Walt intended Fantasia to be an ongoing project. Take a segment out and replace it with something else, do that with three or four segments and put it back into theaters. Since Fantasia was not a smashing success, it never happened, and I think that’s probably a good thing. I don’t think many people would pay to go to a movie they’d already seen half of, not back then when movies didn’t get much repeat business. But now in the age of the DVD I think it might work. Not the replacement idea, a whole new movie composed of shorts interpreting classical music. Of course, they say the DVD era is ending, so maybe they should just make a short for every feature they release, like Pixar does.
This was the first Disney movie to be released in IMAX format. I didn’t see it that way; in 2000 there were not as many IMAX theaters as there are now. But it was good on a regular screen, too. Not as good as the original, I have to say. It’s also very short, only 75 minutes compared to 125 minutes for Fantasia … and at least 5 minutes of that is the endless end credits, which they didn’t have in 1940. I’ve wondered if IMAX was one reason to keep it short. As I recall, most IMAX films were around an hour or less, because the film itself was so massive there wasn’t room to store it all in the giant projection room. Obviously they’ve solved that problem, running films like Avatar. There were eight segments in this one, each introduced by a different person, from Quincy Jones to Bette Midler to Penn & Teller. Here’s the list:
Symphony No. 5 in C minor-I. Allegro con brio. Ludwig van Beethoven. This is analogous to the Bach Toccata and Fugue from the original movie, using abstract shapes, though overall it resembles a windstorm. Like many of these shorts, it showcases the ability to animate thousands and thousands of elements, far more than could be hand-animated. It’s interesting to watch, but a bit dated now.
The Pines of Rome. Ottorino Respighi. My liking of these pieces is influenced by how much I like the music, and I’ve never cared for this one. To make matters worse, it involves humpback whales that somehow gain the ability to fly. The whales are wonderfully done, but the whole thing looks very silly. I wish they’d kept them underwater.
Rhapsody in Blue. George Gershwin. I’ve always contended that artistry is much more important that technical wizardry, and this, the best of the lot, proves my point. The animation is simple, based on the style of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, which perfectly fits the music. It doesn’t hurt that Rhapsody in Blue is on my Top Ten list of best music of all time. When I’m listening to it, it’s #1.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Allegro. Dmitri Shostakovich. The story is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.” I don’t know either the story or the music, and I was minimally impressed.
The Carnival of the Animals, Finale. Camille Saint-Saëns. A total trifle, not much more than a minute long. A flamingo finds a yo-yo and makes a lot of trouble. It doesn’t compare well with the dancing hippos in the first one.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Paul Dukas. A segment from the original Fantasia featuring Mickey Mouse. You can’t go wrong with this one, an all-time classic.
Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4. Edward Elgar. There’s a lot more to Elgar’s P&C than the familiar graduation tune (which I swear I must have played 5,000 times while three classes at NHS got their diplomas), and a lot of themes are mashed together here. Donald and Daisy Duck are Noah’s assistants, loading animals into the ark. Again, Mickey and the sorcerer were much better
Firebird Suite, 1919 Version. Igor Stravinsky. My second favorite. The eruption of Mount St. Helens is portrayed as the attack of a monster creature of fire that wipes out everything, until a green sprite is revived by an elk and makes the ground erupt with life. Very pretty, very dramatic, very Stravinsky.