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Fantasia / Fantasia 2000(1940-1999)
Fantasia: this ambitious animated epic from Disney studios includes sequences set to music by - amongst others - Bach, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, Schubert and Beethoven. Also featured is the famous 'Sorcerer's Apprentice' routine, in which Mickey Mouse creates magical mayhem when he tries to get his chores done with the aid of a spell or two.
Fantasia 2000: A semi-sequel to Disney's 1940 classic 'Fantasia' which features the original film's most famous sequence - the Mickey Mouse adventure 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' - plus seven other all-new animated interpretations of classical music. Highlights include the interwoven stories of a group of 1930s New Yorkers accompanied by Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue', the volcanic eruptions which illustrate Stravinsky's 'Firebird Suite', and the story of Noah, his ark, and his assistant Donald Duck, played out to the strains of Elgar's 'Pomp and Circumstance'.
For more about Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 and the Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray release, see Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 27, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Leopold Stokowski, Walt Disney, Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James MacDonald, James Earl Jones
Narrators: Deems Taylor, Corey Burton
Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford I. Beebe, Norman Ferguson, Jim Handley, T. Hee
This Blu-ray release includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray Review
Add this affordable Double Feature to your collection post haste...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 27, 2010
It's easy to forget how bold a visionary the late Walt Disney truly was. Lest we forget, Snow White wasn't always the undisputed classic 21st century filmfans have declared it to be, nor was it a surefire business venture by any means. Released in 1937, when the country was still struggling to recover from the Great Depression, the fearless filmmaker's feature-length animation debut was deemed a risk, a fool's errand and a career killer. But hindsight can spot a money-maker a mile away. Snow White not only shattered expectations and revolutionized the film industry, it paved the way for countless artists, animators and dreamers, and gave birth to one of the most profitable forms of family entertainment in the modern age. 1940 would see the release of the next two Disney classics: Pinocchio, which went on to earn the same affection and accolades as Snow White, and Fantasia, easily Uncle Walt's most daring and experimental animated production. Conceived as a perpetually evolving experience -- one he originally intended to add additional segments to each year -- Fantasia wasn't nearly as successful as its forebearers, critically or commercially, but slowly assembled a discerning audience over the coming decades; viewers who finally responded to the allure of its concept, structure and vignettes. It soon became a Disney Classic alongside its more traditional brethren and even inspired a sequel much like the one Walt Disney often envisioned: 1999's Fantasia 2000. While thematically lighter than its somewhat moody predecessor, Fantasia 2000 complements Fantasia nicely, and both films, despite their divisive nature, achieve a great many things.
How do you do. My name is Deems Taylor, and it's my very pleasant duty to welcome you here on behalf of Walt Disney, Leopold Stokowski and all the other artists and musicians whose combined talents went into the creation of this new form of entertainment, Fantasia. What you're going to see are the designs and pictures and stories that music inspired in the minds and imaginations of a group of artists. In other words, these are not going to be the interpretations of trained musicians. Which I think is all of the good. Now there are three kinds of music on this Fantasia program. First is the kind that tells a definite story. Then there's the kind that, while it has no specific plot, does paint a series of, more or less, definite pictures. Then there's a third kind: music that exists simply for its own sake.
Fantasia opens with a flurry of color and sound, and never panders to its audience for a second (well, minus Mickey's silhouetted chat with conductor Leopold Stokowski). Though pretension lingers nearby in the wings, it never strides on stage, giving the film's animators the freedom to indulge in whatever fits of whimsy, imagination and inspiration happens to guide their hands. Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor challenges viewers from the outset, surging and relenting at will, crackling with abstract bursts of energy and light, and announcing Fantasia's every lofty intention. From there, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite takes itself less seriously, tracking the passing of the seasons through a dance of ice-skimming fairies and flowering plants, and never once grounds itself in the doldrums of reality. Next up is Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the film's most accessible, family friendly and, above all else, memorable vignette. In it, Mickey plays a fledgling wizard who takes advantage of his master's absence. The resulting chaos leaves the befuddled mouse scrambling to stop an army of brooms from destroying his master's workshop, and continues to leave entire generations of children grinning from ear to ear. Soon, the first half of the film comes to a close with Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, a foray into evolution, the rise of the dinosaurs and a very bleak portrayal of the survival of the fittest. Relatively violent and potentially unsettling, it represents a unique marriage of music and animation, and hints at the darkness that lies in wait just before the credits roll.
