Fantasia (UK - BD RB)
Marcus steals a wizards hat and makes a broom write his Fantasia BD review...
The latest Disney classic arrives on Blu-ray and with a release like the 1940 Fantasia, they don’t get much more classic than this. Disney’s third full-length feature and a bit of a Walt Disney pet project, Fantasia is, for those who don’t know, a collection of short films set to classical music and animated with some of the finest work the studio ever put out.
Fantasia isn’t your usual Disney feature; in fact I could imagine a modern child audience zoning out not long into the opening ‘Toccata and Fuge in D Minor’ piece which is a whole lot of abstract art floating around to a bit of Bach. As an adult viewer and a massive fan of animation in general, I appreciate the entire project for the ballsy experiment it is (I mean look at the entire Disney feature length history, this really is an anomaly), but even I have to admit I don’t really connect with the whole thing until Mickey turns up with 'The Sorcerer’s Apprentice' (even though the 'Nutcracker Suite' really does have some great moments).
Anyway, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice utterly deserves its standing in movie history. The whole piece is a joy. The music, the dark tone and of course Mickey Mouse in all his cinematic glory. The imagery of Mickey in his magician’s hat is one of most memorable images that sum up the magic of Disney and frankly the lack of Mickey Mouse on the big screen is something the Disney Studio needs to rectify soon. It's Mickey, give him a 2D movie for Walt's sake; give the world a feel good jolt to the cinema screen.
As the movie continues there’s a real sense that these pieces sometimes play out a tad too long, especially for a modern, not so classical music inclined audience, but every time I watch Fantasia I find myself loving the delicate work the animators put into the project. It just catches up with me on every re-watch and there really is some exquisite work on show here, though to counter that, it has to be said a lot of it looks seriously dated too—pretty much of all the ‘Rite of Spring’ looks like animation from another planet as opposed to seventy years ago. It’s not very Disney at all but then that’s sort of the joy of Fantasia - Walt Disney was experimenting on a massive scale and why not? The guy, against all odds just had two massive cinematic hits, why not indulge himself a little?
Moving through the intermission (which was probably needed with the two hour plus runtime—that’s long for a Disney movie) we are presented with the ‘Pastoral Symphony’, which is classic Disney Silly Symphonies stuff and with a style Disney have evolved in many of their movies over the years. ‘Dance of The Hours’ is fun but with the hippos, crocs and ostriches, it brings back bad childhood memories of the dead hard level on the Megadrive Fantasia game (if I’m honest, that game is my fondest memory of Fantasia). Finishing up, we get ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ which considering it's part of a Disney movie is dark as hell with its visual designs. Disney should get back to creepy cartoons and the haunting finale, 'Ave Maria' which feels like a short animation you’d catch on the BBC on Christmas day and barely Disney feeling at all.
Given the option to see it in 4:3 or 4:3 with Disney View (to fill the rest of the widescreen with pretty pictures/colours) the big jump up in HD power from the original SD DVD is the colour. The orchestra opening literally glows off of the screen. The orange lighting on the conductor's face suffers from a small bit of banding but overall it's a striking image that’s an obvious step up from an already great DVD.
As for the animated segments, they vary in quality, mainly due to the techniques used and the age of the work. Technically speaking, the image is clean as a whistle, not a blemish can be seen and as far as restoration goes, Disney haven’t mucked about.
The colours can be a little iffy, either too pale or too bright in places, but that’s more to do with the age of the movie. You can see the age of the animation if you compare it to a modern flick like the Princess and the Frog but considering the age of Fantasia this is every bit as good as Snow White and Pinocchio was on Blu-ray and when the transfer is good, it’s astonishing. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment, probably fares the best due to its importance to the Disney history and Mickey’s outfit has never looked so good.
This is certainly the best Fantasia has ever looked and Disney once again proves to be one of, if not the best studio out there for producing incredible Blu-ray’s for not only their big new releases but their classic catalogue titles too.
Well the conductor’s voice still ain’t in sync but that’s Fantasia, he ain’t ever gonna feel less than weird with his disconnected voice. Other than that this is all about the music, which with the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is everything you’d ever want from Fantasia. Every instrument is incredibly powerful and has some great clarity. Surround speakers are used to pinpoint certain instruments (even if it’s not consistently utilised as much as it feels it should) and when multiple instruments kick off you feel their power.
Strings dash across the front speakers in waves and every nuance is felt even in the louder moments, it’s all impressive for the entire two hours and for a track that’s only churning out music, Fantasia can be more dynamic than a lot of recent movies I’ve reviewed.
With a whole host of Disney trailers on the disc advertising Disney 3D Blu-ray, Lion King and Bambi coming to Blu-ray next year and the pretty looking Tangled to name but a few, Disney go about making me excited for another years’ worth of releases.
The ‘Disney Family Museum’ (04:06 HD) has Walt Disney’s daughter introducing us to the Walt Disney Museum and some of its many gems.
‘The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure’ (13:51 HD) is a closer look at Walt Disney's idea’s behind the Fantasia project and a look at the archival books that showed how some of the animated effects were achieved. This really is great stuff, especially if you want to see some of the ground-breaking ideas used to make the movie in a time where animation was being pushed into whole new areas.
The ‘Interactive Art Gallery’ lets you look at the artwork from Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 pretty much however you want to. Large, small, in a slideshow, stuff like that. It was a little annoying but there’s plenty to look at.
Lastly there’s the commentary with Disney Historian Brian Sibley, the original DVD commentary, interviews and 'Story Note' recreations by Walt Disney himself (all hosted by John Canmaker to make it a little less bizarre) as well as a third commentary with Roy E Disney, conductor James Levine, animation historian John Canemaker and film restoration manager Scott McQueen. All of the tracks are pretty history-lesson based and all feel quite scripted as opposed to loose and fun but all provide oodles of facts and figures about the movies and for those who want it, will provide a complete history of the movie and more.
There's also a DVD copy in keeping the Disney's cross compatibility across your systems.
I’m not going to lie to you, Fantasia feels more dated as every year passes by. Artistically it’s astonishing in places, but this is a seventy year old animated movie and for all its nostalgia, the techniques used have for the most part been eclipsed in the years since its release, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because to me that’s what should happen to a Fantasia movie. It presents the current playing field of artists at their best and shows off a project that’s achievements should be matched and improved upon. Disney has more than done that in the years since and with the Fantasia 2000 project sixty years later they set another level for Disney artists to aspire to (have you seen the ‘Firebird Suite’ on that? That’s one of the finest animated shorts ever to grace our screens).
The disc looks and sounds great and has the usual host of solid Disney features (though it's not quite the package the 2001 box set was), but should you buy it though? If you love animation, yes you should (though make sure to buy the Fantasia/ Fantasia 2000 double pack as opposed to the single movie—it's a tiny bit more expensive but it'd be silly not to), however, if you want it to sit the kids in front of something and go about your business you might want to stick to Toy Story.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable for all
Release Date: 8th November 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Aspect: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: DTS-HD Mater Audio 7.1 English, DTS 5.1 Spanish, DTS 5.1 Dutch, Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Polish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Hebrew
Subtitles: English, English HOH, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Hewbrew.
Extras: Commentaries, Featurettes, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Mickey Mouse
Genre: Animation and Musical
Length: 124 minutes
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