It seemed appropriate to start this review with those words because this could have been great. Indeed it has moments of greatness but Fantasia 2000 certainly didn’t work for me.
Out of 38 films I’ve only given 6 A+ so far (and 6 D’s, 17 A’s so all you that think I’m too harsh please!). Those 6 are: Fantasia, Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians, Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. All 6 I would not change in any way. To me they are perfect.
Yeah, I know. I know. You out there think the original Fantasia is boring. I’ve heard it a million times. Those of you who find it boring would you also find going to a classical music symphony orchestra for the night boring? It’s ok. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I love it.
What made the first one special is it was a concert. It took itself very seriously as a concert. But then you got these amazing images to go with the concert as almost like a bonus. So instead of putting out $150 to go to a gallery opening and a symphony you could pop in Fantasia and enjoy both (well, go to the movies back then but still it was cheaper and easier than a symphony and museum).
That’s what I think most people get wrong with Fantasia. They approach it as a movie, but it’s not really. It’s a concert performance art piece, and as an adult it blows me away.
Now we get to the problem of Fantasia 2000. It’s a clip show not a concert. Everything from the laughably short segments, to the celebrity introductions, to the less than iconic music choices, make it feel like a clip show not a classical music experience.
This would be ok I guess if the animation was great. Unfortunately with the exception of 2 segments it falls woefully short (well 3 if you count replay of Sorcerer’s Apprentice).
The main problem is the reliance on CGI and at this point the technology just doesn’t hold up. Everything looks like plastic instead of art, and I did not feel creatively inspired or challenged by it at all.
By the way, the original is 2 hours which I recommend people divide up. If length is the only barrier than watch a segment a day!
Fantasia 2000, on the other hand, is technically 75 minutes but if you take out the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the lame celebrity introductions it is well under an hour, which again makes it feel less of a concert experience and more of a 1 hour television show on Disney channel.
So, let’s talk about the segments:
1. Beethoven’s 5th-
This is probably trying to pay homage to the Toccata in Fugue of the original where we see animated lines and shapes. Here we get paper butterflies dancing around.
This segment is fine but it is frustrating because Beethoven’s 5th is one of the most iconic songs ever written and I find it amazing they couldn’t think of anything darker, more foreboding than triangles flying around. It doesn’t expand upon the music or give me something exciting.
Beethoven’s 5th would have been great for a On Bald Mountain-like sequence with thunder and lightning. It’s so menacing there are a million ways they could have gone but triangles? It doesn’t make sense to me.
Then we get the first of our celebrity introductions. With the exception of Quincy Jones these are all lame, usually joking and making terrible puns. This again adds to the clip show feel and takes away from the concert environment. Honestly just fast forward through them, especially Pen and Teller introducing The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (ridiculous. Show’s they were treating this like a lark and not a serious work of art).
I’m going to ignore those for the rest of the review but for the record we get Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Bette Midler, Penn and Teller, James Earl Jones, Quincy Jones, and Angela Lansbury.
2. Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi-
This segment is frustrating because it is a clever concept with some beautiful images but then the whales begin to fly and the cgi also takes flight. It looks like plastic whale figures not art. The music is pretty but I just didn’t like the look of the whales.
3. Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin-
Done in the style of Al Hirschfield’s caricatures with Gershwin’s music (think United Airlines theme song!) is by far the best segment of the movie. It is artistic. and interesting to look at. The music is well performed and I enjoyed it.
It tells the story of a day in the life of New York City and moves from one vignette to another.
It is also seems to me to be the longest segment which is a good thing since it is the best. I couldn’t find a complete clip but here’s some of the best parts:
4. Piano Concerto No 2 in F Major- I. Allegro by Dmitri Shostak-
I really don’t understand their music choices. Why not do Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi? Classical music with real heft to it. Most of these songs I had never heard of before.
This segment tells a story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier and it is basically about a one-legged toy soldier, a mean jack-in-the-box and a ballerina.
It would be fine but the CGI looks terrible, especially on the Jack in the Box. These kind of special effects just haven’t aged well and the story is not interesting enough to overcome the bad look. Either way it certainly isn’t art like the original.
Another piece of music I had never heard of and this segment is incredibly short. I swear it was under 5 minutes.
It is about a flamingo and a yo-yo .
It is in obvious homage to the hippo ballerinas but the thing about them is they didn’t know they were funny. They were hippos dancing taking it completely seriously. That made it funny and amusing.
The carnival is just a piece of classical music, not a ballet so it is music with a flamingo and a yo-yo (why not do something with Yo-yo Ma? That would have been funny?)
6. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas-
Biggest mistake they made in this movie was including the iconic Sorcerer’s Apprentice piece from the original. It showcases the artistic and musical weakness of the pieces we’ve been watching.
7. Pomp and Circumstance- Marches 1,2, 3-
Now after seeing Mickey it will be great to see Donald in a piece, right? Well, kind of. This segment isn’t awful but it isn’t the Sorcerer’s Apprentice either.
Pomp and Circumstance is like the wedding march, so associated with an event, graduation, that it is distracting to hear it accompanying anything else. It’s kind of like if you heard the melody for Jingle Bells as a country song. It just feels weird.
For some reason they decide to use the music to tell the story of Noah’s Ark with Donald Duck as Noah. This is a strange choice because Donald is an animal and the whole story is about animals going on the boat. Why is Donald the only animal that wears clothes? In fact, at the beginning Donald is naked on a hammock and he is embarrassed. Why aren’t the other animals embarrassed? I know I’m overthinking it but it was distracting from what little art was in the piece.
There is even a scene where Donald see’s 2 regular looking ducks getting on the Ark. Isn’t that so strange?
They get reunited and our scene is over.
I do like the light of the piece but not enough to think of it as art. Not enough to be blown away and inspired creatively.
8. Firebird Suite by Igor Stravinsky-
This is the other strong segment along with Rhapsody in Blue. It is a nice homage to the original that used Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring for the creation story (love that segment!).
Kind of like a combination of On Bald Mountain and the Nutcracker Suite in the original it tells the story of a Sprite who is waking up the world from Winter (like the fairies in the Suite of the original).
As she is waking up the earth she comes across a boulder that will not respond to her. She blows on it and inadvertantly wakes up the Firebird which is the spirit of the volcano.
If anything this segment is not long enough but it is lovely and comes closest to capturing the spirit of the original.
Originally Walt Disney wanted Fantasia to be a regular event with animators presenting concert films like they did documentaries and other features. Unfortunately the original did not make enough money so it was never attempted until Fantasia 2000.
What amazes me is why make such a half-hearted effort when you finally do decide to make the sequel? Why have all the celebrities making stupid jokes? Why do so much on the computer with CGI? Were they just so in love with the technology they couldn’t see its lazy look?
Why pick the music they picked when they could have been so much more epic? Why make everything light when you could have a mixture like a good concert should have? I mean they had Beethoven’s 5th for crying out loud!
I just wish they had taken the concert idea more seriously. Instead we got a clip show with mostly mediocre results.
And if you are going to be mediocre don’t remind us of the greatness in the middle with the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That just made it all worse.
Like I said I like Rhapsody in Blue and Firebird. The rest I could live without.
Overall Grade- D