Tim Curry as Forte, the court composer. All do a suitably good job and they keep the interest level moving along at a decent rate. The animation is a blend of traditional and computer, with that of Forte clearly being computer generated. It is all uniformly good with nothing to complain about. This sort of effort is where new or emerging talent gets a chance in the Disney organization I guess and that would account for the unknown name in the director's chair. The result, however, is decent enough.

    It may not be the original and it may not be the best story, but the result is quite a mildly entertaining effort that will probably keep the younger set happy. However, why you would want to indulge in this when you can indulge in the infinitely better original is beyond me.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    As this is a made-for-video effort, the transfer is presented in a 1.33:1 Full Frame format, which is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    There is certainly little to complain about in this transfer. It is a nice sharp transfer, with loads of detail in the picture and plenty of decency in the shadow detail created, even in the darker scenes. A very clear transfer, there is not a hint of grain at all, and there is no problem with low level noise.

    The colours come up wonderfully well here, with plenty of vibrancy where it is required and plenty of subtlety where it is required. A very nice looking matt finish here, with the computer animated sequences showing Forte a nicely contrasting metallic feel. There is plenty of depth to the colours, without a hint of over saturation nor any issue with colour bleed.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, with just some very slight aliasing noticed (at 7:30 in the steps for instance). There were some film artefacts in the transfer, but nothing that really was too distracting or annoying.

    Since I did not notice any layer change during the playback of the film, I am presuming that this is a Dual Layer formatted DVD with the film on one layer and the extras on the second layer. I could of course be completely wrong (would not be the first time, now would it?).

    Ignoring the song titling options, there are four subtitle options on the DVD. The English and English for the Hearing Impaired efforts seemed to be pretty fair overall, with very little missed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The original release of the film on DVD had eight soundtracks. This new release sees the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks dropped in their entirety leaving just the three Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Funnily enough, only the English effort carries over from the earlier release and the French and Italian efforts have been replaced with Spanish and Portuguese efforts instead. Makes no difference to me - I still stuck with just the English soundtrack. Whilst I might well be very wrong, the soundtrack sounds for all the world to be the same one that graced the earlier, now withdrawn release.

    The dialogue and vocals come up very well in the transfer and are easy to understand. There is of course the inherent problem of animation sync.

    The music and songs come from Rachel Portman, and try to meet the strict Disney formula of a few good songs to keep the animation flowing along. Unfortunately it has to be said that the songs are not exactly great, and the score is even less so. Nonetheless, they support the film reasonably well, even if they do not in the least indicate anything other than made-for-video status.

    Unusually for a Disney animated feature aimed at the younger set, this gets not only a bass channel but a quite aggressive bass channel to boot. When the organ kicks in, this really lets fly with some very decent bass support. The organ scenes are what really demonstrates the excellence of this soundtrack. Apart from the bass channel kicking in, there is some glorious surround channel detail that really accompanies the bass reverb very well indeed. This is definitely an excellent soundtrack that is in many ways far better than this made-for-video effort deserves.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Another DVD upon which the Special Edition tag has been splashed for readily apparent reason. They surely don't mean that this extras package makes it worthy of such a tag?

Menu

    Quite inappropriately they are widescreen and 16x9 enhanced. Go figure on the dodo at Disney who worked that one out. The main menu has audio and animation enhancement that is pretty nice.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes (11:04)

    A shortish and not necessarily great effort that is raised out of the ordinary stakes by the Click The Mouse feature - which really is click the mouse. Every so often the famed Mickey Mouse ears appear on screen and when you click them, you are taken to further detail regarding the topic being discussed. The extra sections are: Storyboarding (0:41), Model Sheets (0:43), Computer Painting (0:32), Effects (1:00), Backgrounds (0:47), Music (1:19) and Fans (0:54). All are mildly interesting but woefully inadequate in an informative sense. The entire presentation is in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The technical quality throughout is very good.

Game - Forte's Challenge Game

    Well more like three games as there are three melodies to play with. All you have to do is match the keys on Forte's keyboard with the notes on the sheet music. Select correctly and you progress to the next note, but fail and you get the organ equivalent of a screech, complete with falling masonry. I cannot attest to what you get for being successful, but I do know that four false notes and you are back to the main menu to start again. Another waste of time and space. The presentation is in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The technical quality throughout is quite good.

Music Highlights - Enchanted Environment (2:00)

    Wherein you get to see two presentations, each lasting two minutes apiece, in three different ways: with music and effects, with just music and with just effects. The first presentation is a fireplace in toto, whilst the second presentation is just the fire. Perversely the presentation is in a widescreen 1.78:1 ratio that is 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The concept might be okay but the execution is certainly not and is as boring as watching paint dry. Well worthwhile giving this the big miss.

Music Video - Play: As Long As There's Christmas (3:14)

    Just what we need - some talentless female adolescents trying to sing a number that Paige O'Hara can do in her sleep without any trouble. Is this the sort of stuff we are actually supposed to get excited about? Why not just give us Paige O'Hara doing the song - she does it miles better. Presentation is in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There is certainly nothing wrong with the technical quality.

Music Highlights - Disney Song Selection (6)

    Just direct access to the six musical numbers in the film, despite the fancy name. You can listen to them with or without the song lyrics. If you don't know, the song titles are: Deck The Halls, Stories, As Long As There's A Christmas, Don't Fall In Love, As Long As There's A Christmas (reprise) and A Cut Above The Rest.

Song Lyrics - Sing Along With The Movie

    I suppose there are the karaoke freaks out there who would just love to do this, even if I fail to see the point. Still, a fancy name for a subtitle option that just provides the song lyrics.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as can be ascertained, the Region 2 release is identical in content to the Region 4 release. The Region 1 release has two important distinctions however: it features a dts 5.1 soundtrack as well as the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and it has a bunch of "sneak peek" trailers. Sorry, but the presence of that dts soundtrack makes the Region 1 release the preferred option all the way.

Summary

    Beauty And The Beast-The Enchanted Christmas: Special Edition might improve upon the original release as far as extras go, but not even that is going to really make the overall film any better. At least the film is available again, even if it is not a patch on the original animated film. It remains a reasonably entertaining effort, but truly if you want to enjoy anything Beauty And The Beast related then stick with the release of the original film. The extras package here does not really enhance the film in any really positive way.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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