A scene from 'Fantasia 2000'
Courtesy Photo
*** stars 74 minutes | Rated: G
Saturday, January 1, 2000 (IMAX)
Friday, June 16, 2000 (35mm)

Directed by Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Francis Glebas, Gaetan Brizzi & Paul Brizzi

Featuring Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn & Teller, Angela Lansbury


IMAX format is roughly the same shape as TV screens, so there's no need to look for wide-screen. The experience won't be the same thing at all watching this film on the small screen, but it's still thoroughly enjoyable, and better yet, you can fast-forward through the duller episodes.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 11.14.2000


'Fantasia 2000' overcomes gimmicky IMAX format with a few unforgettable animated music episodes

By Rob Blackwelder
(Review written for IMAX release)

Always intended to be an ongoing experiment in animation, Disney's "Fantasia," which stalled out after its spectacular first installment in 1940, has been reborn with a brand new gimmick -- the over-rated, four-story screens of IMAX.

Not a bad idea, I suppose, but the problem with IMAX has always been that (with apologies to Marshall McLuhan) the medium is the message. The quality of what's on the screen is always secondary to the fact that, boy, that's a really big screen!

The uneven but enjoyable new anthology that is "Fantasia 2000" is less susceptible to these "size matters" fallacies since it's primarily a visual spectacle in the first place -- setting seven artsy and whimsical animation vignettes to recognizable pieces of classical (and in the case, jazz) music.

"F2K" opens with a dancing, geometric lightning storm of multicolored shapes chasing each other around to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which in IMAX scale comes as something of an assault on the eyes, and a fairly uninteresting one at that.

That's followed by an ice, water and air ballet of humpback whales set to Respighi's "Pines of Rome," which is a surprisingly poor mix of computer and hand animation. The ink-drawn splashes against more realistic computerized water, and especially the roughshod, hand-rendered eyes on the otherwise elegant CGI whales, are distractingly reminiscent of "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," that 1960s Disney assembly line flick with Don Knotts as an animated fish in a live-action world. Left to its computer devices, this sequence would have been above reproach.

But even with a few disappointing sequences -- and, in keeping with tradition, a rash of rather dopey introductions from random celebrities (Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones, Angela Lansbury, Penn and Teller) -- "Fantasia 2000" is more than worth the price of admission just to see the returning "Sorcerer's Apprentice" (you know, Mickey Mouse and the marching broomsticks) and the picture's two masterpiece segments.

The first is an absolutely inspired, whimsical, Jazz Age Manhattan ensemble 'toon featuring Al Hirschfeld-style illustrations, accompanied by George Gershwin's ever-delightful, always dulcet "Rhapsody in Blue."

Skyscrapers, bustling sidewalks, caricatures of indelible Big Apple icons, all drawn in distinct linear plume and married perfectly to that mellow, melodious jazz masterwork -- how could it not be brilliant? This is "F2K's" most memorable -- destined to be legendary -- sequence.

Then there's the beautifully rendered fairy tale episode based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," and set to Shostakovich's "Piano Concerto No. 2," in which a 18th Century toy soldier rescues a lovely music box ballerina from an evil, jealous jack-in-the-box. This sequence mixes near-realistic 3D computer animation seamlessly with its hand-drawn elements and makes wonderfully dramatic use of its musical inspiration in creating a whole new adoration for the old-fashioned resolute hero, flirtatious damsel and mustache-twirling nefarian.

On the lighter side, "F2K" includes a cheerfully silly number starring a pink flamingo who discovers a yo-yo and wreaks goofball havoc on his flock twirling it around (set to "Carnival of the Animals" by Camille Saint-Saens), and a daffy Noah's Ark episode (set to "Pomp and Circumstance" marches) featuring Donald Duck as Noah's clumsy assistant.

The collection ends on a bit of a dull and pretentious note with a Japanese anime-inspired rendition of the cycle of nature, featuring Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" and a ethereal, feminine forest spirit who repopulates mountain vegetation after a violent volcanic eruption and forest fire. Nicely drawn, lots of butterflies, blooming flowers and heavy-handed symbolism, but it pales in comparison to the suspiciously similar finale of Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke."

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