I have decided to write about a slightly more obscure Disney film, Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World. This is so obscure in fact that I didn’t know of its existence until I bought it myself. I found it in Auchan in Paris, and although the front cover didn’t immediately shout ‘top quality’ at me, I was curious about it and bought it anyway. Before I continue, I will be comparing parts of this film to its predecessor, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, and also to the original Beauty and the Beast film (although it honestly isn’t a fair comparison).
This film is a direct to video ‘midquel’, meaning that the story takes part within the timeframe of the original 1991 film, and was released in 1998, a year after The Enchanted Christmas, which is also a midquel. After watching the second film less than a month before this one, I expected them to be quite similar, although I have to say I enjoyed The Enchanted Christmas a lot more. The main problem with this film is the quality of it, which was probably not helped by watching it on an HDTV.
The film is presented in the form of four different stories; The Perfect Word, Fifi’s Folly, Mrs. Potts’ Party and The Broken Wing. Due to the quality of the film, which is reminiscent of the old Saturday morning Disney cartoons, it makes you wonder why they didn’t just make a few more of these and broadcast them on Toon Disney. Of course, this isn’t the only sequel or midquel which shouldn’t really have ever graced animation paper. Anyone wishing to see other examples of these travesties should look up The Return of Jafar or The Hunchback of Notre Dame II.
Any die hard Beauty and the Beast fans will notice that Belle has tanned considerably since the first two films, and she had also perfected the art of causing her eyeballs to point in two opposite directions! It’s not all bad though, as there are glimpses of what I would call the ‘genuine’ Belle, who we are all familiar with. Beast’s animation is quite in-keeping with the original film, although he does seem to take a back seat in this set of stories, so it is harder to appreciate it. The supporting cast, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts etc, do seem to suffer from a bad case of shape shifting, just like Belle. There is also a generous helping of character colour changing from time to time, with Lumiere appearing at one point as almost white. On the up side, however, there are scenes including these characters where you could swear that you are watching the original movie. Granted, these scenes are less frequent, but it does show an element of quality which should have been present throughout the whole film.
Another thing which, although it didn’t bother me, confused me, was the change of the name of the feather duster. Even I noticed that in the original film the duster was called Babette, and now someone has decided to give her the name of what sounds like a French can-can dancer, ‘Fifi’. Her story is that of jealousy over her love for Lumiere, and we definitely see a dark side to her, which seemed quite unusual since she always conveyed the persona of a very bubbly character in the original film. There are also a considerable amount of new characters, including a deaf chandelier, a pair of oven gloves, and a book. None of these are quite as interesting or predominant as the original characters (surprise surprise, right?).
As far as songs go, these are nothing near what you would expect from a Disney feature film, and they most definitely didn’t have me racing over to Amazon to try and find a copy. If you’ve seen Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, you will know that the song writers seemed to be struggling then, when we were presented with a couple of very disjointed, screechy songs sung by Belle. Paige O’Hara is great as Belle as well as providing her singing voice, however even the greatest singer could not have redeemed these songs. They sound very much as if Belle has eaten a box of fortune cookies, either that or the song writers did. Not quite up to Howard Ashman standards, but what can we expect from a direct to video feature?
One thing to be thankful for when watching this film (that’s right, one thing) is that the majority of the original cast returned to revive their roles, but sadly even that is not enough to redeem this catastrophe which, in my honest opinion, should be locked in the Disney fault for a very long time.
The DVD is labelled as a Special Edition; however it seems to be a few sandwiches short of a picnic in that area. The only special features offered are a game, a sing along selection and an ‘enchanted environment’. Your only reason for buying this DVD would be if you are a big fan of Beauty and the Beast, or, like me, you are curious to see it for yourself, but don’t expect a masterpiece.
I give this movie 2 Tinks.