After an unnecessary intermission and a cute "Meet the Soundtrack" segment, Fantasia plows ahead with Ludwig van Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, more commonly known as The Pastoral Symphony. The weakest and most problematic of the original film's segments, the animators delve into Greek mythology, but neglect to establish an engrossing narrative or a compelling abstract world. Instead, it drags on and on as centaurs mate, cherub-like cupids hover at their heads, and a drunken bit of slapstick comedy undoes whatever carefully laid plans Disney had in mind. It isn't bad, mind you, and will delight many I'm sure. But it's slow, uneven and, frankly, bizarre. Amilcare Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours rights Fantasia's course, even though its high-flying flourishes and balletic wildlife will appeal to young viewers far more than their parents. Dancers of the morning, afternoon, evening and night -- ostriches, hippos, elephants and alligators, respectively -- descend on an outdoor palace to celebrate the passage of another day, all to an amusing end. Finally, Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain and Franz Schubert's Ave Maria drag Fantasia to hell and back with one of the most unsettling, nightmarish bits of Disney animation committed to film. It opens as a massive demon called Chernabog raises the dead; a twisted cadre of scorned souls, skeletons and beasties of the netherworld, all intent on wreaking havoc on a sleepy little town. At least until a group of monks, accompanied by Schubert's soothing chorus, vanguish the evil and send it scurrying back to the grave. The film closes on a somber note, but considering Disney's hope that Fantasia would be expanded in the coming years after its initial release, the sobering, somewhat abrupt denouement isn't exactly a point of contention.
Fantasia is widely considered to be slightly superior to Fantasia 2000 for a number of reasons, but I actually enjoy the sequel considerably more than the original. Chalk it up to having a six-year-old in the house, stronger stories across the board, or its shorter, more manageable segments. Whatever the case, my family has only watched Fantasia a handful of times over the last few years, while this year alone, we've tossed in Fantasia 2000 on a dozen different occasions. (My only major gripe? The celebrity-helmed intros are obnoxious and decidedly forced.) Take that as you will though; to each his own and all that. The sequel begins much like the original, with an abstract explosion of color set to a powerful piece of music; in this case, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor. Presented as a battle between light and dark forces (interpreted as angular butterfly wings), it's a fittingly engrossing opening to a creatively buoyant film, and a visual stunner that plays with shape, perspective and form. Ottorino Respighi's Pines of Rome follows suit as flying whales migrate into the heavens. Dazzling and distinct, it's brimming with cold underwater vistas, sweeping flights of fancy and beautiful imagery. Does it make sense? Not a lick. Does it matter? Not at all. Next comes George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, a glimpse into the troubled lives of four people in 1930s New York. Drawing inspiration from Al Hirschfeld's cartooning style and taking full advantage of the big brass brevity of Gershwin's piece, it's a brisk, cheerful, resonant vignette that keeps Fantasia 2000 hurtling down a diverse, increasingly exciting animated highway.
Thankfully, Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major doesn't let up, painting the story of a disfigured toy soldier who's determined to rescue the love of his plastic life, a tiny ballerina, from the clutches of an evil jack-in-the-box. Sweet and surprisingly poignant, it offers a touching, fully realized tale in a few short minutes, and speaks volumes even though its pint-sized protagonists never say a word. Soon thereafter, Camille Saint-SaŽns's The Carnival of the Animals provides the sequel with one of its lesser entries, a fun but mildly shallow short in which a yo-yo obsessed flamingo tries to maintain his individuality when his flock tries to get him to fall in line. It's thematic ground Disney has trod hundreds of times before, and the segment does little to break the mold. Endearing? Briefly. Forgettable? Wholly. Unfortunately, the appearance of the original Fantasia's Sorcerer's Apprentice segment doesn't help Fantasia 2000 shed its sudden sense of familiarity. While the vignette itself is as nostalgic as ever, a newly animated version of the classic short would have been a godsend. Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance brings things back around, casting Donald and Daisy Duck as workers on Noah's ark. Although other classical music selections would have been better suited to the story at hand, the personality on display and the animation itself represents another strong showing from the sequel. Last but certainly not least is Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, by far my favorite vignette from either film. Cut from a Miyazaki-tinted cloth, it finds a nature sprite and a noble elk scrambling to survive the fiery wrath of an erupting volcano. Mesmerizing, evocative, gorgeous and paired with a pitch-perfect Russian ballet, it rises above all other things Fantasia and, in my humble opinion, stands apart as one of Disney's most impressive animated shorts (and yes, that includes Pixar's best).
Ultimately, both Fantasias have their share of issues. However, Walt Disney's pioneering spirit permeates each one and, critics of either film be damned, the studio's commitment to animated excellence prevails. As a Double Feature, most filmfans will prefer one over the other, but both can be appreciated in their own right; both can be seen as arresting forays into unconventional animation; and both will hopefully open the door for another Fantasia, bolstered by new visionaries and new dreamers dedicated to embracing everything the late Walt Disney held dear.
Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Aesthetically, Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 couldn't be more different. However, Disney has invested considerable effort into restoring, remastering and presenting each one as faithfully and proficiently as possible, and the 1080p/AVC-encoded results are equally beautiful. Color erupts from the screen at every turn, regardless of how blazing or bleak a particular segment's palette may be. Primaries are gorgeous, black levels are rich and inky, and contrast is strong and satisfying throughout. Each hand-painted backgrounds and CG dreamscape stands as a testament to its animators' skills, and textures -- whether born from an artist's brush or a turn-of-the-century computer -- are perfectly preserved and precisely resolved. Moreover, Fantasia's hand-drawn frames are as true to their source as Fantasia 2000's razor-wire line art and computer-generated characters. Yes, the latter is noticeably sharper than the former, but anyone who tries to pit the 1940 classic against its 1999 sequel is a poor, misguided apprentice in need of a master. Both transfers are largely free of artifacting, noise and other distracting anomalies, and only a few, brief oddities spoil the otherwise flawless presentations. Specifically? Inherent ringing and color bleeding haunt Fantasia's live-action scenes, and some extremely minor banding (watch the green sky during The Carnival of Animals), blocking (keep an eye on the murky depths of the ocean during Pines of Rome) and aliasing (typically associated with the film's CG elements) invade Fantasia 2000 on occasion. Again though, each instance is so negligible that even the most unflinching videophile will overlook whatever issue arises. Both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 look fantastic, and Disney has done a wonderful job of ushering each one into the 21st century. Animation enthusiasts and Vault collectors will be exceedingly happy with the treatment each one has received.
Oh, and the controversial, racially charged frames that appeared in the original version of Fantasia's Pastoral Symphony? None of the exorcised material has been reinstated, but let's be very, very clear: it amounts to a few seconds (none of which is essential to the segment in the slightest), doesn't impact the flow of the animation and, most importantly, hasn't appeared in an official presentation of the film since 1969. While a small but vocal minority have aired their grievances on Amazon's user review page, this "censorship" (yep, I stand behind those sarcastic quotation marks wholeheartedly) doesn't hurt, hinder, impede, delegitimize or undermine Disney's excellent Blu-ray release in any way. I understand the argument, particularly in principle, and even commend those who would like to see the film presented in its original incarnation without any "edited" footage (those quotation marks are sincere). But to chastise and boycott an entire release over such a small issue -- especially a release as marvelous as this one -- is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. Take a breath, put things in perspective and enjoy.
Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There's no two ways about it: Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 sound magnificent. Boasting two impeccably mastered, utterly absorbing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround tracks, each film surpasses expectation, drawing the listener into every whirlwind dervish and swirling symphony the pair have to offer. Strings rustle beneath a storm of horns, trumpets pierce lumbering bass lines, timpani tum-tum-tums hang heavily over fleeting frenzies of flutes, and tumbling harps stir gracefully within the majesty of it all. Gripping melodies roar and relent, the orchestra fills the front channels convincingly, and sound spreads around the room with natural ease. Throughout each animated segment, LFE presence is profound and powerful, rear speaker activity enhances the illusion of sitting in the middle of a concert hall, and dynamics are bold, brazen and breathtaking. It's enough to leave the hair on your neck and arms bristling in the sonic breeze. Meanwhile, the various introductions feature crystal clear voices, and the interaction between the narrators and the conductors never falter. Likewise, directionality is subtle but precise, pans are wholly transparent, and the whole of both experiences is perfectly engaging. Audiophiles of all ages will be thrilled with the results.
Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 4-disc Blu-ray edition of Fantasia includes two separate BD-50 discs -- one devoted to the original 1940 classic and one to Fantasia 2000 -- and two standard DVDs. Both films boast a bevy of special features, old and new, and Fantasia 2000 even offers access to the "Disney Virtual Vault," a BD-Live portal that allows users to view any previously released content that isn't available on the discs themselves (the 48-minute "Making of Fantasia," the 48-minute "Making of Fantasia 2000," several hours of segment-specific featurettes and other goodies are a click away). Ideally, all of the material would have a physical presence in the set -- I'm not a big fan of limiting a fan's access to supplemental content, and completists will bemoan the hassle associated with special features that require an internet connection -- but at least it's all accounted for. Whether you complain or shrug your shoulders will depend on a number of variables, so I'll leave it to each of you to decide. Personally, I'm still quite satisfied with the supplemental package as is, even if it isn't as perfect or practical as it could have been.
Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Regardless of which Fantasia finds its way into your Blu-ray player more often, animation aficionados are in for a real treat. Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 have been given meticulous high definition overhauls complete with sublime video transfers, distinguished DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround tracks and generous suites of special features, new and old. The only downside? Five hours of additional supplemental content -- the majority of the material previously released on DVD -- is only available via a (convenient but arguably impractical) BD-Live portal, limiting the material's accessibility. Still, as double-feature releases go, this one excels and fans of Fantasia and its sequel will certainly get their money's worth.
Fantasia / Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sorcerer's Apprentice Blu-ray Dated - September 10, 2010
An early announcement to retailers indicates that Walt Disney will release the action/adventure movie The Sorcerer's Apprentice on Blu-ray on November 30, coinciding with the BD release of the Fantasia 2 Movie Collection (which features the segment on which this ...
• Fantasia 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray Announced - August 28, 2010
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has announced that, on November 30, it will release Fantasia 2 Movie Collection, a 2 Blu-ray / 2 DVD box set including both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 (neither of which will be available separately), with 1080p video and 7.1 ...
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