70 years ago, Walt Disney unveiled what would become known as his
Combining classical music with cutting edge animation, the “concert feature” was
intended to feature new segments periodically to create an ever-evolving musical
program. However, with the European markets closed due to World War II and a
disappointing public reaction in the United States, that idea wasn’t realized…
… That is, until 60 years later, when Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney revived his
uncle’s dream with Fantasia 2000.
And now, 10 years after that, both films have recently been released on high
definition Disney Blu-rays for the first time. And, as a bonus, we finally get
the “lost” Dalí/Disney short Destino as
And while, as would be expected, the two Fantasias look
amazing / stunning / breath taking (pick your superlative) in high def, the new
“4-Disc Special Edition” is, overall, a disappointment. First off, don’t get too
excited about those four discs. Two are the Blu-rays of each film; the other two
are just regular DVDs of the same thing. Not that big a deal though, as these
“DVD/Blu-ray Combo Packs” are increasingly becoming the norm; even the other
studios are starting to do it.
What’s missing is the huge amount
of supplemental material created for The Fantasia Anthology 3-DVD
box set (released in 2000). Out of all that was available, only the audio
commentaries have been carried over to this new set. The new bonuses, including
some that take full advantage of Blu-ray capabilities, are fine and dandy, but
it’s a real shame that Disney didn’t include a third disc of extras to make this
edition really “special”.
The Fantasia disc
features two viewing options for the main event, the first being the film in its
original 4:3 theatrical presentation. And for those with widescreen televisions
who want the image to fill that
screen, you can choose the “Disney View” option, which inserts artwork (by
artist Harrison Ellenshaw, son of Disney Legend Peter Ellenshaw) on both sides
of the main picture. This art changes throughout the film to compliment each
Not available on the disc is the option to view the original, uncensored Fantasia.
The image of a black centaur named Sunflower in Beethoven’s “The Pastoral
Symphony” sequence, considered an offensive stereotype, has been cropped out of
the scene for several years, and is still missing here.
Of course, what isn’t missing is the spectacle that is and always has been Fantasia,
from the opening strains of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” to the closing
moments of Schubert’s “Ave Maria”. In between, there’s sugarplum faeries,
dancing mushrooms, menacing dinosaurs, frolicking fauns, balletic pachyderms and
one really big, really nasty demon. Oh, and a certain mouse named Mickey in his
feature film debut, as the title character in Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
(the only 1940 segment to appear in Fantasia 2000).
New bonus material included on Disc 1 includes two features spotlighting the
Disney Family Museum, located in San Francisco, California. Walt’s daughter,
Diane Disney Miller, hosts a brief introduction to the museum, which also serves
as the backdrop to the next featurette, “The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney
Treasure”. Originally prepared by a member of Disney’s camera effects
department, Herman Schulte, during the production of Fantasia,
this document has become known as the “Rosetta Stone” of special effects
animation. Its existence unknown of for years, the recently discovered notebook
reveals all of the secrets of how the film’s many photographic effects were
created, such as the spinning snowflakes in Tchaikovsky's “Nutcracker Suite”,
the spewing volcanoes in Stravinsky’s “Rite
of Spring” and the spooky ghosts in Mussorgsky’s “Night
on Bald Mountain”.
Both Fantasia 1940 and Fantasia 2000 are
featured in the nifty state of the art Interactive Art Gallery. A leap ahead of
the old DVD galleries, this one allows you to view the images in slideshows,
rate and “favorite” them, and even look them up by keywords using the “Smart
Index”. Want to see all the artwork, from pencil sketches to concept art, of,
say, animals? Just click on the word in the Smart Index, and you’ll see 'em all,
from the hippos and alligators of Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” to all the
denizens of Noah’s ark from Glebas’ “Pomp and Circumstance”.
In addition to the two original DVD commentaries (the first, hosted by
animation historian John Canemaker, includes vintage audio recordings and story
note recreations; the second is provided by Roy Disney, Fantasia 2000 conductor
James Levine, Film Restoration Manager Scott McQueen and Canemaker), Disney
historian Brian Sibly is featured on a new audio commentary as well.