It appears that Walt Disney always intended FANTASIA, an ambitious collection of animated shorts set to classical compositions, to be a work in progress, re-released regularly with a mix of old and new sections. But the 1940 film has stood unchanged for
six decades; this new compilation retains one segment — the popular "Sorcerer's Apprentice," featuring Mickey Mouse and the water-bearing brooms — and introduces seven new vignettes, which showcase a range of animation styles. Like the original FANTASIA'S eight segments, the results are a
mixed bag. The famous strains of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5" accompany a banal flock of fluttering triangles, while Respighi's "Pines of Rome" inspires an oddly moving fantasy of whales rising out of the icy ocean and swimming amidst the clouds. A series of cliched vignettes of NYC life
drawn vaguely in the style of caricaturist Al Hirschfield (who's credited as "artistic consultant") illustrate Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." A computer animated version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier (with the inevitable happy ending) is set to
Shostakovich's "Piano Concerto No.2," while the finale of Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" gives rise to a dopey but endearing tale of a yo-yo and a flamingo determined not to go with the flock. Following "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," four marches from Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance"
underscore the tale of Noah's ark, retooled to include Donald and Daisy Duck. Finally, Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" accompanies a beautifully rendered story of death and rebirth in the forest that owes an astonishing visual debt to Hayao Miyazaki's PRINCESS MONONOKE (ironically, the look of
contemporary Japanese animation was heavily inspired by BAMBI-era Disney). The film's music was conducted by James Levine, and the animated segments are linked by celebrity-studded live-action segments featuring the likes of James Earl Jones, Bette Midler and Steve Martin.
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