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review added: 12/13/00



Fantasia & Fantasia 2000
The Fantasia Anthology - 1940/2000 (2000) - Disney (Buena Vista)

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital SurroundTHX-certified

The Fantasia Anthology (Outer Packaging)

The Fantasia Anthology - Disc One - Fantasia

The Fantasia Anthology - Disc Two - Fantasia 2000

The Fantasia Anthology - Disc Three - Fantasia Legacy

Film Ratings (Fantasia/Fantasia 2000): A/B-

Disc Ratings - Fantasia (Video/Audio - DD/DTS): A/A/A+

Disc Ratings - Fantasia 2000 (Video/Audio - DD/DTS): A+/A+/A

Disc Rating (Extras - all 3 discs): A+

Specs and Features

Disc One: Fantasia: 60th Anniversary Edition
125 mins (presented in original uncut "Roadshow" version), G, full frame (1.33:1), THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging with custom slipcase, archival interviews/audio commentary by Walt Disney spanning 30 years, audio commentary (featuring Roy E. Disney, maestro James Levine, animation historian John Canemaker, and Manager of Disney Film Restoration Scott MacQueen), The Making of Fantasia documentary, THX Optimode test signals, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (17 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.0 and DTS 5.0), subtitles: French, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: Fantasia 2000
74 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging with custom slipcase, introduction by Executive Producer Roy E. Disney, audio commentary (featuring Executive Producer Roy E. Disney, maestro James Levine and producer Don Ernst), audio commentary featuring each segment's Director(s) and Art Director(s), The Making of Fantasia 2000 documentary, Melody animated short, Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom animated short, "showcase program" of clips from Fantasia 2000, THX Optimode test signals, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (17 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1), French (DD 5.1), subtitles: French, Closed Captioned


Disc Three: Fantasia Legacy (Supplemental Features)
161 mins, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging with custom slipcase, animated film-themed menu screens with music

Supplements for Fantasia include: special effects of Fantasia featurette, The Fantasia That Never Was presentation, filmmaker biographies, poster gallery, text-based comparison of all of Fantasia's re-releases, complete original "Roadshow" printed program, 1940 theatrical trailer, 1990 theatrical trailer, "Interstitial" featurettes on different aspects of the film as follows: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (introduction, alternate concept, visual development, about the music), The Nutcracker Suite (introduction, excerpt from The Story of Animated Drawing: Layering and Painting, visual development, character design, about the music), The Sorcerer's Apprentice (introduction, deleted animation of Mickey with the broom, story reel, visual development, character design, about the music), The Rite of Spring (introduction, excerpt from Tricks of Our Trade: Effects Demonstration, visual development, character design, about the music), The Pastoral Symphony (introduction, visual development, character design, about the music), Dance of the Hours (introduction, excerpt from Tricks of Our Trade: Live Action Model Reference, visual development, character design, unused rough animation, about the music), Night on Bald Mountain (introduction, excerpt from The Plausible Impossible: Marrying Music and Visuals, visual development, character design, about the music), Ave Maria (introduction, visual development, about the music), The Fantasia That Never Was (introduction, Clair De Lune complete scored unused segment, storyboards for The Ride of the Valkyries, The Swan of Tuonela, Invitation to Dance, Adventures in Perambulator and other 1940 concepts)

