Keeping a Good Thing Going
Originally Released: 2000
In some ways, Fantasia 2000 nicely follows up what was started in 1940 with the original Fantasia. However, in some ways it feels like it missed its mark and failed to capture the essence of what made the original so grand. The finished product deserves accolades for continuing the tradition of melding great music with interesting visuals, and for following through with Walt’s dream of updating Fantasia with new material. But even so, somewhere in the 60 years between releases, it feels like something was lost in the process and thus missing from Fantasia 2000.
On paper, Fantasia 2000 certainly includes all of the right ingredients. It contains eight excellent pieces of classical music, including Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (da-da-da-duuuuumm), “Pines of Rome,””Pomp and Circumstance,” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” and it mixes this music with some innovative (for the time) animation. It even has brief introductions to each piece, just like the original.
But even with the inclusion of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment from the original Fantasia, I couldn’t help but wonder what went wrong. My theory is that the creative team never really let loose with their creativity. It was almost as if they were restrained to try and keep things simple and to limit abstractness. In every single segment, eventually there is some sort of concrete story and conflict to resolve. Even in the opening Beethoven sequence, we are treated to “good” triangles being chased by the black, bat-like “evil” triangles. In contrast, the creators of the original Fantasia were content to let mushrooms and flowers dance for the sake of dancing, and in its “Toccata and Fugue in D-minor” opening, the original film wears abstractness like a badge of honor. It seems like Fantasia tried to convey emotion and enhance the music through visuals, whereas Fantasia 2000 seems more focused on the screen and wants the animation to be the star, not the enhancer. It doesn’t quite achieve that harmony and impact that the first film managed to strike.
But it doesn’t mean that Fantasia 2000 is a bad effort or a total failure. On the contrary, it boasts some beautiful artwork and great music. It contains a few really great segments where a concrete story works in its favor, such as Donald’s segment about Noah’s Ark to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” or the “Firebird” finale based on Mt. St. Helen’s eruption and rebirth. In the end, though, I just can’t help but think of what it might have been.
That about sums up my feelings on Fantasia 2000. To close on a totally unrelated note, the documentary on the Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 Blu-ray disc that details the Walt Disney and Salvador Dali collaboration called Destino was fantastic, and well worth any Disney enthusiast’s time. I think I may have enjoyed watching it more than I enjoyed watching Fantasia 2000 this time around.