Beauty and the Beast – Work In Progress: LD vs DVD

For the 1991 New York Film Festival Disney premiered a work in progress version of their latest film, Beauty and the Beast. This version contains incomplete black & white animation sequences and still drawings throughout the film to stand in for incomplete shots.

In 1992 this Work in Progress edition was released on LaserDisc. For the 2010 Blu-ray release, Disney included this Work In Progress version of the film only as a small picture-in-picture feature. The DVD included in this 2010 Blu-ray combo pack does contain the full-size version this WIP edition (like the previous Platinum DVD edition).

However, these DVD and Blu-ray releases are not identical to the LaserDisc release and it suffers in a few areas. In my opinion there is no clear winner. While the LaserDisc version may be more true to the 1991 Film Festival screening and has strength in the black & white sequences, the DVD offers enhanced resolution, however most of the shots are cropped slightly to fit the 16×9 frame.

On the DVD black and white sequences have their contrast altered, making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to see background lines or art. Also, there appears to be some print damage which is not present on the LaserDisc transfer. A big thing I noticed was the opening title card on the DVD is not the original shown on the LaserDisc.

On the LaserDisc release you can notice that some black and white sequences show more picture information on the top and bottom. However, in some cases the drawing lines stop short, leaving white space around them. This shows that the position or cropping of the image wasn’t quite finalized or set perfectly for the WIP release. The DVD version crops these shots to a 16×9 window, so you would never know. (See image #20 for a clear example of this)

The LaserDisc is an interesting piece to examine. Often, (but not always the case) the fully completed full-color sequences have more picture information on all sides of the screen on the LaserDisc, especially the top and bottom of the screen. Disney slightly cropped the presentation of this film to perfectly fit within the 16:9 display of your HDTV. This is a common practice these days with their animated releases, but it sometimes shows a few specs of detail on the left and right sides of the image that were not shown on the LaserDisc release.

The LaserDisc has a 4:3 aspect ratio due to the limitation of the format, but uses matted black bars to letterbox the image, making no attempt to crop the image to fit on then 4:3 Televisions. Although the resolution of the black and white sequences is lower when compared to the DVD, there is overall less print damage and it’s clearer to view.

Some notable differences between the Work In Progress LaserDisc and DVD presentation:

  • On the DVD the new Steamboat Willie Walt Disney Animation logo replaces the original 1990’s era opening logo.
  • On the DVD a modern Beauty and the Beast title card replaces the still stand-in title card from the WIP version.
  • In some areas the DVD shows more picture information on the left and the right on the color sequences. This is likely due to the availability of the digital animation via the C.A.P.S. files.
  • Rarely, some of the black and white sequences diffeer slightly between the two versions. See image #3 as an example.
  • A background has been changed completely. See image #13. The background used on the DVD is very similar, but it is a different painting than the one used for the LaserDisc. Disney has repainted backgrounds for previous releases, so this isn’t surprising. It would be interesting to see which background is shown on the non-WIP version of the film available on VHS / LaserDisc.
  • The DVD picture is slightly cropped at the edges in order to have no borders on a 16:9 TV set. This effects all sequences during this version. This gives the LaserDisc the advantage to showing more picture information in most, but not all shots.
  • The finished color sequences are from the C.A.P.S. / Restored Blu-ray print and differs from the LaserDisc version. This is likely how they fit 3 versions of the film on one standard DVD 9 (dual-layer) disc, via branching.
  • The full color sequences have a much bolder and vivid look on the DVD, the LaserDisc does look dull in direct comparison, but shines on the black & white sequences due to the more balanced contrast. Note: LaserDiscs were meant to be displayed on very bright CRT-tube televisions, during my digital capture and comparison the brightness is not altered. But these “dull” colors may look a bit brighter on an actual CRT. But still, the colors on the DVD are straight from the digital source, so they look great.
  • The contrast on the black & white sequences differ, in a bad way. While on the LaserDisc it is easy to see the background sketches, the DVD version darkens the character lines and the background appears washed out.  Therefore, detail is consistently lost from the lines drawn on the foreground and background. This is the biggest problem with the DVD edition of this version.
  • There is some mild to moderate print damage in some of the black & white sequences on the DVD. Dust, scratches, and even some other issues are easy to spot. These scenes also make it easy to spot DVD compression and pixelation in some shots. It is likely that the DVD version used a different source, or the original source that was used for the LD has picked up this damage over the years when it was prepared for this DVD release.
  • I am unsure if the Work In Progress DVD (from the 2010 Blu-ray) presentation differs from the previous DVD released by Disney. However, Disney often does not re-print DVDs for their Blu-ray releases, so I would assume the same disc or transfer was used.
  • The DVD edition includes a newly shot brief introduction by Don Hahn (about 35 seconds) which is not on the LaserDisc. Also, with the exception of the brief “The Four Stages Of Animation” introduction on side 4 of the LaserDisc and the “Theatrical Reviews” trailer, all pencil tests and other supplementary material from the 1992 LaserDisc are available on the 2010 Blu-ray Combo Pack release.

Screenshot and Image Comparisons:
(The top images are from the DVD, the bottom is from the LaserDisc)

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The opening logo has changed for the DVD.

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There is more picture information on the LaserDisc.

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Notice the contrast differences here.

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The original logo card has changed.

BatB-WIP-Compare-8 BatB-WIP-Compare-9 BatB-WIP-Compare-10 BatB-WIP-Compare-11 BatB-WIP-Compare-12The DVD shows more information, likely due to being directly from the C.A.P.S. files. BatB-WIP-Compare-13Notice the background, is 100% different! See the clouds? Disney sometimes remakes backgrounds for releases if the originals are unavailable or damaged. BatB-WIP-Compare-14

Example of DVD compression problems.

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The colors are more vivid on the DVD release.

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This flaw is present in both versions, likely from the source.

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Print damage only on the DVD version.

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Example of DVD compression problems.

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