Supplements for Fantasia 2000include: orchestra demonstration, filmmaker biographies, theatrical trailer, IMAX trailer, 4 TV spots, "Interstitial" featurettes on different aspects of the film as follows: The Interstitials (Creating the Interstitials featurette, early concept story reel, proof of concept test, design, Mickey Meets the Maestro featurette), Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (Creating Symphony No. 5 featurette, early concepts, visual development, proof of concept story reel, about the music), Pines of Rome (Creating Pines of Rome featurette, visual development, character design, abandoned concepts, storyboard-to-film comparison, about the music), Rhapsody in Blue (Creating Rhapsody in Blue featurette, inspirations from style designer Al Hirschfeld, design, character design, The Stages of Animation featurette, storyboard-to-film comparison, about the music), Shostakovich Piano Concerto #2, Allegro, Opus 102 (Creating Piano Concerto #2 featurette, 1938 storyboards by Bianca Majolie, design, character design, abandoned concepts, production progression demonstration, about the music), Carnival of the Animals, Finale (Creating Carnival of the Animals, Finale featurette, early story reel, design, character design, original ending, about the music), The Sorcerer's Apprentice (introduction, deleted animation of Mickey with the broom, story reel, visual development, character design, about the music), Pomp and Circumstance, Marches 1, 2, 3, & 4 (Creating Pomp and Circumstance featurette, abandoned concepts, visual development, character design, about the music), Firebird Suite, 1919 Version (Creating Firebird Suite featurette, design, character design, story reel, effects animation, production progression demonstration, original ending, about the music)


"It all started with a Mouse."

Back in the late 1930s, Walt Disney had a unique notion to produce an animated film that would marry state-of-the-art visionary animation with some of the world's most beloved classical music. It would be called The Concert Feature and Uncle Walt teamed up with arguably the highest-profile, most revered conductor of the day, maestro Leopold Stokowski (along with his Philadelphia Orchestra) to hand pick and perform the perfect collection of classical masterpieces. Each would eventually be accompanied by innovative animated segments produced by Disney's studio. The point of The Concert Feature was that it would be a continuing experience, updated every year with brand new segments and music, while retaining a few of the previous year's favorites. Closer to the film's release, the title was changed to Fantasia, which is a musical term meaning "a composition of free form or irregular style".

Uncle Walt had a strong, personal passion for this project, and put all of his heart and soul into making the film the ultimate aural and visual experience. He went above and beyond the typical theatrical presentation, by making Fantasia a unique and special experience for the audience, including providing the audience with printed programs as one might receive at a traditional musical concert. Disney studios also created Fantasound, a new audio experience developed for Fantasia that employed the use of three front channels and a surround channel. This was quite a groundbreaking idea, considering that the typical films of the time were single-channel monaural.

Due to the huge expense of presenting the Fantasia Roadshow at theaters, distribution was very limited, and far fewer people saw it than what Uncle Walt had originally envisioned. The film perplexed many of the audiences and critics, and it never became as popular as Disney had hoped it would. Consequently, the idea of updating the film every year fell by the wayside. Fantasia has been presented many times in the last six decades. In many cases, there were different versions with specific edits applied (most notably to the introductions - the "Interstitials" - for the segments) by early 20th century music expert and media personality Deems Taylor. Also getting the ax over the years was the intermission. Well... for the first time in 60 years, Fantasia is being presented (on DVD) exactly how it was seen originally with, the Interstitials and intermission restored.

In 1991, Disney Co-Chairman (and Uncle Walt's nephew) Roy E. Disney decided it was time to fulfill his uncle's dream of updating Fantasia, and it was agreed that Disney's animation studio would start a renewal of the classic film. Fast-forward nine years - Fantasia 2000 is the fruit of their labor. Maestro Stokowski - long since gone to the great podium in the sky - has been replaced by world-renowned conductor, Maestro James Levine. The Interstitials for Fantasia 2000 are done not by one personality, but by a handful of celebrities like Steve Martin (who is absolutely fall-down hilarious here), James Earl Jones and Penn & Teller (just to name but a few). Originally titled Fantasia Continued, the new film was first seen only on IMAX screens. After the film's initial IMAX run, it moved to traditional cineplexes for a short time. Every piece of music except The Sorcerer's Apprentice is new to Fantasia 2000, and this vignette is shown in its original form, with the original Stokowski musical direction. As with the first film, Disney has filled Fantasia 2000 with state-of-the-art animation, and used something Uncle Walt didn't have way back then - computers and digital technology. Fantasia 2000 definitely has a more modern and technically sophisticated look about it, but it's no more beautiful or enchanting than the original. In fact, I would say that even with all of the whiz-bang special effects and CGI in the new film, in most cases, the original feature has more ethereal beauty, magic and power than its flashy new brother does. However, Fantasia 2000 is still a decent "concert feature", and is worthy of the Fantasia moniker.

