Fantasia 2000 – The idea of updating Fantasia with new segments was thrown around ever since the first one came out, but it wasn’t until several decades later that they began to actually take form. This was actually my first viewing of the final product, released in…well, technically 1999, although only in select theaters. There are seven new segments this time, as well as the return of an old one, most of them introduced by celebrities. Playing the music this time around is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with James Levine conducting. Here are the individual parts:
- Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven) – Only the first movement, actually, so it’s not a very long segment. Like the opening of the original, it’s pretty abstract, featuring lightning and colors.
- Pines of Rome (Respighi) – A largely but not entirely computer-animated sequence, showing flying whales in an Arctic setting.
- Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin) – A late addition to the film but one of its most creative pieces, this one is drawn in the style of Al Hirschfeld, whose drawings were also inspirational for the Genie from Aladdin. It’s set in Depression-era New York, and follows a few different people who are basically misfits: a construction worker who wants to be a drummer, an unemployed man, a guy henpecked by his snooty wife, and a girl who isn’t very good at the activities in which her mother keeps enrolling her. There’s no need to worry, though, as there’s a happy ending for everyone. The animation on this one, in addition to being interestingly styled, is very rhythmic.
- Piano Concerto No. 2 (Shostakovich) – Disney had apparently wanted to do a musical short based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” for a long time, but couldn’t decide what music to use. They finally settled on this Shostakovich piece, which didn’t exist yet when such a short was first proposed. As with “The Little Mermaid,” it alters Andersen’s tragic story so that it has a happy ending, with the villain being burned in a fire instead of the soldier and his ballerina love. Andersen described the soldier’s nemesis as a goblin living in a snuffbox, but here it’s a creepy jack-in-the-box.
As bad as he might have been, I have to wonder what the boy thought when he found his jack-in-the-box burned up. Interestingly, a jack-in-the-box was also one of the things the overbearing wife in the previous segment bought for her dog.
- Carnival of the Animals Finale (Saint-Saens) – A short bit involving a flamingo with a yo-yo, and the other flamingos’ attempts to stop his hijinks. It bears some similarity to the “Dance of the Hours” segment from the original movie, and indeed was originally conceived with ostriches instead of flamingos.
- The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Dukas) – Yeah, this is obviously the returning old segment, starring Mickey Mouse. After the piece, we see the old clip of the shadowy Mickey talking to Leopold Stokowski, followed by new footage of a modern fully-animated Mickey chatting with Levine. I thought it was impressive how close the voices were, but then I found out the first bit was re-dubbed. Those cheaters! Oh, well. Anyway, Mickey then starts looking for Donald Duck, leading right into the next segment.
- Pomp and Circumstance (Elgar) – Yeah, the music they always play at graduation, accompanied by the story of Noah’s Ark. Donald and Daisy become separated on the boat, but meet up again after the flood.
Incidentally, this was the fifth significant appearance by Donald in one of the main Disney animated features, but only Mickey’s third.
- Firebird Suite (Stravinsky) – This one takes the title of the piece literally, but while the firebird in Stravinsky’s ballet helps out the hero, here he’s a destructive force of nature.
The whole thing is a story of death and rebirth, with a being called the spring sprite causing plants to grow, then the firebird destroying everything with a volcanic eruption. The sprite comes back to restore the land to its earlier pristine state, but how many lives were lost in the process? Well, not the elk, but I have to wonder what it thought of being the only survivor of an apocalypse. I guess he would have finally had time to read all the books he’d always wanted, except I don’t think elks can read. Anyway, the theme of destruction followed by renewal brings to mind the final segment of the original Fantasia, and makes a good way to end this one.
All in all, I’d say it’s a worthy follow-up to the first Fantasia, and I’m glad Disney returned to the idea after so much time. It’s considerably shorter than the original, however. I think they could have put in some more stuff, but maybe they purposely avoided doing that because they figured audiences had shorter attention spans than they used to.