Fantasia 2000 is a sequel 60 years in the making. The idea for a sequel is as old as Walt Disney’s time at the studio. He wanted an ongoing series of Fantasia films every few years with new orchestrated segments released alongside familiar favorites. Fantasia wasn’t successful enough to support that vision and the idea was scrapped for decades. Until Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney resurrected the sequel around the time of the Disney Renaissance. Making it clear that Tarzan ended the Renaissance before less formulaic movies were greenlit.
As the studio’s thirty-eighth production, Fantasia 2000 made sense as the beginning of the Post-Renaissance era. Which is best described as Disney’s experimental phase/identity crisis. Despite the title, Fantasia 2000 actually premiered in 1999 at Carnegie Hall. Before receiving a first of its kind exclusive IMAX release on January 1, 2000. Fantasia 2000 features 7 original animated shorts. Along with strange live-action celebrity cameos with an orchestra that make the movie feel like an educational music lesson that I can only talk about separately.
Symphony No. 5 – The first piece was originally written by Ludwig van Beethoven. A famous theme with a lot of power behind it. It became the movie’s key abstract segment. With colorful butterfly triangles being attacked by triangle bats. The light vs. dark experience brings back the trippy nature of Fantasia.
Pines of Rome – The second piece was originally written by Ottorino Respighi. The theme has a sense of wonder and enchantment. So it’s accompanied by a pod of humpback whales and their calf swimming through the arctic. Then flying through the air until they reach outer space. The soothing segment increases the trippier visuals with a beautiful blend of 2D & 3D animation.
Rhapsody in Blue – The third piece was originally written by George Gershwin. The lengthy theme has a distinct old fashion jazz beat. It’s one of the film’s best segments due to its narrative structure and use of blue tinted Al Hirschfeld caricature animation. 1930’s New York is a city of dreamers longing for more in life. A young African American construction worker wants to be a drummer, an average Joe wants a job, a schedule heavy little girl wants to be with her parents, and a high class citizen wants to have some fun. It’s a unique journey and a real highlight.
Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102 – The fourth piece was originally written by Dmitri Shostakovich. The balletic theme was chosen after a long search for a good theme to accompany Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.” Which is the primary story adaptation in the movie. Except the ending was Disneyfied to fit the happier tune. A one-legged tin soldier falls in love with a ballerina while fighting off a jealous, creepy looking Jack-in-the-box. The segment is notable for featuring Disney’s first computer animated lead characters. Giving the toys a distinct glossy look that elevates the experimental animation choices.
The Carnival of the Animals, Finale – The fifth piece was originally written by Camille Saint-Saëns. The theme is fun and silly. Making it a perfect fit for a segment about a flamingo with a yo-yo. It’s short and sweet with plenty of humor packed into every trick. Which is why it’s my personal favorite.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – The sixth piece was originally written by Paul Dukas. It was only included as a nod to Disney’s idea to include the same segments in each Fantasia movie. Follow the link to the 1940 original for my full thoughts.
Pomp and Circumstance – The seventh piece was originally written by Edward Elgar. The theme is always associated with graduations, but it does work with other events. Like two of every animal being brought aboard Noah’s Ark for example. The segment saw the feature length return of Donald Duck in a manner similar to Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Donald and his wife Daisy assist Noah in rounding up the animals in a light hearted, beautifully animated take on the pivotal Bible story.
Firebird Suite – The eighth piece was originally written by Igor Stravinsky. The majestic theme was meant to be the movie’s powerful close. So it was matched with a segment similar to the theme it’s named after. It features a sprite giving life to nature alongside her elk friend. Until a volcano gives birth to a firebird that nearly destroys everything. Concluding with the sprite restoring life once more. The animation blends computer animation once again, but it’s far more reminiscent of anime. The nature vs. chaos is another great way to conclude a musical event like this.
In conclusion, Fantasia 2000 had no real effect on me as a child. I never saw IMAX movies, so I didn’t see it in theaters. The earliest I saw it was in school (music class). It wasn’t until way later that I rewatched it and found it to be just as well executed as Fantasia. It’s just 1 hour & 12 minutes shorter than the 2 hour & 6 minute original. Making it feel a bit insignificant in Disney’s greater movie library. Still, I’d call Fantasia 2000 underrated in terms of animation. I applaud Disney for taking more stylistic chances. I was once again familiar with just about every classical theme.
I wouldn’t mind more Fantasia type movies, but the sequel still didn’t justify more. Really it’s the odd formatting use of disconnected celebrities Steve Martin, Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn & Teller, and Angela Lansbury that feel off. At least Mickey transitioning from the 1940 to 2000 orchestra, then talking to Donald is a highlight. Otherwise, Fantasia 2000 is a valiant animation feat with middling transitions holding it together.
Preceded by: Fantasia