Disney’s editions for their live-action features, especially as of late, are usually laborious ventures when it comes to their supplements, most of the material feeling like filler and/or advertisements for something else. Despite a surprisingly decent audio commentary on their edition of Pete’s Dragon nothing else stood out. The material here, though, was actually a bit of a surprise. They are certainly not up to the level of a third-party home video companies like Criterion, Arrow, Shout!, or Indicator yet I still felt the supplements here, on the whole (there’s still some garbage), were actually trying to give an idea as to what it’s like to make one of these big budget, effects-laden films.
Of course, after having said all of that, the first feature, called an Enchanted Table Read, sounds interesting in theory but ultimately doesn’t do much. The video is a 13-minute compilation of a table read done for the film, though it’s a far more elaborate table read than others I’ve seen. For those unaware of what a table read is it, at its most basic, allows the performers and possibly other members of the crew to get together to do a run on the script. Most of the ones I’ve seen footage one is literally the actors just sitting there reading their lines in character without much more to it. This one has that but they also perform the musical numbers and various choreography. It’s all fine and dandy but as a feature it’s not terribly compelling, especially since it really whips through the thing and spends most of its time trying to convince you that this is something so incredibly groundbreaking when really it’s just a rehearsal.
Better is the 27-minute making-of A Beauty of a Tale. This actually proved to be far more interesting than it probably had any right to be. It does go through the motions, covering the various stages of the production from adapting the original Disney animated film (including how to redo the musical numbers), to the design and the casting. These topics are actually interesting but I was actually surprised with the last portion that goes over the effects. Computer effects don’t offer much in the way of surprises anymore so seeing how they’re done has become less and less interesting, but this feature, to an extent, does actually try to show you what it’s like filming these scenes from the actors’ perspectives. The Beast, in the end, is a computer rendering in the final film but Dan Stevens did act out the scenes, but in a ridiculous bulked up motion capture suit while standing on stilts. He then had to redo his facial expressions later on during post-production to help the final CGI rendering emote more naturally. Also, Watson admits that the most boring scene she has ever filmed was the “Be Our Guest” number because it was literally her just sitting at a long table reacting to nothing, a little LED light to direct where her attention should be. We get to see the raw footage of this and behind-the-scenes footage and it is really bizarre. I’m more than certainly over-selling this aspect, because like everything else it’s only focused on for a minute or two, but it’s rare for a feature like this—especially on a big studio release—to even slightly focus on the more mundane aspects of filmmaking.
The next feature is a good natured, inspirational feature, aimed at young women. The Women Behind “Beauty & the Beast” focuses on the women that worked on the film and features interviews with actor Emma Watson, production designer Sarah Greenwood, set decorator Katie Spencer, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, casting director Lucy Bevan, and editor Virginia Katz. The cynic in me originally figured the 5-minute feature would be just a simple “hey! We have women working on our film, we are so, so progressive” type of deal, but it’s not at all that superficial and quite good for its short running time. The participants explain their jobs in decent detail and how they came about discovering these jobs existed and how they worked their way to them, even offering advice on how to get into the industry if one so desired. Katz talks a bit about working with director Bill Condon on this film and others, explaining the working relationship between a director and editor. It also features footage of women working in the various departments, like camera operator, grips, lighting, make-up, carpentry, set design, and more. What surprised me, though, is the feature, as short as it is, is being genuine, aimed more at kids than adults naturally.
From Song to Screen is 13-minutes’ worth of featurettes going over a few of the musical numbers, offering details on choreography, planning, adapting from the original animated feature, and they even go over the sets and the original intentions of actually shooting on location in a French village, but it would have proven too difficult. There’s a bit more on the mundaneness of shooting effects scenes, and Condon talks about his desire to not depend entirely on CGI, though obviously he was going to have to go that route (singing candelabra). Surprisingly I found all of this material rather good as well.
The disc is so far on a decent streak for features and it continues on with an extended song sequence for “Days in the Sun,” which proves to be an interesting addition. The sequence itself, though edited differently with a different actor as the child that appears in the finished film, isn’t the most interesting aspect, but what is is the reason the sequence was reshot and re-edited. In an introduction Condon explains that he messed up by casting an actor that looked a lot like another actor in the film, so screening audiences were completely confused by the sequence, and it wasn’t something anyone noticed during the entirety of the production.
Following that are a collection of deleted scenes running 6-minutes, with 8 in total. Two of the scenes feel like complete sequences, one with Gaston getting a bit more aggressive with Belle and another with Belle giving bread to Agatha, while the rest are mostly just trims, primarily from the final battle inside the castle. Interestingly Stephen Merchant had a role, which was completely cut out. I like Merchant, and he’s fine for what his role calls for, but it was probably wise cutting his character out as it’s a bit groan-inducing (I’ll just say it involves a talking toilet).
Celine Dion shows up for a 3-minute interview to talk about recording the title song for the original animated film and the song she did for this film. It means well, as Dion tries to explain how important that time was to her and her late husband, though it feels like something just tacked on. We then get a new music video for a new recording of the Beauty and the Beast song featuring Ariana Grande and John Legend, followed by a 2-minute making-of. They’re fine for what they are.
The disc then closes with a typical Blu-ray standard, a jump to a song feature that essentially just plays the musical number from the film with sing-a-long subtitles.
There are also “3 ways” to watch the film, as a sticker on the slip sleeve promises, though this proves to be a fairly minor addition. Essentially you can either watch the film the “normal” way (just the regular theatrical feature), or with an “Overture” (a 3-minute musical opening), or as a “Sing-A-Long” (with stylized subtitles over the musical numbers with yellow highlighting to aid in singing along). The kids might like the Sing-A-Long though I’m unsure of the Overture opening and why it exists; I can’t find if this is how the film played in theaters.
Ultimately I was actually surprised by the features on here. They seem to be aimed at younger audiences, which makes them hurry through things a bit, but I found them to be rather intriguing, a surprise for standard making-of material. I admittedly usually dismiss the features on live-action Disney releases but these, for the most part, with rather good. 6/10