BLU-RAY REVIEW: Fantasia/Fantasia 2000
Disney's classic and modern-day sequel receive the 4-disc special edition treatment...
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For Disney animation film fans, this week is a real treat as the latest home video release from the fan-favorite, critically-acclaimed, award-winning animation studio is none other than both the original 1940 Fantasia and its modern-day sequel, Fantasia 2000.
Both films are "fantasia" or "free compositions structured according to the composer's fancy" and feature a variety of animation, live-action and music which will surely impress both music and animation fans alike. Likewise, both films have merit, though the generational divide regarding which is the favorite will no doubt begin once this impressive home video is added to your collection.
Both films feature the previously mentioned variety of animation, live-action and music, including...
Made up of eight animated and live-action shorts set to both original and classic music, these shorts include Toccata and Fugue in D Minor featuring bizarre lights and shadows playing across a stage, The Nutcracker Suite featuring everything from dancing faires to dancing mushrooms, The Sorcerer's Apprentice featuring the famous visage of Mickey Mouse in a magcian's cloak and hat, coaxing brooms and more to do his bidding, The Rite of Spring and the animated presentation of the creation of all things, and an intermission and introduction to the music. The second half of the film is made up of The Pastoral Symphony and its Greek-themed characters (including centaurs, cupids, and faires); Dance of the Hours, which includes dancing ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators; and finally Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria featuring the haunting, somewhat spooky demon Chernabog and his kin and the light-bearing monks who bring forth the new day.
Fantasia 2000 (1999)
Like its predecessor, this visualization of music features recognizable music, including Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor-I. Allegro con brio featuring exploring butterflies and bats, Ottorino Respighi's Pines of Rome featuring flying humpback whales, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue set in 1930s-era NYC where various people live and struggle, Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major-I. Allegro featuring a tin soldier and a Jack-in-the-Box competing for the love of a ballerina/doll, Camille Saint-SaŽns's The Carnival of the Animals, Finale featuring a funny flock of frolicking flamingos, Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice based on the original seen in the 1940 Fantasia, Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance - Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4 featuring the story of Noah's Ark with Donald Duck gathering the animals, and Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite - 1919 Version in which a forest is destroyed and then reborn thanks to a Spring Sprite.
Again, both films have merit and have their more recognizable and fan-favorite shorts (The Sorcerer's Apprentice being the short most viewers remember). While both are similar in design, there's really no comparing the two as they simply contain different content. Likewise, the pair compliment one another and make for a much more enjoyable and entertaining experiance when viewed together...should viewers be able to watch the full 200 minutes of both films combined!
Here, on this new 2 movie collection, the remastered and restored hi-def video and audio further make this set worthy of ownership. Thanks to not only beautifully remastered video transfers, but also an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, the films truly astonish. Each and every short is delivered perfectly in 1080p while each musical composition is masterfully delivered through the speakers.
As for special features, this 4-disc set includes almost too many to mention. Besides both the original Fantasia and its sequel, the set also includes a number of audio commentaries for both films, including at least one all film fans won't want to miss: a simply amazing commentary of Fantasia by none other than Walt Disney himself, put together using edited audio recordings from before his passing.
Other special features include a "DisneyView" presentation of the original which fills the black bars on the sides of the original image to include original artwork. Likewise, a short discussion of filmmaker Herman Schultheis' recently discovered production notebook is included as are a number of interactive art galleries. The oddly impressive, beautiful, sultry and somewhat twisted Academy Award-nominated short Destino, a collaboration of Walt Disney and Salvador Dali's which began production back in 1946 and was only recently (2003) completed is included as is an impressive 82-minute documentary "Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino," which focuses on the two artists and their work together. The short 9-minute "Musicana," which looks at the Fantasia sequel that never was is here as well. Finally, through the use of BD-Live, the "Disney's Virtual Vault" is accessible, providing viewers with the opportunity to connect to the largest archive of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 bonus material around. Clocking in at almost 5 hours of total time, this bonus material includes everything from making-of featurettes to full-length documentaries.
I remember seeing the original 1940 version of Fantasia when I was something like 15 years old and thinking to myself I'd never seen something that crazy before. There was something slightly off about this sort of classical music set to animation of this type. I just couldn't kick the thought Disney was saying something about drug use when he made flowers, fish and mushrooms all dance. Of course, at 15, I thought the film had no doubt been created by Disney as a way to not only entertain but inspire future pot smokers. Now, more than 15 years later, I obviously better understand the intricacies and subtle beauty portrayed in the beautiful animation and the many themes reflected in this astonishing work of music and picture.
Thankfully, a new generation of youth will hopefully enjoy these films as much as we did as children. Were only all classic animation and film given this sort of beautiful attention and restoration, we'd have so much more to be thankful for.
The 4-disc special edition 2 movie collection of Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 is available now on blu-ray hi-def wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley