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The Fantasia Anthology (DVD-2000)

Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

 

Walt Disney Pictures has just released a special three-DVD boxed set called The Fantasia Anthology. The set includes the original Fantasia, Fantasia 2000 and a supplemental disk called The Fantasia Legacy.

Both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 are available singly.  For the Legacy disk, you must buy the set.

 

When Fantasia was released to theatres in 1940, it was not a commercial success. It did indeed play in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco at single theatres for over a year as a novel cinematic experience, but its general release, devoid of its special Fantasound surround sound process, did not fare well.  It was not until later releases, specifically in the late 1960’s and beyond that it became a popular, celebrated feature achieving legendary status.

 

Walt Disney himself never lived to see the commercial and artistic success of Fantasia—but it had been his wish to see Fantasia continue, with new animated segments from time to time.

 

Fantasia had featured classical music interpreted in animation by the imagination and creativity of the Disney artists.  The film pioneered the use of stereophonic sound nearly 20 years before the first stereophonic phonograph records were released to home consumers.  It featured bravura performances by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra and some of the most brilliant animation the world has ever known.  Fantasia was a totally unique film experience.

 

Earlier this year, Disney released Fantasia 2000—the sequel to Fantasia that Walt Disney had hoped for.  The new Fantasia featured new segments and premiered in the gigantic IMAX film format  Like its predecessor, it was an absolute smash in its limited release in IMAX, but did not fare well in general release, where its placement among the summer films did not favor it’s further success.  An excellent film, Fantasia 2000’s quality can now be appreciated anew on DVD. 

 

Now, what are some of the extras on the supplemental DVD and on each disc of the two films?  Well, for one, the lost Clair de Lune animated sequence from the original Fantasia as well as the music for this segment conducted by Stokowski.  This segment has never been seen or heard in its entirety before. And there are also the uncompleted sequences from the original film featuring Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela.

 

There are also two elaborate “making-of” documentaries, one for Fantasia, one for Fantasia 2000.  Other extras include unused animation, alternate endings, special effects work, behind the scenes footage and Walt Disney himself speaking about various segments from the film and illustrating their creation.  In fact, audio commentaries on Fantasia include both the spoken and written words of Disney himself.  Other commentaries are provided by Roy Disney, conductor James Levine, and others associated with the restoration, film history and production of the films.  Rare archival interviews, award-winning shorts, trailers, storyboards and abandoned concepts round out the extras.

 

And what about the individual film discs themselves?  In a word, Fantasia on DVD is stunning.  The remastered and restored picture is the best transfer this film has ever had and the soundtrack music fidelity has been improved even over its earlier video incarnation.

 

A fascinating extra is additional footage of Deems Taylor introducing each segment as well as the original intermission.  All of this footage has remained unseen since 1940.  While the Deems Taylor footage had survived, the sound track for the footage has been lost—so the entire Taylor narration has been re-recorded by another speaker.

 

As for the Fantasia 2000 disc, the picture and sound transfer is also superlative and the film is presented in its intended 1.85 to 1 screen aspect ratio.

 

Fantasia was one of the most influential films of the 20th century and this collectors set presents it in its pristine glory—along with its striking successor—Fantasia 2000. Walt Disney Pictures presents a special three-DVD collectors’ edition boxed set of great music, technical secrets, and terrific animation that will elate your spirit:  The Fantasia Anthology!

 

 

2000 Dennis Kwiatkowski/Celluloid Dreams

 

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