Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition

They have made many phenomenally successful movies since its release, but “Beauty and the Beast” remains Disney’s last true masterpiece. The combination of story, design, songbook, performance and technical achievement is unparalleled by any animated film of its time or since. The computer animation, a very dodgy art form in the early ’90s, still looks spectacular today. We’d challenge anyone to take modern-day equipment and a better-looking ballroom scene than the one here.

Disney’s Diamond Edition of the film is absolutely worth the upgrade, both for the hi-def transfer and the bushels of new extras. The audio commentary is held over from the original DVD release, but all-new interviews were shot for the featurettes, even roping in Jeffrey Katzenberg to go on the record. Alan Menken sits down at the piano with producer Don Hahn and discusses the origins of several of the movie’s songs, even admitting that the final music for “Be Our Guest” was a throwaway track for lyricist Howard Ashman to use as a base until he came up with a “real” track. Menken also includes his original score that he wrote just before Beast’s transformation, and the studio adds the original opening to the movie, a 20-minute (!) piece where Belle has a younger sister and a cat, and Gaston is a wig-wearing fop. It’s fascinating to watch in retrospect, because the studio was right to scrap this opening and start from scratch. There is also a pencil sketch version of “Be Our Guest,” as sung to Belle’s father. A fitting tribute to a truly game-changing film.

Click to buy “Beauty and the Beast: Diamond Edition”

  

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This year there’ll be no singing and dancing Lennie Briscoes

Those of us who don’t really mind it when the Oscars get a bit overblown and even a hair silly were dealt a blow yesterday when word leaked out that the performers of this year’s nominated songs would not be invited on for the usual production numbers.

Just to show you what an Oscar production number like this can look like, below is a version of the two nominated songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman from Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast.” The performers include Paige O’Hara, who provided the voice of Belle, and — as a dancing candlestick — Jerry Ohrbach, an occasional movie tough guy and Broadway song and dance man, who at the time was just starting a gig as a wiseacre cop on a low-rated but well-reviewed crime show that didn’t seem to have much of a chance to last very long.

  

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