(movie review written in 2000)
Finally entering the Blu-Ray format is one of Disney's classic animated features, Fantasia - a simple idea that turned into an artwork of sight and sound. With classical music and segements of animation from Disney, the film presents one of the most famous sequences, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", which has Mickey Mouse finding out his magic skills can get out of control.
The mixture of beautifully played classical compositions and the worlds that are presented in the animated segements create a surreal and beautiful world. There's a magic in the mixture of sound and image, an awe, that seems to tie all of the seperate pieces into a whole. The different stories are breathtakingly bold and sometimes moody, which certainly veers away from what most children's fare is today, but the power of the film still holds up quite superbly today.
Overall, the animated film's richness, texture and storytelling skill still remains a delight today, and hopefully will be passed on to another generation. Additionally, with the newly restored soundtrack and visual presentation, the classical music and classic images wash over the viewer, making for a very entertaining viewing experience of a classic film.
Although I'm sure there was debate both external and internal over Disney's decision to revisit "Fantasia" in "Fantasia 2000", I am pleased to say that, with few exceptions, the new film understands the kind of magic that went into making the first film such a wonderful mixture of sight and sound. Apparently, "Fantasia" was always meant to be a continual series, but I would bet that there was some anxiety as to how a new edition would be greeted.
Although a great deal shorter than the original film at 74 minutes, this is rather understandable when considering the film was originally launched in IMAX engagements, where when most IMAX films are 40 minutes (usually for an absurd ticket price), a 74 minute film feels like a pretty darn good deal.
And again, Disney has succeeded in pairing great animation with great classical music. Particularly fascinating is a New York themed animated segement that is creative, bold and energetic. Even the most popular segment from the 1940 edition - "Sorcerer's Apprentice", with Mickey Mouse, returns here. Between segements, we are greeted by hosts such as Steve Martin and Bette Midler. Where this hosting idea could have gone a bit too cute or irritating, the stars as given a good, quick amount of time before moving on.
"Fantasia 2000" isn't quite the experience that the first one is, but on its own terms, it often succeeds quite well.
Both DVD and Blu-Ray editions of both films are included.
VIDEO: "Fantasia" is presented in 1.33:1 (1080p) on Blu-Ray, while "Fantasia 2000" is presented in 1.78:1 (1080p). The first film has been given an all-new digital restoration and has never looked better, with colors that have a freshness, purity and overall pop that's absolutely delightful. Sharpness and detail are precise and pleasing, and while the picture does show its age a little bit at times, it looks terrific for its age. The newer film looks absolutely magnificent, with colors that are practically eye-popping, and no visible wear or other concerns. Both presentations are outstanding.
SOUND: Disney offers "Fantasia" and "Fantasia 2000" in DTS-HD 7.1. The audio presentation does a remarkable job at taking a 60 year old presentation and - while certainly not bringing it to the kind of levels that we see with recent pictures - it at least does a very fine job in bringing the great music out and enveloping us in its beauty. Surrounds are put to use to a reasonable degree in order to deliver reinforcement of the score. Audio quality is terrific (considering the age of the picture), and the DTS-HD presentation has a bit more warmth and clarity than the prior DVD's audio.
The DTS-HD 5.1 presentation of "Fantasia 2000" is wonderful, offering the classical music in crisp, vibrant fashion. The viewer is enveloped quite nicely by the music, which sounds crystal clear and dynamic. Audio quality is excellent, with the music's highs and dramatic lows captured wonderfully. The music is comfortable to listen to and never thin at all; on the other end, there is also some solid bass when appropriate.
Surrounds recieve an enjoyable amount of work to do with the music, really delivering the viewer into the middle of a lively surround-sound experience when the music is at its most intense.
EXTRAS: Audio Commentary One: This is a commentary from Executive Producer Roy Disney, Conductor James Levine, Animation Historian John Canemaker and Manager Of Film Restoriation, Walt Disney Studios - Scott MacQueen. Roy Disney heads the commentary remarkably well, guiding the viewer into the track and provides a fine amount of information on his own, opening the track talking about the release of the picture and the versions that audiences saw.
