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Fantasia


I have vivid memories of attending a re-release of Fantasia as a child, settling in my seat with glowing eyes, and promptly falling asleep. I don’t consider this a criticism of the film, which may be the most daring artistic accomplishment in Walt Disney’s career. Fantasia is like a dream. It mesmerizes its audience with movement, colour, and sound, and sometimes it runs away with its audience’s consciousness. The images and music never leave that consciousness, and all the songs are now attached to the images permanently. Unsurprisingly, it took time for Fantasia to catch on. Ahead of its time is a brutal understatement. It’s almost impossible to judge the film on the level of any normal film anymore, it’s so abstract at times. It is episodic I suppose, but even though we all have our favourite pieces, it’s hard to judge the pieces outside of the whole. It’s not total perfection – personally I could do without the introductions, which stop the dream-like flow, and give away everything that we’re about to see. The live action scenes look gorgeous, but I’ll forever doubt they were needed.

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Fantasia 2000


Fantasia 2000 is also most noteworthy for its technical achievements. Many readers probably don’t remember that IMAX theaters used to be reserved for IMAX films – mostly short form nature docs – and that ‘real’ movies weren’t ever formatted for being shown on the extra big screen. Disney made Fantasia 2000 specifically for the IMAX system, and took a chance on losing a lot of money. Back in Arizona, IMAX was the only way to see the film. Fantasia 2000 also pioneered some computer generated effects (apparently completed before Pixar’s release of Toy Story). Fantasia 2000 is better than expected, minus the forced celebrity cameos and narration. This is actually the first time I’ve seen the film and I’m quite impressed with the differentiation of styles, especially the Al Hirschfeld inspired version of Rhapsody in Blue, which is probably my favourite. It’s not as magical as the original, but Fantasia 2000 is a worthy six decade’s late follow-up for the most part.

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Video


Fantasia comes framed in its original 1:33 framing, which made me wish I owned a bigger television. I don’t think I ever noticed how vertically based the whole film was, and this new 1080p transfer is enough to make you want to look up to experience the visuals. The major advantages here are sharpness and colour brightness. The frame is still about as dusty as the old DVD release, but the grain is finer. Some pieces, like the Nutcracker Suite, are meant to be a bit soft in places, but the harder lined animation looks quite sharp. Like Pinocchio and Snow White this increase in detail gives away some of the tricks, and can be a little overwhelming, but Fantasia is such a visually intense experience it’s fun to peak behind the curtain. There is some edge-enhancement on the live action silhouettes, which are otherwise most impressively clean, and almost unimaginably colourful. Those that really want every inch of their 16:9 set filled have a Disney View option, which frames the 1:33 with semi-effective changing edges.

Fantasia 2000 is the more impressive transfer, but the 60 year difference in release date may have a little something to do with that. The opening number, which is visually abstract, is possibly one of the best reference level sequences I’ve ever scene. You aren’t going to get an idea of realistic fine detail, but the abstract shapes and colours are so intense and complex there’s no way the DVD version can handle the overload. The computer colour enhanced animation is kind of the complete opposite of that sketchy original film look, and better maintained to ensures basically zero grain. Fantasia 2000 was made to be seen big, in the highest possible detail levels available at the time (which I’m pretty sure haven’t changed since even the early days of IMAX). With detail this intense it’s easy to visually separate the animation elements, which adds a little to the whole experience.

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Audio


This DTS-HD Master Audio track starts strong with a surround sound attack version of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. The movement and fidelity are so impressive I’d even suggest using the track as a volume test for your speaker system. On the other hand, these attempts of integrating surround into the system are often botched and confusing, especial during the second half of The Nutcracker Suite. At its worst the mix is floppy, and features major discrepancies in volume. Ideally the 1956 re-issue 4 channel track, or one of the six channel releases, could’ve been used as well for balance. Fantasia 2000 was designed with IMAX in mind, so there’s a whole lot of surround and directional moments, starting with the intro, which weaves narration from the first film into the channels, to the bit where Mickey checks all the channels for Donald Duck. The surround enhance score is more consistent and bombastic. I have no complaints concerning mis-mixed channels or volume inconsistencies.

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Extras


Extras start with three separate audio commentary tracks. The first track features Disney historian Brian Sibley solo. This is the hard fact track, and Sibley comes well prepared. Track two is the original DVD commentary with various Disney interviews, moderated by John Canemaker. This is an equally valuable track is great for the history buffs. Track three is another DVD original featuring Roy Disney, conductor James Levine, John Canemaker, and film restoration manager Scott Macqueen. This track is a little excessive after the other two tracks, but doesn’t cover all the same information, and does feature some important voices.

Additional features begin with ‘Walt Disney Family Museum’ (4:05, HD), which plays like an ad or infomercial. The museum apparently covers all aspects of Disney’s life and times, from childhood to successful artists/businessman. Next, is ‘The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure’ (13:50, HD) which covers the museum’s Fantasia entries, all from a single designer’s documentation. This featurette is full of information concerning the film’s special effects. The disc also features an interactive art gallery and sneak peak trailers.

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000
Fantasia 2000 features two commentary tracks. The first features Roy Disney, conductor James Levine, and producer Don Ernst. This isn’t the most exciting track, but there isn’t a lot of blank space or wasted time. The second track features a mix of directors and art directors set to each segment. These conversations are a little more technical, but don’t repeat too much information, and is generally more entertaining than the first track.

‘Musicana’ (9:20, HD) is a featuette that covers the time between films, and what finally brought the series back. ‘Musicana’ was the name of the first realistic shot at continuing the series, but the film never made it past the concept level. The featurette features interviews, production art, and photos of the ‘lost masterpieces’. Next up is a ‘found masterpiece’, or ‘finally finished masterpiece’, Salvador Dalí and Disney’s one and only collaboration Destino (6:30, HD). The surrealist work looks great in HD video, but the mono sound is very low-resolution, due to the original material’s ‘authenticity’. ‘Dali and Disney: a Date with Destino‘ (1:22:30, HD) is the most substantial extra on the disc, and discusses the unlikely making of Destino, and juxtaposes Dali and Disney’s lives up to the meeting, then runs through the work Dali did with the studio. Why the most substantial featurette is concerned with an extra animated short, and not either Fantasia is a mystery. The disc also features sneak peeks, and the Disney Virtual Vault, a collection of featurettes and art from both movies. These play on a small, framed screen, and are very similar to the making of featurettes that came with the original DVDs.

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Overall


Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 is another must buy Blu-ray for Disney animation fans. The original movie is still a classic, and the semi-sequel is an enjoyable enough follow-up for the slightly inflated price (it’s practically an extra feature). The video quality of both films is just about as perfect as perfect can be, and Fantasia 2000 sounds great. There are some minor issues with the surround sound and volume levels on Fantasia, and outside the commentary tracks extras are a little disappointing, but the collection still comes highly recommended.


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