When Disney announced that it would release a 3D version of its 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast, movie fans were stunned. Re-releasing an old film? Cannibalizing its own products? Trying to make more money on something without having to put forth any new creative effort? That's not like Disney at all!

Now comes the news, first reported by Coming Soon, that Beauty 3D is, um, not coming soon. Previously slotted for 2011, it has been taken off the schedule altogether. Did the Mouseketeers change their minds and scrap the 3D release entirely? Or has it simply been postponed? Disney publicists haven't responded yet to Cinematical's requests for clarification, but both scenarios are possible. Let us examine them.

Supporting the theory that Beauty 3D is canceled altogether is the fact that its removal from the 2011 schedule came at the same time that Disney-Pixar's Newt was removed -- and by all accounts Newt really is dead. It would be unusual to take a film off one year's schedule without giving it at least a "TBA" slot for the following year, unless it's gone for good. And while Disney has sunk some money into the 3D conversion for Beauty and the Beast, it's not like they've made something from scratch and it would be a colossal waste to ditch it.
On the other hand, the trailer for Beauty 3D just hit the Internet last week -- an unlikely move if Disney was even thinking about killing it. (The trailer says that the film would open for a limited engagement in New Zealand on Aug. 12. Does that mean next week, or next year? And is it still happening?) When the project was announced, in November 2008, it was set for 2010. Then it got bumped to 2011. Further bumpage would therefore not be a huge surprise.

Carl DiOrio, at The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision blog, insists the project is still alive and that this is all part of the plan. He says one of the benefits of releasing Beauty and the Beast in 3D in theaters will be to help sell more copies of the 3D Blu-ray. DiOrio (citing no sources, but you can't have everything) says the delay is just Disney's "acknowledgment that it needs to give consumers more time to buy into the home-3D transition." Not very many people will have bought 3D televisions yet by next year. But another after year that and the tiresome gimmick new technology might have caught on.

Postponing the 3D theatrical release until more people have 3D TVs does make sense, if that is indeed what Disney is after here. In the meantime, the 2D Blu-ray edition of Beauty and the Beast is still scheduled for Oct. 5.

This is not the first time Disney has futzed around with Beauty. In 2002, a musical number that had been cut from the original was re-added, and the whole thing was refitted for IMAX screens. Those were real IMAX screens, too, not the ones that are barely bigger than regular screens that IMAX slaps its name on today. In the larger format, the film's harrowing tale of a monstrous savage who uses his army of sentient furniture to hold a young girl hostage in a decrepit castle was as terrifying as Walt intended it to be when he first started drawing it in 1879. I remember recoiling in horror as the nightmarish platoon of talking silverware marched angrily around the table, screaming at Belle to "be our guest" -- as if the traumatized abductee had any choice! Imagine how that will look after the 3D-ification process is complete!