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Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 (Four-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) by Various Directors
Review by Charles Mohapel
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Blu-ray  ISBN/ITEM#: B0040QTNSK
Date: 11 December 2010 List Price $45.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: IMDB.com - Fantasia / IMDB.com - Fantasia 2000 / IMDB.com - Destino / Wikipedia - Disney's Nine Old Men / Show Official Info /

Fantasia was by far the most experimental animated film to come from Walt Disney, but most definitely was animation created by the foremost animators of their time, namely Disney's "Nine Old Men". One thing Disney envisaged was that Fantasia would never truly be "finished" and that it would be an ever evolving piece of cinematic art. Following up on this line of thinking, Fantasia 2000 was produced, but unfortunately less than a box office success despite its stellar cast.

Fantasia

Writers: Joe Grant (story), Dick Huemer (story), and 23 more credits

Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, and 9 more credits

Cast (in credits order) verified as complete:
Leopold Stokowski... Himself - Conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra
Deems Taylor ... Narrative Introductions
Rest of cast listed alphabetically: Corey Burton ... Narrator: Deems Taylor overdubs (2000 restoration) (voice) (uncredited)
Walt Disney ... Mickey Mouse in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"' (voice) (uncredited)
James MacDonald ... Percussionist (uncredited)
Julietta Novis ... Soloist in "Ave Maria"' (voice) (uncredited)
Paul J. Smith ... Violinist (uncredited)

Fantasia 2000

Writers: Eric Goldberg (story) (segments "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Carnival of the Animals, The"), Hans Christian Andersen (story) (segment "Piano Concerto #2"), and 9 more credits

Directors: James Algar, GaŽtan Brizzi, and 6 more credits

Cast (Cast overview, first billed only):
Leopold Stokowski ... Himself - Conductor (segment "The Sorcerer's Apprentice") (archive footage)
Ralph Grierson ... Pianist (segment "Rhapsody in Blue")
Kathleen Battle ... Featured Soprano (segment "Pomp and Circumstance") (voice)
Steve Martin ... Himself - Introductory Host
Itzhak Perlman ... Himself - Host (segment "Pines of Rome")
Quincy Jones ... Himself - Host (segment "Rhapsody in Blue")
Bette Midler ... Herself - Hostess (segment "Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102")
James Earl Jones ... Himself - Host (segment "Carnival of the Animals")
Penn Jillette ... Himself (as Penn)
Teller ... Himself - Host (segment "The Sorcerer's Apprentice")
James Levine ... Himself - Host (segment "Pomp and Circumstance"), Conductor (Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
Angela Lansbury ... Herself - Hostess (segment "Firebird Suite - 1919 Version")
Wayne Allwine ... Mickey Mouse (segment "Pomp and Circumstance") (voice)
Tony Anselmo ... Donald Duck (segment "Pomp and Circumstance") (voice)
Russi Taylor ... Daisy Duck (segment "Pomp and Circumstance") (voice)

I remember seeing Fantasia with my family as a very young child and being awestruck by the film. While I enjoyed Leopold Stokowski's orchestration of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor", it pales in comparison to the version played on a church organ in the 1975 version of Rollerball. Played at half volume and full base, it's guaranteed to rattle your bones. To this day my favorite segment is "Dance of the Hours" by Ponchielli, a comic ballet with the ostriches, elephants, hippos, and crocodiles -- it never fails to bring a smile to my lips.

On the other hand, I never saw Fantasia 2000 in the theater due to a serious illness in the family.

Classical Music for Fantasia:
"Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach, "The Nutcracker Suite" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas, "Rites of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky, "The Pastoral Symphony" by Ludwig van Beethoven, "Dance of the Hours" by Amilcare Ponchielli, "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky, and "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert.

Classical and Other Music for Fantasia 2000:
"Symphony No. 5" by Ludwig van Beethoven, "Pines of Rome" by Ottorino Resphighi, "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin, "Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102" by Dmitri Shostakovich, "Carnival of the Animals (Le Carnaval des Animaux), Finale" by Camille Saint-Saens, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas, "Pomp and Circumstance, Marches #1, 2, 3, & 4" by Edward Elgar (as Sir Edward Elgar), and "Firebird Suite - 1919 Version" by Igor Stravinsky.

Looking at Fantasia on Blu-ray, it is patently obvious to me that Disney did the memory of Walt justice with their superb restoration of the film. Given that it was originally shown on the Silver Screen 70 years ago, I can only imagine how much dirt was on the originals, how many scratches marred the film, and how many splices were made when the film broke. Add to that the fading caused by hundreds of passes through the projector. The final challenge with restoring the film is that it was made using the highly flammable cellulose nitrate base that deteriorated so badly in storage that many other films have been lost forever.

