Directed by: James Agar, Samuel Armstrong, Eric Goldberg, Don Hahn, and more.
Presented by Walt Disney
“Here the sensitive strains of impressionistic music combine with the subtle artistry of the animator to finally answer that age old question: What is man’s relationship to nature?”
James Earl Jones introducing a segment in Fantasia 2000
Finally, the original 1940’s animated classic Fantasia and the follow up film Fantasia 2000 have made the journey to Blu Ray? How great is it? Let’s explore, shall we?
Some people have referred to the original 1940 film Fantasia as the first music video. That title, for this film, is dismissive. The original animated film was a tour de force of ambition, creativity and music.
Walt Disney’s original intent for the film was to provide an experience of classical music and animation and every few years, insert new segments into the film. Upon its initial release, theaters even encouraged “fancy dress” and reserved seats in the theater for the animated classical music fest.
The original Fantasia included the following segments:
Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor accompanied by an impressive mix of live action and abstract animation, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite accompanied by animated fish, fairies, flowers and other naturalistic elements, Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Mickey Mouse trying to cast spells in order to get his chores done, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring accompanies animation that tells the story of earth’s formation and dinosaurs, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony accompanies a classic Greek mythology story, Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours accompanies a fantastical dance of a hippo and some ostriches and finally Mussogorsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Schubert’s Ave Maria accompanies animated gothic imagery and scenes of ghosts and graveyards.
The updated Fantasia 2000 consisted of seven new animated segments and retained the original 1940 segment The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The new version included music from everyone from Beethoven, to Gershwin and Shostakovich and answers the question: What happens when you give a flamingo a yo-yo?
I enjoyed both the original Fantasia and the newer Fantasia 2000. They represent a beautiful union between classical music and animators working at the top of the creativity and artistry.
Through research I learned that when the original film was released, it was not the box office success that Disney had hoped for. Some critics have even called the film “kitschy”. That is not my opinion. Since its original release, this film continues to find new fans and enthusiasts every year. How many films can say that?
If you have not discovered this animated classic, now is your time. This is simply the way to see this film, outside of a theater. This film has never looked better or sounded better. Put it on your shopping list and pile up on the couch this weekend in front of the TV. and prepare to be dazzled.
The restoration on the original 1940 film is reported to have taken a year to complete. You can see the blood, sweat and tears in every frame of the film. It looks absolutely spectacular. Both the 1940 and 2000 films look breathtaking in AVC encoded anamorphic widescreen. The colors are eye popping and the black levels are highly impressive. There is not one instance of edge enhancement, digital noise or grain.
Both films are presented in 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio. These films sound as good as they look. The music is well mixed and immersive. The dialogue is crystal clear. I cannot say enough good things about how this film is presented, in both audio and visual.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The films are presented in a standard blu ray amaray case encased in a cardboard slipcase with a nifty picture of your old pal Mickey Mouse on the cover.
There is a plethora of bonus material offered in this release, so let’s dig in.
On the 1940 Fantasia disc, the following bonus material is offered:
Three audio commentaries are offered and feature everyone from Roy E. Disney to Disney historian Brian Sibley and Film Restoration manager Scott MacQueen.
Disney Family Museum is a look at the new museum in San Francisco, California. The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure is a look at Herman Schulthesis, a member of the camera effects team at Disney and his notebook he kept during his time working on the film.
Finally, there is an Interactive Art Gallery to peruse.
Now, on to the bonus material for Fantasia 2000:
There are audio commentaries from Roy Disney, James Levine and Don Ernst. There is also a commentary provided by the art directors of each segment.
Musicana is a look at a promising project from Disney that sadly never came to pass.
Dali and Disney: A Date with Destino is a feature length documentary that explores the meeting of famed painter and Salvador Dali and Walt Disney and what took place.
Destino is a fantastic 6 ½ animation by French director Dominque Monfrey.
Disney Virtual Vault is a BD Live feature that accommodates all of the video based bonus material that was found on the original 2000 DVD Anthology Set. The only drawback is that you have to have an internet connected Blu Ray player or you can’t access this material.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
The Films 9/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 10/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 10/10
Overall ( Not an Average) 9/10