I will admit it. I was not a fan of the original Fantasia. As a matter of fact, I never watched the entire movie. I never once made it through the entire video without falling asleep.
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So why would I pay hard-earned money this past weekend to see Fantasia 2000? A couple of reasons, I guess. First of all, a curiousity to see if they had improved it at all. Second, I've always been interested in music that tells a story, and I was curious to see how the Disney people would interpret new songs.
I was not disappointed. My two main complaints about the original Fantasia were that the songs just seemed to float together with no beginning and no end, and the images just seemed to be randomly placed, rather than telling a story. Both of these complaints were eliminated in Fantasia 2000.
The movie has six new segments and one repeat from the original. It was very apparent where one segment ended and the next one started, as each segment was introduced by a different celebrity. The celebrities ranged from Steve Martin to Bette Midler to Itzhak Perlman. This took care of the problem of songs just floating into one another with no real differentiation. Each celebrity also gave a little bit of background as to how the music was chosen or interpreted. This gave the viewer something to think about or look for as they watched.
I appreciated that each segment did have a storyline to it. Some were definite plots, while others had a more subtle structure. But every piece had something. The viewer was never left with the feeling that they were floating through a sea of random images in some simulation of a boring dream. There was some sort of plot to follow.
I had two favorite segments. The first was the "Rhapsody in Blue" part. The story seemed to be set in the Depression. The plot involved several characters who were unhappy with their lot in life. One man wanted nothing more than a job, while a little girl wanted parents to love her rather than to shuttle her from lesson to lesson etc, etc. They all eventually end up happy, but basically this is through unwittingly switching places with each other. The people were all drawn Al Hirschfeld-style, and only basic colors were used.
My other favorite segment was what I termed the "flying whales" part. This was one of the segments with a looser plotline. Basically, it involved a bunch of whales or manatees or something like that exploring their environment. At some times they were in the water; at other times, they were flying in the air. I enjoyed this segment because it reminded me of dreams I used to have where I could fly. The animation was also very nice; it seemed to be done on a computer.
My least favorite segment was only my least favorite because of one detail. It was the "Pomp and Circumstance" segment, which retold the story of Noah's Ark from the Bible. I think this was a very good pairing. "Pomp and Circumstance" includes the traditional graduation march, and the animals were parading in and out of the ark during that part. The only thing I had a problem with was that Donald Duck was included in this story. I know that this was done to try to capitalize on the popularity of having Mickey in the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of the original Fantasia. It was the only halfway decent part of the original, evidenced by the fact that it resurfaces in Fantasia 2000. I know that they were trying to make a new classic. I don't have a problem with that. However, I am no religious fanatic, but Donald Duck does not belong in the Bible. There's just something wrong about that.
That minor point aside, I was impressed by Fantasia 2000. I went in not knowing if I would fall asleep and emerged satisfied. Will I go see it again? Not in a theatre. Will I buy it on video? Probably--I can see using some of the segments in my classroom somehow. Should you go see it? That depends--if you (or your kids) are interested in classical music or how music can be interpreted into a story, then Fantasia 2000 just might be for you.
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