Rated G - Running Time: 1:15 - Released 6/16/00 (35mm version)

For many years after I first saw Fantasia (at the age of about 9), I referred to it as "my favorite piece of art of all time." I have seen it in the theatre more than any other film, watching it numerous times upon its every revival, and I bought the soundtrack and pretty much memorized its eight musical compositions. Naturally, I had high expectations when I heard about the release of Fantasia 2000. I am happy, and somewhat surprised, to say the new film measures up in every way to the 1940 original, with a whole list of new musical pieces (and one repeat) played over the colorful, beautiful animation of the Disney artists. Like the original, the music and artwork of Fantasia 2000 is deliciously diverse, with no dialogue or sound effects except those provided musically by the old masters' original scores, and each of the eight segments helmed by a different director. The music is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of James Levine, except for the single re-run.

Without going into specifics (I feel a film like this is better experienced without too much prior knowledge of what's coming up), I can say that even the most musically inexperienced moviegoers will recognize several of the pieces, which range from Beethoven's 5th Symphony (1st mvt.) to Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" to Elgar's "Pomp And Circumstance." Some of the art is purely abstract, with little more than moving colors and shapes, while some tells a definite story. The sole piece resurrected from Fantasia, complete with the original art and music performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by the late Leopold Stokowski, is Paul Dukas's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," the most famous part of that film, which features Mickey Mouse trying to control magic much too powerful for him.

While this film definitely maintains the spirit of Walt Disney's original concept, some wise format changes have been made, mostly to make it more kid-friendly. First, it's only 75 minutes long, considerably shorter than the 2-hour length of its predecessor. Rather than having each piece introduced by the faceless voice of Deems Taylor (who?), this film uses many well-known celebrities like Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Angela Lansbury, and even Penn & Teller to present the pieces, each in his or her own style. The first Fantasia, while rated G, could be quite scary and sometimes downright boring for little ones (I never sat through a showing of it where some kid didn't start whining during Stravinsky's "Rite Of Spring"); this film is shorter, lighter, and interspersed with humor to ensure that most children will be able to view its entire length without fidgeting (in addition to the Mickey Mouse piece, there's also one starring Donald Duck). And it does this without sacrificing any of the beautiful music or artwork that will impress adults. My only complaint is that it was over too soon. *****

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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