Although I'm sure there was debate both external and internal over Disney's decision to revisit "Fantasia" in "Fantasia 2000", I am pleased to say that, with few exceptions, the new film understands the kind of magic that went into making the first film such a wonderful mixture of sight and sound. Apparently, "Fantasia" was always meant to be a continual series, but I would bet that there was some anxiety as to how a new edition would be greeted.
Although a great deal shorter than the original film at 74 minutes, this is rather understandable when considering the film was originally launched in IMAX engagements, where when most IMAX films are 40 minutes (usually for an absurd ticket price), a 74 minute film feels like a pretty darn good deal.
And again, Disney has succeeded in pairing great animation with great classical music. Particularly fascinating is a New York themed animated segement that is creative, bold and energetic. Even the most popular segment from the 1940 edition - "Sorcerer's Apprentice", with Mickey Mouse, returns here. Between segements, we are greeted by hosts such as Steve Martin and Bette Midler. Where this hosting idea could have gone a bit too cute or irritating, the stars as given a good, quick amount of time before moving on.
"Fantasia 2000" isn't quite the experience that the first one is, but on its own terms, it often succeeds quite well.
VIDEO: Disney has provided a stunning anamorphic transfer for "Fantasia 2000"; the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it looks consistently outstanding, with fantastic sharpness - the image looks consistently very well-defined with perfect clarity.
As with some other recent animated efforts on DVD, this is a "digital-to-digital" transfer that looks breathtaking, with no instances that I saw of pixelation or other artifacts. The picture is completely clear, clean and free of any sort of distractions.
The colors are also absolutely fabulous, looking stunningly bright, bold and rich, with no problems at all. This is really a beautiful looking presentation from Disney; "Fantasia 2000" simply looks terrific throughout. No complaints.
SOUND: Disney offers Fantasia 2000 in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Both provide an immensely enjoyable experience, offering the classical music vibrantly in this elegant audio presentation. The viewer is enveloped quite nicely by the music, which sounds crystal clear and dynamic. Audio quality is excellent, with the music's highs and dramatic lows captured wonderfully. The music is comfortable to listen to and never thin at all; on the other end, there is also some solid bass when appropriate.
Surrounds recieve an enjoyable amount of work to do with the music, really delivering the viewer into the middle of a lively surround-sound experience when the music is at its most intense. Both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 versions are quite enjoyable, with the differences being pretty minor.
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 track from Executive Producer Roy Disney, Conductor James Levine and Producer Don Ernst. Much of the discussion revolves around the kind of work that had to be done to develop the ideas for "Fantasia 2000" as well as the links between both films. Later on, the group share their viewpoints on the IMAX presentation, as well.
I found the discussion between the three quite entertaining and informative as they talked about what was going on screen and what it took to get there, but I didn't really feel the commentary was quite as interesting as the memories that were shared on the main commentary for the first film. Still, this is an above-average commentary track for sure, and those who would like to learn more about the making of the movie will enjoy this discussion. The three are more than able to keep the talk going throughout the entire track with very minimal pauses.
Commentary Track Two: This second commentary track is a very interesting discussion by the Segement directors and art directors for the movie, as the various contributors talk about their specific animation work, whether it be traditional animation or computer work. I really enjoyed listening to the animators talk about their work; I found them to be fine discussing their work - very energetic in sharing their viewpoints on the film and their segements. It's a very good commentary track and I'm pleased that Disney took the creative step in bringing all of these segement directors together to tell the viewer about what it took to bring their work to the screen. Again, very mininmal and very brief instances of silence on the track, and the new participants introduce themselves before talking about their work.
The Making Of "Fantasia 2000": Similar to the documentary that was included for "Fantasia"'s DVD, the "making of" documentary for "Fantasia 2000" is a very well-done, very lengthy(about 48 minutes for this one) documentary that leads us not only through the history getting to this prodject, but what it took to get the film to the screen. Both those who are involved with the film and those outside the project give their opinions about the importance of "Fantasia" and what lead to the idea of doing another picture; the success of a restored home video lead to an agreement that there was still a demand for the movie. Much of the main body of the documentary is dedicated to interviews about the inspiration for the animation and how the music was chosen to pair up with the segment. One of the last pieces of the documentary was one that I was quite interested in hearing about; the IMAX experience. Interviews talk more about how the idea of going with an IMAX presentation came about, and the technological steps that were taken to bring it to the giant-screen. Like the documentary that was included on the disc for the first film, this is absolutely not a "promotional" documentary, but a very honest and informative and enjoyable documentary that allows those who are close to this project to share their stories and their memories of work on it. Highly recommended viewing.
Showcase Program: A short feature that shows us highlights from the movie we've just seen. Uh, ok.
Animated Shorts: "Melody" is a short animated film that, according to an information screen before the film, was released on May 28, 1953. The first cartoon ever filmed in "3D", it was shown at Disneyland and was supposed to be a series of shorts that taught about music, but the series only went one additional film further. It's a cute, funky, fun little feature that looks to have been kept in good condition, with only some stray marks and other flaws appearing, but not becoming distracting. The other short film in the series, "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" is also presented here; although not as entertaining as "Melody", it was the first cartoon presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and is presented that way here.
Also: Roy Disney introduction, THX Optimode tests.
Final Thoughts: Although I didn't find "Fantasia 2000" to be as remarkable as the original film, it still gets the magic right and succeeds certainly more often than not. The DVD is also very successful in its presentation of the film, offering both excellent audio and especially great video quality. The extras provide a wealth of information, and overall, I was very entertained by the DVD as a whole. As with the DVD for the first film, the second film's presentation on DVD is also very highly recommended. Next, I will soon have a review of the third and final disc in the box set, which offers additional special features.