[Keep up with the "Special Feature" column and Christian Fannin will sit you on his lap and talk to you about whatever movie-related topic he feels like.]
In this edition, we'll be looking at both of Disney's midquels for 'Beauty and the Beast', both of which will be making their way to home video at the end of this month. The problem with these straight-to-video type movies has always been the story especially when it has to fall within the events of the first movie. If you're reading this, you're obviously not concerned with 1991 BatB spoilers and you know that Beast's spell is broken at the end which means a sequel wouldn't be able to include any of the anthropomorphic characters. Instead, Disney went a new way with "midquels", or adventures taking place between the weeks and months of the first movie. Let's see how they did.
As with the Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray release last year, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas blew me away in high-definition. Disney really does a good job with their titles when they try (see "Belle's Magical World" below) and this is no exception. It's just as beautifully rendered as the original movie and all the brush strokes are again captured in vivid colors. It didn't really matter whether or not the plot was good, I simply can't get over excellently crafted animation on this format. That is, until Forté the CGI pipe organ is introduced. Unfortunately, 1997's technology contributed to the main villain looking like a character straight out of 'Reboot'. Luckily, Forté is played by one of my favorites, Tim Curry, and the story actually holds up pretty well.
Beginning on a Christmas Day after the spell has been broken, the human Mrs. Potts tells the movie's story while flashing back to her days as a teapot. Belle (Paige O'Hara) wants to bring the holiday to the castle and wins the excitement of Chip, Lumiere, and eventually Cogsworth. But Forté, for reasons not exactly explained, doesn't want the spell broken therefore he doesn't want Beast to fall in love which ultimately means no Christmas. He sways Beast to his side by reminding him that Christmas Day was when the curse was put on him. As you can see, it's not as sophisticated as the original story and the songs aren't as memorable or theatrical.
The Enchanted Christmas is by no means a bad installment and the younger your kids are, the more likely they are to see it as on par with it's predecessor. All of the original cast has returned including Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, and Robby Benson while also adding Paul Reubens as Forté's partner in crime. You can even see most of them in action in a nicely done behind-the-scenes featurette among a selection of more child-like bonus material.
Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World doesn't reach the same quality however. It feels in every way like a Disney Channel TV show that never was but that doesn't mean it's not worth a purchase. Though it won't appeal to adults like the first two potentially may, Belle's Magical World will still be a hit for kids that love the characters. The movie is actually four connected segments that each play similar to their own episode with a confined story. Again, all the cast reprise their roles with only two songs being performed, both by Belle.
The animation is much less cinematic and it obviously doesn't look as great being only on DVD. But if there's any Disney movie I don't mind many sequels, midquels, or prequels to (other than Aladdin and few others) it's Beauty and the Beast. The original movie set up a nice atmosphere and group of characters that you can't get enough of. Especially for the kids, Belle's Magical World also includes a few bonus features:
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