Friday, July 22, 2011

Fantasia 2000 Isn’t as Good as Fantasia, Why Not?

I think that the original Fantasia is one of the great works of 20th Century art. Fantasia 2000, alas, is only so so.

But I can’t explain why.

Sure, there’s lots I could say that would justify my assessment, which is an intuitive one, as such things are. The colors didn’t work in X. The animation was sloppy in Y. Z was too long and had too little action. Things like that, and more sophisticated as well. But I’m not sure that such observations would ACTUALLY CONNECT with whatever’s not going on in Fantasia 2000 that WAS going on in the original Fantasia.

Here’s an extreme example of what’s not going on. I’ve argued that Fantasia had an encyclopedic range of themes and topics, “sampling the space” of life and the cosmos as we know them. Fantasia 2000 doesn’t do that. There’s nothing about microscopic life nor any solar-system wide imagery, as there was in the “Rite of Spring” episode. Nor is there anything with the contemplative grace of the “Ave Maria” episode.

But I don’t think THAT’s the problem. The problem’s with the individual episodes. In too many of them, something fails to click. What? Everything is technically superb. The film was made by superb craftsman, with ample resources (that is, time and $$$) to work their magic. But the magic doesn't astonish.

Except in Eric Goldberg’s visualization of “Rhapsody in Blue,” in which we see the intersecting lives of various New Yorkers. The visual style is quite unlike anything else Disney’s done. But surely it’s not that unlikeness that’s the magic, the difference-from. There’s something positive here that simply works, and works superbly.

And so we’re left with vague abstractions like spirit, or the lack there-of. The original Fantasia was infused with vital spirit in every second of film. Fantasia 2000, not so much.


  1. I felt more or less the same when I saw Fantasia 2000. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I saw the original when I was a boy and then again when my son was six or seven, both critical times. And then, there were expectations for the new thing, always too high in these cases.

  2. Fantasia was a pioneering effort driven by Walt himself. Fantasia 2000 meant well but was kitch-heavy. At least its makers were able to divert Eisner's asinine idea of having all the Disney characters get married in the final sequence.

  3. I didn't know about THAT one. Yikes!

  4. With Fantasia 2000 there was no overarching desire to stretch the technological limits of filmmaking. The original had stereophonic sound going for it but its successor went as far as IMAX screenings and no more.

    Arguably the creators of the original were trying their hardest to show just how good animation could be, whereas the sequel reads as more of a 'look we can do it too' kind of film.