What I found most interesting was the comments that MacQueen had to share about the restoration that had to be done to bring the film back to the original version that audiences first saw in theaters. During the commentary, we also learn quite a bit about the animation work that had to be done to complete the movie, the music that was done for the film, and the history behind the film. It's really amazing to hear about the techniques and amount of work that had to go into every frame of the animation. Each of the four participants have their own background to bring to the table while talking about the film, and their four parts really contribute to an informative and fascinating whole. With all four speakers, there are really no pauses throughout this track, and I think Disney has really done a fine job bringing great speakers together to make for a very informative commentary track.
Commentary Track Two: This is a second commentary track with Walt Disney; due to the magic of audio commentary tracks, this is a track edited together with interviews that were done with Walt about the movie. The track is hosted by John Canemaker, who provides additional thoughts and notes about the picture. We hear interviews with Disney, readings of story meeting notes and more in a very interesting presentation. The quality of some of the recorded interviews are a little bit muddy, but I had no trouble hearing what Disney was saying, and to be able to hear these rarely (if ever) heard interviews was definitely a treat. There are some small pauses of silence throughout the track, but for the most part, either Canemaker is offering his thoughts, or various Disney interviews are played. Both commentary tracks are definitely worth a listen for "Fantasia" fans.
Two featurettes are also found: "The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure" and "Disney Family Museum". The latter is pretty much promotional fare, but the former is an enjoyable look at the guidebook that detailed the rich animation effects that went into the film. There's also a terrific new commentary from historian Brian Sibley, who leads audiences through the most intricate details of the production. We also get an interactive art gallery and a feature that allows a new border to fill the sides of the frame on 16x9 TVs; the still borders are quite beautifully done and compliment the film.
Audio Commentary One: This is a commentary track from Executive Producer Roy Disney, Conductor James Levine and Producer Don Ernst. Much of the discussion revolves around the kind of work that had to be done to develop the ideas for "Fantasia 2000" as well as the links between both films. Later on, the group share their viewpoints on the IMAX presentation, as well.
I found the discussion between the three quite entertaining and informative as they talked about what was going on screen and what it took to get there, but I didn't really feel the commentary was quite as interesting as the memories that were shared on the main commentary for the first film. Still, this is an above-average commentary track for sure, and those who would like to learn more about the making of the movie will enjoy this discussion. The three are more than able to keep the talk going throughout the entire track with very minimal pauses.
Commentary Track Two: This second commentary track is a very interesting discussion by the Segement directors and art directors for the movie, as the various contributors talk about their specific animation work, whether it be traditional animation or computer work. I really enjoyed listening to the animators talk about their work; I found them to be fine discussing their work - very energetic in sharing their viewpoints on the film and their segments. It's a very good commentary track and I'm pleased that Disney took the creative step in bringing all of these segement directors together to tell the viewer about what it took to bring their work to the screen. Again, very mininmal and very brief instances of silence on the track, and the new participants introduce themselves before talking about their work.
"Musicana" takes a short look at a project similar to "Fantasia" that was never completed. It's a rather fascinating piece, and it's really interesting to see the development of the project (even though it never was finalized.) Of particular interest in the "Fantasia 2000" extras is "Disney and Dali: A Date With Destino", a documentary detailing the relationship between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. The piece is a fascinating historical look into the careers of both and their attempts to work together. We also see the highly enjoyable animated short, "Destino".
Both titles also include bonus DVD editions, as well as sneak peeks for upcoming Disney releases. A number of features from the previous releases of both movies do not appear here, unfortunately.
Final Thoughts: Disney's Blu-Ray debut of "Fantasia" and "Fantasia 2000" is a winner; while some of the bonus features from the prior release are not included, some new features are offered and both films have never looked or sounded better. Highly recommended.