So how do you follow up an amazing 3-disc DVD set of the Toy Story movies? You produce an equally amazing 3-disc set called The Fantasia Anthology. The set includes the Fantasia: 60th Anniversary Edition DVD, along with Fantasia 2000 and a disc of nothing but supplemental material, called Fantasia Legacy. Both film discs are available separately, but Fantasia Legacy is only available in this set. And given its amazing volume added content (reading the spec list above left you breathless, I'm sure), why would you want anything less?

We'll start with the audio and video quality of these DVDs first. Fantasia itself has never looked nor sounded better. Disney took great care in fully restoring this film to the best condition possible, and their efforts really paid off. While the print of this 60-year-old film is not 100% perfect (it shows slight density problems in certain areas), it is still pretty darned spectacular. Colors are rich and vibrant and every subtle brush stroke and background texture is brought to life in amazing detail. The transfer does suffer from some very minor compression artifacting, but it's usually hard to see, and it does not detract from the experience. This is a new high-def transfer of a new film element, and every bit of dust, dirt and print damage has been digitally erased from the image.

The new Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack featured on Fantasia is MUCH better than I expected it would be. I was ready for a very dated-sounding presentation, with ambient hiss and limited range. While the recording definitely sounds older, its true age has been effectively masked. The music has been spread quite effectively throughout the front three channels, while the rear channels are used purely for ambiance. Analog hiss is kept to a minimum, and the music has more richness and fidelity than even my 50th Anniversary "remastered" compact discs. The DTS 5.0 track excels just a smidgen over its Dolby Digital counterpart, by opening up the top end a bit more for that added amount of sparkle and air. Sure, Fantasia is six decades old. But given that, this kind of audio and video quality is quite phenomenal.

Fantasia 2000 is a different animal, having been created entirely in the digital domain. The DVD features a direct digital-to-digital transfer (a la A Bug's Life and Toy Story), and the result is equally stunning. Even though it was shown in a modified 1.33:1 ratio for IMAX screens, the presentation on DVD is framed at the filmmakers' originally intended aspect ration of 1.85:1, and it's enhanced for 16x9 televisions. All of the quality you would expect from a straight-digital transfer is here: there's no virtually compression artifacting, no print damage or artifacts and no grain. Colors are eye-popping and brilliant. Detail (especially during The Firebird segment) is completely realistic and three-dimensional. Blacks are deep and true. This definitely earns the stamp of reference video.

In the audio area, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is rich and mighty. The soundstage conveys a sense of great depth and width, and the sound is silky smooth. Like the soundtrack for Fantasia, rear channels are used mostly to convey ambience. Once again, the DTS 5.1 track adds a bit more resolution and clarity to the top end, however it lacks the sheer power and full body of the Dolby Digital track. The DTS version seems a bit anemic in comparison (although this may depend somewhat on the capabilities of your DTS equipment and setting). In the case of Fantasia 2000, I preferred the Dolby Digital flavor.

On the supplement side, the Fantasia disc boasts a 50-minute documentary, The Making of Fantasia, which focuses on the history and development of the film. There are plenty of archival interviews with Uncle Walt and new interviews with Roy Disney, several of the animators and animation historians, which help to bring deep insight into the creation of the movie. Each segment is looked at individually and comments are given regarding how it was made and how the music was chosen. This disc also features two commentary tracks. One is a pretty straightforward track with Roy Disney, Maestro James Levine, animation historian John Canemaker and Manager of Disney Film Restoration Scott MacQueen. Much of what is commented on in this track is brought up in the documentary, but it's expounded upon a bit more here. The second commentary track features Uncle Walt himself, and is basically snippets of different interviews he did over a 30-year period about this film. While it's obviously impossible to be screen-specific here, the track follows the flow of the film very well. It's definitely worth a listen for its historic value alone.

