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A Peek At "Beauty And The Beast" In IMAX

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: William Kallay
May 17, 2001-Los Angeles
Issue 65 - July 2001

The Beast is coming back, and he's bigger than he was in 1991. Six-to-seven stories bigger, that is. Delighted delegates from the Large Format Cinema Association (LFCA) were given a special sneak peek at Disney's "Beauty And The Beast" in the large format.

Overall, they were impressed by what they saw. The original animated version of "Beauty And The Beast" was released to box office and critical acclaim in the winter of 1991. The film received the first nomination for Best Picture for an animated feature and spawned a successful Broadway show. The film never received a re-release like other Disney classic fairy tales. It has only been seen on VHS video [And LaserDisc, Ed], but not in theatres. Recently, Disney decided to dust off the computer files of "Beauty" for the large format, otherwise known as 15-perf/70mm film, and introduce it to a new generation of audiences in large format theaters in January 2002.
The producer of the restoration and re-purposing project, Don Hahn ("The Lion King", "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", "Atlantis-The Lost Empire") was on-hand for the annual keynote address, as well as the introduction of the 14-minute preview in the California Science Center IMAX Theatre. The audience was shown three segments from the re-release, which included the "Prologue," the song "Belle," the newly animated & restored song "Human Again," and "Beauty And The Beast" ballroom sequence. In addition, they were given a glimpse, minus the soundtrack, of the song "Be Our Guest."
How does this intimate, yet epic film look like on the huge screen? This is a different beast from the original. The scenes were clear and sharp. As for the animation, it remained true to its handrawn origins (the film was first drawn by hand, then the animation cells were scanned into computers). Much of the animation in the opening "Prologue" was three-dimensional in appearance on the giant screen. But when the song "Belle" begins, the intimate film became very immersive. The film took on a new perspective and feel from the original 1.85:1 image seen in theatres in 1991. Belle was now over six stories tall. She was pretty much looking the audience straight in the eye. Many of the elaborate moving or "crane" shots in the film took on the motion of a virtual ride. In other words, both Beauty and the Beast are huge.
That said, the re-purposed film in the large format should succeed at the box office. For some purists of the film, the large format version may seem overwhelming, maybe a little too much larger than life. However, it's nice to see a classic film like this on a big screen, even if it's six stories tall. Depending on its success, the new version of "Beauty and the Beast" should be an interesting indicator on if future feature films can succeed in the large format. 

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Technical Notes on "Beauty and the Beast"

The film was originally released with 70mm Six Track Dolby Stereo prints. They were superior in both picture and sound quality to the 35mm Dolby Stereo prints. For the large format version, the original six track Dolby soundtrack was remixed for six channel digital audio. The film was released with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film will be shown in both 8-perf/70mm and 15-perf/70mm large formats in both select IMAX and Iwerks equipped theaters. The new aspect ratio is 1.66:1 in the large format.
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Updated 07-01-23