Wednesday, June 22, 2016

'Beauty and the Beast' is the Next Signature Collection Release

The follow-up to Disney's Diamond Edition collection line, the Walt Disney Signature Collection, is getting its second title this autumn... A curious title.

The line is following the Platinum/Diamond pattern, the next release will be this autumn. What film is it? Not surprisingly, Beauty and the Beast, which conveniently turns 25 in November. Perfect timing, plus Disney's live-action remake of the classic is coming out March 2017. Perfect, perfect timing...

For starters, the cover artwork is much nicer than the bland artwork we got for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' Signature Edition, which only cut-and-pasted Snow White from the Platinum cover against a white background with the Queen behind her, and the title in an absolutely unappealing font... Sideways, going down the cover artwork. Even the store exclusive covers (i.e. Best Buy, Target) weren't much to write home about..

But will this new edition of the beloved Beauty and the Beast give us collectors who already own the Diamond Edition an incentive to double-dip?

I might pick it up if it contains the true work-in-progress version of the film that was shown at the New York Film Festival, the one that's on the Platinum and the Diamond editions is not the real deal. The real deal had the enchanted objects singing 'Be Our Guest' to Maurice, and that can only be found on LaserDisc, so if that's on here, I might just cough up $29-39 for it. Supposedly, a recent Academy screening of the film showed a version that was as close to the original cut as possible - meaning the original Walt Disney Pictures logo is at the beginning of the film, the "Silver Screen Partners IV" credit, the original closing credits from 1991, and no 2007 WDAS logo.

The closest you'll get to what audiences saw in multiplexes in 1991 is contained on the original 1992 Classics video release of the film.

If that original, untouched 1991 theatrical version is on here, I might... Might get it.

Aside from how the film will be presented, the other thing that will convince me to pick it up: Great new bonus features. Ones that interest me as an animation aficionado. If not, no sale...

But hold up, hold up... Beauty and the Beast is not a "Walt Disney" film, so why is it part of the "Walt Disney Signature Collection"? In an age where The Walt Disney Company brands everything - even movies - with just "Disney", the Walt name being there pretty much means that the collection is supposed to be Walt-centric. As any casual fan should know, Beauty and the Beast was made and released long after Walt Disney's passing. Walt died in 1966, Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991.

That being said, Beauty and the Beast was a story that Walt Disney had considered adapting into a feature film. The same goes for The Little Mermaid. There are tons of stories that Walt himself had wanted to tell, and many of them never made it past development. Beauty and the Beast was attempted in the late 1930s, and again sometime during the 1950s. What Walt Disney's version of this classic tale would've been like, who knows...

In 1987, nearly 21 years after Walt passed away, the animation house looked into Beauty and the Beast again. It went through some development roadblocks until early 1990, when the picture was tooled into a spiritual successor to the smash hit that was The Little Mermaid. Beauty and the Beast breezed into production and made its holiday 1991 bow.

Going off of a post by Disney historian Ernest Rister, it's very possible that the Signature Collection will house the Walt films and films that were based on stories that Walt himself attempted to adapt. He says this was explained, though I haven't seen a press release or anything confirming this... Yet.

If so, then some Platinum/Diamond titles shouldn't get Signature Editions. The Lion King is a good example. It's one of Disney's most well-known and iconic films, it's one of the first films you think of when people say "Disney animated classics"...

The Lion King began development in 1988. Walt never kicked around an animated story about lions, the film wasn't an attempt to finish something he started. The Lion King is not based on any pre-existing source material, though it does lift a lot from Hamlet and Walt Disney's own Bambi, among other things. The Lion King was conceived in-house at Walt Disney Feature Animation long after Walt's death. If it's true that the Signature Collection is going to honor the films made by Walt and the stories he had wanted to tell but didn't in his lifetime, then The Lion King simply can't be included.

If Disney stays consistent and doesn't include something like The Lion King in this Signature line, where would it go? Would it get its own "Special Edition" Blu-ray? In Disney terms, "Special Edition" has lost its meaning, and that wouldn't be enough for a film like The Lion King. Or will Disney say "heck with consistency" like they usually do, and release The Lion King as part of the Signature Collection?

What order will this series go in? It's well-known that Disney has tons and tons and tons of live-action remakes of their animated classics on the docket, but I kind of doubt that the releases will correspond with the theatrical releases of the remakes. Maybe there will be one or two exceptions, other than that? Probably not. Beauty and the Beast's live-action remake opens March 2017, the spring 2017 Signature Edition would probably be The Lion King or Bambi. Disney has staked out several release dates for the live-action remakes, it is known what will open on each of those dates, but they have multiple ones lined up.

At this point, anything goes with Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. To me, they've been an unpredictable mess since the day they lost tons of their staff and got folded into the Consumer Products division. While some Blu-ray editions are great, many are average, some of them end up being satisfactory enough, while others are downright underwhelming.

We shall see...


  1. I'd give anything to try to improve Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and give all Disney animated and live-action films proper treatment on DVD and Blu-Ray. I usually like Blu-Rays and DVDs that are loaded with bonus features. I also miss the disc art, too. I hope Disney starts to put more effort someday, if management changes.

    1. I agree with Frank. This is probably one of WDSHE's more lazier years. While we do have most of the bigger releases behind us (Snow White, Star Wars The Force Awakens, Zootopia, Jungle Book 2016; with only 2 more films [Finding Dory and possibly Pete's Dragon 2016] left to release), their schedule this year is padded out by the usual live action and Disney Channel stuff, not even bothering to touch the back catalog of Walt Disney Animation Studios for releases such as the [possibly planned] combo pack release of "Saludos Amigos/The Three Caballeros: 2 Movie Collection", two other anthology features (Make Mine Music and Melody Time), and "The Black Cauldron".

      And yeah, I remember Disney were much kinder to their Animated films for the first few releases of the Diamond Edition, to the point where the DVD equivalents were still 2-Disc editions kind of like the Platinum Editions of old. However there have been a few bumps when the Diamond Editions had came and went; for instance starting with "The Lion King", all releases at this point were one disc editions. Since the current line now is *apparently* "honoring" Walt Disney, you'd think they'd go back to this practice of releasing 2-disc DVD's or at least give us the substantial bonus features on the Blu-Ray's, not just giving us these new silly "making-of" featurettes that appeal to general non-animation fans, thus sending the rest of the "important" supplements to "Digital HD" like they're currently doing.