Movie #39 in the Disney Animated Marathon brings the marathon completely up to date, finally!
Story By: Brenda Chapman, Eric Goldberg, Gaëtan & Paul Brizzi
Directed By: James Algar, Hendel Butoy, Francis Glebas, Eric Goldberg, Don Hahn, Pixote Hunt, Gaëtan & Paul Brizzi
It feels like it’s been aeons since I watched Fantasia, yet no matter how much time passes that film stays with me. I’ve loved The Great Mouse Detective, laughed heartily at The Emperor’s New Groove, had my jaw drop at the action in Bolt, and every emotion in between. No matter how many films I watch from the Mouse, none have bested Fantasia, it remains to this day not just a personal favorite but the best animated film Disney has ever brought into this world. This works against Fantasia/2000 from the word go, because try as I might I couldn’t shake the feeling that Fantasia/2000 was a vastly inferior version of Fantasia.
Just as I did with Fantasia, let’s take a look at the segments, because that’s the best way to dissect a film of this nature,
Things start off with Symphony No. 5 In C Minor-I. Allegro Con Brio, a piece by Ludwig van Beethoven. An abstract work of art, this segment goes by fast and remains simple. It’s simplicity is captivating though, because the entirety of the music is seen through the actions of the shapes. Unlike the rest of the segments where the visuals and the music work off of one another, Symphony No. 5 In C Minor-I. Allegro Con Brio presents a case of the visuals and the music melding into one.
Next is the first of many small interludes that involve human characters and their narrations that bridge the gaps between segments. These were, to be honest, unnecessary and a real drag. Steve Martin was easily the worst of any of the narrators, but I could have done without this feature entirely.
The film then moves into Pines Of Rome by Ottorino Respighi. Flying whales are at the core of this segment, and this begins the meat of the film. This segment also begins the move of the film from attempting to do something with the formula of Fantasia to staying as pedestrian and close to safe as possible. That’s not to say that Pines Of Rome is bad, it most certainly isn’t, but it feels reserved, instead of taking any chances the directors from here until the near end will go the safest route possible.
Rhapsody In Blue by George Gershwin is next on the docket. This piece didn’t do much for me, it was kind of fun and interesting to watch but I didn’t find myself caring much about what was happening on screen. It wasn’t until after Fantasia/2000 had ended that I realized my problems with this segment could be found elsewhere. The animation and music combination on display in Rhapsody In Blue reminded me too much of All The Cats Join In from Make Mine Music. They aren’t exactly alike, but they are enough alike that Rhapsody In Blue merely made me wish I was watching that segment from Make Mine Music.
The film then switches gears and delivers, Piano Concerto No. 2 In F Major-I. Allegro by Dmitri Shostakovich. I lied earlier, because this is the brief pause in the middle of Fantasia/2000 that thrills me. The story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier is full of wonderful shading and amazing crescendos where the music matches the animation in its attempts to exhilarate the viewer. Again, it’s not that most of Fantasia/2000 is bad, but it feels very pedestrian when compared to Piano Concerto No. 2 In F Major-I. Allegro and the other high water marks.
A short segment, The Carnival Of The Animals, Finale by Camille Saint-Saëns, is next to find its way on to the screen. There’s not much to say about this one, it’s short, it’s fun, and that’s honestly about it.
Now comes the major misstep to be found in Fantasia/2000, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas. This is the lone segment held over from Fantasia, and it shows. What I mean by that is that this segment made me yearn for the sheer awesomeness of Fantasia. Watching Mickey do his thing reminded me that I was watching something far lesser than Fantasia. As much as it wants to be more, Fantasia/2000 isn’t. It’s a collection of nice visuals accompanying amazing music that in turn creates a pleasant viewing experience. Fantasia was so much more than that, and watching The Sorcerer’s Apprentice just hammers home that fact.
Pomp And Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3 And 4 by Edward Elgar is all about Donald Duck. Essentially, if one digs Donald then they will dig this segment. The animation is well put together, and I happen to like the musical number a lot. But, this segment never moves past that pleasant experience factor I spoke of last paragraph. Still, I like Donald, so the segment passed my vigorous testing process.
Closing out Fantasia/2000 is Firebird Suite – 1919 Version by Igor Stravinsky. This is the third and final original segment in Fantasia/2000 that is truly powerful. Watching the birth, death, and rebirth of life given shape is wonderful. The segment is very similar to Night On Bald Mountain and Ave Maria from Fantasia, but I don’t point out the similarity in a derogatory way. Night On Bald Mountain and Ave Maria was the perfect way to end Fantasia, it brought together the great heights that Fantasia had reached for and achieved. Firebird Suite – 1919 Version gives off the same feeling, the key difference is that it speaks of heights only found in certain aspects of the film, not Fantasia/2000 as a whole.
Hopefully the breakdown I employed gives off the highs Fantasia/2000 has to offer as well as the reasons for why I don’t think it’s a great film. Fantasia/2000 is a pleasant experience and it is a well made film. It’s highs are really high and the rest of the film, minus the live action parts, are pleasant to take in. The highs combine with the pleasantness to form a film I would gladly call good and worthy of watching. Fantasia/2000 isn’t great though, it really wants to be, but while individual segments may reach a lever of greatness the film entire falls short.