In my opinion, Fantasia was an excellent example of the stellar work of Disney's "Nine Old Men" (Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Frank Thomas), and undeniably the most avant-garde work that we saw from them. Although they don't make them like that anymore, we can be grateful that Eric Larson and John Lounsbery conducted classes for the incoming young artists, sharing their experiences and mentoring them as the youngsters learned the distinctive "Disney Style" of animation.

Viewing Fantasia as an adult did nothing to change my mind that my favorite segment is "Dance of the Hours" by Ponchielli - if anything I laughed harder now. "The Nutcracker Suite" was a close second back then and is still delightfully performed. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas was the first time that audiences saw the improved Mickey Mouse - prior to that his face was a circle and had no muzzle as he does now. It was my third favorite and of all the segments from Fantasia, it was the only one to be part of Fantasia 2000. While I love the awesome raw power of the music of "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach and "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky, the animation is first class but stylistically does not appeal to me. Although I can't recollect the imagery of "Night on Bald Mountain", I'm sure it was too visceral for me as a 5 year old. Finishing the film with "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert was a beautiful counterpoint to "Night on Bald Mountain", though for young children, it might well have been too little too late.

When it comes to 'Disney Family Museum' with Walt's grandson Walter E.D. Miller and Walt's daughter Diane Disney Miller, I don't know whether I was more shocked to discover that there was a museum or that it was located in the Presidio in San Francisco, in Northern California, as opposed to having it located closer to their studios, Disneyland, and Disney California Adventure. In any case, this short featurette got me so pumped up, I wanted to hop on the next plane to San Francisco and see it right after I had checked into a hotel room.

Of all the featurettes in this four disc set, my absolute favorite is '"The Schultheis Notebook": A Disney Treasure' with Diane Disney Miller, J.B. Kaufman, Charles Solomon, John Canemaker, Richard Benefield, and Michael Labrie. Here we discovered that German-born Herman Schultheis took copious and very detailed notes on how each visual effect was created, complete with equally detailed diagrams. Discovered by accident many years later, this notebook has been described by animation experts as being the "Rosetta Stone of Animation". Best of all, this notebook has been carefully restored and digitized so that the public can view it at the Disney Family Museum in the Presidio in San Francisco. If anything, this featurette made me want to visit the museum even more than before.

Of the three Audio Commentaries on the Fantasia Blu-ray disc, my clear cut favorite was the version with the Original DVD Commentary, Interviews and Story Note Recreations by Walt Disney and hosted by John Canemaker. Listening to recordings of Walt talking about the film was awesome. The version with the Original DVD Commentary by Executive Producer Roy E. Disney, Conductor James Levine, Animation Historian John Canemaker, and Film Restoration Manager Scott MacQueen was low key but still very interesting.

Watching Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 back to back convinced me that while the latter was technically brilliant, it was more uneven and failed to measure up to the original, though to be fair to all those involved, the original set an impossibly high standard. As I mentioned earlier, only one segment was carried over, namely Mickey Mouse as "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". My favourite new segment is the one with the yo-yo playing flamingo running amuck in "Carnival of the Animals (Le Carnaval des Animaux), Finale".

Not being a Disney insider, the featurette on Musicana with Charles Solomon (Animation Historian), Didier Ghez (Author, "Walt's People"), Bunny Mattinson (Animator, Writer, Director), Steven R. Hulett (Animator), Mel Shaw (Visual Development Artist), Don Hahn (Producer, The Lion King), and Ruben Procopio (Animator / Sculptor) was a real eye opener. Intended as a follow up to Fantasia, the studio decided not to finish it. Personally I really liked a lot of the animation I saw and I suspect that even though it was topnotch work, the studio let this project die because because Fantasia had been disappointing at the box office.

'Dali & Disney: A Date With Destino' was another complete surprise to me since I had never suspected that Dali had ever done any work with Disney. I wonder how many people outside of Disney are aware that Walt collaborated with Salvador Dali on Destino, a collaboration that began out of a mutual respect for the other person as a surrealist? I freely admit that I have never ever been a fan of Abstract art, no doubt due to my art teacher forcing us to try this style for ourselves. Granted the art in Destino is classic Dali, but it did absolutely nothing for me. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the accompanying music a lot.

Both of the Audio Commentaries on the Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray disc were simultaneously low key and interesting.

All in all, the Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 (Four-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) is an undeniable must have item for aficionados of Disney animation, as well as animation in general. Right now is the time to share the brilliance of the Golden Age of Disney Animation with your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

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