Since its release in 1991, Beauty and the Beast has been one of the crown jewels of Disney animation. Until 2009′s Up, it was the only animated film to be nominated for best picture, and showed that The Little Mermaid was no fluke. It signaled the great 90′s renaissance of the studio, leading to Aladdin and The Lion King. Now it’s hitting theaters in a 3-D edition. And here’s what you need to know.

What version is it?

  • This is the theatrical cut. There have two alternate version of the film available, a workprint version and an extended edition which included the song “Human Again.” Doing extended versions was a Disney trend for a moment (they also added a number back into The Lion King), but it seems with the reissues they are keeping to the theatrical cuts.

But is there anything new?

  • Well, with this release, they’re putting out the short film Tangled Ever After, which is a short/sequel to Tangled. As the lovers from the first film are set to marry, the chameleon Pascal and horse Maximus accidentally lose the wedding rings and must go on a chase to get them before the couple say I do. Though there’s not much story here, it’s charming in how it keeps making it harder to get the rings.

How’s the 3-D?

  • On this point you may be talking to the wrong person. I don’t really care about 3-D most of the time, and it doesn’t add much to my experience of a film. That said, it’s never distracting, though not as cleanly or effectively done as it was in The Lion King. That said, it didn’t seem to effect the color levels to any noticeable degree, and the dimensionality is achieved without every being distracting. The film wasn’t made for it, but the new 3-D does create a sense of space.If you love the film and own it, I can’t really see this as a selling point, but if this is a way for parents to take their children to the theater to see the films they loved as children, then everyone wins.

And the film?

  • What’s great about good animation (or great animation in this case) is that they tend to be narratively compact with cleanly drawn characters (pun intended). Belle and the Beast are fascinating to look at, but also create empathy. The story moves at a quick clip and there’s a reasonably good moral at the center of the film. And like classic Disney it recognizes that there is love and there may be hints of the sexual to it (I can’t think of another Disney film with such busty supporting players), but keeps it both believably tame and perfect for children.

Reasonably good moral?

  • Belle decides between Gaston – who’s boorish but handsome – and the Beast, who’s conventionally unattractive but way more interesting/into the stuff she likes. The only problem is that he starts out as an abusive jerk (which he does to hide his real feelings). Much like the Twilight films, that can be a sticking point, as she supposedly tames him in some ways. None of this is ever so obnoxious that it ruins the film, but College-age film critics can make hay with the sexual politics. Eh, the film works.

Any other notes?

  • I’ll say this. Watching it again, some of the legend stuff makes no sense. The Beast is supposed to die on his 21st birthday, and the servants suggest that they’ve been turned into inanimate objects for ten years, so he was cursed when he was eleven? The math is a little fuzzy on that. It’s also worth noting that Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) has a son named Chip, and he seems to have a number of other brothers and sisters, but then when Mrs. Potts is (spoiler) turned back into human form, she looks to be a grandmother and her son looks to be about five. Some of this may have been the construction process of the film (the opening may have been a way to cleanly tell the set-up done after the fact), but thankfully none of it is distracting.

So?

  • The movie is good, if you love it check it out. As I said, I don’t know if you need the 3-D, but getting to see a great film in the theater is always a treat. Beauty and the Beast 3-D hits theaters January 13, 2012. Check it out.

How about a trailer?

Okay: