The Visually Stunning retelling of Beauty and the Beast for the internet age Belle from writer/director Mamoru Hosoda comes to Blu-ray thanks to Shout Factory/GKIDS.
Many directors have visual acumen but lack the ability to tell an emotionally fulfilling story. Likewise, many directors have the chops to create an emotionally resonating story with zero visual acuity. Writer/Director Mamoru Hosoda has always had both and impressively so. His latest work Belle is as powerful both emotionally and visually as he has ever brought to the screen.
The U is the newest in social media and virtual reality. Using your biometrics, it creates and living breathing avatar in the digital world. Suzu a sad young teen on a whim creates an avatar. Through her avatar named Belle, Suzu is able to gather the strength she did not know she had. Strength to face her own demons. Strength even to help others with their own demons, though ones that are very real.
Belle begins as a clever play on the Beauty and the Beast mythos but slowly and surely turns into something altogether more powerful. It would be enough for Belle to turn into a young woman fighting the depression and sadness of a horrifying tragedy. Belle goes farther. It shows the strength of a young woman who grows into someone who shows true courage. Not the time of courage to swing a fist but strong enough to take one.
Writer/Director Hosoda understands without the emotional throughline the film is nothing more than empty visual splendor and music. Hosoda shows that he understands the power of his visuals and music’s power. Part of the beauty of Belle is that Hosoda understands the toxicity of the internet but he also is a humanist that believes in people. That is on display throughout Belle and makes it one of the more accurate depictions of the internet.
Belle at its end is an emotionally powerful film. One that believes in humanity and what real strength is.
Note: the film realistically depicts physical and emotional abuse.
The film’s beautiful animation makes it to Blu-Ray in a near flawless reference quality transfer. The image is sharp, handsome, with color reproduction pops. The 3D rendering suffers no ghosting or any other artifacting issues. Shout/GKIDS brings the same kind of attention they’ve brought to their work with Ghibli or the work of director Satoshi Kon here. Animation fans will be pleased and delighted that Belle makes its transition to home video without a hitch.
They include the following;
- The Making Of BELLE
- A Conversation with Director Mamoru Hosoda
- The Music Of BELLE
- Scene Breakdowns
- Finding The Voices Of BELLE
- Hosoda @ Animation is Film
- Hosoda Draws Belle
- Kylie McNeill Performs “Gales of a Song”
- Design Gallery
The Making Of BELLE (44:05) – this making-of, narrated in English, is divided into 10 chapters that cover all aspects of the film from the concept to the casting of voices to the animation, the production having to deal with the rise of COVID, and much more. Like other making-of’s out of Japan, the focus on the process is truly wonderful giving us access to how this 5-year-long production. Smartly, the producers have included a lot of popup information that is crucial to giving us context on how the production was made. Japanese with English Subtitles.
A Conversation with Director Mamoru Hosoda (29:13) – this interview with writer/director Hosoda in place of a commentary is great. The interview delves into the project from Hosoda’s perspective. Divided into three chapters; Beginning the Process of Creating Belle, Challenges in the Creation Process, and The State of the Animation Industry. These three topics manage to pull out a lot of Hosoda’s thoughts not only on the story, characters, and themes he dealt with in Belle but also on the challenges of making the film and much more. Japanese with English Subtitles.
The Music Of BELLE (15:32) – a fascinating interview Music Director/Composer Taisei Iwasaki, composer Ludvig Forssell, and music supervisor Taka Chiyo begins how they all came together. Some of the details include how they needed each other to create this very different film, how they brought everything together and collaborated, and how one of the most impressive and emotional moments came through because of the issues with COVID and bringing everyone together, and much more. Both English and Japanese with English Subtitles.
Finding The Voices Of BELLE (11:49) – a featurette looking at how the English dub for Belle was created. Hosted by the producer of the English dub Dave Jesteadt the featurette discusses the challenges inherent in translating a film that Music plays an integral part. The featurette contains some great b-roll footage of producing the English language tracks something you don’t often see. Featuring comments by voice director Michael Sinterniklaas, casting director Stephanie Sheh, and the English Language voice of Suzu/Belle Kylie McNeill.
Scene Breakdown: The Station (10:37) – writer/director Hosoda dissects the Train station scene that happens towards the last half of the film when it’s revealed that one character has feelings for another. Hosoda discusses the animation, the themes, and the way the character is portrayed. Japanese with English Subtitles.
Scene Breakdown: The Ballroom (12:06) – writer/director Hosoda dissects the mid-film Ballroom scene where Belle sings to the Beast/Dragon. Some of the details include that he doesn’t consider the film a musical but has musical elements, the work capturing emotion on Belle’s face, the importance of the chandelier in the scene, how the scene references the Disney Beauty and the Beast, the small creaturs/AI that Dragon has created around him, and much more. Japanese with English Subtitles.
Hosoda @ Animation is Film (18:05) – an informative double Q & A with writer/director Hosoda during the Animation is Film Festival 2021 where is played. The piece is artfully edited together with one of the Q&A moderated by Leonard Maltin. Some of the details include where the idea sprouted from, how the framework of Beauty and the Beast came about, the power of the 1991 Disney Film for him as an animator when it was initially released, and how the Coceatu version of Beauty and the Beast was just as seminal for him, the themes and why he chose children/teens as his main protagonist, and much more. Not subtitled but Hosoda does speak through a translator.
Hosoda Draws Belle (8:50) – writer/director Hosoda describes the sketch as he draws. GKIDS has cleverly decided to do a popup video style for this interview that always shows you his drawing while also showing his face. The work starts as a sketch but Hosoda fills in the drawing with coloring also making sure that he lets the audience know the meaning behind coloring and design. Japanese with English Subtitles.
Kylie McNeill Performs “Gales of a Song” (2:37) – a beautiful intimate recording of the main theme of the film.
Design Gallery (13:57) – this 165 image still gallery is a wonderful look at the various characters and their development/design for the film, actual sketches, background work, the concepts for the U, and much more. The image gallery can be navigated using your remote’s pause, play, and chapter stop buttons. The gallery will also play automatically if not controlling it.
Trailers (7:05) – a collection of 6 trailers from Dubbed US, International (with original Japanese language), a second International, an international teaser, a second international teaser, a third and final international teaser
The Final Thought
Belle is a ravishingly beautiful and powerful film. Shout Factory/GKIDS has given it a truly remarkable home video release. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!!