Fantasia 2000 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc except for “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, which was 1.33:1. In regard to the aspect ratio, some controversy surrounds it. That’s because of its IMAX screenings. Although I found it impossible to obtain definitive data, it appears that IMAX movies generally use dimensions of 1.44:1, and some feel that this must mean that the general theatrical release of F2K cropped the image to achieve the 1.85:1 ratio.
From what I understand, this wasn’t the case. Allegedly F2K was always meant to be shown at 1.85:1, and changes were made to allow for the IMAX dimensions. Does this mean that there was additional animation completed for the IMAX version and it essentially represents an “unmatted” rendition of the film, or does this mean that the IMAX edition cropped the sides of the 1.85:1 image? I have no clue, and my attempts to find a definitive answer to this question came up empty; I located lots of different opinions but nothing I’d call certain.
Overall, F2K presented a nearly-flawless picture. Sharpness appeared quite crisp and concise throughout the film. At no time did I discern any signs of softness or fuzziness; the movie looked detailed and well-defined. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no problems. No print flaws were observed; the film lacked grit, grain, scratches, blotches, hairs or other defects.
Colors appeared nicely varied and clear. Due to the variety of subjects, the shorts used quite a few different hues, and the disc replicated these wonderfully. From the pastels of “Rhapsody” to the broad pinks of “Carnival of the Animals” to the rich blues of “Pines of Rome”, the colors were accurate and bold. Black levels seemed deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately dense but never excessively thick. This was a consistently excellent visual presentation.
Although F2K contains some speech and effects during the interstitials - the live-action sections between cartoons - the score is the main attraction, and the DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix reproduced those elements well. The soundfield displayed the audio actively from all five channels. Not surprisingly, the music stuck most strongly to the forward speakers, but the surrounds also supported the score to a strong degree; I felt engulfed by the songs. There wasn’t a whole lot of discrete instrumentation in the rear, but it occurred enough to make the stereo nature of the surrounds truly worthwhile, and the very involving nature of the soundfield created an immensely affecting package.
All of this was bolstered by the solid quality of the track. The music seemed crisp and clear at all times, with distinct and easily-distinguishable instrumentation throughout the film. From quiet moments like solo piano parts of “Rhapsody in Blue” to the many strong and loud bits, the various components came through well. I found the track to display fantastic positive range with some deep low end; the bass packed a powerful punch and reinforced the dynamics.
Inevitably, the audio for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” came across as significantly weaker than the sound for the rest of the film. Since it was recorded about 60 years earlier, that wasn’t a surprise. Actually, the music appeared clear and bright for a track its age, but it still couldn’t match up with the other songs.
The imaging was much more forward-oriented, and it tended to display gimmicky stereo effects which lacked the true blending of a more accomplished mix. Honestly, I’m not really complaining about the sound quality of this segment; it was strong for material of its vintage. However, I did want to distinguish its tone from that of the rest of this fantastic-sounding mix, since it stuck out from the pack.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original DVD? For the most part, audio seemed similar. The lossless DTS-HD mix boasted somewhat stronger clarity and range, but it didn’t blow away its predecessor; both sounded very good.
Visuals showed a bigger step up in quality. For an SD-DVD, I thought the old disc was fine, but it couldn’t compete with the super-tight and defined images on display here. The picture was more concise and more vibrant across the board.
Some of the old disc’s extras repeat here, and we also find some new components. I’ll indicate Blu-ray exclusives with special blue print.
We open with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from executive producer/Walt’s nephew Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, and producer Don Ernst. All three men were recorded together; the track even places them in discrete spatial locations, with Ernst on the left, Levine on the right, and Disney right in the middle.
Although the commentary suffered from some of the “happy talk” tendencies that mar many of these productions - it can be hard to find tracks that include critical discussions - I thought it provided a solid general look at the history of the production. The men touch on a nice variety of subjects, from the way F2K came into being to a number of small points about each different short. We get a good mix of facts and anecdotes, and it’s all presented in an engagingly genial manner. I would have liked more information about the obstacles the production faced, but nonetheless I enjoyed this track.
We find a wide variety of participants in the second commentary, as it involves the creators of the various segments. Across the film, we hear from the directors and art directors of the various segments. As such, the commentators change every few minutes, though some make reappearances; actually, Don Hahn and Pixote Hunt - who created the film’s interstitials - almost become our running companions for the movie, plus Roy Disney and a few others recur.
Not surprisingly, the second commentary provided a more detailed “nuts and bolts” look at the making of the film. The participants let us know what they wanted to do with the material and how specifically they created the work. This may sound dry and technical, but it’s really not, and the information came across in a compelling manner. In addition to the animators, this track included a few guests. During the “Rhapsody in Blue” segment, cartoonist Al Hirschfeld - whose work inspired that piece’s look - sits in with directors Eric and Susan Goldberg.
Unusually, the commentary for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” features Roy Disney and Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck butts in on the conversation between Francis Glebas and Dan Cooper for “Pomp”. Surprisingly, these cutesy touches work nicely and add a light touch to a solid commentary.
A featurette called Musicana lasts nine minutes, 20 seconds. It boasts comments from Hahn, animation historian Charles Solomon, Walt’s People author Didier Ghez, animator/writer/director Burny Mattinson, animators Dave Spafford and Steven R. Hulett, visual development artist Mel Shaw, and animator/sculptor Ruben Procopio. Musicana was an aborted take on a Fantasia-style film attempted in the late 1970s. The featurette details aspects of this unmade movie, and it provides an intriguing glimpse of an unrealized project.
Disney buffs know about another aborted flick: a 1946 collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. We learn more about this in a program called Disney and Dali: A Date with Destino. It goes for one hour, 22 minutes, 18 seconds and offers statements from Roy Disney, animation historians John Culhane, Leonard Maltin and John Canemaker, Walt Disney Archives founder/director Dave Smith, director Dominique Monfery, Animation Research Library director Lella Smith, Walt Disney biographer Neal Gabler, Centre for Dalinian Studies director Montse Aguer, Salvador Dali Museum director of education Peter Tush, art historian Dawn Ades, Disney historian Paula Sigman, writer/story artist John Hench, Broadway director Julie Taymor, producer Baker Bloodworth, The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney author Michael Barrier, associate producer David Bossert, clean-up artist supervisor Jeroen Dejonckheere and production designer Thierry Fournier.
“Date” delivers basic biographies of Disney and Dali as well as looks at their work over the years. This leads to their attempted collaboration and the reasons it didn’t work. From there, we learn about the later discovery of the lost art in the archives as well as its ultimate completion in 2003.
“Date” provides a pretty in depth discussion of its subject. It splits its attention among historical topics and the creation of the modern short in a satisfying manner, and it delves into the issues well. Fans should find a lot to like in this informative piece.
After this, we get to check out the 2003 Destino in its entirety. The short lasts six minutes, 31 seconds and tells an abstract tale of a woman’s search for her own identity. It’s definitely different than the standard Disney fare – I can’t imagine how it would’ve been greeted in 1946 – but I can’t say that it’s intensely fascinating. At the very least, however, it’s an intriguing glimpse of unknown Disney.
The disc opens with some ads. We get promos for Bambi, Cars 2 and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2. The Sneak Peeks area also tosses in clips for The Incredibles, The Lion King, Disney Parks, Alice in Wonderland (1951) and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
The package also includes a bonus DVD. This offers the “Musicana” featurette but none of the other supplements. It’s a nice way to have a portable copy of the film – or to “future proof” the purchase for those who lack Blu-ray capabilities now but plan to get into it in the future.
When you look over the list of bonus features, you’ll notice that most of the 2000 DVD’s extras fail to reappear. Apparently the Blu-ray does allow you to access many of these via BD-Live in “Disney’s Virtual Vault”. That’s a misguided decision on Disney’s part. Not only does it mean that those without Internet-connected players can’t access the material, but also those who can may not be able to do so indefinitely. Who knows how long Disney will keep the information online? C’mon Disney – throw in an extra DVD with the old extras on it! Their omission was a tacky purse-strings decision.
I won’t find much company, but I think Fantasia 2000 provides a more enjoyable experience than its legendary predecessor. As a work of pure art, it doesn’t compare, but it offers superior entertainment.
The Blu-ray boasts excellent picture and audio along with a few interesting supplements. I remain disappointed the set leaves out so many of the bonus features from the 2000 DVD release, but it does present the movie in the best fashion we’ve seen to date.
Note that as of late November 2010, you can purchase Fantasia 2000 on Blu-ray only as part of a four-disc combo pack along with Fantasia. This set includes both of those films on Blu-ray as well as on DVD.