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Fantasia/Fantasia 2000
BLU-RAY disk
Dec 13, 2010 By: Daniel Rohr
Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 order
Director:
James Algar

Actors:
Leopold Stokowski
Deems Taylor
Walt Disney

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A bunch of animated shorts (some with a story and some without) based around pieces of classical music.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
FANTASIA opens with a live-action narrator so bereft of charisma and natural screen presence, that I was beginning to mistake him for an upright Stephen Hawking. This all makes him kinda charming though and he does provide a nice way to ease the viewer into the animated fantasy land we're all about to go in. These opening shots (and all the live action transitions between acts) are all beautifully shot and processed in technicolor, with great use of light and shadows, especially on the film's conductor: Leopold Stokowski.

The fist animated short is set to Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" and amounts to little more than a hand-drawn iTunes visualizer. It's impressive but ultimately kinda hollow. Up next is the famous "Nutcracker Suite" and is again little more than an iTunes visualizer but this time with some fish and fairies thrown in.

At this point, I was beginning to get a little dejected but Disney and his crew wisely shifted to creating shorts with a bit more of a narrative to them with "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Which is the famous, and pretty dark short where Mickey Mouse viciously murders a broomstick. (Side note: I love that, to these eye's at least, the Sorcerer looks exactly like Nicolas Cage crossed with the witch from SNOW WHITE). Next up, the history of the Earth up to the dinosaurs dying out as told by science.

After a brief intermission, we come back to Beethoven's "Symphony No. 6" and probably my favorite short from the film. It's got everything from sexy horse-people to fat drunks to vengeful gods and way more animated nudity than I was expecting, especially from girls who are probably considered "tweens." So that's a little creepy. But the music is good and the animation is fantastic. The final three shorts just didn't connect with me though. One features overly-sexual hippos and elephants and the final two have some intense moments but I just couldn't get into them. Overall, it's great but I feel like FANTASIA exists more to be revered than to be entertained by over and over again.

Walt Disney originally intended for FANTASIA to be a perpetual work in progress so that whenever you went to the theaters to see it, the movie was always different than before. In a nutshell, this is why FANSTASIA 2000 exists. To honor and continue a very rich legacy. Hosted by a gaggle of celebrity guests, FANTASIA 2000 kicks off at a much faster pace than FANTASIA because of a very wise choice in going with one of the more intense pieces of classical music: "Symphony No. 5" by Beethoven. The first thing you'll notice about FANTASIA 2000 though is how slick the animation is. A lot more of it is done with computers, taking away a bit of the original's hand-drawn charms. There's also guest hosts between each short like Steve Martin, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury and Quincy Jones.

FANTASIA 2000 has the benefit of a more palatable running time of 75 minutes, and some much more upbeat and intense music. It's lighter on the ballet and heavier on fast banging noises. In particular, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" and the aforementioned "Symphony No. 5" by Beethoven are amazing. There's also a very fun version of "Pomp and Circumstance" (The "Graduation" Song AND Macho Man Randy Savage's old entrance music) used to tell the story of Noah's Ark with Donald Duck as a key player in the whole ordeal.
THE EXTRAS
Some excellent stuff in here. This is one of those great sets of extra features that helps to boost one's appreciation of just how much imagination and hard work went into making the picture.

Disc 1 (FANTASIA):
Disney Family Museum - Quick little tour/promo of the Disney Museum near San Francisco.

The Schultheis Notebook - The "Rosetta Stone" of animation effects. Schultheis documented how all of the effects were done for FANTASIA. The notebook was actually lost for a long time and without it, most of the hand-drawn (computers are cheats) techniques behind its more impressive effects would still be unknown today. Very interesting stuff if you're a big camera trick geek like me. This is the kind of extra I like most. It gives one a much bigger appreciation for the film.

Audio Commentary with Disney Historian Brian Sibley- - Dude's got an absolutely perfect British voice. He also pronounces the film "Fan-Tayz-eee-uh" which is awesome. Really informative and easy track to listen to.

"Audio Commentary" of Interviews with Walt Disney and verbal re-creations of written notes - Straight from the man himself, Walt Disney, provides some insight into the flick's production and release (through archived audio footage). The info at the end about the film's release is an especially great listen.

Audio Commentary with Roy Disney, Conductor James Levine, Animation Historian John Canemaker, and Film Restoration Manager Scott MacQueen - Rounding out the commentaries, these four continue to add to the great wealth of info presented on this disc. Highly recommended.

Disc 2 (FANTASIA 2000):
Dali and Disney: A Date with Destino - What happens when two of the 20th century's most uniquely creative people try to work together to create one animated short? Well, this excellent 82-minute documentary about it for one and a short that neither ever saw come to fruition.

Destino - My most anticipated part of this release and it doesn't disappoint. It's every bit as amazing as I could imagine a collaboration between Salvador Dali and Disney to be.

Audio Commentary with Roy Disney, Conductor James Levine and Producer Don Ernst - A very chill commentary that's pleasant to listen to. The three have an excellent chemistry and are very informative without being stuffy.

Audio Commentary by the Directors and Art Directors of each segment - You get a lot of unique points of view from a bunch of skilled people. They reveal design themes and more technical aspects.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Ultimately, I'd give FANTASIA a 5/5 if I was judging it solely on the amount of respect I have for the stones it took to make it and for the 3 years of amazing imagination and effects work that went into it. But a movie has to be entertaining too, and in that regard, FANTASIA is merely pretty good instead of great. So let's split the difference and call it a 4 out of 5. FANTASIA 2000 is more entertaining but less awe-inspiring. The extra features are also well worth the price of the disc.
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