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David Smedberg

Which Fantasia is better for kids?

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I don't mean better as in "contains better message or morality", I mean appeals more to the kind of art/entertainment kids, who are typically more intuitive and less analytical, tend to enjoy.

I was recently thinking back on my relationship to both of these films, and why it was that while I originally liked Fantasia but I loved Fantasia 2000, I have since started to enjoy the original more and more. I think, in part, this is because the original is arguably a more intellectually fulfilling piece of art, especially in the incredible care taken in the art, but the more recent Fantasia excels in particular for the sheer beauty of the music used. The first piece used in each is in many ways an accurate harbinger of what the rest of the film will be like: The Bach Tocatta and Fugue is a brilliant, moving piece of music, in the Baroque style of extremely rigorous theory; Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is a brilliant, moving piece of music, which helped usher in the Romantic era with its sheer drama. (Of course, this is not to say that Bach's piece wasn't dramatic or that Beethoven wasn't a rigorous theorist!!)

There are parts of the original Fantasia, in particular the Mussorgsky "Night on Bald Mountain" and certain sections of the Stravinsky "Rite of Spring", which I found difficult to like when I was younger because of the fact that the music just isn't, well, that musical. These days, being in music school and all, those pieces challenge me to understand what their composers were trying to get at; but when I was, say, 10, they acted as barriers to my enjoyment of the film - only the wonderful images and stories kept me watching, I think. I sometimes turned off the movie after the Dance of the Hours, seeing it, at the time, as a natural ending anyway.

Fantasia 2000, on the other hand, is without exception filled with music which is intuitively easy to conceptualize - even the Resphighi "Pines of Rome", although that's the hardest in my opinion. In the case of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite", they actually had to take it out of context and severely bend the music's form to make it so - but I doubt kids are going to care about that, and I don't really blame 'em - I didn't know the Firebird Suite very well when I first saw Fantasia 2000, and it remains one of the pieces of film to which I have had the strongest emotional reaction ever. I don't know any better way to say it than to say, it's just WOW. That, and the Shostakovich Piano Concerto, are movie moments I was just thrilled by when I saw Fantasia 2000 as a mid-teenager - and now, I'm afraid, I'm starting to think about them too much, and it's diluting my pleasure.

Both movies are family movies, don't get me wrong. Fantasia 2000 just seems to me to be a movie designed for kids, whereas Fantasia is more an adult movie which happens to appeal to kids.

 

[Added by SDG] Links:

Edited by SDG

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The 1940 Fantasia is so superior to the 2000 version.

As for children, let them see the Nutcracker Suite (there is nothing better musically or visually - just wonderful) and let them see Mickey Mouse in the Sorceror's Apprentice. And of course the Dance of the Hours with the ballets of the ostriches and hippos. And maybe the beautiful visual effects for Beethoven's 6th (Pastoral) Symphony.

You can skip the Bach Toccata and Fugue (though it is wonderful but very abstract) and you can skip some of the other things for little children.

But let them see the Nutcracker and Mickey and the hippos. Those alone are stand outs and memorable.

Forget Fantasia 2000. Dreadful.

Sara

Edited by Sara

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Link to 'Disney and the Ruination of Great Stories" Fantasia 2000 and beyond...'

Oh my, has enough time passed that we now have thinking adults who remember seeing Fantasia 2000 in their childhood!? smile.gif

The original Fantasia is far-and-away the superior film. Perhaps it's a tad on the long side -- at just over two hours, it's probably the longest animated film the Disney studio has ever produced, and the fact that it's a series of short films, each starting and stopping at its own pace, doesn't help the momentum -- but it's got much greater variety than the sequel. The original film has episodes that are little more than a celebration of animation and/or dance for their own sake, but every cotton-pickin' episode in the sequel has to tell a "story" -- and, what's more, far too many of them tell pretty much the exact SAME story (e.g. parents losing their children in the Beethoven, Respighi and Gershwin sequences, and lovers losing each other in the Elgar sequence).

