Release Date: June 6, 2017
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Kevin Kline
Director: Bill Condon
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios

Extra Feature Rating:  ★★★★☆
Review Spoilers: Mild
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When someone talks about remaking a film as iconic as Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast you can’t help but be a little apprehensive. After all, Belle has been one of the quintessential Disney princesses for the majority of our lives. The animated film was perfect in nearly every way – so how could a live action version ever compare? To their credit, the folks behind this year’s Beauty and the Beast did a phenomenal job of staying true to the original film while also telling their own story.

Now, don’t get me wrong: the core of the original story is still there. The classic musical numbers that we all know and love are all included and the characters are generally the same. But what Bill Condon and the others do is change things here and there to somehow add even more to it all.

There are three new songs included – ‘Days in the Sun,’ ‘How Does A Moment Last Forever,’ and ‘Evermore’ – that seemingly fit right into place. They add new scenes, tweak dialogue and lyrics, and add in new characters all to give the film new meaning, which helps fill in a few of the original’s plot holes.

In the live action film, we learn more about our main characters than we ever have before. Both Belle and the Beast’s backgrounds are explored further. We learn what happened to Belle’s mother and how the Beast became the heartless prince that cast out the witch who cursed him. Many other characters also get the sort of attention they deserve. There are intricate subplots between cursed characters in the castle. LeFou and Gaston become more than just their animated counterparts.

But it’s Belle who really sees the best transformations.

One of the reasons Belle has always stood out from the crowd is her intelligence, confidence, and curiosity – plus her rather unusual father. In the new movie, she becomes an even more empowered figure than she was in the animated film.

Belle is not only smart and confident but she becomes a very clever problem solver. She’s an inventor in her own right and she doesn’t just dream of ‘something more than this provincial life.’ We see her actively trying to make life better for women through her inventions and teaching young girls to read. And the villagers don’t just wave her off as a silly girl like they did in the animated film. They actually see her as a credible threat because she is such a strong woman. I absolutely love that.

Now, sure, it takes a little bit to get used to the story’s new look. I still think that the realistic furniture item characters are a little bit creepy. And some of the changes can take you off guard. Still, Beauty and the Beast knows what it’s doing. The folks behind the film knew what they were getting themselves into adapting such a beloved film. But they did a really great job giving this new, live action version a look and feel of it’s own.

In short, it’s a wonderful re-telling of Beauty and the Beast and, while it will never replace the animated film in our hearts, it certainly does compliment it.

Special Features

All right, so, the movie is great and fun – but what about the special features?

Honestly, I’m pretty happy with them. A part of me wishes they had done more to focus on the original animated film but it’s probably good that they didn’t. They spend an appropriate amount of time giving the animated Beauty and the Beast its due and then they focus on their own film. And I think that’s important. Because at the end of the day the live action film is it’s own story and it deserves it’s own series of special features.

Here’s what’s included.

At approximately half an hour long, Beauty of a Tale is the most traditional making-of featurette on the blu-ray disc. This bonus feature covers a lot of ground. A big part of it is the cast’s own reflections on the whole process. They talk about the original animated film and what it meant to them as well as the process of filming the remake.

We learn about how the sets were put together and how the special effects were done. We hear how certain decisions were made to deviate from the animated film, including adding the new songs, expanding backstories, and more. The whole section about the music is actually great – especially when you get to see the reverence and love still given to Howard Ashman so many years after his passing. Beauty of a Tale is a pretty solid, well rounded making-of featurette all together – even if it does seem a little short.

But that’s okay because there are two other featurettes that really help round things out.

From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences is probably the most impressive bonus feature on the blu-ray release. It gives viewers an awesome behind the scenes look at creating the scenes for four of the songs – “Belle,” “Be Our Guest,” “Gaston,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s really cool to see how everything came together and to hear everyone talking about the scenes in characters.

And while Emma Watson might think that “Be Our Guest” was super boring for her to film, it was apparently an incredible challenge for the special effects folks to bring to life. Between lighting and mixing in all the CGI, it took two-and-a-half years to plan and create.  Other scenes, like “Gaston,” took months of rehearsal before everyone was ready to actually film the scene. It really gives you a much greater appreciation for the work that went into bringing the movie to life!

My favorite special feature, though, is The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast.

So many of the people heading up the major departments during the making-of Beauty and the Beast were women. And that’s a big deal. Female representation in Hollywood is still lacking despite recent efforts to even out the gender gap and I love that Disney decided to highlight the women contributing to this film.

The production designer, set decorator, costume designer, costume director, film editor, and casting director for Beauty and the Beast were all women. And this featurette gives these awesome women the chance to talk about what they do, what their inspirations were, and how they effected the film.

It’s all very inspiring and the women reflect on how they got to where they are today and give suggestions on how young girls could follow in their footsteps. I loved it. I think more spotlights like these could really help inspire young women who want to take up these rolls themselves someday.

So, what else is there?

There are eight deleted scenes including an extended version of “Days in the Sun” that was re-written and re-cast. There’s also a really fun ‘Enchanted Table Read’ featuring the majority of the cast going through their lines as well as some of the choreography. It’s really fun to watch if nothing else. Also, if you’re a music fan, you’re in luck. There’s a bonus feature that lets you play just the scenes in the film with the actual songs – and it comes complete with sing-along text at the bottom.

There are also three bonus features focusing on the actual music as well. One, “Making A Moment With Celine Dion” has Celine reflecting on the original film. There’s also “Beauty and the Beast” – a music video featuring Ariana Grande and John Legend putting a new spin on the classic song. You can watch it on YouTube but the blu-ray disc comes with an additional making-of video specifically about the music video.

Final Thoughts

I was skeptical about the whole live action Beauty and the Beast remake at first. I think as much as I have embraced Disney’s other live action films this one really had me on edge. I can still sing every song from the original. I still remember every line. As much as I liked the animated Jungle Book and Cinderella, live action adaptations of those films had happened before and worked out. But an adaptation of this particular Disney version of Beauty and the Beast? I was worried. Unnecessarily, as it turns out.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) is a beautifully made, well developed adaptation of the classic animated film. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens are amazing (though Luke Evans and Josh Gad often steal the show). If you have been apprehensive as I was, you should give it a chance. And now is the perfect time for the film to come out. With school out for the summer, this is a great summer film to sit down with the family to watch on an impromptu movie night!

You can pick up Beauty and the Beast on blu-ray combo pack today, June 6th! It’s a great film with some really worthwhile special features. You won’t want to miss it!

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