movie film review | chris tookey

Fantasia 2000

Disney Enterprises, Inc. - all rights reserved
  Fantasia 2000 Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
6.33 /10
Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James Levine
Full Cast >

Directed by: Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Francis Glebas, Gaetan Brizzi and Paul Brizzi
Written by:

Released: 1999
Origin: US
Colour: c
Length: 75

More of the same.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

The faults in the first Fantasia of over-solemn pretentiousness, unconscious kitsch and talking down to the masses have largely gone. Instead, there is a delight in the new possibilities of animation, a more varied approach to drawing style and a far more sophisticated sense of irony and fun. I have only two mild reservations: I saw it at the Royal Albert Hall Premiere - where it was shown without the celebrity linking material (which I gather is awful) - and it gets off to a hesitant start.

The first two pieces are the weakest: an abstract, rather childish interpretation of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - imagine multi-coloured paper darts choreographed by Busby Berkeley - and an ecologically correct interpretation of a piece previously unknown to me, Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi. This features gambolling whales granted the power to fly by Disney animators. It looks like Free Willy: The Concert Version. Still, it will introduce a lot of people to a lesser known classical composer, and that can't be bad.

The new Fantasia really gets into its stride with a delightfully witty interpretation of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, in the animation style of New York cartoonist Al Hirschfeld (pictured). It sums up the racial and social melting-pot of Manhattan with elegance, beauty and a real sense of joy.

Children will respond to the next piece, which has echoes of Toy Story. It's a computer-animated interpretation of Hans Christian Anderson's Tin Soldier - with a happier ending that works well - in which a one-legged tin soldier takes on a sinister Jack in the Box in order to protect a toy ballerina, to the strains of Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2.

Adults and children alike will love the shortest and funniest piece, the finale of Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals, in which a corps de ballet of flamingos is upstaged by one of their numbers insistence on trying out a new yo-yo. It's perfect, a tiny masterpiece.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice is the sole survivor from the old Fantasia, and although it's darker and grainier than the new material, it remains a marvellously ingenious reworking of the old legend to Paul Dukas' rousing music.

Just as good is the next sequence, animated in the style of The Lion King, where Noah - in the form of Donald Duck - orders two of each animal species on to his ark but thinks for a while that he has lost the one duck he loves. All this is set, believe it or not, to the accompaniment of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance marches. Shorn of its more pompously patriotic associations and set against very different circumstances, Elgar's music strikes the ear anew as one of the richest, most uplifting suites ever composed.

Finally, there is a piece influenced by the British illustrator Arthur Rackham and set to Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. It is a celebration of rebirth and renewal in the face of disaster. This is the nearest the new version comes to the memorably nightmarish Night on Bald Mountain sequence in the original, and it acts as a fitting epitaph to a century which has seen unspeakable horrors alongside unparallelled human invention.

An awful lot of that invention has gone into the area of mass entertainment, and the most influential man of this century may eventually prove to be, for all his well-documented limitations, Walt Disney. Fantasia 2000 not only achieves his purpose of making great classical music more accessible to the general public, and children in particular; much of it ranks among the Disney Studio's finest work, and promises even better things to come from them during the new Millennium.

Key to Symbols