Fantasia/ Fantasia 2000 (BR DVD-2010)
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski
safe to say that Walt Disney’s great Fantasia is one of the most highly-anticipated releases on Blu-ray DVD!
cinematic blend of classical music masterworks brilliantly interpreted in animation by the Disney artists with stunningly
beautiful imagery cries out for the enhanced clarity and detail of sight and sound that Blu-ray DVD offers to the viewer.
of Fantasia’s theatrical releases is quite quite a dramatic one and bears repeating here. When Fantasia premiered in 1940, it played for over a year in single theatres in New York. Los Angeles and San Francisco. But the outbreak of World War II
obliterated the possibility of foreign-market release and the film was so far ahead of its time that it was neither widely
seen nor commercially successful.
Fantasia’s legendary reputation grew steadily over the years with an occasional re-release, it was only when
the film was reissued in the late 1960s - not long after Disney’s death - that Fantasia was embraced by millions of
viewers who could finally appreciate the innovation of Disney’s breathtaking achievement.
new-found popularity resulted in a line of successive re-releases in theatres. In
the 1970s it was released in stereo (the film had actually been recorded - and premiered - in surround-sound stereo in 1938—nearly
twenty years (!) before stereo phonographs would make their appearance in homes, and thirty years before surround sound would
find its way onto record albums and well over forty years before surround sound would begin to solidly establish itself in
the early 1980s Fantasia was released in theatres with a digital soundtrack.
The original stereophonic music tracks recorded by conductor Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1938
were deemed to have deteriorated too much to be used, so a new score was recorded under the baton of Disney alumnus conductor
Irwin Kostel (of both Mary Poppins and Sound of Music fame).
But by the
time of Fantasia’s 50th anniversary in 1990, advancing sound technology allowed for the restoration
of the original Stokowski music tracks and so the film was released in theatres with both a restored image and its original
soundtrack and Fantasia enjoyed critical and audience acclaim once again.
In some select
theatres, special 70mm prints were even made that attempted to recreate the original complex, elaborate (and expensive) surround
sound system which Disney had pioneered for Fantasia’s premiere which was known as Fantasound.
1991, with some additional sound restoration, Fantasia was released on home video (and laserdisc) and it instantly
became the biggest and bestselling video ever up to that time.
in the year 2000, Walt Disney Studios made for theatres a sequel which was in line with Walt Disney’s original intent
to add new sequences to Fantasia. The new film, consisting almost entirely
of new sequences was called Fantasia 2000. Like the original Fantasia,
Fantasia 2000 was an enormous hit initially when it played in a limited number of IMAX theatres worldwide. Later that same year, both Fantasia and
Fantasia 2000 were released on DVD for the first time.
Each of the
versions and restorations of Fantasia over the years have had their own integrity—their own strengths and weaknesses—and
in their own ways have added to the awareness and the preservation of this unique masterpiece.
and 1990s releases contributed vividness and starker contrasts to the imagery. Even
the somewhat misguided version with Irwin Kostal’s re-conducting of the score, which was not fully successful due to
problems with synchronization, tempo changes and missing sound effects, was at least a worthy experimental effort which brought
renewed awareness to the film and its score.
And now comes
Fantasia on Blu-ray. If you think you know the film, think again. Nothing will prepare you for the experience of Fantasia on Blu-ray.
does the touted ‘immersive’ quality of Blu-ray pull you into the film - you won’t be able to stop watching
it once you’ve started the disc - but the high definition picture reveals for the first time a plethora of details in
both the image and the sound.
palette is more vivid and varied than ever before. Where color in the 1990 release
could have been described as dramatic, on Blu-ray the words pastel, exquisite and infinitely nuanced describe the look of the film now. The restorative work is spectacular and the screen explodes in color and clarity.
for the late 1960’s release of Fantasia featured psychedelic artwork and billed the film as ‘The Ultimate
Experience’. That kind of sums up Fantasia on Blu-ray. Also, graininess has been removed from the image along with artifacts, dust and speckles and other
defects from earlier releases.
Some of the
sequences shot with multi-plane cameras, such as the Ave Maria sequence, now look almost three-dimensional.
critic complained some years back that the earlier Fantasia DVD
failed to capture the full range of colors inherent in the original Technicolor image.
It’s hard to imagine a similar complaint here. The Beethoven Pastoral
sequence now contains a phenomenal range of color previously unrevealed and the same is true of the rest of the film. It’s
like it was sort of there before, kind of, but you just didn’t notice it because it was buried.
restoration is also something of a miracle. Much of the distortion inherent in
some of the original recordings has been cleaned up beyond even earlier restorations.
As with the image, the sound improvements are sometimes subtle but more often spectacular.
recordings now contain more bass, more presence and reverberation as well as an extended dynamic range, additional clarity
and a fuller more satisfying orchestral sound.
Trepak in The Nutcracker segment sounds brilliant and the booming chords heard when the evil god Chernobog unfolds
his wings in the Night on Bald Mountain sequence are so powerful that conductor Stokowski himself (a noted sound specialist)
would have been most impressed and pleased.
on a separate DVD in the set is the more recent film, Fantasia 2000 which also looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray. Fantasia 2000 is an excellent film in its own right and a worthy sequel to
the Fantasia disc include an informative new commentary by Disney historian Brian Sibley as well as a fascinating extra
called The Schultheis Notebook about an effects man who worked on Fantasia and kept a detailed notebook of how
all the special effects were done. The notebook’s recent discovery was
a true treasure; without it, so many of the ingenious special effects would remain a mystery to this day.
2000 disc extras includes a documentary about a short-film project known as Destino that Disney worked on with
Salvador Dali in the 1940s. The project was never completed, but Disney’s
nephew, Roy E. Disney completed it in 2003 and the finished film is included as well. Both discs also contain a number of
Fantasia was one of the most influential films of the 20th
century. On Blu-ray it is revealed in all its pristine glory along with its striking
successor—Fantasia 2000. The experience of Fantasia on Blu-ray
will both overwhelm and uplift you and will truly elate your spirit. A must-own
DVD set? You bet!