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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Title: Fantasia/Fantasia 2000
Starring: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor (Fantasia); Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Quincy Jones, Penn & Teller (Fantasia 2000)
Directed by: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong among others (Fantasia); Paul Brizzi, Eric Goldberg among others (Fantasia 2000)
Written by: Joe Grant, Dick Huemer (Fantasia); Eric Goldberg, Hans Christian Anderson (Fantasia 2000)
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Rated: G
Runtime: 125 Minutes (Fantasia); 75 Minutes (Fantasia 2000)
Release Date: November 30, 2010

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :4stars:
Overall: :4.5stars:

Webster's Dictionary defines the word "classic" as: of the first or highest quality, class or rank: a classic piece of work. Walt Disney's Fantasia probably should not be described as an instant classic, as the visionary format didn't receive widespread acclaim back in the 1940s. Combining vivid, colorful Disney animation with beautiful, storytelling orchestrated music, its popularity grew amongst perspective cult followers over the years and gradually developed into the revolutionary classic that we know it to be today.

Fantasia begins with the warm and charming narration of Deems Taylor. Taylor introduces the audience to Leopold Stokowski, the director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Under the direction of Stokowski, talented musicians create a beautiful sound stage for the artwork you will see on your screen. After each segment, we return to Mr. Taylor for introduction of the next piece. Lather, rinse and repeat.

The first segment is an abstract interpretation of what music may actually look like. Set to the infamous "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach, explosions of color, light and movement paint a beautiful and entrancing canvas. Next, we move to a more playful and dreamy scene of fairies and mushrooms dancing to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite."

This brings us to arguably the most popular and recognizable segment: Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Mickey Mouse is a young wizard, given a chore to do while his master is away. Using a loose knowledge of the sorcerer's magic, the apprentice finds a way to delegate his work out to a willing symbol of busy work while he catches up on some sleep. Once Mickey awakens, he realizes that not only has his seeking the easy way out created a huge problem, but also it's a problem that he's incapable of getting control over.

Some other segments you'll see in Fantasia include a musical sonograph called "Meet the Soundtrack," an evolution of our planet from the first living organism through the age of the dinosaurs, and a love story amongst several different creatures from Greek mythology. More memorable segments include a ballet of dancing ostriches, hippos, elephants and crocodiles that represent the morning, afternoon, evening and night. Finally, Fantasia closes with a contrasting scene both visually and musically. A monstrous, dark demon calls up skeletons, ghouls and lost souls from the underworld for an attack on a small village. This frightening scene is accompanied by the thunderous "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky. But, there's no need to worry. A group of ambitious monks send the beasties back to their graves as Fantasia ends with Franz Schubert's beautiful "Ave Maria."

Fantasia 2000
Fantasia 2000 (released in 1999) follows the same general format established by it's predecessor. A narrator introduces the upcoming segment just as before; only instead of having one narrator, the sequel employs a different celebrity narrator for each segment. Celebrities like Quincy Jones, James Earl Jones and even Bette Midler manage to keep a somewhat classy feel, while Steve Martin and Penn and Teller use humor to introduce their pieces. Personally, I prefer the classier feel of the original over somewhat cheesy attempts at humor, but children definitely may prefer the humorous approach.

Fantasia 2000 begins much like the original with an abstract expression of light and color. Set to Beethoven's "Symphony Number 5 in C Minor," geometric butterflies clash in a battle of light versus dark; good versus evil. The next segment is one of the most visually stunning of this disk in my opinion. Humpback whales swim, play and actually fly in harmony with Ottorino Respighi's "Pines of Rome." Leaping from the blue ocean, the giant animals splash together in balanced symmetry to crashing symbols and deep bass drums. You almost don't even notice the whales leave the water, fly through the blue sky and eventually into outer space with a thunderous finale. I know it sounds a little nutty, but trust me; It works.

Additional segments in Fantasia 2000 include a jazzy little number (George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue") where four very different people deal with life in an often harsh setting of 1930's New York City. Also, an emotional short story from Hans Christian Anderson portrays the heroics of a one-legged toy soldier whose aim is to save his true love from an evil jack-in-the-box. Another comical, but entertaining piece pits a yo-yo wielding flamingo against his flamingo pals who insist he conform with the group. The original "Sorcerer's Apprentice" also makes an encore appearance on this disk, but is presented exactly as in the original film.

Fantasia 2000 comes to a close in dramatic fashion with two stories that seem to fall right in line with the original aspirations of the late Walt Disney. The first finds Donald Duck working tirelessly to gather male/female pairs of each of the world's animals. With little time to waste, they march onto the arc (Noah's) to Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" right before the flood waters cover the area. However, during the rush, Donald realizes that he may have left his own love match, Daisy Duck, behind. The final segment mimics the finale of the original Fantasia. It's a story of good versus evil, life versus death, and spring versus winter. A beautiful and inspiring short story laid out to the music of Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" reminds us that from death "springs" life.

I firmly believe that you will naturally gravitate to one of these two films over the other. For different reasons, you may put in one disk more frequently than the other. Personally, I prefer the classic presentation, the rich, hand-drawn animation and my very own childhood nostalgia stemming from the original movie. Nevertheless, there are many reasons you may prefer Fantasia 2000. First of all, it's considerably shorter than the original at only 75 minutes long with each segment feeling shorter individually. This may help in keeping the attention spans of the young ones for the duration. Also, you may prefer the computer generated animation of the second film. The artistic techniques have obviously improved with the use of technology over time, but bear in mind, the animation in Fantasia 2000 still isn't comparable to that of Toy Story or Ratatouille for examples. Either way, both versions are unique in their own presentation while still complementing each other well.

