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It towered above me.
A dash of colors and sounds pounding through my senses. They surrounded me with vibrations that echoed within the chambers of my heart. I was swimming in the Arctic, climbing a skyscraper and flying across a burning landscape.
I wasn't watching just any Disney movie. I was watching Fantasia/2000. On an eight-story screen, no less.
While people always cite Walt Disney's genius when it comes to feature animation, his theme parks and foresight, he never gets enough credit for his "Fantasia" concept.
As a classical music connoisseur, I have spent many a summer night sitting at the Hollywood Bowl. While you can't beat the ambiance of the music and the stars above, you also always get a sense that it would be nice if there was something a little more visual. While the music is beautiful, all your eyes really do for two hours is watch an orchestra sitting still.
Disney probably came to the same conclusion. His answer was to create a visual element to accompany the music. In essence, you could say that it was Walt Disney that invented the music video.
With that, Fantasia/2000 carries on that tradition and does it magnificently. While some have found cause to compare it to the original, I am one who would rather not. As Disney always considered future "Fantasias" as the continuation of the original, I judge Fantasia/2000 on the merits of its own segments.
The film opens with the familiar "da da da dummm" of Beethoven's Fifth and abstract shapes forming butterflies and other visual treats. If anywhere else in the film, it would have seemed too out of place. Like the opening segment of the first Fantasia - also a visual tour de force of shapes - its placement at the beginning is perfect. Kind of how you wouldn't end a book with a preface and begin it with an epilogue.
Following that is the "Pines of Rome" segment that you've probably heard most about from the film, with proud whales swimming through an ocean of stars. As with anyone watching the movie, a person's preference toward a segment depends a lot on their love of the music selection. Kind of like how a person picks up Neapolitan ice cream for the chocolate and not the vanilla, while another picks it up for the strawberry and not the chocolate.
With that, I'm not overly fond of "Pines of Rome" as a musical piece, which may have been why I was more underwealmed of this segment than I expected it to be. The beautiful images don't go far beyond their literal beauty. I do differ, however, with those who have criticized the use of hand-animated eyes on the computerized whales. I felt it added a human element to an otherwise mechanical segment.
Fantasia 2000 really gets cooking when it hits the big city with George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," which is also the first segment with the semblance of a story line. It would be hard to find another 15 minutes that capture so well Depression-era America as these. This is a segment especially effective in IMAX, where a big city can really feel like a big city.
Those fond of looking for hidden Mickeys should try finding the hidden Goldbergs in this segment. References to segment director Eric Goldberg (also director of Pocahontas) are apparent when watching on the IMAX screen.