Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Combo Pack
by Jef Burnham
Available November 30, 2010 on Blu-ray and DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.
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I feel little can be said by me in way of reviewing the original Fantasia, for most everyone is at least aware of its acclaim or has seen this experimental classic of animation. Therefore, I will avoid lengthy exploration of the film and get straight to the release. For those unfamiliar with the uncut version of the film, first available since the film’s theatrical release in the 60th Anniversary DVD release of 2000, this release also boasts the uncut version, which can be a bit off-putting on first viewing. The reinserted material includes introductions to each piece by a narrator with a penchant for giving away entire storylines. While these intros indeed step on the viewer’s interpretive toes, their inclusion is only proper, and really emphasizes how daring this experiment in cinema was, as that the filmmakers felt the need to explain everything to the audience so as not to be lost in a form many were unequipped to approach at the time.
Furthermore, the film’s original 4:3 aspect ration has been rightfully maintained (if you are unfamiliar with aspect ratios, this means there will be black bars on the sides of your screen when viewed correctly on a widescreen TV, and this is the way it was meant to be seen). However, Disney has included, for those with a distaste for black bars, the optional Disneyview feature. This obnoxious setting fills the remainder of the screen with paintings which bring more attention to the spaces the movie does not fill than the aforementioned black bars. After all, there is little incentive to look at black bars when there is a movie playing between them. I honestly fail to see the point of Disneyview, for if Disney really wanted to appease audiences unwilling to accept blank space on their televisions, the company should have committed to their bastardization and cropped the film down instead of passing off their placating as a cool new feature. In short, avoid Disneyview at all costs. It’s a terrible idea that only serves to perpetuate cinematic illiteracy by forcing films to conform to the shape of modern televisions.
Disneyview aside, the special features also include “The Schultheis Notebook” in which many of the animators’ secrets once thought lost forever, recently surfaced in Schultheis’ notebook, in which detailed records of the unbelievably intricate processes employed on Fantasia were recorded. Fantasia is presented here in a gorgeous 1080p HD transfer with deep blacks and bright, vivid colors that put all previous releases of the film to great shame. And the 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio on both features is the perfect dynamic presentation for the films’ classical pieces.
Fantasia 2000 is an unarguably inferior picture to its predecessor, suffering from the inclusion of many musical compositions that are all-too-common in the media already, and sequences in which the animation and the music have little to nothing to do with one another, as in the otherwise beautifully animated Tin Soldier sequence. However, the intros, delivered by a curious array of celebrities, no longer give away the sequence’s endings. As Disney’s original vision of Fantasia was of a constantly evolving film experience in which one would encounter both new and old pieces each time they visited the theater, one sequence from the original was carried over to 2000. And I’m sure it comes as no surprise— in keeping with the mainstream music choices, I suppose— that “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” is that carry-over sequence.
Although you’re undoubtedly more likely to re-watch the original Fantasia than 2000, as a result of the follow-ups many shortcomings, this is not to say that the disc’s inclusion doesn’t have its merits. Among the bonus features is the short film, Destino, an amazing and important film, which marks Disney Studios’ completion of a film started by Surrealist Salvador Dali and Walt Disney some fifty years earlier. The film would go on to win a number of awards and even be nominated for an Academy Award. For any devotee of Surrealism, especially Surrealism in film, this is indispensable viewing, expanding on much of the imagery employed by Dali in his earlier paintings as well as his other forays into film. A lengthy documentary also included on the disc, Dali and Disney: A Date with Destino, explores the collaboration between the men as well as the paths that brought the two seemingly disparate artists together, making for a wonderful supplement to the viewing of the short.
The Blu-ray transfer of the original Fantasia and the inclusion of Destino on the 2000 disc alone make the Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 4-disc, Blu-ray/DVD combo pack an absolutely essential addition to any cinephile’s collection.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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