Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Disney usually provide terrific visuals for their animated products, but World differed from that trend, as it suffered from a very bland presentation.
Sharpness seemed erratic. Much of the movie looked reasonably accurate and well defined, but plenty of soft images appeared as well. The inconsistency existed with no apparent pattern, as softness affected close-ups as well as long shots. Some light examples of jagged edges and moiré effects showed up as well, and I noticed a smidgen of edge enhancement.
Given the age of this material, I expected virtually no source flaws. Unfortunately, World suffered from quite a few of them. The material exhibited a generally dusty look, and I also noticed a surprising amount of grain. In addition, the program showed some specks and marks. A lot of this seemed to stem from poor clean-up animation, as it looked like no one put much effort into the final product. For a particularly bad example of this, check out the sequence during the first episode in which the Beast listens to Belle as she reads; all sorts of marks flew about the Beast at that time.
Colors generally came across as decent but unexceptional. At times the hues seemed somewhat flat and runny, but they usually manifested acceptable tones. Nothing about them appeared particularly rich or lively, but they only occasionally dropped to subpar levels. Black levels were reasonably deep and dark, and shadow detail seemed adequately dense and opaque, but neither stood out as especially strong. Belle’s Magical World consistently remained watchable, but the mix of issues appeared surprisingly problematic given Disney’s record of excellent DVD transfers.
The soundtracks of Belle’s Magical World displayed few overt flaws, but they suffered from the project’s lack of care and ambition. The DVD offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. If any significant differences existed between the pair, I couldn’t detect them; both tracks sounded identical to me.
The mixes maintained a very heavy emphasis on the forward channels. Music showed nice stereo spread, and occasionally I heard cleanly localized effects in that domain. Those elements meshed together well and moved smoothly from channel to channel. As for the surrounds, they contributed virtually nothing more than general ambience. The rear speakers reinforced the music and effects but seemed to add nothing unique.
Audio quality appeared acceptable but not terribly positive. Speech came across as poorly integrated. Much of the dialogue demonstrated excessive reverb, and that made the lines blend into the movie badly; it really reminded me that all the actors were recorded separately, and it became a distraction. The speech sounded intelligible and lacked edginess, but the artificial qualities caused some concerns.
Music seemed a bit too bright most of the time. The score demonstrated some decent low-end response on occasion and usually sounded fairly good, but those elements occasionally appeared slightly too harsh and tinny. Effects came across as clean and accurate, and they demonstrated the best bass response on display in the film. From the Beast’s roar to the slamming of a door to thunder, the low-end elements didn’t appear terrific, but they remained good. Overall, the audio of Belle’s Magical World lacked anything much to make it stand out from the crowd, but it seemed mostly acceptable for this sort of effort.
Bizarrely, Disney tout Magical World as a “Special Edition”. This seems like a terrific stretch given the very minor collection of extras found on the DVD. The DVD folks at Disney love their games, so World tosses in the Belle’s Delightful Dinner Game. First this requires you to find three characters somewhere in the mansion, and then you need to answer eight questions to light Chandeliera’s candles. These tasks seem very easy and fairly pointless. It ends without any substantial reward.
If you’ve seen those video programs that show nature scenery, you’ll know what to expect from Enchanted Environment. This provides animated footage of the forest and also lets you choose to listen to music, sound effects, or music and sound effects. It’s inconsequential but kind of cute.
Disney’s Song Selection basically acts as an alternate form of chapter menu. It lets you jump to either of the film’s two song performances, and it also allows you to show on-screen lyrics.
As the DVD starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Finding Nemo, Stanley, The Lion King, Sleeping Beauty, and the “Disney Princess” line of products. In addition, you’ll see these clips in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks domain along with promos for Kiki’s Delivery Service, Stitch! The Movie, and Tuck Everlasting.
And that’s it for the supplements! I’d like to meet the person who dared to called this a “Special Edition” – that’s about the nerviest move I’ve seen. If there’s another alleged SE with less content that World, I don’t think I’ve met it. Even a skimpy release like The Santa Clause looks much better than this set.
There may be another Disney “direct to video” effort worse than Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World, but I can’t think of one. This clunker suffers from terrible animation and art, dull stories, and no reason to exist other than to sell some product. The DVD suffers from surprisingly dirty and flawed picture along with adequate sound and an insultingly small roster of extras for an alleged “Special Edition”. Even if you or someone in your household loves Disney and Beauty and the Beast, skip this atrocious piece of junk.