Video Picks Archive
Reviews by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This week my picks are Fantasia (1940 - ) and Fantasia/2000 (1999 - ).
This week, I am making The Fantasia Anthology my video pick. It's a three-DVD collector's set that includes the original 1940 feature Fantasia, the recent update Fantasia/2000, and a third disc of features (like the Toy Story set -- The Ultimate Toy Box).
First up is the 1940 film, which was the first serious attempt at blending animation with classical music. It was Disney's third animated feature, and marked a bold departure from their other work. The vignettes in Fantasia range from the abstract (Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor"), to the comical (Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours"), and finally to the sublime (Schubert's "Ave Maria"). Of course, what everybody remembers is the appearance of Mickey Mouse as the title character in Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". This bold experiment, one of the most influential films ever made, failed to reach audiences when it was first released. After periodic re-issues, and a hugely popular video release, it has finally been appreciated by the masses.
This initial failure prevented Walt Disney from realizing his dream
for Fantasia: to make it a continually changing
collection, with new vignettes occasionally replacing old ones
for each issue. His nephew, Roy E. Disney, decided that
the turn of the millennium was a good time to revive the project,
so he personally produced what is now called Fantasia/2000.
This new film, which was released on December 31, 1999 in
the Imax format, contains only "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" from
the original film. The rest is comprised of seven new vignettes,
introduced by stars like Steve Martin and Angela Lansbury,
and musicians like violinist Itzhak Perlman and conductor
James Levine. Highlights include a retelling of Hans
Christian Andersen's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" to
Shostakovich's "Piano Concerto No. 2", a ballet of flying
whales to Respighi's "Pines of Rome", and Elgar's
"Pomp and Circumstance" backing Donald Duck as he assists
Noah in loading the ark. The Imax release was quite successful,
but only played in a few cities for a limited run. After that
engagement, the film was taken out of Imax theatres, and
then widely distributed several months later on 35mm. That
engagement, which was also very short, failed to attract
the same massive audiences at every screen. Because of
this odd distribution, the box office take fell short of
the budget, and it must now make money on video. It may
not be the same experience at home, but these new DVDs should
make it as "home-theatrical" as possible.
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Capsule Reviews © 2000 Matt Heffernan