Review: 25 years later, 'Beauty and the Beast' still shines

Posted Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 11:40 AM Central
Last updated Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 11:49 AM Central

by John Couture

A quarter of a century. Think about that for a minute. What has changed in the last 25 years?

The world of 1991 that saw the debut of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is so foreign from the world we live in now, that it boggles the mind that anything from 1991 can still resonate today. This was a world where the nascent Internet was still getting its legs and practically no one had an email address.

Heck, "long-distance" phone calls were still a thing in 1991 and we were a decade away from the events of 9/11 that would forever alter our view of the world. So, in this context, does a simple Disney film such as Beauty and the Beast still hold up in today's world?

I just happen to be uniquely qualified to put that question to the test. My wife and I both love Beauty and the Beast as it came out while we were in high school and while we might have been a bit older than Disney's target audience, we could both appreciate the animated masterpiece. As children of the 1970s, we grew up with animated Disney classics from the 1950s and 1960s, but until The Little Mermaid debuted in 1989, there had been very little to get excited about with Disney animated films since Walt Disney's death at the end of 1966.

Beauty and the Beast proved that The Little Mermaid wasn't just an exception, but rather the start of a resurgence that would be solidified years later with the release of The Lion King. As we get a full generation from its release, though, will Beauty and the Beast still prove to be the classic film that we were sure it was back when it was released?

Enter our children. We have two children under the age of five and neither of them had seen Beauty and the Beast before this 25th Anniversary Edition, so they were uniquely qualified to help us answer this question. In the age of instant gratification and Pixar, would Beauty and the Beast even move their needle?

Oh yes, their needles moved quite a bit.

From our perspective, watching Beauty and the Beast again was like catching up with an old friend that we hadn't seen in a long time. And better yet, this friend lost 100 pounds and got a Hollywood makeover because the Blu-ray print is spectacular and presents the film in a way that we couldn't even imagine in 1991. Better yet, the Blu-ray/DVD combo collection includes three distinct versions of the film: the original theatrical, the special edition edit and a brand-new sing along version.

In a world where there are people that would probably kill an ewok or two to own the theatrical cuts of the original Star Wars films, it's refreshing (and perhaps a good sign for those Star Wars nuts, er diehard fans) to enjoy the original theatrical print. The kids preferred the longer special edition cut (yes, we watched both versions in succession, because, you know kids) if only because it includes an additional song and is longer than the original version.

But this isn't just another cash grab by Disney to milk its golden calf yet again for a few more dollars. The collection is full of brand new bonus features and new content created specifically for the 25th anniversary. In particular, the featurette with Alan Menken and other Disney composers was delightful as was the video #1074 that details Walt Disney's attempts to create this film in the 1930s and 1950s.

If you're someone who likes to look into the future, there's a special bonus feature just for you. Next year, Disney is releasing a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson as Belle and there's a sneak peek at the coming film in this collection. While sure, it's not something that move the needle by itself, the sneak peek offers us a look into a new way that we will be able to experience this story starting on March 17, 2017.

All of these bonuses provide value to a collection that is well worth the investment as it stands. It also allows us to mark time and realize just how impressive it is in today's state of the world to create something that truly is a timeless classic. I look forward to checking in on Beauty and the Beast in another 25 years, perhaps with our grandkids, and I'm willing to bet that it will still be as amazing as it was when it came out in 1991.

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