Beauty and the Beast

Disney Blu-ray Reviews: Beauty and the Beast & Bambi

A couple must-have titles have landed for the Disneyphiles out there. The first is the classic Bambi making its way to digital release. The Mouse House has been doing tremendous work porting over their excellent Signature Series (as opposed to the previous “Diamond Series”) with most of the supplements intact and this release is no exception. Long time collectors of these films knows that the works go in and out from the vault, so now’s a new window to be able to pick up this title.

The audio and video quality is the same from the Diamond release, with a nearly flawless representation that never looks overly processed. One major advantage is that the previous navigation was a mess, and they’ve finally cleaned it up and made it far easier to find what you’re looking for.

You actually get a few ways of watching the film – the original theatrical, a “Disney View” where you get some art popping up, and a “Inside Walt’s Story Meetings” version which is particularly fun to see the process at work.

There are a few added pieces such as additional deleted scenes, some “studio stories” and the like. There’s a digital only clip “Celebrating Tyrus Wong”, the artist who was responsible for much of the film’s style. While I appreciate supplements to supplements, this 9 min clip is better than what’s actually included in the physical package, making it all the more frustrating. If you love shiny discs the whole point is to not have to go to the web to watch what you want.

The story of a little fawn who must overcome early tragedy is far more than a cute children’s story, it’s a touchstone in cell animation, influencing generations of artists throughout the world, and this is the best presentation of it we’ve seen to date.

Bambi-Blu-ray

Whether the live action Beauty and the Beast will become a classic is hard to say, but at least the home release does the film justice. Annoyingly in North America they’ve dropped a 3D release for the film, and like with Frozen you’ll need to import the disc if you care (like this lunatic) about also having the stereo version.

There was much consternation from purists that somehow Bill Condon’s take diminished the animated original (which, of course, was one of umpteen remakes of the classic tale), but going in without as much attachment to the 1991 film as some resulted in a positive experience. A mildly autotuned Emma Watson wasn’t too bad, Kevin Kline is always a hoot, Luke Evans makes a mighty Gaston and I’m always pleased when Dan Stevens gets a paycheque.

Shot on digital the movie looks about as great at 1080p as you’d want – until we start seeing UHD releases from Disney this is about as good as we’re going to get. Similarly the 7.1 soundtrack opens up the score nicely, and while one could wish for a fully dedicated Atmos mix this serves the story well.

In terms of supplements there are many, none that go particularly deep into the challenges of the adaptation. Still, from a 30 min “making of” EPK showing off motion capture right through to Karaoke signalong tracks the disc is a pretty good first crack at a release. Knowing how these things work, there’s still plenty of room for an “ultimate” release that would include the stereographic version, more in depth supplements and a detailed commentary.

With a lot of the audience shifting to streaming there’s still something magical about having Disney works as part of a physical media collection, and both these titles are easy buys for those that wish to continue on with the tradition that Walt began.

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