That said, I still watch bits of the sequel from time to time, just like I watch bits of the original film.

GreetingsEarthling wrote:

: There are parts of the original Fantasia, in particular the Mussorgsky "Night on Bald

: Mountain" and certain sections of the Stravinsky "Rite of Spring", which I found

: difficult to like when I was younger because of the fact that the music just isn't, well,

: that musical.

Huh. It's certainly a different KIND of music than the Romantic or Baroque stuff we may be used to. But I never had any trouble watching those sequences when I was a kid, because the VISUALS were so incredible. And the more I listen to 'Rites of Spring' on its own, the more I marvel at how the Disney people were able to fit the story of evolution to its template.

FWIW, one of my favorite episodes when I was a kid was the Greek-mythology bit set to Beethoven's 'Pastoral' symphony. I credit that and the Narnia books with stimulating my love of Greco-Roman myth. But THESE days I think the 'Pastoral' sequence is almost embarrassingly dated -- there's something kinda cheesy and even 1940s-ish about the way those studly, curvy centaurs court each other.

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Ditto everything everyone has said. F1940 is a classic; F2000 is a big letdown.

Peter, if you think the Greco-Roman Pastoral is "embarrassingly dated" NOW, just be glad they cut THESE clips ca. 1960: 1, 2, 3 (QuickTime links)

GE, love your R&R avatar. smile.gif

Edited by SDG

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SDG wrote:

: Peter, if you think the Greco-Roman Pastoral is "embarrassingly dated" NOW, just be

: glad they cut THESE clips ca. 1960: 1, 2, 3 (QuickTime links)

Dude! Thanks! I had seen a still of one of these shots before, and I had noticed that certain other shots were extra-grainy (indicating that the people who "restored" the film had zoomed in on one aspect of those shots in order to crop a more embarrassing aspect of the shots), but I had never seen moving footage of those shots before!

I wonder where that website got this footage, if it was indeed removed from the film over 40 years ago (and thus before any version of this film was made available on any form of home video, and before anyone could have videotaped it off of TV).

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I found them as a link to some FTP server in Finland, I believe.  All that I really remember is that I found them in Europe (you can see what appears to be some type of station logo in the lower right corner) on an anonymous FTP site after searching for over an hour.

That's what the man who runs widescreen.org sent me when I inquired. I was doing a project on the censorship for my end-of-year project in English class.

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GE, love your R&R avatar. smile.gif

Thanks. I like it myself. wink.gif

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Speaking of censored Disney cartoons ... how about these before-and-after shots from the original 1933 version of The Three Little Pigs and a version that was slightly revised sometime in the 1950s IIRC?

user posted imageuser posted image

user posted imageuser posted image

Believe it or not, I got BOTH of these from the Silly Symphonies DVD set -- it's the 1950s version of the cartoon that plays there, but these two shots from the original 1933 version are included in an intro by Leonard Maltin. So Disney isn't entirely hiding from its past, here! There is a third shot that was probably also replaced in the 1950s version, but the Leonard Maltin intro clip doesn't show that one.

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Now, if only they would release Song of the South . . .

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GE, love your R&R avatar. smile.gif

Thanks. I like it myself. wink.gif

And I like your current sig-line--er, paragraphs--from the same book.

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I loved the original FANTASIA as a kid (with the exception of the "Rites of Spring" section, which I found a bit dull), and love it even more now. Stellar, stellar film, and probably Disney's finest hour.

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Michael Barrier:

I saw Fantasia when it was revived in 1956, and what most sticks in my memory is the shot of the Earth at the start of the Rite of Spring—the planet was distended, egg-shaped, because most of the film image had been expanded to fit the new wide theater screens. I don't remember that most of the images were so flagrantly distorted as the one of the Earth, but no doubt what I saw would be intolerable to any serious viewer today. The live action couldn't have been similarly stretched without even more grotesque results, of course, and so it wasn't, and I must have wondered at the time how that mixture of screen ratios had been achieved. Thanks to Paul Penna, who steered me toward a posting of a March 1956 International Projectionist article by Norman Wasserman, now I know. Click on the thumbnails just below to go to much larger versions of each page. . . .

