Saturday, November 19, 2011


(December 1999, U.S.)

Here's something to consider for a moment - did MTV REALLY create the music video thirty years ago? I would challange that idea by claiming that it was actually Walt Disney himself who first introduced the world to the idea of the music video in his original release of FANTASIA in 1940. Think about it. For the first time, moviegoers were treated to the idea of animated images and effects on screen accompanied by popular classical music. Forty-one years later, MTV would simply use the same concept with popular rock music accompanied with films of the bands themeselves or any other cinematic images. Sixty years after the first FANTASIA, the concept of a brand new film FANTASIA 2000 with new musical pieces and new animated segments seemed just perfect for the new millenium to come. And it even included the very poplular Mickey Mouse-starred "Scorcerer's Apprentice" segment from the original film; the only segment from the original film that I ever really appreciated anyway. For the new century, though, the film's segments are as followed:

- "Symphony No. 5" by Ludwig van Beethoven with abstract patterns and shapes resembling butterflies and bats exploring a world of light and darkness which are ultimately conquered by light.

- "Pines of Rome" by Ottorino Respighi accompanied by a family of humpback whales that are able to fly via some sort of supernova. The calf is separated from his parents when he becomes trapped in an iceberg, but finds his way out with his mother's help. The final section, the Via Appia, gives the impression of the larger pod of adults in migration.

- "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin (my wife's favorite piece of classical music. An episode of New York City during the Great Depression of the 1930s in the style of Al Hirschfeld's well-known cartoons of the time, depicting a day in the lives of several people within the bustling metropolis.

- "Piano Concerto No. 2" by Dmitri Shostakovich and based on "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" by Hans Christian Andersen. The concerto was written as a gift by Shostakovich to his musically gifted young son, and the percussive rhythms also suit a story about a soldier. In contrast to the original story, the ending is a happy one (how Hollywood is THAT?).

- "The Carnival of the Animals" by Camille Saint-Saƫns with a flock of flamingos try to force a slapstick member who enjoys playing with a yo-yo to engage in their dull routines.

- The return of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas featuring Mickey Mouse as the apprentice of sorcerer Yen Sid who attempts some of his master's magic tricks before knowing how to control them. The result is a lot of broken broom sticks and a lot of water.

- "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar and based on the story of Noah's Ark from the Book of Genesis starring Donald Duck as the first mate to Noah and Daisy Duck as Donald's assistant and love interest. Donald leads the animals to the Ark and in the process he misses, loses and reunites with Daisy.

- "Firebird Suite" by Igor Stravinsky. The story is of the spring sprite and her companion, the elk, who accidentally awakes the evil Firebird, a fiery spirit of destruction in a nearby volcano. The Firebird proceeds in destroying the forest, and seemingly the sprite. The Sprite survives, and the Elk encourages her to restore the forest to its former state.

If you've been reading my blogs long enough, then you know that I ususally don't take the time to go into this much detail when it comes to plot and story. The exception here, however, is that it seems almost unavoidable when trying to get the reader to appreciate what can ultimately be compared to...well, a music video on film. Unlike the original FANTASIA, however, which I found too childish for my tastes, this one holds my attention a lot more. Perhaps I just like the music better. Perhaps I appreciate how far we've come in the art of animation since 1940. Who knows and who cares. It's a joyful, colorful experience of music and images. It's only the only film that I've ever seen on the giant IMAX screen.

Favorite animated segment (because dialogue ain't exactly happening in this film!):

"Pines of Rome" by Ottorino Respighi. Not only my favorite piece of music in the film, but also the best featured animation. Watching the family of humback whales is wonderfully visually engrossing, to say the least.

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