Beauty and the Beast-Belle's Magical World (1997)

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Released 27-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Game-Belle's Delightful Dinner
Audio-Only Track-Enchanted Environment - Music And Effects Track
Isolated Musical Score-Enchanted Environment
Isolated Effects Track-Enchanted Environment
Music Highlights
Song Lyrics
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 88:04
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:56) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Bob Kline
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Robby Benson
Paige O'Hara
David Ogden Stiers
Jerry Orbach
Kimmy Robertson
Anne Rogers
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Harvey Cohen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Hebrew Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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
Hebrew
Croatian
Slovenian
Hebrew 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

    Given the inherent Scrooge-like nature of the Disney organisation as far as exploiting one's assets for maximum return, it is almost obligatory that an animated feature will be followed by a sequel. In the case of really successful animated features, more than one might well be on the cards. Most such sequels are direct-to-video releases, for the simple reason that what makes the original release truly special simply cannot be replicated a second time round. In recent times, the sequelmania of the Disney organisation has even seen sequels to animated classics that had previously avoided the scarring of a sequel.

    With Beauty And The Beast being such a successful film, and such a wonderful film in every respect as to garner an Oscar nomination for Best Film, a sequel was inevitable. However, quite why anyone thought it necessary to do two sequels, and both direct-to-video releases done at the same time, remains an interesting point for discussion. Nonetheless, there was still hope for the programme when all the original cast returned to reprise their roles, except that only Beauty And The Beast - The Enchanted Christmas could claim that circumstance, as Angela Lansbury did not return for the role of Mrs Potts in this one. It is quite amazing how much difference it makes to the programme, too.

    Oh well, at least most of the cast returned, so all is not lost. Well, not quite true, as the two things that really made Beauty And The Beast such a wonderful film are missing here completely. One was the at-times jaw-dropping animation that gave the film a whole visual aspect that animated films had not had until that time. The other was the fact that it had a great story. With Beauty & The Beast: Belle's Magical World having neither of these two ingredients, it is doomed to end up the least enticing of the three films.

    Indeed, so lacking inspiration in the story department is the film that it actually ends up being four short films, with seemingly little to connect them, tossed together into some sort of filmic potpourri, without the pleasant aspects that description would evoke. The four short films are:

    There really is nothing enticing or exciting about the stories and at times you get the impression that even the cast were labouring with the material they were given to work with. Even the two songs that connect the stories into two pairs have Paige O'Hara in way less than stellar form (and after listening to the lyrics you can hardly wonder why). The setting of the programme is clearly during the period covered by the first film, yet a few new characters are introduced. Not that they do anything really and surely they could have come up with a better name than Webster for the dictionary?

    The whole thing really is a disappointment and pales even in comparison to Beauty And The Beast - The Enchanted Christmas. No doubt the young ones might enjoy seeing some of their favourite characters again but I can assure you the big kids will not. Eminently avoidable stuff that does as much as anything could to destroy the franchise.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    With a copyright date the same as Beauty And The Beast - The Enchanted Christmas, meaning that the two efforts were pretty much made at the same time, it is interesting to note how different this is to the earlier released effort. As this is a made-for-video effort, the transfer is presented in a Full Frame format, which is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    Whereas there was little to complain about with the earlier release, this is a different matter. It certainly is not as sharp a transfer, and indeed it is easy to toss the description of flat at this effort. With the inherent sharpness gone, what remains is almost entirely flat and certainly very one-dimensional at times. Detail is adequate enough but hardly something to get enthused about, and there is some indication at times of some grain in the transfer. Clarity is nothing special, although therer is certainly nothing really wrong with it other than the fact that it gets weighed down by that flat look. There does not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours are nothing special either, with little here in the way of vibrancy or serious saturation. In some respects, this harkens back to the flatter style of colour that we find on the animated classics from the sixties rather than the vibrant effort that characterised Beauty And The Beast. Overall, I never escaped the feeling that this could have done with some serious improvement in the tonal depth. There are no issues with oversaturation or colour bleed, though.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although motion is not handled that well - which is almost certainly inherent in the source material. There is a consistent problem with reasonably minor film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, with the most obvious being aliasing. This especially is noticeable in Cogsworth, who seems to suffer consistently from the problem around the lower portion of his body. In the end I found it a little distracting, but maybe that is just me. One very disappointing aspect of the transfer was what seems to be film artefacts, with a veritable snowstorm of white specks at times. At least I thought they were film artefacts, but some overseas sites are suggesting that it is actually the result of ropey clean-up animation. If the latter is true, it is a very poor effort by the animators. Either way, you cannot help but notice the problem.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming a little too noticeably at 58:56. I would have thought that a better place could have been found for the layer change, and that what we have really is a further example of the low production values ascribed to this release.

    There are a limited number of subtitle options on the disc, but thankfully the English efforts are rather good. I don't recall there being any significant variation between the dialogue and the subtitles, which is certainly a change for the better compared to some discs I have seen recently.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, with a relatively unusual combination of an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a Hebrew Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

    The dialogue came up fairly well in the soundtrack and there did not appear to be any problems with anything but the obligatory animation sync.

    The original music score is credited to Harvey R. Cohen. Judging by the evidence here, this is not a name that I will become familiar with with the passage of time. I suppose that some allowance has to be given for the direct-to-video nature of the programme, but even by the standards of the sub-genre, this is nothing to marvel over.

    Whilst I was surprised a little by the extent of the bass usage in the soundtrack, given this is a Disney direct-to-video release, that was about the most remarkable aspect of the soundtrack. Yes there is bass, but it is very much all or nothing with little subtlety at all (unless you consider being whacked in the face with a sledgehammer subtle). Surround encoding is fairly weak through the rears whilst the fronts seem to be very much along the lines of front and centre. Everything seemed to be subservient to the dialogue, which I can partly expect and accept. What I don't understand is if that is the way the soundtrack is to be engineered, why bother with six channel sound in the first place? A bit more positive use of the surrounds would have lifted this programme quite significantly, rather than it becoming something of a trudge the further you got through it.

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

Extras

    Special Edition? You have got to be joking. This is no more a Special Edition than Michael Bay is a quality director.

Menu

    Not bad, although anachronistically they are widescreen and 16x9 enhanced to boot.

Game - Belle's Delightful Dinner

    La Plume, Crane and Webster have hidden in the face of the master's wrath and Belle needs to find them in order to write an invitation to lunch for the Beast. You have to help her by searching four rooms to find them. If that sounds ridiculously easy (it is), then the eight questions you have to answer in order that the meal takes place with light from Chandeliera are even easier. I am desperately trying to work out how this would even keep very young kids amused. And even completing your tasks serves no purpose as there is no reward!

Enchanted Environment (3:00)

    This is sort of the audio-visual equivalent of that annoying background music that gets played in lifts, hotel foyers and so on. You get to sample the rather uninteresting, and exceedingly repetitive, three minutes of forest animation with your choice of Music and Effects, just Music or just Effects. Be warned - the whole thing loops, too. Boring, pointless and worthless.

Disney's Song Selection

    Simply an alternate way of accessing the two songs contained in the programme (Listen With Our Hearts and A Little Thought), with the option of watching them with the song lyrics displayed.

R4 vs R1

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

    From the reviews found for the Region 1 release, which I might add was released nearly one year ago, the big difference is that the Region 1 version of this DVD has a dts 5.1 soundtrack. The release apparently also has some trailers for other films and some sneak peeks. Given that there seems to be general consensus regarding the merits of the release from an audio and video point of view that would suggest there is nothing different to the Region 4 release, that extra soundtrack would be firmly tipping the scales in favour of Region 1.

Summary

    Beauty And The Beast: Belle's Magical World is a fairly dire direct-to-video release, even by the general low standard of that sub-genre. Where it really disappoints is in the artefacting that can be seen floating around the transfer like a snowstorm. For such a relatively recent, and reasonably unknown, release, this was unexpected and compounded some grain issues that were also unexpected. Reviews overseas have suggested that the snowstorm that can be found swirling around the transfer is the result of poor clean-up animation. If that is true, then it is a very sad indictment of the cheap-as-chips approach to the whole enterprise. The Region 1 release features a dts soundtrack that is missing from the Region 4 release, which simply adds to the disappointments. If you need to have more Beauty And The Beast in your collection, then I suppose nothing will stop you indulging in this effort. Truly, however, you would be well advised to steer clear.

    And don't even get me started on the Special Edition tag thrown at the release...

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). 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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