WORK IN PROGRESS
84m 17s (film)
17m 59s (supplementary)
Spherical Panavision - 1.66:1
1.52:1 - 1.59:1 (variable)
Animation Screenplay by: Linda Woolverton
Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Starring: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti, Hal Smith, Joanne Worley
Over the past several weeks, I've heard numerous people bemoaning the fact that Walt Disney Home Video has chosen to release at this time only the 1991 New York Film Festival workprint version of Beauty and the Beast. Disney has stated that this was done out of their fear of overseas piracy (neither tapes nor discs are scheduled to be released for the overseas market for some time to come), and whether or not this is true, and whether or not you agree with their decision, it's their movie and they can do whatever they want with it. For those of you who are pissed off, however...tough! There's nothing you can do about it. If you don't like Disney's decision to release only this workprint at this time, either 1) don't buy the disc; 2) spend your 14 bucks and buy the Beast videotape (a horrid thought); or better yet, 3) attempt to have some patience until September 1993, and then hall your righteous ass down to the laser store to buy a copy of the final version when it is released. Whatever you decide to do, just shut up already and stop complaining. Sure, I would like to have both versions now, but it is better this workprint version than nothing. Think about it...have you seen 101 Dalmatians on disc yet? Remember the delay on Little Mermaid and Jungle Book?
As was stated above, this workprint version is the same one as shown during the 1991 New York Film Festival. Approximately 70% of the animation is in a completed state, with the remaining 30% consisting of storyboards, rough sketches and pencil tests. However, there is one exception - while the theatrically-screened workprint version contained a temp (unfinished) soundtrack, this disc edition does features the 100% complete, Dolby surround stereo soundtrack. Having had the privilege of seeing a copy of the workprint on videotape earlier this year (Disney and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences sent out tapes containing this workprint to voting Academy members, thank you very much), I was hoping that this version would be released on disc some day. Of course, never in my wildest dreams did I think it would actually happen... It's fascinating to see the pencil tests, rough animation and storyboards, and see how an animated feature film is put together. Like letterboxing or subtitles, you get used to the shifts between the temporary and finished animation.
Beauty and the Beast is one of the best Disney films, and certainly the best since Walt was put on ice. While The Little Mermaid proved that animated features were a profitable form of moviemaking, Beauty and the Beast went one step further and confirmed it. More so than The Little Mermaid or even Disney latest outing, Aladdin, Beast's animation style is rich and full of colors, and the characters are drawn with style, intricacy and detail. It's an amazing feat to bring a candle, clock, and teapot to life. If you don't believe me, watch some "quality animation" like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - boy, do those turtles look real... The Beast is so terrific, that as far as I'm concerned, Belle gets a raw deal when the Beast turns into Prince Big Nose.
Apart from the animation, what makes Beauty and the Beast so terrific is the music. Unlike other Disney films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Cinderella or The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast is a musical. Rather than characters just singing for the sake of singing, the songs in Beast are used to move the story forward. In fact, the songs are so integral to the story that the entire movie could be done on stage without any changes (in fact, the rumor mill has it that Disney is actually working on a Broadway version). As for the music itself, it was written by the Academy Award-winning team of Howard Ashman and Alan Menkin, who were also responsible for the music behind Little Shop of Horrors (the movie version), The Little Mermaid and parts of Aladdin. While the title song won an Oscar, "Be Our Guest" is a show stopper, and the character of Gaston has some of the best lyrics for any song.
Like any good musical, the story is simple but effective. However, rather than the traditional approach of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl, this time around girl meets beast, girl falls in love with beast, girl loses beast. While it doesn't sound important, it's a radical departure from the traditional Disney helpless/victimized heroine. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle is intelligent and decisive in her actions. She freely chooses to rescue her father and then stay with the Beast; she is the driving force intheir relationship, not the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is also unique in that the villain is a male. In the last 55 years, the majority of Disney animated villains are women (if you don't believe me, check out the incredible Fantasmic show currently running at Disneyland to see how true this is).
