#38 Fantasia 2000 (1999)
The DVD version had a dedication to Roy E. Disney, which was sweet. He died in 2009, ten years after the film was released, and was one of the biggest supporters of Fantasia 2000. He wanted to continue the vision Walt had had of releasing a new Fantasia every certain number of years with new and old pieces mixed together – Roy started pitching the idea in the ‘70s, and what became Fantasia 2000 actually began development in 1990. It’s really a pity Fantasia 2000 didn’t succeed, and I don’t think it was set up for success – its first four months in theatres it was only available on Imax, and there were a lot fewer Imax theatres in 1999 than there are now. I remember my class in sixth grade taking a field trip 45 minutes away to see it in Imax. Anyway, by the time it hit wide release it had already been out for so long and I just don’t think that helped it be a hit.
There are a lot of behind-the-scenes politics tied to Fantasia 2000; because the executives at Disney were doubting Roy E. Disney (and Michael Eisner was trying to fire him as they did not agree on almost anything), they used the non-success of Fantasia 2000 as proof he didn’t know what people wanted and tried to sway support within Disney toward Michael Eisner. If you’re interested in Disney company politics I highly recommend the very long, in depth and detailed book, Disney War by James B. Stewart. I read it a few months ago and it was really eye-opening. You will learn more about Michael Eisner and the Disney company executives than you have ever cared to know, as well as a LOT of behind-the-scenes stuff about Disney animated features. I just came away liking Roy E. Disney more than anyone else and have since taken it sooooo personally that Fantasia 2000 wasn’t a HUGE hit.
So Fantasia 2000 follows the same format as the original - short animated pieces set to classical music, each with a different story, style, and tone. I sort of liveblogged these segments while I was watching - here are my thoughts on each.
Beethoven’s 5th: abstract, butterfly-type objects. Short and entertaining. Similar to the abstract piece in original Fantasia.A solid segment but not much to say beyond that.
Human hosts are maybe a bit dated now – Steve Martin, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, Penn and Teller jfc, (again, something that would be less noticeable if the original Fantasia concept had worked – each new version would have MCs relevant to the time released). I don’t know, they just don’t add much. It just comes off like the filmmakers were afraid the audience would be confused unless someone entertained them between each segment. It’s somewhat unnecessary.
Pines of Rome: Whales. Very good, just not my favorite – the CGI/hand-drawn combo is cool but hasn’t aged well – the whales look very stiff and obviously CGI compared to what could be done now, just 13 years later. There’s nothing unlikable about the piece, it just doesn’t capture my interest the way later pieces in the film do. The scene where they are all flying through the clouds is by far the best.
Rhapsody in Blue: Al Hirschfeld-inspired city scene. Directed by animator Eric Goldberg, who also based Genie from Aladdin on Hirschfeld’s work. YES. YES YES YES YES YES. This is the best thing. I just…. it’s the best thing. Sorry no it’s the best thing. Classic animation style, faaaaantastic use of the music, several characters have full, interlocking stories. I just. Listen. It’s so good.I really really like this one. The only segment I enjoy more is the Firebird segment. This one just shows how much the Fantasia format allows animators to play with style and theme and it’s just so well done.
Shostakovich: Steadfast Tin Soldier. Waaaaaah. Tearjerker, but lovely. Again, though, CGI is a bit stiff 13 years later. It works better here, as they are toys and would move stiffly anyway. Omg I can’t though, the soldier is so cute and then he thinks she has one leg too and then he’s sad but then she likes him anyway uuuuuughhhhhh. In the original Hans Christian Andersen tale, the soldier and the ballerina both fall in the fire and die, but in this version they don’t. Thankfully. Anyway, the soldier is so cute, I LOVE the shots of his face where his only reaction to what has happened is that he is either smiling or frowning. And that Jack-in-the-Box is terrifying.
Carnival of the Animals: Flamingos with yoyo. Funny, short, reminds me of Dance of the Hours from the original. Somewhat forgettable.
Sorcerer’s Apprentice: The Mickey segment from the original. Perf. Classic. For some reason it’s formatted differently than the rest of the movie, though. That’s a little annoying. I figure it’s because the rest of the movie was Imax and this part obviously wasn’t made that way, but it seems they could have made it full screen for the DVD? It’s smaller than my TV screen with a black frame all the way around it. Very distracting.
Pomp and Circumstance: Donald as Noah’s… assistant or something, idk. I like that Donald gets a starring role like Mickey does in Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and all the animals are cool. And Daisy gets to be in it too! Yay! The music choice is weird, and according to Disney War, Michael Eisner only suggested using Pomp and Circumstance because his son was graduating and he was exerting control over the project because of the aforementioned power struggle. Everyone hated the idea of using the piece and this storyline was settled on late into production. Seriously, you should read Disney War.
Firebird: Spring Sprite. Wlskdjgfa;gkjlkdjgalkfj;ldkjsdlkfjasldfkj PERFECT DON’T EVEN TALK TO ME. This segment is gorgeous. GORGEOUS. The sprite is beautiful, she needs to get WAY more play in Disney canon. UGH. The elk. UGH. This segment is PERFECT. Animation/coloring quite reminiscent of Rite of Srping, the Stravinsky piece from original Fantasia (dinosaurs), and firebird character (the volcano) is reminiscent of Chernabog, from the finale of original Fantasia.
If I had to rank the pieces, I think I’d say Firebird, Rhapsody in Blue, Steadfast Tin Soldier in that order are the standouts. Everything else is perfectly fine - there’s not one I’d say should have been flat out cut. Watching this again has just made me sad that the Fantasia concept overall was never pursued. If you haven’t seen it, please do. It’s really worth it.
Next Time: Dinosaur