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FWIW, animation expert Michael Barrier has an interesting post up on the 'Rites of Spring' sequence in the original film, and the question of whether or not the "fundamentalists" of Walt Disney's day had any influence on the development of that sequence. (Short answer: No, Barrier doesn't believe they did, because there is no real evidence to that effect. Walt Disney deleted the evolution of mankind from that sequence because he couldn't find a way to make it fit the music.)

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Fantasia: Uncle Walt and the Sacred

What was Disney up to in beginning and ending this film with these radical animations having religious connotations? Judging from the biographical material I've read—Schickel's biography and chunks of Gabler's—Disney was conventionally religious, but not devout. So, I don't think we can read the film as anything remotely approaching a religious tract. But if we think of it as an attempt to sacralise the world, well, that's more interesting. The film quite obviously is not a narrative. And, while it's framed as a concert—a concert feature—it's doing something else. Here we meet up with my argument about the encyclopedic scope of Disney's imagery. That argument is not so much that Disney tried to embrace everything, but that he tried to imply everything. That ambition, it seems to me, borders on the sacred. . . .

Bill Benzon and Michael Barrier, February 28, 2007

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The new DVD release comes with a short I'd never seen before. It's called DESTINO (you can find it on YouTube here), and it was going to be part of the abandoned FANTASIA 2006. But the short was originally developed in the 40s, and the key thing is that it was entirely designed by none other than Salvador Dali. Roy Disney, however, wanted to complete it, and so it was. When FANTASIA 2006 was junked, it, and some other sequences (LORENZO, THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL, and ONE BY ONE) were released as shorts. DESTINO's tripped-out, surreal visuals make for a fairly astonishing short. It makes me wish that FANTASIA 2006 had come to pass; it's more interesting than any of the shorts featured in FANTASIA 2000, excluding, perhaps, the "Rhapsody in Blue" segment.

I also caught up with THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL (also on YouTube), which, if you know the Hans Christian Andersen story, is pretty soul-crushing. It's scored to Borodin's "Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2 in D Major."

I haven't caught up with LORENZO or ONE BY ONE. The trailer for the former is YouTube, but not the whole. It's interesting to note, though, that if FANTASIA 2006 had come to pass with these sequences intact, FANTASIA 2006 would have moved away from classical music. Only THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL uses a classical piece (DESTINO uses music originally recorded for it back in its early days, sung by Dora Luz, and the other seem to rely on on non-classical pieces as well).

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My new article comparing and contrasting Fantasia and F2K has been garnering some interesting combox discussion.

Why do the other sequences in Fantasia 2000 fall short? Partly it’s a more limited scope of imagination. With Fantasia, the canvas is always epic and spectacular in scale, with larger-than-life wonders everywhere you turn; it’s like the Sistine Chapel of Disney animation. Fantasia 2000, by contrast, often lapses into more pedestrian thinking. Literally pedestrian in the case of “Rhapsody in Blue,” with its whimsical New York stories.

Not that pedestrian is necessarily bad. “Rhapsody”‘s simplistic line animation, inspired by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, is reminiscent of a 1960s Disney short, which isn’t a bad thing. It just doesn’t feel like something that belongs in Fantasia, any more than a Hirschfeld line drawing belongs in the Sistine Chapel. ...

Where the original Fantasia saved its Judeo-Christian heft for the final act, in the sequel it’s merely the warm-up for a rather pagan finale, the conspicuously anime-inflected “Firebird Suite,” with a green spring sprite/goddess (a more mythically potent cousin of the spring fairies from the “Nutcracker Suite”) bringing new life to the slopes of a volcano before accidentally awakening the rampaging, fiery demon of destruction that inhabits the volcano. ...

Actually, even in the original Fantasia the “Bald Mountain” sequence imaginatively overwhelms the “Ave Maria” finale, which is pious and pretty but lacking in the transcendence and majesty to really pull off the triumph over the forces of darkness.

