Disney Animated Features
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Release Date: New Year's Day 2000
When Walt Disney created the original Fantasia, his dream was to continually replace segments of the movie with new segments. The whole idea was to expose modern audiences to great orchestral music, and eight pieces just weren't enough. By cycling new segments into the film, even more music could be set to animation and enjoyed by the public.
Alas, such an ambitious proposition was infeasible. It didn't help that Fantasia was not particularly successful at the box office, nor that World War II was going on and would soon draw the United States in. Disney's fantasy fell by the wayside.
It wasn't until fifty years later that the fantasy was revived. Like many of Disney's animated features, Fantasia had been re-released a few times in theaters. But in the 1990's, Walt's nephew, Roy E. Disney, decided it was time for a new Fantasia -- same concept, different segments.
With Roy E. Disney at the helm as producer, the company's animation division set to work selecting new pieces, deciding which old ones to keep, and then animating the new selections. Then, the kicker: they decided to film the movie in large-screen IMAX format, just for fun.
The result is just as wonderful as the original. The animation is bright and vibrant and looks amazing on the big IMAX screen, and the music is well-served by IMAX theaters' sound systems. It's not Fantasound, the revolutionary (but financially inviable) stereophonic system Disney developed for Fantasia, but it still sounds great.
The only segment carried over from the original is the most popular: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Unfortunately, that classic segment does not look good when expanded to IMAX dimensions, and it severely damages that segment's impact to be juxtaposed with the clean, vivid new animation.
The segments this time around are separated by host segments, each featuring a different celebrity (or two). These 'intersitials' are a little cheesy at times, depending on the celebrity, but serve as fairly good transitions. These transitions are necessary so that the viewer is not abruptly taken from the resounding end chords of "Pines of Rome" to the soft clarinet intro of "Rhapsody in Blue."
- "Symphony No. 5", Ludwig von Beethoven (aka Beethoven's Fifth Symphony)
Steve Martin/Itzhak Perlman intro
- "Pines of Rome", Ottorino Respighi
Quincy Jones intro
- "Rhapsody in Blue", George Gershwin
Bette Midler intro
- "Piano Concerto No. 2", Dmitri Shostakovich
James Earl Jones intro
- "Carnival of the Animals", Camille Saint-Saëns
Penn and Teller intro
- "L'apprenti Sorcier" ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice"), Paul Dukas
Leopold Stokowski/James Levine/Mickey Mouse/Daisy Duck/Donald Duck intro
- "Pomp and Circumstance", Sir Edward Elgar
Angela Lansbury intro
- "The Firebird Suite", Igor Stravinsky
Beethoven and Stravinsky also had pieces in the original Fantasia
; I also note that all of the composition
s (except Shostakovich's, which misses by 17 years) date from before the original movie's release. In that, Disney was remaining true to Walt's original concept
s, but to some people, it seemed a snub
of modern composer
The music for the new segments was recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Levine. He appears in the movie on-screen with Mickey, just as Stokowski did in the original film (in fact, footage of Stokowski thanking and shaking hands with Mickey is included in the new film).
Also notable is Daisy Duck's finest performance ever, playing opposite Donald in the "Pomp and Circumstance"/Noah's Ark segment. Although they have no speaking parts, she and Donald expertly convey the sorrow they feel when the fear they've lost each other, and their reunion remains one of the most moving scenes of animation I've ever seen.
Fantasia 2000 was quite successful (releasing it on 1 January 2000 didn't hurt), and it was later moved to non-IMAX theaters to grab an even larger audience. It's proof that Walt's original ideas were sound, even if over-ambitious. Can we hope to see more Fantasia segments in the near future? It is, perhaps, not likely, but with Disney... you just never know.
Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.fpx.de/fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.