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Fantasia

review by Zach B.

 

Rated G

Studio: Disney

Running Time: 125 minutes

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Uncut and Complete Version, Audio Commentary with Roy Edward Disney, James Levine, John Canemaker and Scott MacQueen, Edited Commentary with Walt Disney hosted by John Canemaker, "The Making Of Fantasia" Featurette, THX Optimode

Disc Specs: THX Certified, 1.33:1 Full Frame (Academy Standard), 5.0 Dolby Digital English, 5.0 DTS English, Chapter Search, English Subtitles

Back when I was a wee little lad, for some reason I absolutley loved "Fantasia". Don't ask me why, just something about the music and art being blended together really appealed to me. Of course the film was long and I was often bored with the live action sequences, but despite that, and like most people, I was enthralled by the film. Hell, when I went to Disney World when I was still that wee little lad, I begged my parents for Mickey gloves to compose (and all that I was missing was the magical hat).

Anyhow, after much anticipation, Disney finally delivers one of their best and more superior films on DVD. I have to simply say, it's really quite a treat and everyone is going to be pleased with it. The presentation has never been better, and the supplements on the movie disc are rather good. Now, let me tell you about "Fantasia"...

If for some reason you've been at the core of the Earth for the past sixty years, "Fantasia" was one of Walt Disney's most ambitious and beloved projects. The idea of presenting classical music with animation. The animation you're seeing is supposedly what you'd be imagining if you were listening to the music in a concert hall (though I have to say, if "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" wasn't stereotyped so much with this film, I'd never imagine Mickey Mouse). "Fantasia" is divided into several musical pieces. Some of the sequences have plots, others don't at all and are simply wonderful imagery.

The first sequence in "Fantasia" is "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Bach. The music is very brisk and with spirit, and it involves a series of abstract drawings. This is not my favorite, but I still really enjoy it.

Next up is "The Nutcracker Suite" from Tchaikovsky. This piece is more memorable, as it features the dancing mushrooms, the dancing flowers, the whole ice fairies and whatnot. This one is pretty lengthy, but still very enjoyable to watch.

Of course, probably the most famous piece in "Fantasia" and what has gone on to represent it and be Mickey Mouse's most famous role, is "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas, as Mickey ignores his master's warning and causes a bit of trouble with magic. You love it, I love it, so many love it.

"The Rite Of Spring" by Stravinsky features a nice big grand dinosaur battle, with some well paced and catchy music (but isn't all the music in "Fantasia" catchy?). This one is not my absolute favorite, but it's still pretty cool to watch and well done.

"The Pastoral Symphony" by Beethoven, one of Fantasia's more notable scenes (and was supposedly cut decades ago due to some sort of stereotype), involves a plucky unicorn (as well as other unicorns) plus other mythical creatures from the world of Greek mythology. I really like the music (for you Simpsons fans out there, they use it pretty often), and I think this animated piece is pretty charming.

Ponchiell's "Dance Of The Hours" has the elegant dancing animals which is also a pretty popular piece. You got the vicious crocodiles dancing with the ballerinas, the ostriches doing ballet as well as the elephants. The music is very relaxing and it's a nice watch.

Moussorgsky's "Night On Bald Mountain" is that creepy, dark and grand music which so many horror movies seemed to use in their trailers. This one is about darkness, with a devil like monster and his wrath of of evil with ghosts, torture and fire. This makes Fantasia an interesting mix, because most of the pieces are lighthearted, while this one is pretty much the opposite. Change is good though.

Finally, we have "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert. The music is really tranquil and quiet, giving a really good sense of solitude. "Night On Bald Mountain" leads into this one, as that symbolized darkness and this one symbolizes light and peace. It puts you in a pretty mellow mood.

And that wraps up the original and forever classic "Fantasia". It's great to see the film complete and uncut since the original release, and DVD really preserves it with much care.

"Fantasia" is in great condition, probably the best it has ever looked in sixty years. While the transfer is not perfect, this THX-certified transfer makes it look pretty good. You have to realize this film is six decades old, so this makes it so admirable. The color levels are perfect and seem exact, however, there is a good amount of dirt (especially in "The Pastoral Symphony"), blemishes and a scratch here and there. Still, it's really wonderful and this is the cleanest I've ever seen it, and probably the cleanest it'll ever be. The movie is presented in 1.33:1, the original theatrical ratio.

I was a bit hesitant with this section I admit. I'm sure Disney did a nice remix for "Fantasia", but usually the original is always better. The new Dolby Digital and DTS mixes aren't revolutionary by any merit, but fit the film surprisngly well. Besides, a film which is based on music should definently have multiple channel mixes.

Dolby Digital 5.0 and DTS 5.0 are included on "Fantasia". The mixes are not bad. I really didn't have a preference from the DTS or Dolby Digital, both sounded really similar, except the DTS was a bit louder. The lack of a .1 LFE doesn't really affect how the movie sounds at all, I think (well, maybe with "Night On Bald Mountain"). The mixes are pretty clear, and there was hardly any distortion. Considering how old the movie, fidelty and dynamic range are lacking, meaning it can't give a true sense of being in a concert theater. Basically the mixes aren't the best and isn't that good for home theater reference, but as I said, it fits the film and wasn't as bad as I expected. A nice, created mix.

Even if you buy this as a stand alone and not the whole Anthology deal, the features here will provide a ton of insight on this animated masterpiece. First off and most notable, "Fantasia" is uncut from the original theatrical version, that being back in 1940 on the whole original Roadshow deal. The original intermission is included, however, I did notice it's not compleltley restored. Using my video tape from 1991 as a comparison, I found that some shots are zoomed in, just like on the tape (they're not supposed to be). I suppose it's not restored the fullest, but this is the first time since 1940 it's being shown with a running time of 125 minutes. Many film buffs and animations fans shall be pleased with this original cut.

Now, on to the audio commentaries. Two are presented here. The first one is with Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, animation historian John Canemaker and restoration expert Scott MacQueen. This is a very good commentary, as all of them have an incredible amount of passion for the movie and give their complete insights and thoughts on "Fantasia". This is one commentary which is definently worth a listen.

Now the second commentary is edited. Disney calls it "Rare Archival Interviews with Walt Disney", but it is indeed a commentary track and a really marvelous one. John Canemaker hosts it, as Disney has put together interviews with Walt Disney that span three decades. The track is very interesting. It's not screen specific, but these interviews has Disney commenting on the film and the animation pieces. The audio quality varies, due to how old the interviews are. Some are distorted and sound crackly and the age is easily heard, others sound pretty good. I'm glad Disney put this together and spent the time and effort to do so. You will gain a TON from this track, so please give it a listen.

Rounding off the disc is a very well put together 50 minute featurette (I consider it a documentary) entitled "The Making Of Fantasia". Hosted by David Ogden Stiers, the roots and history behind "Fantasia" are revealed. It's a good watch with some well put together interviews. It's worth your time.

Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying "Fantasia" is one of the most important and inspirational films of all time. Disney has released this classic on DVD and is well worth a look. Disney is proving their a great studio for the DVD format.

(4.5/5, NOT included in final score)

(3.5/5)

(3.5/5)

(2.5/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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