I find it sort of ironic that this movie a) is called Fantasia 2000 but came out in 1999 (although I remember seeing it the summer of 2000…. so either I’m all screwed up or they are…) and b) this movie is what caused the end to the Disney Renaissance. The first is a classic. Sure I don’t like it too much, but everyone knows Fantasia. You would have thought that would have been enough to at least make this a movie that made money. But… it didn’t. It actually came in a full $20 Million dollars under its budget. Yeah… that’s not good.
So why did it falter? I honestly have no idea. The first tanked as well only to become more popular after coming out on video. Maybe this is just one of those movies that people just don’t go see in a theater. The first one is long. Maybe parents didn’t think their kids could sit for it? Maybe they didn’t think they’d enjoy it? No idea. But this movie is shorter (more along the lines of other Disney movies at 74 minutes long) and arguably more kid friendly.
The “Kid friendly” vibe is why people also hated this movie. I know lots of people who can’t stand this one even though they love the original. They can’t stand that it’s toned down for kids (is it?). They can’t stand that they almost forcefully tried to recreate a classic. They can’t stand that they tried to make Donald the new Sorcerer Mickey. They say that there’s no emotion and no feeling in the pieces like there was in the original.
Here’s what I say to them: Walt always wanted Fantasia to be an ongoing piece. He wanted to add to it as time progressed, using new musical pieces and new animation techniques. Imagine being an animator and being told you’re going to do another Fantasia. Holy crap I would be not only incredibly excited, but I would feel immense pressure. To be a part of something like this is magical. If you don’t see the emotion, then you’re not listening to the music correctly. As for toning it down for kids – I view this movie not only as an immensely unique piece of animation, but as a way to introduce classical music to kids in a way they will enjoy. This movie arguably does that better than the first.
So as you can tell, I like this one arguably better than the first, but is it really? I’m going to try and be removed as much as I can with this one. Let’s dive in:
#1: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor – I. Allegro con brio by Ludwig van Beethoven
They say in the movie that this is similar to the first one in the first Fantasia, where it paints a series of pictures that don’t necessarily tell a story. I hate to break it to you, Disney. This definitely tells a story. You have characters, drama, etc. Learn what your own terms mean! Other than that this one is…. eh. It’s my least favorite in the whole movie. The animation is still cool. I personally don’t think it fits the music as well as it could, nor do I think this is what I’d think of when I listen to this music, but obviously one animator did. I also find it disappointing that they only used one of the movements.
#2: Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi
I will say that this movie did tend to use songs that are more popular or at least known to the general public. This one was one of the few I did not know going into the movie (I was 15 at the time so I guess I know my classical music?). The music itself is beautiful. I love Respighi’s pieces, and this one I was pleasantly surprised with. I also personally like this “story.” I know what people are going to say: It makes no sense, it’s weird, what the hell happens to the whales at the end, etc. I just have one question: why does this have to make any sense? It’s like a dream. You listen to music, see a story, and it just happens. Yes this one is weird, but it’s also touching too. Whales with magic to fly that end up going to the sun and back in the water (are they all dead? who knows who cares?). The part where the little whale gets separated always gets me.
#3: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
I’m torn between saying this is my favorite in this movie or if it’s one that comes later. This segment is the longest and by far the most unique. It’s drawn in Al Hirschfeld’s style and set in depression-era NYC. I love the animation. I love the story lines of all the different characters. I love the way they interconnect. I love the way the music fits to it. It’s lively and animated music, and it’s perfect. A definite favorite that I could watch over and over.
#4: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major I – Allegro by Dmitri Shostakovich
This piece is used as the music for the Hans Christian Anderson tale The Steadfast Tin Soldier, and apparently the animators knew they wanted to do this short and went and searched for a perfect piece of music for it. I personally always thought the artistic process is the other way around, but who am I to judge? The music fits well, to the point you can’t picture anything else when you hear those little drums. The animation is beautiful (even if you can blatantly tell it’s CGI), and I like the story.
#5: The Carnival of the Animals, Finale by Camille Saint-Saens
I’m starting to see a trend. Why did they only use the finale? This is literally like, 2 minutes long. Yes the whole Carnival of the Animals is fourteen movements and 25 minutes long, but couldn’t they have picked a few and strung them together? or done the whole thing? Has anyone ever listened to all of it? it’s amazing and awesome. Can you imagine what they could have come up with with that? Ah well. In this we get a flamingo playing with a yo-yo instead of fitting in. It’s short but hilarious. I want a movie on this whole segment.
#6: They inserted The sorcerer’s apprentice in here. If you want to know my thoughts on that, read my Fantasia review. I’m not going to reiterate it.
#7: Pomp and Circumstance, Marches 1, 2, 3, and 4 by Edward Elgar
This one seems incredibly silly, and to a point, seeing the animals march off the arc to the graduation music IS silly. But it’s amazing how well the rest of the music flows. It’s unbelievable. I know that Disney was trying to make another Sorcerer’s apprentice, and it didn’t work, but what they got is still good. It’s still a cute short with everyone’s favorite angry duck and his role in Noah’s arc. It’s funny and touching. Even if it’s still kinda funny….
#8: Firebird Suite – 1919 version by Igor Stravinsky
For those people who say that this movie has no emotion, I point them to Fantasia 2000’s final piece. This is by far my favorite of the entire movie, and it is unbelievable how beautiful this is. I still remember my aunt leaning over to me in the theater after a close-up of the Elk’s eye and whispering “that… that’s why I don’t eat meat.” Yes that’s random but it shows so much emotion on the animator’s part. The spring sprite also conveys her emotion well. The depiction of the volcano spirit as a firebird is corny but works, and this is one that you don’t know will have a happy ending or not. You get beauty, drama, sadness, hope… all of this in 5 minutes. I always tear up during this piece. The music is gorgeous and fits perfectly. This is the one segment that could have easily been in the original movie. Job well done*
So there we go. This movie does have a lot more of the legitimate story segments, and maybe that’s what people are upset about. Personally, those were always my favorites in the original, so having more of that type makes this movie more enjoyable for me. Is it groundbreaking or classic like the first? no. I enjoy it more, but it is just a retread. They used more popular songs and in all honesty except for a few segments, the animation isn’t anything more or less than their movies. Yes they used CGI on some and hand drawn on others, but if you look at the detail that went into some of the segments in the original you’d be blown away. Maybe I’m being picky, but remember, I like this one better…
I give Fantasia 2000 (1999) a 3.7 out of 5. Still solid work.
Next up: Dinosaur (2000)
If they ever do another one, I want them to just use Holst’s The planets. You could do a whole movie on those songs. Just a thought.
*The last shot of that segment looks an awful lot like Mt. St. Helens. Does anyone know if that’s what they based it on or is it just some random volcano…?