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 provides 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 artifacts gave it a grainy feel. In addition, the program showed some specks and marks. While some of those appeared to come from weak clean-up animation, plenty of additional defects appeared.
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 good DVD transfers.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Belle’s Magical World displayed few overt flaws, but it suffered from the project’s lack of care and ambition. The mix 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.
How does this 2011 release compare with the original DVD from 2003? I thought both were virtually identical; if Disney did anything to improve the prior release’s presentation, I couldn’t discern the changes.
In a confusing move, Disney entitled both the 2003 DVD and the 2011 release “Special Editions”. The 2011 disc includes the same extras plus one new addition: Disney’s Sing Me a Story with Belle. This runs 22 minutes, 58 seconds and presents an episode of a mid-1990s Disney Channel series that mixed live action, puppets and animation. Belle (Lynsey McLeod) tells stories and sings tunes that support the notion that “What’s Inside Counts”. It’s interesting to see out of curiosity, but it’s not a particularly good program.
Everything else repeats from the 2003 disc. 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. Yawn.
The DVD opens with ads for Lady and the Tramp, Brave, and Treasure Buddies. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with promos for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney parks, Prep and Landing, Cinderella, Secret of the Wings and Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.
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.
To rate this film visit the original review of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - BELLE'S MAGICAL WORLD