The Fantasia 2000 disc contains its own 50-minute documentary, The Making of Fantasia 2000, that is actually a continuation of The Making of Fantasia documentary. Like the previous documentary, this one features interviews with many of the people who made the film possible, and offers great insight into its making. Once again, each segment is studied individually. This disc also has two commentary tracks. The first track is with Roy Disney, Maestro James Levine and producer John Ernst. The second features each segment's director(s) and art director(s) discussing their work, and is much more technical. Two animated shorts (approximately 10 minutes each) are also included on this disc. Both were produced in 1953, and were intended to teach the audience basic concepts of music theory. They are Melody and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. The latter was the first cartoon shot in CinemaScope, and it's presented here in 2.35:1 widescreen. It also won the 1953 Oscar for Best Short Animated Subject. Finally, this disc includes a 5-minute "showcase" reel highlighting the best portions of Fantasia 2000. It was originally created by the studio as a demo/promotional, to show off the audio and video quality of the film on DVD, and it makes great demo material for your home theater.

Had enough yet? Believe it or not, we're just getting started. As I mentioned earlier, the Fantasia Anthology includes a whole third disc - Fantasia Legacy - packed with even more extensive (and I do mean extensive) supplemental material on these films. The Legacy disc is broken into two main sections: Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.

The Fantasia half of the disc contains a variety of different supplements for each segment in the film. Some contain more extras than others (please refer to the above index of special features for a complete listing of everything included). Generally, you get an introduction (which is basically an excerpt from The Making of Fantasia documentary found on the first disc), along with galleries of visual development and character design artwork and a text-based explanation of the history of each piece of music and its composer. Highlights of other material include deleted animation from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, excerpts from other Disney "instructional" featurettes explaining various animation tricks and a presentation of unused concepts for future Fantasia installments (entitled The Fantasia That Never Was, which includes a completely finished and scored vignette of Clair de Lune, which was never used). You also get The Special Effects of Fantasia (a short featurette showcasing some of the cutting edge methods used at the time). A section focusing on Publicity features the theatrical trailer from 1940, the 1990 50th Anniversary re-release theatrical trailer, a gallery of different poster concepts and a look at the complete Roadshow program available to audiences during the film's premiere (although much of the print is too small to read). Perhaps one of the more fascinating features on the Legacy disc is a text-based comparison of all of the edits applied to the different re-released versions of Fantasia over the last six decades. Finally, there is a set of biographies for the key people involved in the film.

But that's only half the disc. The Fantasia 2000 portion of the Legacy disc is similar in that each segment is carefully dissected and explored. Again, each segment has a different amount of supplements attached to it, so refer to the above supplements index for the full list. Among the highlights here is an interactive orchestra demonstration, which allows the viewer to hear Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 with only the strings, brass, woodwinds, or percussion individually, or the viewer can elect to hear any combination of two or three sections, or all four musical sections at once. It allows you to get a feel for the different components of the score, and it's a very cool feature. Rounding out the Fantasia 2000 section is the film's theatrical trailer, IMAX trailer, four TV spots and selected biographies of the key creators.

Are you exhausted yet? Well you will be. This is simply an amazing 3-disc special edition. And so I give you The Fantasia Anthology. If you love these films, buying this set should be an easy choice. Even if you think you already know everything there is to know about Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, I guarantee you that there is something new for you in this collection. Disney has presented these films on DVD with the utmost care and quality - the audio/video presentations alone are shining examples of the strengths of the DVD format. Forget about buying the movie discs separately - spring for the extra ten-spot and pick up the entire Fantasia Anthology. After wading through this set, and the Ultimate Toy Box, I'm left to wonder just one thing. Disney claims that even these 3-disc sets aren't their ultimate effort - that will be reserved for their eventual "Platinum" series, which will supposedly debut in 2001. So the question is, how in the world do you top this? Amazing.

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com


Fantasia: 60th Anniversary Edition


Fantasia 2000


The Fantasia Anthology


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