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"Fantasia/Fantasia 2000": {Four Disc Blu-Ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Walt Disney
Genre:
Family
Release Date:
12/10/10
Special Features:

5 commentary tracks, featurettes, documentary, incomplete film, BD-Live Rating: G

Review:

One of Disney's crown jewels and one of Walt's favorite films while still alive, "Fantasia" was also one of the most ambitious attempts to break out of the children's ghetto of entertainment that animation had been boxed into since the first animated shorts after "Gertie the Dinosaur" from the silent era. ***

"Fantasia" took the form of animated pieces designed to be integrated with classical and contemporary classical music pieces. At the time it was a bold idea; it's not like classical music hadn't been used before in animation but it was always to highlight a cartoon primarily designed for light entertainment. While "Fantasia" isn't perfect like a lot of ambitious films it is to be recognized for jumping outside of the ghetto that had it had been assigned to by critics who felt animation was beneath serious consideration. An essential stepping stone to establishing animation as an art form "Fantasia" deservedly gets recognition by Disney as well in this deluxe 4 disc edition that includes the original film as well as the 2000 edition. ***

Consisting of six segments covering a variety of times and mythologies, "Fantasia" features abstract shapes moving to "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" opening the film (after we are introduced to the orchestra, etc.) then moves on to Greek mythology to the strains of Beethoveen's "Pastoral Symphony" moving to a very unconventional rendering of "The Nutcracker" featuring dancing alligators dancing around trying to capture madien hippos (for dinner or for dance...you decide what the true subtext is). We then move on to "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" one of the segments that inspired Walt to create the rest of the film (this segment provided the genesis for much of what was to follow as it was designed literally as a showcase for Mickey Mouse since the popularity of the character--Walt's favorite--had slipped with the onslaught of other characters from a variety of other studios and even Disney characters). The film concludes with two startling segments "Night on Bald Mountain" (with a cameo by the Devil himself and who did Disney use as their model for the Devil in reference live action footage but "Dracula" actor Bela Lugosi himself) to the soothing strains and peaceful, serene animation of "Ava Maria" providing a slow gentle landing after a speedy trip through a variety of music sources, sounds and often startling imaginative images. ***

In the late 90's plans began to do a follow up to "Fantasia" as a way to celebrate and extend the original film. Designed with a more contemporary audience in mind "Fantasia 2000" picks up with ball and allows different narrators to introduce each segment (celebrities no less) and while this quality has dated the film somewhat it also makes it unique. It make lack the consistency of having a single narrator at the helm but each narrator (Steve Martin, James Earl Jones, Bette Midler, Quincy Jones, Itzhak perlman) gives each segment a unique flavor and introduction. *** Opening with another somewhat abstract work to Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5" and moving on to a new version of Hans Christian Anderson's story of the Tin Soldier with "Piano Concerto No. 2" providing the background music and inspiration and then jumpin to Donald Duck (he had to have his segment, too--after all Mickey got his own in the original) in a telling of Noah's Ark set to the unusual choice of "Pomp and Cirumstance" . We also get two animated segments on "Destino" a segment meant for the original "Fantasia", storyboarded but cut prior to completion. ***

The only complaint that I have with this set is that Disney has chosen to edit the "Pastoral Symphony" portion of "Fantasia" once again. There was a "step'n'fetchit" centaur that appeared in the original version of the film that has not been seen for 40 years. Disney has chosen to be sensitive to those who might be offended by the stereotype which was typical of the era. I disagree with Disney's decision to not include this footage. As Warner did with their shorts that featured stereotypes, the best approach here would to include it on some editions for historical purposes and those that want to see it accessing it via seamless branching technology much as rated and unrated versions of films are done. I understand why Disney elected to exclude it but they didn't HAVE to do so with proper context. Eliminating it is like trying to eliminate the history of the Japanese inturnment camps that America set up during World War II while it did reflect racism it also reflected what was going on in the world and the perceptions of the time of White America. It's a mistake NOT to include it or make (much as it is a mistake NOT to make "Song of the South" available on home video) available and uses a broad brush to eliminate a part of the film that reflected the sentiment, beliefs and values of those at the time the film was made. As a form of historical revisionism it does a disservice to classic films everywhere and shouldn't be permitted. The viewer should ultimate be able to decide whether or not they want to see this footage NOT Disney. As someone that ages ago worked at the UCLA Archieves where rare and classic films were kept I'm a firm believer that ALL films should be accessible to the mature, intelligent viewer that were made for mainstream American consumption. ---

Image & Sound:

Wow. As with all of Disney's cel based animated films or CGI releases "Fantasia" and "Fantasia 2000" look positively brilliant. Using 1080p AVC encoding for both films make them state-of-the-art. Add in the fact that these were scanned in at 2K and you have two rich, brilliant looking films that have a level of detail revealing things that we've never seen before and that would include most of the theatrical presentations. Both of these titles have never looked this great before in ANY format. Colors are also rendered more accurately than ever before although some of the choices could be questioned (some of the decisions about color saturation obviously occurred during the transfer stage for both films), on the whole both look vibrant and richer than ever before in a good way. ***

Blacks are deep and rich while contrast looks very balanced particularly when compared to the previous home video DVDs. ***

Audio sounds brilliant for both as well with the edge going to "Fantasia 2000" simply because the recording technology had improved remarkably nearly 60 years later. ---

Special Features:

For "Fantasia" we get three audio commentaries one of which includes the late Roy Disney discussing the making of Walt's magnum opus. The other commentary track is ported over from the original DVD edition. Brian Diblet is featured in a new commentary track pointing out a wide variety of trivia giving the film context. ***

We also get "Disney Family Museum" presented in HD as well as "The Schulthesis Notebook: A Disney Tresure" giving us production drawings, storyboards, etc. to give us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the production of this classic. ***

Likewise "Fantasia 2000" has multiple audio commentary tracks two in this case featuring the directors and Roy Disney and others respectively. ***

"Destino" is a segment that gives us a glimpse into the brief collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney on concepts for this collaboration that remained unfinished. It's a stunning segment that gives us an idea as to what the duo might have achieved if Walt had moved forward from the storyboard phase of the project. We get to see various production drawings by John Hench. ***

"Musicana" shows us a revised version of "Fantasia" that might have taken flight in the 1970's featuring storyboards and pre-production drawings for this unrealized revision of the film. ***

"Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino" is a feature length documentary that elaborates on the featurette about "Destino" and goes into depth on the creation, production and issues that dogged the collaboration. At 90 minutes it's just one more reason to upgrade to this terrific set. ***

We also get BD-Live content for "Fantasia 2000" via the "Virtual Vault" allowing fans to see deleted segments, featurettes and other information about the making of the film. ---

Final Words:

A nearly comprehensive and perfect presentation of "Fantasia" and "Fantasia 2000" on 4 Blu-ray discs, this set could only have been improved IF Disney had included the visually altered segments from the "Pastoral Symphony" segment that have been missing for nearly 40 years. Yes, they aren't politically correct but the viewer really needs to make the decision about whether or not they want to (with the proper context) watch these sequences. Unfortuately, they have been visually edited out of this presentation using pan and scan motion and other techniques to remove the offending character. Highly recommended.

 

 
 
 
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