Fantasia 2000 (2000)
Release Date: June 16th, 2000 MPAA Rating: G
Director: Gaetan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi, Hendel Butoy, Francis Glebas, Eric Goldberg, Pixote Hunt Actors: Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, James Levine
antasia 2000” opens with perhaps the most famous concert music of all, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor. Similar to the first film, this initial segment follows abstract images that form the ideas of the heavens, butterflies, bats, and darkness. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Levine, performs the musical selections. And as a new addition, celebrities introduce each piece, starting with Steve Martin and proceeding to include Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn & Teller, and Angela Lansbury. The adopted use of TV-styled transitions doesn’t help “Fantasia 2000” feel more thematic, but rather like a television special. It’s clearly not an equal to the original 1940 classic.
The second sequence is “Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Respighi, chronicling the journey of humpback whale calf as it learns to fly (due to a supernova). It’s separated from its parents, but manages to reunite with the entire school, which bursts through the fluffy clouds in the sky to witness a lightning storm up close. The use of computer generated images is most noticeable with the adult whales, which have a texturing and photorealistic quality that greatly surpass that of the traditional animation found in other segments.
George Gershwin’s jazzy “Rhapsody in Blue,” hosted by Quincy Jones, paints a picture of life in the big city in the 1930s in the style of Al Hirschfeld’s popular cartoons of the time. A construction worker dealing with the bustle of the metropolis is alternated with scenes of a bum scrounging for food. The backgrounds are mostly muted, single-color drawings, while the main characters are more detailed but equally monochromatic. While the music is definitely famous, it’s the one selection that doesn’t fit as nicely in the world of “Fantasia,” lacking the continuous, strong operatic nature of the other works. And although the art is purposeful in design, it’s also the least visually pleasing. On the other hand, since it features some of the fastest piano notes, the synchronization with the animation is the most impressive.
Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major is the basis for the story of the “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” by Hans Christian Andersen. It follows the adventures of a wooden soldier as he battles an evil jack-in-the-box for the love of a ballerina. With a hero, love interest, villain, and plenty of adventure-filled predicaments, this is by far the most dramatic and exciting sequence. It also features beautiful artwork – primarily CGI – and the most Disney-like, fully developed storyline.
“The Carnival of the Animals” is one of the funniest sequences, mirroring the visual hilarity of “Fantasia’s” “Dance of the Hours” through pink flamingos consternated over one of their own – who is fascinated by a yo-yo. The music is most reminiscent of a selection from the first film, although it’s incredibly short. Following this is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” the only bit carried over (completely duplicated) from the original. It’s a memorable, signature component, but it also takes screen time away from the possibility of further new animations (“Fantasia 2000” is nearly an hour shorter than its predecessor).
“Pomp and Circumstance,” Marches 1, 2, 3, and 4 by Edward Elgar narrate the story of Noah’s ark, starring Donald Duck. As he assembles pairs of all the animals, he’s separated from Daisy and repeatedly misses a reuniting by fractions of a second. Probably designed to rival the prior inclusion of Mickey Mouse, this is easily the most affecting slice of the entire project. “Fantasia 2000” closes with the “Firebird Suite” by Igor Stravinsky, about a magical sprite and her companion elk that accidentally awaken a volcanic Firebird that destroys the forest (in a “FernGully”-like manner). It’s a fitting conclusion to complement the appearance and retreat of Chernabog in the original.
While this update is still a masterful achievement of sound in animation, it doesn’t quite match the power of the first feature; as a mere companion piece, however, it’s more than adequate. Considering Disney’s original idea had been to refresh “Fantasia” throughout the years with new sequences, and his nephew Roy Disney thought to carry this through in the early ‘70s, it’s thrilling to see a new collaboration come to fruition nearly 60 years later – with the same level of enthusiasm, talent, and soundtrack conceptions that made 1940’s “Fantasia” such a monumental accomplishment.
– Mike Massie