The Movie Pool gets carried away by Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, on Blu-ray for the first time!
Release Date: November 22, 2011
Running Time: 71 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS HD-MA, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish
Special Features: "Sing Me a Story with Belle" episode: Stick to It (Don't Give Up); Sing Along Mode, Song Selection Mode, Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes, Music video, "Enchanted Environment" virtual fireplace.
This untold story of a Christmas celebration during the original Beauty and the Beast introduces holiday joy back to the enchanted castle. A jealous organ, however, schemes to ensure the Beast never celebrates Christmas, and keep him from changing back to his original form. Features many of the voices of the original cast, including Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, and Jerry Orbach.
Disney direct-to-video sequels tend to come across as poor follow-ups that rarely come close to the original. In truth, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, released about seven years after the original classic, does not quite measure up, but does a serviceable job in presenting a fairly engaging story.
To get the same feel as the first, The Enchanted Christmas travels over some familiar territory. The film expands on a time shown only during a wintertime music montage in the first film. It focuses on Belle's efforts to celebrate Christmas, but an evil organ (Tim Curry) is undermining her plans.
Using the same plot devices as the first, essentially having the Beast get angry and alienate Belle, makes the film a bit tedious at times. The use of Tim Curry as a foil this time around helps to give the movie a different take. It is not nearly as dramatic as the first, but it manages to entertain thanks to some nice songs and the voice of Paige O'Hara.
The one drawback is the quality of the animation, which is decidedly less than the original. Part of the problem is that fewer drawings per second are used (to save money), so motion is not as fluid as the first film. Also, many of the expressions of the characters are odd, and just do not look right. Obviously the animation "A" team was not on board here. Overall, will your young one even notice? It is highly unlikely, because the animation style is identical to the first, so all of the characters look the same. The quality of the animation will probably affect your enjoyment of the film, but not your kid.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer is surprisingly good, considering this is an animated film that is almost 15 years old. The image is clean with very little lint or other debris, and colors are very vibrant. The pristine image is enhanced with some impressive CGI animation. The 5.1 DTS soundtrack is excellent, giving the songs a full, enveloping sound, and even giving Robby Benson's Beast some low-end rumble when he roars.
The Blu-ray is packed with some nice special features, including my personal favorite, the virtual fireplace! Known as the "Enchanted Environment," the CGI fireplace is accompanied by music from the film and is actually a cool thing to have playing if no one is actually watching TV. And you live in a studio apartment with no fireplace.
The music video of "As Long as There's Christmas" is, unfortunately not the version by either Paige O'Hara (in the film) or by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle (in the credits). No, this version is by a Disney band of pre-teen girls called PLAY. That's right, PLAY. What idiot decided PLAY would be a good name for a band? It's freaking annoying. Of course, the video is as disposable as the band.
The "Making Of" featurette is great, especially because it focuses on the voice actors, which I always enjoy seeing with animated features. Kids will love the song mode, so they can sing along with the movie, or even just watch the songs themselves. There is also a 30 minute show called "Sing Me a Story with Belle," in which an actress playing Belle (not Paige O'Hara) sings assorted stories, with an accompanying cartoon. It is not exactly great, but kids will enjoy it. Somehow.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Overall Grade: A
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas may not be as strong as the original film, but it is serviceable for kids who need a Disney and/or Christmas fix. The music is good, and the feel of the original is still there, even if the animation isn't quite up to snuff. Extras are nice, and you get an excellent video and audio presentation. Compared to the original, it seems a bit average, but even average Disney is better than most other animation out there. We recommend a "Buy" if you have kids who will submit this to multiple viewings, but animation fans should probably rent it before they decide if it is worth adding to their collection.
Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas is now available on Blu-ray (with DVD) from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.