In fact, the best and most transcendent moment is the initial moment of transition: the peal of the bell, quiet but insistent, and the clear white light that inexorably drives Chernobog and his hellions back into darkness. Like the all-powerful cross in one of Terrence Fisher’s Hammer horrors, the sound of that church bell is infinitely more powerful than all the hosts of hell.

Unfortunately, the animation doesn’t follow through. The “Ave Maria” is still a fine sequence, but there’s a failure of nerve or of inspiration, despite the exalted music, that represents Fantasia‘s most notable missed opportunity.

Edited by SDG

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Why do the other sequences in Fantasia 2000 fall short? Partly it’s a more limited scope of imagination. With Fantasia, the canvas is always epic and spectacular in scale, with larger-than-life wonders everywhere you turn; it’s like the Sistine Chapel of Disney animation. Fantasia 2000, by contrast, often lapses into more pedestrian thinking. Literally pedestrian in the case of “Rhapsody in Blue,” with its whimsical New York stories.

Not that pedestrian is necessarily bad. “Rhapsody”‘s simplistic line animation, inspired by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, is reminiscent of a 1960s Disney short, which isn’t a bad thing. It just doesn’t feel like something that belongs in Fantasia, any more than a Hirschfeld line drawing belongs in the Sistine Chapel. ...

There's something right about this. I like the "Rhapsody in Blue" sequence more than any others in FANTASIA 2000, and I love the piece itself even more, but it's not epic and fantastic. I will confess to enjoying the "pagan" finale of FANTASIA 2000, too; it's the closest the film comes to evoking the grandeur of the original. One wonders how the "Noah's Ark" sequence might have been had they chosen a more invigorating piece and done a serious treatment of the tale, made it something as dramatic and furious as the original's "Rite of Spring."

But one thing you don't comment on in your article is that the choices of music for FANTASIA 2000 just aren't that inspired. The original FANTASIA makes work of such tremendous, full-throttle pieces. Even the lighter stuff tends to be robust and memorable (sure, "Rite of Spring" is difficult, but while I couldn't hum it, I could recall the feel of that piece as a kid).

In fact, the best and most transcendent moment is the initial moment of transition: the peal of the bell, quiet but insistent, and the clear white light that inexorably drives Chernobog and his hellions back into darkness. Like the all-powerful cross in one of Terrence Fisher’s Hammer horrors, the sound of that church bell is infinitely more powerful than all the hosts of hell.

Absolutely. That moment always spoke volumes to me as a child.

Unfortunately, the animation doesn’t follow through. The “Ave Maria” is still a fine sequence, but there’s a failure of nerve or of inspiration, despite the exalted music, that represents Fantasia‘s most notable missed opportunity.

Y'know, "Ave Maria" was originally going to be grander, with actual images of statues of the saints/Virgin Mary and stained glass windows. Walt felt it was too overtly religious and told them to tone it down. Not that I think it would have necessarily helped. The imagery--and truth be told, the music--is lovely, but not gripping or exciting. If they really wanted to give something to show up the powerhouse "Night on Bald Mountain," they needed something with more gusto.

Edited by Ryan H.

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SDG wrote:

: Fantasia 2000, by contrast, often lapses into more pedestrian thinking.

Indeed. And one of my longstanding complaints about Fantasia 2000 has been the relative "sameness" of the pedestrianism that stretches across its segments. The flying whales have a child, who they temporarily lose; the New Yorkers have a child, who they almost lose; the flying set of triangles has a child, which it almost loses; and then there are Daisy and Donald, who don't have a child but do temporarily lose EACH OTHER.

So that's four of the eight segments right there. Of the remaining four, one of them (the sorcerer's apprentice) is just a carry-over from the original film, and one (the tin soldier) was actually based on storyboards from the 1940s. So that just leaves the flamingo-with-a-yo-yo segment, which is very very brief, and the nature-spirit segment, which in its own way is an echo of the opening Beethoven segment.

