As I’ve always said, no home release of this film has ever looked right:
It is possibly the most modified of all the Disney animations on home release. Every home release going back to VHS and Laserdisc has made the beast visible way earlier than he is in the actual film. It changes the entire mood of these scenes where the beast is but a silhouette.
So was the decision to show him totally in silhouette made after the sequence had been colored? I don’t know a whole lot about the animation process, but I’ve seen cels of silhouettes that are painted totally dark before they were printed to film. Seems like kind of an odd decision to achieve a silhouette by fully rendering the figure on every level, including all the different colors between his cloak and fur, and then just print it darker so you can’t see any of that labor. That seems like an extremely wasteful and backwards way to achieve such an effect.
To my taste, I’d probably want a grade that’s a compromise. I feel like the home releases are too bright and this print is too dark (for me, not as a preservation). The line-work in Belle’s hair, at times, is crushed to black. The heavy shadow contrast makes this extremely fast fall-off where the skin tones are even and then the hair (depending on the scene) just disappears quickly into black, like the hair is a black hole sucking away the light around it. It’s a very steep gamma curve.
Again, I’m not disputing that it’s accurate, I was too young at the time to have seen it in theaters. I do think that the VHS retained an analogous mystery in that scene by making him pretty dark, though I do agree its still too bright.
I (roughly) regraded the bluray screencap to something that suits my own subjective tastes:
I tried to maintain some of the red in his cloak while still bringing all the luma information to near total darkness. I think the “almost can’t be seen” feeling has its own kind of mysterious atmosphere. When viewed in the movie as a whole, the shot goes by quick enough that’s it’s not really revealing. It just gives you faint impressions. Then you get those impressions illuminated, literally, when he steps into the light later.
Edit: Forgot that flat pre-grade still from the 35mm was available so I did a rough grade of the same principle to that one as well: