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Blu-ray Reviews: Beauty and the Beast

Originally published in Australian HI-FI, Jan/Feb 2011, v.42#1
Last updated 17 August 2012

Beauty and the Beast
1991 - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Director: Gary Trousdale/Kirk Wise
Starring: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Pierce, Rex Everhart

Movie: Picture: Sound: Extras:

You can take your Lion King and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and all the rest of them, and put them all aside for this, the greatest Disney animated musical: Beauty and the Beast. At least, that's what I reckon.

This one combines a solid story, suitable for children, and even without anything much in the way of double entendre, entertaining for adults, with the very best of '2D' animation and amongst the greatest show songs ever written.

The movie comes with a choice of playback in the original theatrical trim, or the slightly longer 'Special Edition'. The latter differs primarily by restoring the song 'Human Again'. This is delivered using seamless branching, in which small sections of the theatrical version are replaced by longer sections, ensuring that healthy bitrates can be allocated for both audio and video. The disc delivers about 24Mbps for the latter, and an extraordinary 5.8Mbps for the former. The reason for that huge audio bitrate is that the DTS-HD Master Audio is encoded with 24 bits of resolution and a full seven discrete channels sound (the extra two being surround rear), plus subwoofer.

This is a three disc release. Most of the extras are on Disc Two, also Blu-ray, while the third disc is a DVD, with a 576i version of the movie.

Systematically exploring the special features was a little more complicated than usual, since each time the Bonus Disc was loaded it opened with a menu highlighting a different 'Recommended Feature'. All features are accessible, though, further down the menu system. The main one is an interactive 1080p 'Making Of' documentary. This includes seamless branches to allow you to optionally select other elements, including four of Disney's original silent 'Laugh-O-Grams' from the early 1920s, and the 19 minute concept reel for the rejected first version of the movie. This is entirely controlled by a BD-Java program, to the point where no timing information is displayed by the player's own counters, and all transport controls are disabled except for the 'Pause' key. The bits of this that have been watched are noted by the program and stored in your player, so that you can easily work out which bits you haven't seen (until you change players, anyway).

All of these are presented in 1080p24 format, but the older cartoons have been clearly converted from 480i60 ... poorly.

Running time: 85 minutes (92 minutes for extended version)
Picture: 1.78:1, 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC @ 24.06Mbps (both versions)
Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/4.1 @ 5761kbps (core: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi (theatrical only): Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps; Commentary (extended only): Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 192kbps
Subtitles: English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish, Portuguese, English (Sing-a-long), Spanish (Sing-a-long), Portuguese (Sing-a-long)
Extras: DVD version; 6 Alternate/Deleted Scenes (1080p24 - 67 mins); 3 Alternate/Deleted Scenes (480i60 - 14 mins); 22 Featurettes (1080p24 - 182 mins); 16 Featurettes (480i60 - 43 mins); Music Video (1080p24 - 3 mins); Music Video (480i60 - 5 mins); Early Presentation Reel (480i60 - 3 mins); 7 earlier Disney cartoons (1080p24 - 55 mins); 6 Trailers and TV Spots (480i60 - 6 mins); BonusView 'Storyreel PIP'; Still galleries (250 stills - 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC); Interactive trivia/search game; Screen saver with adjustable delay; 'FastPlay' auto scheduler
Restrictions: Rated (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graphs were generated by BDInfo 0.5.3. This is for the extended version of the movie:

This is for the theatrical version:

And this is for the BonusView PIP stream in the theatrical version:

Comparison: Blu-ray vs PAL DVD

Here are some comparisons between the Australian PAL DVD and the Australia Blu-ray version of this movie. The Blu-ray was supplied to me by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The PAL DVD was the version included in the Blu-ray package.

At the top of each is the full frame (suitably shrunk down) used in the comparison, with a 250 pixel wide detail from the frame underneath. The left side is from the PAL DVD. The image was captured digitally from the disc, scaled up from its native 720 by 576 pixel resolution to 1,024 by 576 (to present in the correct aspect ratio) by the application. I then scaled it, in order for it to be comparable to the Blu-ray version, to 1,920 by 1,080 pixels.

The detail is from that last scaled version, and has not been rescaled again. The right side is from the Australian Blu-ray. This has not been scaled at all. Different applications were used to capture the two frames, so some caution should be exercised in judging colour and brightness.

For visitors from NTSC lands, generally the PAL DVD is just a touch sharper than the NTSC DVD.

Wow, look at the lossy compression noise in the DVD version:

In this one, the very subtle grading of the colour in Belle's cheek's is obscured by the noise in the DVD, but revealed by the clean result of the Blu-ray:

© 2002-2012, Stephen Dawson