: One wonders how the "Noah's Ark" sequence might have been had they chosen a more invigorating piece and done a serious treatment of the tale, made it something as dramatic and furious as the original's "Rite of Spring."

Well, they started with the music, not with the tale. If memory serves, the Fantasia 2000 press kit made a point of noting that Michael Eisner had told the producers to do a segment based on 'Pomp and Circumstance' after he heard it at a graduation ceremony; the tale came later (and, if memory serves, there are storyboards for a non-Noah cartoon based on this music on one of the Fantasia DVDs).

: The imagery--and truth be told, the music--is lovely, but not gripping or exciting. If they really wanted to give something to show up the powerhouse "Night on Bald Mountain," they needed something with more gusto.

I dunno. I don't think they needed to "show up" the earlier sequence. The whole point is to alternate the frenzy of Hell with the stillness of Heaven. I used to complain that the 'Ave Maria' sequence lacks the detail of the 'Bald Mountain' sequence, and thus reflects how up-close-and-personal we get with evil even as we keep goodness at a distance, but I've kind of made my peace with that sequence. It works for what it is.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Well, they started with the music, not with the tale. If memory serves, the Fantasia 2000 press kit made a point of noting that Michael Eisner had told the producers to do a segment based on 'Pomp and Circumstance' after he heard it at a graduation ceremony; the tale came later (and, if memory serves, there are storyboards for a non-Noah cartoon based on this music on one of the Fantasia DVDs).

Interesting.

The whole point is to alternate the frenzy of Hell with the stillness of Heaven.

Sure. But you can still have still/quiet and have some gusto, some passion behind it all. The "Ave Maria" sequence is just a bit on the boring side; it's not especially beautiful or especially imaginative. Heck, the deleted "Clair de Lune" sequence does a better job of "still" than "Ave Maria" does.

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Fantasia -- now celebrating its 75th anniversary -- and Fantasia 2000 are now on Netflix US.

 

To quote what I wrote on Facebook:

 

FANTASIA is on Netflix US. I repeat: FANTASIA IS ON NETFLIX US.

 

This is huge. HUGE. At least if, like me, you can remember how Disney refused to release the film on VHS or laserdisc until 1991, and *then* they said they would never re-release the film in its original form again, ever. (Which, I guess, is actually kind of true, since the 2000 DVD release replaced the voice of host Deems Taylor with some other guy's voice. But still.)

 

The thought that this film has been released to home video at least *three times* now (VHS/laserdisc, DVD and Blu-Ray) -- and that it is now available for *streaming* to anyone with a Netflix account, at least in the U.S. -- is just mind-boggling.

 

(And yes, I actually bought this film on laserdisc back in the day, even though I didn't have a player, just because I knew I'd kick myself if I actually *got* a laserdisc player some day and I didn't have a copy of This Particular Film.)

 

And in case I didn't say it earlier in this thread, you *can* hear snippets of Deems Taylor's original voice in the clips that appear at the beginning of Fantasia 2000.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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My new article comparing and contrasting Fantasia and F2K has been garnering some interesting combox discussion.

 

Why do the other sequences in Fantasia 2000 fall short? Partly it’s a more limited scope of imagination. With Fantasia, the canvas is always epic and spectacular in scale, with larger-than-life wonders everywhere you turn; it’s like the Sistine Chapel of Disney animation. Fantasia 2000, by contrast, often lapses into more pedestrian thinking. Literally pedestrian in the case of “Rhapsody in Blue,” with its whimsical New York stories.

Not that pedestrian is necessarily bad. “Rhapsody”‘s simplistic line animation, inspired by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, is reminiscent of a 1960s Disney short, which isn’t a bad thing. It just doesn’t feel like something that belongs in Fantasia, any more than a Hirschfeld line drawing belongs in the Sistine Chapel. ...

 

Writing some more about Fantasia for its Netflix debut, I discovered that the Sistine Chapel analogy can be taken further than I originally realized.

 

B8CsgRXCEAIm3VI.jpg

 

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