Beauty and the Beast are Spirited Away | Daily News

Beauty and the Beast are Spirited Away

Scenes from the movie
Scenes from the movie

So far, we have featured live action movies, so I thought of entering the world of animated movies, more commonly called cartoons this week. There are hundreds of very popular and excellent animated movies to choose from, from Toy Story to Lion King, but I can only feature two in this column.

Even before I began typing, two movies came to mind almost immediately. They are Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (I am talking about the animated movie from 1991, not the Emma Watson starrer live action movie from 2017) and Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (from Studio Ghibli), sometimes called the greatest animation feature ever made.

Disney made hundreds of animated movies from the 1930s, but Beauty and the Beast stands out for its flawless hand-drawn animation (Toy Story, on the other hand was completed using 3D computer animation) that can beat the live action movie any day and its gorgeous music. This is a timeless fairy tale, a parable for the ages. Not many movies are made this way now. Perhaps only Frozen, which I hope to feature in a future issue, resonated with the audience in the same way. Spirited Away is an equally loving created masterpiece for children as well as adults. With movies like this, the magic of cinema comes alive before our very eyes.

Beauty and the Beast (USA, 1991)

In a quaint French village during the late 18th century, Belle, a bright and beautiful young woman, finds escape from her ordinary life, and the advances of a boorish suitor, Gaston, by reading books. Meanwhile, off in a castle in the distance, a cruel young prince is cast under the spell of an enchantress who turns him into a tormented beast, while transforming his servants into animated household objects. In order to remove the curse, the Beast must discover a true love who will return his affection before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose. When Belle’s inventor father stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and is taken prisoner, Belle comes to the rescue and agrees to take her father’s place. With the help of the castle’s enchanted staff, she sees beneath the Beast’s exterior and discovers the heart and soul of a human prince. What a story and what a movie. This is a must watch whether you are eight or eighty. Yes, the live action movie is good given the current motion capture techniques available to filmmakers, but if you want to probe the very soul of the beast, opt for the animated version.

What are the home video options available ? Disney generally releases all of its movies several times over on all the formats available at any given time and Beauty is no different. If you have the original laserdisc, the VHS tape (Did you know that some VHS tapes of Disney movies are extremely rare and can fetch more than US$ 8,000 ?) or the Diamond Edition DVD, do keep it. But the best option is to go for the Blu Ray, which features a couple of cuts of the movie (Special Extended and Original Theatrical Edition) along with a sing-along version. The picture quality is superb - unless a 4K version comes along, this is the best home video version of the movie. The sound (DTS MA 7.1) is exceptionally good too. This is easily one of the best Blu Rays in my collection.

Fans can view the theatrical cut alongside the filmmakers’ original story reel, an incredibly early version of the film that features rough animation, hand-drawn storyboards and other preproduction artwork. In the included.

Audio Commentary Producer Don Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale discuss the Special Extended Edition of Beauty and the Beast.

The trio dissect the story and characters, the animation techniques utilized throughout the film, its place in Disney history, the dialogue and songs, casting and the voice recording sessions, the challenges they faced during its long and complex production.

Beyond Beauty is a three-hour interactive, feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary teeming with bonus content. In Composing a Classic composer Alan Menken, music agent and Disney historian Richard Kraft, and producer Don Hahn chat at length about the film’s rousing songs and musical score. All the main features from the earlier DVDs are also carried over in Standard Definition.

Spirited Away (Japan, 2001)

After stumbling upon an abandoned amusement park with her mother and father, ten-year-old Chihiro finds herself trapped in a magical world where a witch named Yubaba runs a bathhouse for an array of supernatural patrons. With her parents transformed into pigs, Chihiro is frightened and alone; her only ally a stranger, a young man named Haku who races to save her life. Haku offers a warning: if she is discovered, Yubaba will turn her into a pig as well. But if she can convince the bathhouse’s boiler attendant, Kamaji to give her a job, she will be spared. So Chihiro embarks on a journey beneath and ultimately into the bathhouse, struggling to adapt to her new surroundings, survive Yubaba and other spirit world threats, save her parents, and find a way home.

Miyzaki devotes substantial time to the difficulty Chihiro endures adjusting to the spirit world, conceiving and capturing the sort of panic and terror you would expect from a real 10-year old girl thrust into such extraordinary circumstances. Chihiro is not only forced to face these overpowering moments of crippling fear -- sometimes with help, sometimes on her own – she is forced to overcome them, her courage and confidence growing naturally within the story.

In the words of one critic “Miyazaki exerts a command of the screen, a control of his art, and a connection with his audience few writers and directors achieve, be it animation or live-action filmmaking. There’s simply nothing like a Miyazaki film, and simply no Miyazaki film like Spirited Away.”

If you want to see the movie at home, the best option is the Blu Ray (the original Japanese laserdisc is very rare, though you can still find the VHS on eBay). Disney released most Studio Ghibli releases including Spirited Away with dual Japanese and English soundtracks both in DTS MA 5.1 (there is a French track as well).

The Disney English dub is very good, but my advice with all foreign movies is - watch the movie in the original language with the subtitles. Note that some movies have so-called dubtitles, which means that the subtitles appearing on the screen are actually subtitles of the English track and not the translation of the original Japanese track. Note that from this year, Studio GKids will have the rights to all Ghibli movies including this one.

The best extra on the Blu Ray is the Nippon Television Special (42 minutes): This Japanese television special visits Studio Ghibli and delves into the production of Spirited Away. Included are interviews with Miyazaki and other key members of the Japanese cast and animation team, as well as candid behind the scenes footage that focuses on production meetings, story development sessions, animation and music.

This is essential viewing for movie fans of all ages – in fact, adults will enjoy it even more than the children.


Add new comment

Or log in with...