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Movies
'Fantasia 2000'

The original music video 'Fantasia 2000' makes a glorious, state-of-the-art return

Friday, June 16, 2000

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

How many things in life are worth waiting 60 years for? Your AARP membership? "Police Academy VIII"? Repairs on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Donegal and Somerset? Maybe the unification of Korea -- but definitely "Fantasia/2000."

 
 
`FANTASIA 2000'


Rating: G

Hosts: Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn & Teller, Angela Lansburg

Directors: Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, Jamas Algar, Francis Glegas, Gaetan and Paul Brizzi

Web site: www.fantasia2000.com

Critic's call: 4 stars

   
 

In or out of an Imax theater, this pristine example of Walt Disney Studios' initial genius is no mere sequel. It is a sensational continuation and expansion of the classic original, enhanced by state-of-the-art animation technology.

Yet the most wonderful thing is that "Fantasia/2000" is not about technology. It's about the pure marriage of art and music -- the original "music video" concept of pre-dialogue motion pictures.

Abstract triangular butterflies occupy the opening sequence to Beethoven's 5th Symphony. Astoundingly beautiful choreography motivates the flying whales to Respighi's "Pines of Rome." The "Rhapsody in Blue" section is a homage to the clear-lined caricature style of Al Hirschfeld (now 97 and still drawing); its story is devoted to Harlem-Manhattan life of the 1930s with the fantasies and realities of that era's high- and low-life characters -- the most "cartoonish" of the musical sequences but also, thanks to Gershwin, one of most charming.

Totally riveting is the computer-generated, three-dimensional style of Hendel Butoy's segment, setting Hans Christian Anderson's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" to the powerful sounds of Shostakovich's second piano concerto: Our one-legged hero and beloved ballerina are monsterized by a frightening jack-in-the-box villain in a series of visually unique, breathtaking adventures and escapes.

The age-old question: Why do flamingos stand on one leg?

The answer: Because otherwise, they'd fall down. They do both hilariously to the music of Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals," in which a flock of them get hopelessly tangled up with yo-yos -- six snotty, uppity, perfectly pink ones trying to deal with the hijinx of a silly seventh colleague who's magenta!

After the great "Sorcerer's Apprentice" reprise to Dukas comes the only disappointing segment: the Noah's Ark story set to Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance." Donald and Daisy Duck do their best, but the circumstance contains more pomposity than pomp, especially with the addition of a horrendous chorus and the world's worst soprano.

It's the only failing, and a small one. James Levine and the music are superb, and the ghost of Leopold Stokowski can be felt hovering and nodding with approval over the proceedings.

The original "Fantasia," released in November 1940, was a financial disaster due to loss of European revenues because of the raging war. Not until 1956 did it make back its initial investment.

Several "Fantasia/2000" episodes, including "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Carnival of the Animals," were candidates for a followup as early as 1943. Igor Stravinsky sold Disney an option to "Firebird" 16 days after screening the magnificent results of that immortal "Rite of Spring" dinosaur sequence in the original.

"Firebird" constitute the stunning finale here and brings tears of joy as its little water-sprite heroine brings regeneration to the world out of man- and Nature-made ashes. A truly inspirational conclusion.

The 74 minutes go by all too fast -- a triumph not to be missed by rugrats, old fogies and everybody in between.



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