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Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World - 2003 Special Edition DVD Review


Click to buy the new 2011 Special Edition DVD of Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World.
In November 2011, Disney re-issued Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World in a new Special Edition DVD, which adds an episode of "Sing Me a Story with Belle" to the existing extras. Click here to read our 2012 review of that DVD, here to buy the new DVD, or read on for our original review of the movie's original DVD release.

Buy Belle's Magical World from Amazon.com Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Bob Kline

Voice Cast: Robby Benson (Beast), Paige O'Hara (Belle), Jerry Orbach (Lumiere), David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth), Anne Rogers (Mrs. Potts), Gregory Grudt (Chip), Jim Cummings (Webster), Jo Anne Worley (Wardrobe), Rob Paulsen (La Plume), Kimmy Robertson (Fifi), Frank Welker (Sultan), April Winchell (Chandeleria), Jeff Bennett (Crane)

Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: G / Video Debut: February 17, 1998
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French), DTS 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

DVD Release: February 25, 2003
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
White Keepcase

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Beginning with 1994's The Return of Jafar, the Disney studio launched a new type of moviemaking: animated features created directly for home video release.
In the decade since, this direct-to-video fare certainly has taken its lumps from the studio's fanbase. Yet, at the same time, these inexpensive projects often do quite well in terms of sales, consistently turning an easy profit for a smaller-scale production which doesn't belong in theaters.

Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World justifies many of the complaints. It is a perfect example of just how poor something with the Disney name on it can be. Pieced together from what appear to be episodes of a failed TV series that never made it on air, Belle's Magical World lacks a single narrative and magic of any kind.

When it was originally released to video in February of 1998, Belle's Magical World ran just 70 minutes and featured three stories. As a Special Edition DVD, it runs 92, and contains a fourth story, "Mrs. Potts' Party."

In the first episode, "The Perfect World", a dinner between Beast and Belle goes wrong, but neither one will make the first move to apologize. When dictionary Webster, pen La Plume, and a pile of papers named Crane take matters into their own and forge a letter of apology from Beast, Belle apologizes herself and things momentarily seem okay. But Beast learns of the objects' act and banishes them in the snow. A happy resolution is delivered to all, and then Belle delivers a maudlin number about the importance of forgiveness.

Belle meets Webster, the talking dictionary who needs no batteries. Beast growls at Belle for some reason or another.

Next, in "Fifi's Folly" it is the fifth anniversary of the first date between candelabra Lumiere and feather duster Fifi. Lumiere needs more than a little help at making the occassional special, and Belle assists him. Spying on the pair, Fifi mistakes the preparations for a genuine romance between Belle and Lumiere. There's a lot of whining but when things are finally elucidated, a snowy sleigh ride becomes another obstacle in the way of a peaceful anniversary.

Third is the newly-added segment, "Mrs. Potts' Party", in which the maternal teapot is feeling depressed. To cheer her up, Belle and company decide to throw her a surprise party. While trying not to wake up the deeply-sleeping Beast and not to give away the surprise element to Mrs. Potts, party preparations go on. However, each element hits a snag, as no one can agree on one type of flower or cake.

Last is "Broken Wing." Beast demands that Belle join him for lunch. With some help from Mrs. Potts, it turns into an invitation. But Belle stands him up on their noon dining to tend to an ailing bird. It just so happens that the Beast loathes birds, and so he's even grumpier than normal. As with all the other stories, the neat resolution with ungraceful moral this time has the Beast accepting the bird, but caging him as a prisoner commanded to sing. Belle tries to explain that he'll sing if he's happy.

Belle pauses for a moment and reflects...literally! Lumiere awaits his sweetheart Fifi.

The episodic nature of the film, complete with fadeouts for commercial breaks, makes clear the material's TV roots.
With its substandard word play and subpar animation, this type of fare might be fine for Saturday morning cartoons, but it doesn't seem to merit its own video release.

It seems that these episodes were intended to be a Saturday morning cartoon series, but they are so weak that it's understandable that the series never even materialized. If it's not even fit for TV, Disney packaging it together as a direct-to-video feature is a rather shameless attempt to make use of discarded work.

The secondary characters of Beauty and the Beast seemed to lack the flair and warmth of more memorable animated roles, so it's not that surprising that robbed of whatever personality they had, these plots involving the enchanted inhabitants of the Beast's castle feel especially flat and bland.

Then there is the butchering of the two leads. There is nothing likable about the Beast in these stories, a problem which makes Belle seem crazy for putting up with him and seeing anything the least bit redeeming about him.

The film lacks the subtlety of the original film and the artistry of its look. Though it's supposed to take place in the same universe, Belle seems to have gotten a tan and the mystique and grandeur of the castle seems to have been cheaply and poorly replicated, as if done by a no-frills knock-off animation studio. The whole thing feels rather gloomy.

