05 September 2006

Ink Blots XXVIII - Fantasia 2000

September has sprung and with it, Ink Blots is ready for a new theme. This month I bring you Musical Movies (NOT to be confused with movie musicals).

First off is Fantasia 2000. This film was released January 1, 2000, the first film of the new millennium. Roy Disney had pushed for this follow up to the visionary classic 1941 film Fantasia. This project was given the green light after record revenues from video sales in the early 1990's and the overall success of Disney animation under Roy's directorship. So how did the film measure up?

Like the original, this film is divided into musical segments inspired by classical pieces. Beethoven's 5th Symphony gets the ball rolling with segment featuring dancing shapes of colors interplayed with dark shapes. A decent if not forgettable introduction.

Next up, Respighi's Pines of Rome. This delightful segment showcases a pod of whales splishing and splashing in the open sea, and then soaring through the air with the seagulls and then into the clouds. The humpback whale has not been given such respect since Star Trek IV. This piece is truly magnificent.

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue follows beginning with an etch-a-sketch feel, and then transforming into the style of animator Al Hirschfeld. During this segment, I was very distracted by the memory of United Airlines ads, but the story is sorta fun to watch. Set during the depression in New York, we are given a glimpse at several characters. I like this segment because it incorporates a different style of music into Fantasia without losing the "classical" feel, but the story is not my favorite.

Shostakovich, Piano Concerto # 2 Allegro Opus 102 features a steadfast tin soldier and an evil jack in the box, some rats, and various other perils. The soldier is one lucky SOB, who stays true, and gets the girl. A good segment.

Saint-Saens, Carnival of the Animals, Finale answers the question of what would happen if you gave a yo-yo to a flock of flamingos. Very charming and too short.

Dukas, The Sorcerer's Apprentice returns. It is fitting since this piece is probably the one most people think of from Fantasia 1. Its just as good here as it always had been.

Next, from Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance. Originally, Eisner had wanted this segment to feature various Disney characters "graduating" by presenting their babies at a big ceremony. The animators hated this idea partly because it implied that all of the Disney princesses had had sex, and partly because its just a pretty lame way to show the characters. The song too is not the best choice. It's not really timeless, in fact it was chosen since it was familiar to everyone who has ever been to at least a high school graduation. Here we are given the story of Noah's ark featuring Donald Duck. As usual, the Duck is outshined by the mouse, but still the animation here is superb, and the story is fun to watch. Also, after all his abuse, its nice to see Donald get a happy ending.

Stravinsky's Firebird Suite tells of life death and rebirth in a segment that rivals night on bald mountain for scariness. The conclusion of this piece is quite awe inspiring.

Overall, there are not really any stinkers, though Beethoven's 5th didn't do much for me. On the other hand, Pines of Rome and Firebird are masterpieces with Pomp and Carnival of the Animals being quite fun.

One thing that ruins some of the timelessness of this film are the various hosts who introduce each segment including Steve Martin, Bette Midler, and Penn and Teller!? Can we please keep pop culture out of Fantasia?

Fantasia does not seem to bring in the audiences. This film generated only $60 million (partly due to limited early releases in IMAX that prevented big crowds while buzz was at its highest), but I think most would agree that the idea is great. Perhaps shorts in the style of Fantasia should be produced and attached to Disney features. I would love to see the Fantasia project kept alive and not resurrected 60 years from now. As for this film, perhaps not as revolutionary as the original, but still worthy of a B+.


toast said...

This was a great movie. A bold move for Disney to make a movie that would not entail the normal merch cash grabs as their other features. They did this for the love of the animation medium.

I didn't like the live action bumps between shorts either.

I didn't know about the original Pomp and Circumstance pitch! Hillarious! But sex is already implied because Ariel has a kid in Little Mermaid 2. I think she is the only one though. The rest are still virgins.

Chip Chief said...

i read a bit about the history of this movie in the book Disney War. Overall, it was nice to see that Fantasia didnt get the shoddy treatment most of the oher classic's sequels did.