Finally entering the DVD format is one of Disney's classic animated features, Fantasia - a simple idea that turned into an artwork of sight and sound. With classical music and segements of animation from Disney, the film presents one of the most famous sequences, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", which has Mickey Mouse finding out his magic skills can get out of control.
The mixture of beautifully played classical compositions and the worlds that are presented in the animated segements create a surreal and beautiful world. Not particularly always for kids, as we'd expect animation to be, but nor are recent films like "Prince Of Egypt", I suppose. The films are not always the usual perky offerings that Disney has come up with in more recent years, and although they differ in tone, they impressively still feel right together. There's a magic in the mixture of sound and image, an awe, that seems to tie all of the seperate pieces into a whole.
The film does tell stories nicely at times, but not in the traditional way that we're used to seeing. And with the newly restored soundtrack, the classical music washes over the viewer, making for a very entertaining viewing experience in a rich and enjoyable movie. This is apparently the original, uncut version of the movie, restored and offered in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.0 sound. Definitely a classic of animation and a beautiful pairing with great music.
VIDEO: The full-frame picture only has one issue that I noticed, and I'll mention that in a moment. For the most part, this is a vibrant and beautiful looking image for a 60 year old movie, and I was impressed with the restored image quality. There is a bit of a "natural" looking softness to the image, but it gives the look of the movie a bit of warmth and detail is still good. "Sorcerer's Apprentice" looks particularly great.
As I was going to mention, the only issue I really have is that there are a few scenes that look slightly grainy, but I didn't find the level of it to be distracting at all. In fact, I was also very pleased to see only a few stray, minor marks on the print used. None of which I felt to be distracting or even that noticeable.
And there's even more that I'm pleased with. The colors still look rich and often fabulous. Some of the sequences look remarkably rich and bold, considering their age. Certainly, "Fantasia" is one of the treasures for Disney and the care that they've taken of it is definitely visible in this presentation, which definitely looks great.
SOUND: Disney offers Fantasia in both Dolby Digital 5.0 and DTS 5.0 soundtracks; both do a very enjoyable job at taking a 60 year old presentation and, while certainly not bringing it to the kind of levels that we see with recent pictures, at least they both do a fine job in bringing the great music out and enveloping us in its beauty.
I didn't find any problems with distortion or otherwise, but there were times when I felt the sound overall was a bit thin. I never felt that the movie was uncomfortable to listen to, but additional warmth might have made it a bit more enjoyable. Still, this is a minor complaint. In this case, surrounds are used additionally to present the music. At the most intense, the room fills nicely with the sounds of the agressive music, and quiet moments come through clearly. The DTS soundtrack seemed slightly crisper and clearer, but not be any major amount. Taking the film's age into consideration, both audio versions do a fine job in their work to show off the film's music.
MENUS:: Disney has provided elegant animated menus for "Fantasia", complete with background music and animated curtains that come in between menu transitions.
Audio Commentary One: This is a commentary from Executive Producer Roy Disney, Conductor James Levine, Animation Historian John Canemaker and Manager Of Film Restoriation, Walt Disney Studios - Scott MacQueen. Roy Disney heads the commentary remarkably well, guiding the viewer into the track and provides a fine amount of information on his own, opening the track talking about the release of the picture and the versions that audiences saw.
What I found most interesting was the comments that MacQueen had to share about the restoration that had to be done to bring the film back to the original version that audiences first saw in theaters. During the commentary, we also learn quite a bit about the animation work that had to be done to complete the movie, the music that was done for the film, and the history behind the film. It's really amazing to hear about the techniques and amount of work that had to go into every frame of the animation. Each of the four participants have their own background to bring to the table while talking about the film, and their four parts really contribute to an informative and fascinating whole. With all four speakers, there are really no pauses throughout this track, and I think Disney has really done a fine job bringing great speakers together to make for a very informative commentary track.
Commentary Track Two: This is a second commentary track with Walt Disney; due to the magic of audio commentary tracks, this is a track edited together with interviews that were done with Walt about the movie. The track is hosted by John Canemaker, who provides additional thoughts and notes about the picture. We hear interviews with Disney, readings of story meeting notes and more in a very interesting presentation. The quality of some of the recorded interviews are a little bit muddy, but I had no trouble hearing what Disney was saying, and to be able to hear these rarely (if ever) heard interviews was definitely a treat. There are some small pauses of silence throughout the track, but for the most part, either Canemaker is offering his thoughts, or various Disney interviews are played. Both commentary tracks are definitely worth a listen for "Fantasia" fans.
The Making Of "Fantasia": This is an excellent documentary that not only talks about the making of "Fantasia" itself, but leads us into the events that took place at Disney that lead up to the production of the picture. We learn about the inspirations behind the merging of music and animation and hear from many people who appreciate the film on their viewpoints on the classic film. The documentary is a particularly good visual compliment to the commentary tracks; although it certainly doesn't present the wealth of information that those two commentaries can give us, the interviews here from a wide variety of people are engaging and informative, and the old photos and images that are added in throughout provide quick visual looks at what went on during the production. This is a lengthy documentary that is extremely well-done, and well worth a viewing.
Final Thoughts: "Fantasia" is a classic animated film from Disney, and I'm pleased to see that they've presented it very well on DVD. The commentary tracks are fascinating and the presentation in terms of audio and video quality are both very good. This is the first part of the "Anthology" box set, and so far I'm very happy with what I've seen.