Rated G and should be good for most all children, although some guidance is suggested for more frightening scenes like the finale's of both disks for example.

Video: :4stars:
Both the Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 restorations are exhibited in glorious 1080p high definition using the MPEG-4 AVC codec. Fantasia 2000 fills the screen with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio while Fantasia is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Before starting the original Fantasia, you will be presented with an option to watch with the black bars in tact or in "DisneyView." DisneyView places an abstract piece of artwork over the black bars and are meant to blend favorably with the video. Each bar-covering piece of artwork seems to be created specifically for the piece it accompanies, but doesn't change during the segment. I've seen the original Fantasia with the black bars dozens of times, so I opted to watch in DisneyView for this review. Sometimes they work well, seamlessly extending the artwork to the edges of the screen, but during many sequences, they can be quite distracting. That said, the black bars can also be distracting for many people, so I'm guessing the use of DisneyView will be up to your own personal preference.

Overall, the transfers of both these films are amazing. Words simply can not accurately describe the plethora of color your eyes will be bombarded with. Considering the age of the original Fantasia, I am amazed by the accuracy of the animation. Watching carefully, you can see the subtle imperfections in the artists' lines that are characteristic of individual frame drawn animation. Yet there is no noticeable source noise, a luxury which has become staple of almost all high detail-oriented Disney blu-ray restorations.

As stated before, there's a noticeable difference between the looks of these two movies. Hand drawn vs. computer generated artwork create an apples to oranges comparison between the animation of the two films. The important thing to understand is that in both restorations, colors are vibrant and highly saturated; images are sharp and clarity is fantastic; and contrast levels are deep with intense blacks. There are some imperfections, however. I noticed a few instances of color bleeding and edge enhancement in the original Fantasia In large part, these instances are inoffensive, and I do believe this comes with the territory when restoring an animated film of this age. I also encountered two instances of posterization while watching Fantasia 2000 during scenes where subtle gradients move into one another. Also mostly harmless to the viewing experience, you can still feel assured that both restorations are top-notch beautiful.

Audio: :5stars:
Both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 weigh in with highly impressive 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio tracks that can simply be described as reference quality. Imagine yourself at the symphony. Best seats in the house. Pretty good, huh? Now imagine yourself directly in the middle of the orchestra on-stage. This is where you'll find yourself while experiencing these two films. Completely enveloping surround sound, you'll hear trumpets blasting and drums pounding simultaneously with the crystal-clear resonations from pianos, harps and piccolos. You not only hear but can literally feel the music move around the room as all aspects of your sound system get a workout from your front soundstage to your surrounds to your subwoofer. LFEs are bountiful, especially in Fantasia 2000, and specifically during "Pines of Rome" and "Firebird Suite." Surrounds work overtime, not much with effects, but with pinpoint placement of instruments within the orchestra. This being said, a fun moment between segments will have you detecting Mickey Mouse in different rooms of your own house as he runs around looking for Donald, calling out his name. Many people will buy this blu-ray package specifically for the groundbreaking animation, but may be surprised as this audiophile-quality soundtrack steals the show.

Extras: :4stars:
  • Fantasia Audio Commentaries
  • Fantasia DisneyView Presentation
  • The Schultheis Notebook
  • Interactive Art Galleries
  • Disney Family Museum
  • Fantasia 2000 Audio Commentaries
  • Destino- In 1946, the mysterious surrealist artist Salvador Dali and Walt Disney collaborated on a previously unfinished animated short called Destino. Now finished and restored, Destino combines the stylized artwork of Salvador Dali with Disney animation to create a scene that's both creepy and captivating to watch. A must-see for Dali fans, and probably a little too much for some children.
  • Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino
  • Musicana
  • Disney's Virtual Vault- This is an online portal with hours and hours more special features. Internet connected BDLive required.
Overall: :4.5stars:
Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 are already must owns for animation aficionados. But, when you combine brilliantly restored video transfers with a reference-quality 7.1 lossless audio track, pack on a ton of special features, and throw in copies of both movies on DVD; this blu-ray combo pack becomes a must own for anyone reading this review. You won't be disappointed in video and audio that works together so seamlessly, you'll question whether the animation was created for the orchestration or vice versa. Walt Disney's original intention was to create Fantasia and to later create sequels that further advance his vision. Here's to hoping that the restoration of these two classics for all to experience again on blu-ray will inspire a third future installment in the series.

For the most part, your AV bookmarks for Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 are at chapter markers due to the format of the films. However, if you have a player that saves bookmarks, the following are some of my suggestions:
The Sorcerer's Apprentice- 29:49
Evolution of the planet/Dinosaurs- 42:42
The animal ballet- 1:37:01
"Night on Bald Mountain"- 1:50:27

Fantasia 2000
Humpback whales- 5:36
The toy soldier- 30:34
Donald and Daisy on Noah's Arc- 52:51
Spring to life- 59:32


577 Posts
Great review! One recurring theme with the Disney/Pixar Blu Rays is the top shelf audio and video quality. I wish more studios would get with the program.

By the way, I'm in the Fantasia camp. I love that movie. I'll need to add this to my Christmas list.

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