TWO "BEAUTYS" REISSUED FOR THE HOLIDAYS @ 30 November 2011 08:49 PM
Made-for-video Disney sequels can be a polarizing subject for Disney fans for many reasons, but one positive way to look at them I share with you courtesy of beloved Disney enthusiast and merry, magical artist Stacia Martin, who looks at video sequels as "what if's" that may or may not have happened -- much like the comic book and Little Golden stories extended characters into new adventures. If you look at it that way, you can dismiss an inferior sequel with a simple, "Oh well, it never really happened anyway." I choose to believe that about the dreadful Superman 3.
Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Enchanted Christmas, which premieres this year on Blu-ray, is nice enough to resist dismissal, however. With a wonderful musical score by Rachel Portman and Don Black, and the original voice cast, this is a worthy video-level successor.
One cannot expect quite the detail or consistent animation of the theatrical Beauty, but a lot of effort went into making this film something that would hold up with every holiday season. If you still have your DVD and do not have Blu-ray, some of the bonus features, including an animated "fireplace," have made their way only over to the Blu-ray on this new edition.
Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World shows us what a regular television series might have been like had it happened. The film is comprised of four individual stories with little connection except that the all take place after Belle arrived and before the happy ending. Having read quite a few storybooks and comics with the same plot restriction, it's got to be a challenge for the writers to come up with premises that cannot advance the situation too much, but also take the characters to some new point at the same time.
The four stories are pleasant, the songs -- by the wonderful Patty and Michael Silversher, who wrote so many great Disney songs for TV and recordings -- are delightful, but the animation falls a bit short of Enchanted Christmas. Perhaps that is why this title was not released on Blu-ray.
Both Belle's Magical World and Enchanted Christmas include one half-hour episode of a former Disney Channel children's series called Sing Me a Story, in which a live-action Belle on videotape sits in her nice library/living room with two children, some puppets and visiting human characters and retell two stories using footage from vintage Disney cartoons.
This is not unlike the 1972 syndicated series, The Mouse Factory. Purists will be taken aback by the editing and redubbing of the cartoons, but it's wasn't the first time this happened and it won't be the last. The most interesting thing about these shows is that they were produced when Disney's Hollywood Studios was Disney-MGM Studios and actual TV and movie production was in full swing there. Both Los Angeles and Orlando actors appeared in the series -- some who worked in the Parks one day and did TV appearances on other days.
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