Belle's been out in the sun too long. All it takes is a kiss and Belle forgets all about the rudeness, the temper, and the whole 'he's a beast' thing.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Belle's Magical World is presented in its original aspect ratio, 1.33:1 fullscreen. The picture quality isn't too great, but the source material being television animation from a pre-digital age,
Disney Movie Club (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
that's somewhat to be expected. There's a bit of a blur to the animation's motion which isn't very detectable but is a sign of the Television Animation Department's work. For the most part, the print is clean enough to reveal the marked contrast between the animation in this and the far more refined and elegant visuals of Beauty and the Beast.

This direct-to-video feature is surprisingly presented in 5.1 surround tracks of the Dolby Digital and DTS varieties. The DTS track seems to have a bit more oomph, but neither feels like a particularly theatrical experience. There's a few nice directional effects which make it feel like a real 5.1 soundtrack. For the most part, though, the soundtrack remains understated. Dialogue is discernible, and the limited directionality is serviceable. One thing which stands out is the Beast's growlings, which showcase quite a bit of bass. Overall, the sound seems adequate but not very impressive.

Main Menu Belle's "Delightful" Dinner Game

BONUS FEATURES

While it's not really worthy of the moniker "Special Edition," this DVD is one of the better discs bestowed upon a direct-to-video feature. In the time since, Disney's upped the ante, most notably with double-disc sets for The Lion King follow-ups.

Belle's Delightful Dinner Game provides a two levels of (very) mild entertainment.
The first one involves mostly guesswork as Belle looks in various rooms and tries to find La Plume, Crane, and Webster to help her write an invitation for the Beast. In the second level, Chandeleria lights up candle-by-candle as you answer eight very easy trivia questions about the movie.

The questions change when you play a second time, the hidden locations do not. Choosing "Resume Game" lets you just play the trivia round again.

Enchanted Environment provides a serene view of the nature outside the castle as the weather and seasons change. Birds fly around and a waterfall flows, and then snow falls. The simple animation in this feature is far better than the backgrounds from the feature itself. It's a cool thing to leave on your TV or computer for a while, which by default makes it the pièce de résistance of this DVD.

You can choose to view the environment with just music, just sound effects, or a mix of the two. However, you can't change the audio selection without going back to the menu.

Enchanted Environment Disney's Song Selection!

Disney's Song Selection takes you directly to the film's two sappy songs that follow certain episodes and further deliver their message with the grace of a hammer. The songs, performed by Belle, are titled "Listen With Our Hearts" and "A Little Thought." Actually selecting them is a bit of a challenge as you have to determine whether you want "On-Screen Lyrics" on or off. They're just the regular subtitles, so this feature seems entirely pointless, unless you want to just play the two songs in a row without remote control work, which the "Play All" feature allows you to do.

Viewing the disc's DVD-ROM Weblinks meant hassling around with InterActual Player, which is never a treat. With links to register this DVD or visit Disney's DVD sites, the DVD-ROM element of this disc was undoubtedly not worth the trouble to access it.

The main menu is quite nicely animated. We get a view of the castle from the outside as snow falls and birds fly around. The rest of the menus are colorful 16x9 screens, joined by effectively subtle score selections and appearing after quick and well-done animated transitions.

The disc opens with a number of sneak peeks: a teaser for Finding Nemo (coming to theaters), DVD previews for Stanley, The Lion King, and Sleeping Beauty, and an ad for the Disney Princess line. The Sneak Peeks menu also includes previews of Kiki's Delivery Service, Stitch! The Movie, and Tuck Everlasting.

Get us out of here! Get us out of here too, please!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Only diehard Beauty and the Beast fans and the most dedicated completists will be intrigued by Belle's Magical World. With the Roman Numeral 'III' on its side and the familiar characters on the cover, Belle's Magical World is packaged as being in the vein of one of Disney's more popular films. Those who are convinced and buy it based on the name are in for a disappointing surprise; this is unworthy to even be called a sequel.

Even in comparison to some of Disney's other direct-to-video features, which generally don't offer the type of universally pleasing entertainment, Belle's Magical World feels a bit weak. Merely the least discriminating of viewers will be pleased with this shoddy film production. This select few might find the surprising inclusion of a DTS track and bonus features a nice touch to this DVD release.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World Gift Pack Set
Also available in Gift Pack Set with Belle's Magical Rose Purse (Out of Print)

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Related Reviews:
Beauty and the Beast (Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD) • Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (Blu-ray + DVD) • Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World (2011 DVD)
The Return of Jafar & Aladdin and The King of Thieves
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride | Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure
Winnie the Pooh: Merry Pooh Year | Cinderella II: Dreams Come True
Mulan: Special Edition | I'll Be Home for Christmas

Reviewed June 16, 2004.