Sunday, January 25, 2015

Family Movie Night: Fantasia 2000

Title: Fantasia 2000
Directors: Don Hahn, Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Francis Glebas, Paul Brizzi and Gaëtan Brizzi
Original Release: 1999
Choice: Purple Penguin's
My Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
Three weeks ago, we watched the original Fantasia (review here).   Somewhat predictably, the Purple Penguin chose the sequel this week.  My Wife and I first saw Fantasia 2000 at an IMAX theater in New York City back in Y2K.



The second installment generally doesn't fair as well with the critics as the original does.  While I love it, I'm willing to admit the segments are uneven.  Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance are not especially memorable.  Both the flying whales in Respighi's Pines of Rome and the toys come to life in Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 are fun but I find their relationships to the music less convincing.  The inclusion of The Sorcerer's Apprentice is nice for nostalgia but I would have preferred all new material.  I still think those segments are good, mind you, just not great.

The remaining three segments, though, definitely meet or even exceed the standard of the original.  Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue is paired perfectly with the artistic style of cartoonist Al Hirschfeld.  The flamingo sketch for The Carnival of the Animals is short but sweet - a welcome dose of slapstick comedy.  Then, in the end, the masterpiece of the whole operation: Firebird.

If one seeks the roots of movie music in general, one need look no further than Igor Stravinsky.  He was the biggest influence on all of the epic film score composers, John Williams most of all.  In my professional experience, Firebird is an easy sell with kids.  Little explanation is required for its dramatic power.  For Disney, it inspired the death and rebirth of a forest brought on by a volcanic eruption.  The play between the spring sprite, her elk companion and the Firebird they accidentally awaken is an elegant and furious dance, ending with blaring, triumphant French horns as life is restored.  Either story or music would be potent alone.  Their perfect synthesis generates Fantasia magic at its very best.

A new, full-length Fantasia sequel is unlikely in the near future - too expensive and time-consuming for the modest financial profit.  A plan for Fantasia 2006 was abandoned, though a few individual segments were produced and distributed as shorts.  Perhaps it is a once every 60 years phenomenon.  Mark your calendars for 2060.

13 comments:

  1. The original Fantasia was astounding. It took my breath away. The 2nd one had elements (the whales) that were excellent. I would think it would be so difficult to beat out those two films. Another 60 years, as you said. I won't be here.

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    1. It's a stretch for me, too. If I can make it to 87, happy and healthy, I'll be very pleased.

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  2. I don't recall ever seeing Fantasia 2000. Loved the original, though.

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    1. Given the choice, I'd probably pick the original - the relationship between film and music is stronger. But 2000 is fun, too.

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  3. This is one Disney event I've never seen. Probably won't until I get some grandkids.

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    1. I think it's worthy of adult viewing, too.

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  4. When I saw it years back, and as I remember it (vaguely) now, 2000 may best be described as Disney's stab at art for the sake of art, which hardly anyone does in film. It's weird that nearly all movies are narrative-driven. It's a visual medium first and foremost. I like when someone like Terrence Malick comes along and tries to be a little impressionistic (Tree of Life being a wonderful example). Pixar tried that with WALL-E, but to a far lesser extent, ultimately, which to my mind greatly diminished the results.

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    1. (I apologize for the awkwardness of that first sentence. I should have just started from scratch, but didn't.)

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    2. If you should ever find yourself in Washington, DC with time on your hands, I highly recommend the Hirshhorn Museum. They nearly always have some interesting films going - films for the sake of visual art rather than story.

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  5. I still haven't seen the sequel out of stubbornness but I'd watch Fantasia 2060!

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  6. I haven't seen the original (which I have to see- it is on my list) nor the second one. I would love to watch both of them back to back (or at least in the same week). Thanks for sharing! :)
    ~Jess

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    1. Back to back... with a bottle of wine (juice for the kid)... sounds like a lovely afternoon...

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