Fantasia 2000

(That's IMAX, folks!)

© Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
® IMAX Corporation
Sometimes it takes 50 years (or more) before the sequel appears. Luckily, that's not too often. When "Fantasia" appeared in 1941, it wound up being an artistic success, but, unfortunately, a box-office failure. This put a dampener on Uncle Walt's plans for turning out a Fantastic Fantasia Feature every year thereafter. Having remained a favorite of many throughout the years, the tables finally turned to the right direction in 1991 when the video release of the feature proved a financial success and opened the doors to continuing Mr. Disney's original dream. A delight for endless children and adults (alike) throughout the last half century, the 2nd edition has finally arrived; nine years, nota bene, in the making. It is almost completely new, with the one exception of the memorable "Sorcerer's Apprentice" starring the beloved Mickey Mouse. Even this has been dusted off and enhanced. ENLARGED is the operative word because "Fantasia 2000" is on IMAX.

Eleven cities throughout the world have been chosen by the Disney studios for the 4 month run of the movie at IMAX theatres (until April 30th). A 35 mm print will undoubtedly follow some months later, but it is an incredible experience on large format and well worth going the distance to see it. In Holland, it is on view at the spectacular Rotterdam IMAX Cinema, where a section of wall had to be removed in order to install the new equipment necessary for these screenings.

Seven spectacular new animated sequences are to be found here, all using incredible animated imagery, exquisite classical music and state-of-the-art technology, of course. One would expect nothing less of Uncle Walt. Obviously, nephew Roy (responsible for this project) is carrying on the tradition.

A Whale of a Time
Music: Ottorino Respighi's "Pines of Rome"

The greatest mammals known to man dominate the waters and move as gracefully as dancing fantasies. Already seeming weightless, these creatures mystically take flight as a supernova explodes above a territory of endless icebergs. The air appears as water and the water as air as they travel miraculously around, into, and beyond, breaking all apparent boundaries. A mesmerizing introduction to unknown worlds.

Hirschfeld meets Gershwin
Music: George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"

The style of world famous caricaturist Al Hirschfeld is as synonymous to the world of New York society as that of musician George Gershwin. Irretrievably connected with this metropolis, these two names, equal in stature to each other, are married together in this portrayal of the Jazz Age in the 1930's. Hirschfeld (n.b.- "Nina" can be found in this sequence on the top and bottom of Margaret's fur coat as well as on a toothpaste tube) welcomed the homage paid to him in this animation by director Eric Goldberg.

A montage of Big Apple residents and city pulses, it focuses on 4 main characters: 1) Duke, a construction worker who dreams of being a jazz musician, 2) John, who dreams, apparently unlike his wife, of having fun in life, 3) Joe, an unemployed man who desperately continues on a crusade seeking work, and 4) Rachel, a inept young student dragged to music lessons who would rather be spending time at home with her working parents. This portrait of New York contains a world of personal problems that all seek resolution.

Influenced by Liszt, blues music and the sound of a train trip he once took to Boston, the composer (partially improvising the as yet unfinished solo piano part) first played the piece at New York's Aeolian Hall on February 12th, 1924. "Rhapsody in Blue," was an overnight success and has become known the world round as well as being one of the most frequently played orchestral works written by an American. (Music lovers, please note that George Gershwin (the cartoon version) makes an appearance at the piano (and that the correct fingers are on the proper keys as he plays the notes.)

The finished film was screened for Mr. Hirschfeld just before his 96th birthday. His response was one of elation: "I think they've done a remarkable job. It's incredible, the communication of the line through the animation and what those animators have done under the direction of Mr. Goldberg. It's fantastic really, and the animation is a creative thing in itself. I'm confined to a static piece of paper, but in film it's a completely different creative process. I'm very pleased, flattered and impressed by what he's done with the lines. I don't know how he did it. It's mysterious, like all art. The collaboration existed from his understanding what my drawings were all about and he's translated them into animation that pleases me and I hope the audience to the same extent." And further, "Walt Disney's original inception was the line and the movement of line to communicate to a viewer. 'Rhapsody in Blue' shows that it still works. I'm surprised every few seconds as another incident happens in the movie. It startles me and makes me realize how great animation is compared to the straight static line. I wrote the review of 'Fantasia' in The Times back in 1940 and I thought it was remarkable. I also knew George Gershwin when I was a teenager and he was a very young man. 'Rhapsody' is very descriptive music and Mr. Goldberg has captured it beautifully on film."

C) Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
® IMAX Corporation
A Musical Fairy Tale
Music: Dmitri Shostakovich's "Piano Concerto #2, Allegro, Opus 102"

Hans Christian Andersen's tale of The Steadfast Tin Soldier is beautifully choreographed to Shostakovich's music featuring archival illustrations made by a Disney artist from the 1940's. The marriage of these original figures, expanded by the use of CGI, to the concerto fit practically hand-in-glove despite the fact that they were not originally planned that way when the sketches were made some sixty years ago. This piano concerto has many more explosive and energetic moments than found among the darker passages of his more familiar work, probably because the composer wrote this piece for his son's 19th birthday. The Jack-in-the-Box is a delightful villain whose immense size makes him all the more frightening as he transforms from smiling toy into terrifying monster (just as such creatures were in the fairy tales of old).

C) Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
® IMAX Corporation
Flamingos with Yo-Yos
Music: Camille Saint-Saens's "Les Carnival des Animaux, Finale"

Having often been used in the cinema, Saint-Saens' composition has found yet another manifestation in the form of yo-yo playing flamingos. Originally conceived by Disney story supervisor Joe Grant (who also worked on the original "Fantasia") as yo-yo playing ostriches, the birds of one feather gave way to another and the yo-yos got rolling. One group looks down their beaks at a nonconformist bird. They disapprove of his game playing, but he continues on his way, performing tricks and creating utter chaos. The bright colors and images are reminiscent of Disney's earlier "Alice in Wonderland" sequence containing the unforgettable game of croquet. 3,000 hand painted cells were used in order to capture the appropriate tropical palette.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Music: Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"

A classic. Mickey Mouse casts his spell once again. Yensid lives.

Donald Duck
Music: Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance - Marches 1,2,3, and 4"

Donald demands equal billing. He assists Noah on his ark to bombastic notes and with a little help from darling Daisy.

C) Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved
® IMAX Corporation
The Ultimate Finale: A Vision of Hope
Music: Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite - 1919 version"

A lone Elk who reigns as monarch of the forest summons nature in the form of a Sprite. After the beauty of springtime has been destroyed by the Firebird from the engulfing volcano, the Sprite and the Elk tend to the rebirth of the ravaged forest and the reincarnation of life. Butterflies soar through the air once again and life has come full circle.

Each one of the sequences has been developed separately to facilitate different approaches and, as a result, incorporates various moods and colors.

Following the original concept, all animations follow music and do not include spoken text. 12 new stories have been created which are divided by interludes with comments and commentaries made onscreen by a range of well-known stars appearing as celebrity hosts for the segments, all of whom have had some tie to the Disney Corporation in the past. They're pleasant to watch, and nowhere near as naff as stars sometimes can be, making remarks during some Hollywood award ceremonies. Appearing in the feature are such notables as Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Penn & Teller, Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones; among the favorites is Donald Duck. They are not an integral part of the whole, but they are agreeable enough not to become too disturbing.

Stokowski's position in the original film is (with the exception of the maestro's appearance in Mickey M's sequence - digitally remastered) usurped by acclaimed conductor James Levine, whose 28 year association with the Metropolitan Opera has made him a familiar name to music lovers. Five recording sessions, beginning in 1993 and taking place over the period of several years, were held at Chicago's Medinah Temple where digital recordings were made in order to capture the acoustics of an authentic concert hall. Film composer Bruce Broughton conducted the recording session for the "Rhapsody in Blue" sequence separately at a studio in Los Angeles. Not only is the film breathtaking to behold, but also to listen to.

What a way to begin the new century. As Uncle Walt once said, "'Fantasia' is timeless. It may run 10, 20, or 30 years. It may run after I am gone. 'Fantasia' is an idea in itself." Well, folks, the idea is finally back.

(See also: IMAX)

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett