Friday, April 6, 2012

It's Film Strip Friday! Fantasia 2000

It’s Film Strip Friday!

Fantasia 2000

Release Date December 17th, 1999



          In this fun-filled movie, breathtaking images are coupled with classical music favorites. From Beethoven to Gershwin -- from flamingos bobbing yo-yos to a city in bluesy motion -- vivid animation brings the music of the masters to colorful life.


       Fantasia 2000 is a 1999 American animated film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 38th film in the Disney animated features canon and a sequel to Fantasia (1940). As with its predecessor the film consists of animated segments set to pieces of classical music, with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice being the only segment that is featured in both films. The soundtrack was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with conductor James Levine. A group of celebrities introduce each segment in live-action scenes including Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Penn & Teller, James Earl Jones, Quincy Jones and Angela Lansbury.

Roy E. Disney first thought of a sequel to Fantasia in 1974, only to pitch the film to Disney chairman Michael Eisner ten years later. Production began in 1990, and the film is noted for using a combination of computer-generated imagery on top of hand-drawn animation. Peter Schickele worked with Levine on the musical arrangement of each musical piece.

Fantasia 2000 premiered at Carnegie Hall on December 17, 1999 as part of a five-city concert tour, with performances in London, Paris, Tokyo and Pasadena, California. An exclusive release in IMAX theatres followed from January 1 to April 30, 2000, becoming the first animated feature-length film issued in the format. Fantasia 2000 was opened wide in the United States on June 16, 2000 and has earned $90.8 million in gross revenue worldwide.


The segments in the order of appearance:

  • Symphony No. 5 in C minor-I. Allegro con brio by Ludwig van Beethoven. Abstract patterns and shapes resembling butterflies and bats explore a world of light and darkness which are ultimately conquered by light.
  • Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi. A family of humpback whales are able to fly due to a supernova. The calf is separated from his parents when he becomes trapped in an iceberg, but finds his way out with his mother's help. The final section, the Via Appia, gives the impression of the larger pod of adults in migration.
  • Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. An episode of New York City in the 1930s in the style of Al Hirschfeld's known cartoons of the time, depicting a day in the lives of several people within the Depression-era bustling metropolis. Featured is an animated cameo appearance of Gershwin himself at the piano.
  • Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major-I. Allegro by Dmitri Shostakovich. Based on The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen, the concerto was written as a gift by Shostakovich to his musically gifted young son, and the percussive rhythms also suit a story about a soldier. In contrast to the original story, the ending is a happy one.
  • The Carnival of the Animals, Finale by Camille Saint-Saens. A flock of flamingos try to force a slapstick member who enjoys playing with a yo-yo to engage in their "dull" routines. A question in this segment's host sequence leads into its story, "What would happen if you gave a yo-yo to a flock of flamingoes?"
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas. Based on Goethe's 1797 poem Der Zauberlehrling, the segment is the only one retained from 1940's Fantasia. Mickey Mouse as the apprentice of sorcerer Yen Sid who attempts some of his master's magic tricks before knowing how to control them.
  • Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4 by Edward Elgar. Based on the story of Noah’s Ark from the Book of Genesis starring Donald Duck as first mate to Noah and Daisy Duck as Donald's assistant and love interest. Donald musters the animals to the Ark and misses, loses and reunites with Daisy in the process.
  • Firebird Suite – 1919 Version by Igor Stravinsky. The story of the spring sprite and her companion, the elk, who accidentally awakes the Firebird, a fiery spirit of destruction in a nearby volcano. The Firebird proceeds in destroying the forest, and seemingly the sprite. The Sprite survives, and the Elk encourages her to restore the forest to its former state.



 “Fantasia is timeless. It may run 10, 20, or 30 years. It may run after I’m gone. Fantasia is an idea in itself. I can never build another Fantasia. I can improve. I can elaborate. That’s all.”

~ Walt Disney

Walt Disney had planned to have Fantasia on a continual release with segments being replaced by new ones, so audiences would never see the same film twice. The film's initial failure in revenue, the loss of the European market due to the Second World War, and its mixed critical reaction led to the abandonment of this idea. Following Walt's death in 1966, his nephew Roy E. Disney thought of an update for Fantasia in 1974 and pitched the idea to Disney chairman Michael Eisner ten years later. A project for a sequel titled Musicana came about in the late 1970s that was to explore the world's cultures through their musical compositions, but the idea was shelved in the early 1980s.

Fantasia 2000 entered production in 1990. In September 1991, conductor James Levine attended a meeting with Roy Disney, Thomas Schumacher and Peter Gelb, and was asked to conduct several pieces for a continuation of Fantasia initially named Fantasia Continued. The music selections were collectively decided by Disney, Levine and production staff. Most were decisions driven by the musical preferences of the team, to which Disney chose Pines of Rome. Other pieces were discovered long after the story ideas were set, such as The Steadfast Tin Soldier, where the visuals were based on artwork done for Fantasia. The Shostakovich piece, however, was presented to the team by an animator late into its production schedule. Composer andre Previn reports in his book No Minor Chords that he was approached by Disney to work on a sequel, but declined after he learned that the soundtrack was, at that point, conceived of as an orchestration of songs by The Beatles.

The film was originally scheduled for a mid-1990s release with a change of name to Fantasia 1999 before being changed accordingly when the release date moved into 2000. Three segments from Fantasia were intended to remain in Fantasia 2000, but only The Sorcerer's Apprentice made it into the final release. The late addition of Rhapsody in Blue replaced Dance of the Hours a year before its release and Nutcracker Suite was also included until a few months before its theatrical run. After much of the publicity material had already been produced, plus a number of test screenings, it was removed to shorten the running time.

Design and animation

Director Pixote Hunt decided on the concept to "Symphony No. 5" with a conflict between the "good" multi-colored shapes and the "evil" dark shapes and how it resolves itself. Staff members visited a zoo, a butterfly farm and watched slow motion footage of bats to observe animal behaviors and incorporate them into the shapes. Pastels were used on top of computer animation, with each hand-drawn piece being scanned into a computer system and digitally manipulated.

Rhaposdy in Blue was a work already in progress by director Eric Goldberg (lead animator for the Genie in Aladdin, also inspired by Al Hirschfield's art), when Disney approached him to complete the piece for the film. This decision was ideal given the head start on the work and so that the film could include a work from an American composer. The little girl in the hotel in the segment is based on the Eloise character created by Kay Thompson and the red-haired man is based on John Culhane, the author for the "making of" books for both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. Taking on Rhapsody in Blue also allowed Disney to keep the animators assigned to their feature Kingdom of the Sun (later released as The Emperor’s New Groove) busy while Kingdom went through an extensive rewrite. Some press articles written after the completion of Groove reversed the roles, saying that Goldberg first approached Disney for Rhapsody for Fantasia 2000 and was initially rejected, and later the producers came back to him as a result of the need to find something to do with the animation staff while the Kingdom rewrite was going on.

The idea of The Carnival of the Animals came from Joe Grant, who liked the ostriches in the Dance of the Hours segment from Fantasia. He pitched the idea to have ostriches with a yo-yo set to the music, only to have the animals changed to flamingos. Goldberg got his research from his past co-directing partner Mike Gabriel, who would play with a yo-yo as he took a break from work on Pocahontas. A number of real tricks are demonstrated, including the "Walk the Dog", "Rock the Cradle" and the "UFO".

The story of The Firebird is considered an exercise in the theme of life-death-rebirth deities, as well as a stylized interpretation of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and the subsequent return of wildlife to the devastated region. Disney wished for a segment that was "emotionally equivalent" to the Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria scene in the original Fantasia. The horns on the elk in The Firebird were CGI-rendered on top of hand-drawn animation.

One significant difference in the musical styles between the films is that in Fantasia 2000 the piano features prominently in more than half of the selections, while the original Fantasia did not feature one.

Fantasia 2000 features many technical innovations that would later be utilized in the Disney studio's other animation works, particularly in the use of computers. Both Pines of Rome and The Steadfast Tin Soldier were primarily CGI pieces, completed before Pixar's landmark film Toy Story was released.

Disney felt the need to include live-action interstitial scenes, as seen in the first Fantasia, to have the audience cleanse their "emotional palate", as well as providing some information about a segment coming up. The scenes were directed by Disney animation producer Don Hahn. Instead of using a single narrator like Fantasia did, people from different areas of the art world introduce each segment in Fantasia 2000. Actor Steve Martin briefly discusses the history of Fantasia as a continuing concept and is immediately followed by violinist Itzhak Perlman (though Steve wanted the camera back on him for his own violin performance, breaking the fourth wall even after the film had ended), who introduces Pines of Rome. Quincy Jones leads into the Gershwin number, and Bette Midler gives a history on the cancelled Fantasia segment projects (including Destino) during introduction to the Shostakovich concerto, both featuring on screen the piano players for the respective pieces. James Earl Jones introduces The Carnival of the Animals, Finale with director Eric Goldberg, and, appropriately enough, magicians Penn & Teller make an appearance before The Sorcerer's Apprentice. When this piece concludes with Mickey Mouse's conversation with conductor Leopold Stokowski from the original Fantasia (with Mickey's lines from the original redubbed by his then voice actor, Wayne Allwine), Mickey then moves on to chat with Levine before the latter introduces Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3, and 4. The final sequence of The Firebird is introduced by Angela Lansbury.


Most of the film's soundtrack was digitally recorded at the Medinah Temple concert hall in Chicago, with performances with the Philharmonia Orchestra being recoded at Air Studios in London.

Release and reception

World tour and theatrical run

          “It’s such a feast for the eyes and ears, we figured what better way for it to be seen first than IMAX, which can so completely engulf each of the viewers?

~ Richard Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Group.

Disney officially announced Fantasia 2000 at a conference in New York City on February 9, 1999, where The Carnival of the Animals was also screened. The film premiered at Carnegie Hall in New York City for three nights as part of a five-city concert tour on December 17. Each segment was shown on a screen above the stage, minus the live-action introductions, while the soundtrack was performed live by the 120-piece Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Levine, who used a score and video auto-cue to time the music to the animation. Performances followed at the Royal albert Hall in London on December 21; the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris on December 22; the Orchard Hall in Tokyo on December 27; and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Florida on December 31, where Derrick Inouye conducted.

Fantasia 2000 was first screened in 75 IMAX cinemas worldwide from January 1 to April 30, 2000, becoming the first animated feature-length film to be exhibited in the format. A temporary venue was constructed for its run in Los Angeles at a near cost of $4 million, as Disney was unable to reach an agreement with the operators of the single IMAX cinema in the city. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $2,239,941 in 54 cinemas in the United States and Canada for an average of $41,481 per theater. It set new records as the highest gross for any IMAX engagement and surpassed the highest weekly total for any previous IMAX film. Its three-day worldwide gross reached $3,874,000, and records were set at 18 international venues that showed the film. Fantasia 2000 grossed a worldwide total of over $21 million in 30 days, and $64.5 million at the end of its four-month IMAX engagement. Following its release in 1,313 regular theatres in the US on June 16, 2000, the film grossed $2.8 million in its opening weekend that ranked eleventh at the box office. Fantasia 2000 has grossed a total of over $90.8 million worldwide.

Critical reception

Fantasia 2000 holds a "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a website that aggregates film reviews. Its overall consensus — "Though Fantasia may be flawed in parts, overall it provides an entertaining experience for adults and children alike". 83% of critics gave the film a positive review based on a sample of 81 reviews, with an average score of 7.1 out of 10. Among the website's "top critics", it has an 83% positive rating from six reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times describes some of the animation as "powerful" though others "a little pedestrian", but noted the film was "splendid entertainment" and rated it three stars out of four.

Home media

In November 2000, the film was released on VHS and DVD. A three-disc DVD set named The Fantasia Anthology issued in the same month presented Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. A variety of bonus features were included in the bonus disc, The Fantasia Legacy. Roy Disney precedes the 2000 VHS and DVD releases with an introduction made for key studio releases from the past. On November 30, the film's soundtrack was released on CD, with Levine conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra for Rhapsody in Blue and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the remaining tracks.

Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 were reissued in November 2010 as a two-disc DVD set and a four-disc DVD and Blu-ray combo that boasts 1080p high-definition video and 7.1 surround sound DTS-HD Master Audio. Fantasia 2000 was withdrawn from release and returned to the "Disney Vault" moratorium on April 30, 2011. The 2010 edition is dedicated to Roy Disney, who died a year prior to its release. The Blu-ray also contains Destino as a bonus feature


Note: All segments performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with conductor James Levine, except where noted.

Live-action scenes
  • Director: Don Hahn
  • Art director: Pixote Hunt
  • Story: Kirk Hanson
  • Screenplay: Don Hahn, Irene Mecchi and David Reynolds
  • James Levine
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, I. Allegro con brio
  • Musical score: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, I. Allegro con brio by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Segment introduction: Deems Taylor (archived footage)
  • Director: Pixote Hunt
  • Design: Pixote Hunt
  • Pixote Hunt – design, director
  • Kevin Yasuda – story
Pines of Rome
  • Musical score: Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi
  • Segment introduction: Steve Martin and Itzhak Perlman
  • Director: Hendel Butoy
  • Story: James Fujii
  • Art direction: William Perkins and Dean Gordon
Rhapsody in Blue
  • Musical score: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin
  • Segment introduction: Quincy Jones and Ralph Grierson
  • Director: *Eric Goldberg
  • Writer: Eric Goldberg
  • Art direction: Susan McKinsey Goldberg
  • Design consultant: Al Hirschfeld
  • Conductor: Bruce Broughton
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Allegro, Op. 102’'
  • Musical score: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Allegro, Op. 102 by Dmitri Shostakovich
  • Segment introduction: Bette Midler and Yefim Bronfman
  • Director: Hendel Butoy
  • Story development: James Capobianco and Ron Meurin
  • Art direction: Michael Humphries
  • Based on the story "the Steadfast Tin Soldier" by Hans Christian Andersen
The Carnival of the Animals (La Carnival des Animaux), Finale
  • Musical score: The Carnival of the Animals (La Carnival des Animaux), Finale by Camille Saint-Saens, arranged by Peter Schickele
  • Segment introduction: James Earl Jones
  • Director: Eric Goldberg
  • Writer: Eric Goldberg
  • Animator: Eric Goldberg
  • Art direction: Susan McKinsey Goldberg
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Musical score: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas
    • Performed by an orchestra of Los Angeles musicians, conducted by Leopold Stokowski
  • Segment introduction: Penn & Teller
  • Director: James Algar
  • Story development: Perce Pearce and Carl Fallberg
  • Art direction: Tom Codrick, Charles Phillipi and Zack Schwartz
  • Background painting: Claude Coats, Stan Spohn, Albert Dempster and Eric Hansen
  • Animation supervisors: Fred Moore and Vladimir Tytla
  • Animators: Les Clark, Riley Thompson, Marvin Woodward, Preston Blair
    Edward Love, Ugo D’Orsi, George Rowley and Cornett Wood
Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3, and 4
  • Musical score: Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3, and 4 by Edward Elgar, arranged by Peter Schickele
  • Segment introduction: Leopold Stokowski (archive footage), Mickey Mouse (voiced by Wayne Allwine, Donald Duck (voiced by Tony Anselmo), Daisy Duck (voiced by Russi Taylor) and James Levine
  • Director: Francis Glebas
  • Art direction: Daniel Cooper – art direction
  • Story development: Robert Gibbs, Terry Naughton, Todd Kurosawa, Pat Ventura, Don Dougherty and Stevie Wermers
  • Supervising animator: *Andreas Deja (for Mickey Mouse)
  • Soprano: Kathleen Battle
  • Based on the story "Noah’s Ark" from the Book of Genesis
Firebird Suite – 1919 Version
  • Musical score: The Firebird (1919 Version) by Igor Stravinsky
  • Segment introduction: Angela Lansbury
  • Director: Paul and Gaetan Brizzi
  • Writer: Paul and Gaetan Brizzi
  • Art direction: Carl Jones
  • Supervising animators: Anthony DeRosa (Sprite), Ron Husband (Elk), John Pomeroy (Firebird)

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