Fantasia is a classic 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney. At the 14th Annual Academy Awards the year following its release, Fantasia earned two Special Awards. The first was given to Walt Disney and associates for their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures, being the first commercial film released in multi-channel sound using a process called Fantasound, and the second to conductor Leopold Stokowski and his associates “for…unique achievement in the creation of a new form of visualized music…thereby widening the scope of the motion picture as entertainment and as an art form.”
The movie features 8 animated “cartoon” segments set to classical music and includes introductions to each piece by host Deems Taylor, an American composer and music critic. Fantasia was the third feature-length animated film produced by Walt Disney Productions. Seven of the eight pieces were performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski.
Walt Disney conceived of Fantasia as a two-hour and twenty minute roadshow film which he envisioned being updated and added to on a regular basis. However, the original version did not do well financially, so the idea of adding to it was scrapped. Fantasia was eventually drastically reduced to a running time of 81 minutes in 1942 when it was picked up by RKO.
The 1940 version is an innocent but avant-garde whimsy with nymphs, fairies, centaurs and other fantastic creatures. In 1990, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
In 2000 a new version of Fantasia was released which continued the tradition of pairing classical music compositions with various forms of animation and live-action introductions. Fantasia 2000 is an awe-inspiring extravaganza of sight and sound, executive produced by the late Roy E. Disney.
Motivated by his uncleâ€™s foresight, Roy Disney continued the magic with Fantasia 2000 which begins where its predecessor left off. There are seven completely new segments, and viewers watch a bustling Depression-era metropolis in the style of Al Hirschfeldâ€™s famous cartoons, a flock of flamingos with slapstick yo-yo talents, an ark full of animals gathered by Donald Duck as Noah’s first mate, and musical life breathed into a family of flying humpback whales.
The 2000 version of Fantasia includes various introductions by celebrities including Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn and Teller, Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones and Angela Lansbury.
Most of the music from the new Fantasia is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with James Levine conducting all numbers except The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which used the original Fantasia recording conducted by Leopold Stokowski.
Although it is hard to pick a favorite from the new version, I was impressed by the combination of Biblical story and humor in the story of Noah’s Ark & Donald Duck set to Pomp and Circumstance.
The 4-Disc Special Edition Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 released on November 30, 2010 in the U.S. The 4-Disc combo pack includes a Blu-ray and a DVD of Fantasia 2000 and a Blu-ray and a DVD of Fantasia.
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