But you want to know more about this laserdisc presentation, correct? Beauty and the Beast undoubtedly has the BEST transfer of any Disney film thus far released to disc (and it gives Fantasia a run for its money). For starters, the film is presented in a CAV-only version (with perfect still frames) and has also been LETTERBOXED, the first time any of Disney's animated features has been presented as such. According to the jacket, Beauty and the Beast (not to mention most of Disney's non-anamorphic animated features) was filmed in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio; the disc comes fairly close to that ratio with a variable matte of approx. 1.52:1 for the complete scenes, and approx.1.59:1 for most "workprint" scenes. The image is so sharp and clear, that The Little Mermaid looks even more fuzzy and dull in comparison that it did originally. The only thing annoying about the disc was the side break between sides one and two - although done out of necessity, Disney has managed to not only split up a scene, but a song ("Gaston") as well. The break does occur at a quick, natural pause, however, the full momentum of the scene/song is partially lost by its placment over two sides. As for the CX-encoded digital Dolby surround stereo soundtrack, it's just as outstanding here as it was a few paragraphs earlier.
As if just having the workprint edition wasn't enough, Disney has gone one step further and included several exclusive supplementary materials on its own disc (side four). Opening up the supplementary section is a 3m 41s summary that demonstrates The Four Stages of Animation - storyboards, rough animation, clean up, and final color (what happened to the in-betweeners?) - by showing a single scene from the film (Beast trying to get Belle to come to dinner) as it progresses through each of the four stages.
Next up is a 4m 11s alternate pencil rough cut version of "Be Our Guest, which is comprised of storyboards, pencil animation and clean-up animation. This original, alternate version is being sung to Belle's father, Maurice, and contains some Maurice-specific lyrics that differ from those in the final "sung to Belle" version (the "Maurice" scene was omitted during production and placed further into the movie with Belle as the focus instead). This segment varies between slight matting and a full-frame image, depending upon whether its a storyboard or pencil test appearing on-screen.
A 1m 54s camera move test of the Ballroom Scene is presented next. The ballroom setting was completely computer-generated, and what we are shown here is a wire-frame rendition of the ballroom scene, complete with stiff, line-drawn versions of Belle and Beast dancing, that tests the choreographed camera moves for the scene. Presented with an approx.1.57:1 matte.
Another presentation of storyboard sketches and rough pencil animation is the 4m 32s pencil test "Transformation Scene," the conclusion of the movie where the cool Beast turns into Prince Big Nose. Although much of this pencil animation is similar to that which appears in the workprint version, it is presented here entirely without any of the overlayed special effects work, allowing viewers and animation students to see the sequence in full, unobscured detail. Some segments of this scene are matted depending upon whether or not it is a pencil test (matted) or a storyboard (not).
And finally, the supplementary section concludes with two trailers for Beauty and the Beast. First up is the original 1m 46s theatrical trailer, and it is immediately followed by a 1m 52s theatrical reviews trailer (the one featuring critic review quotes). Both trailers are in excellent condition.
This two-disc set comes in an absolutely stunning white-with-gold-leaf-inlay gatefold jacket. The jacket features a variety of pencil drawings, finished scenes from the film, and a little essay on both the film and stages of animation. Beauty and the Beast: Work in Progress was pressed at Mitsubishi (Japan), contains Table of Contents encoding, and features a total of 28 listed chapter markers (22 for the film, 6 for the supplementary features).
For those of you who like to look for in-jokes in films, here are just a few of the ones that popped up in Beauty and the Beast. Side one, frame #16780 contains a reference that Southern California residents, especially Disney fans, will appreciate - the faded signposts Maurice is looking at state "Newhall," "Valencia" and "Anaheim." On side two, where Beast is getting his mane worked on ("I feel stupid"), he bears a rather striking resemblance to the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. And finally, check out side three, frames #18639-18667 for a purposely-done Battleship Potemkin tribute.
Review by Dave Green
From "Pond Scum" #30, unpublished|
Original Review: 09/92
Last Updated: 04/01/97