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Deems Taylor, Leopold Stokowski
Writing Credits:

All the BEAUTY ... All the DELIGHT ... All the EXCITEMENT of the world's greatest music!

Walt Disney's animated musical masterpiece is an extravaganza of sight and sound-now brilliantly restored for the first time ever in high definition! Blu-Ray technology finally allows you to experience Fantasia - and Fantasia 2000, the triumphant classic it inspired - the way Walt envisioned! Plus, for the first time ever on Blu-Ray, experience the 2003 Academy Award®-nominated animated short Destino - the extraordinary collaboration between Walt Disney and legendary artist Salvador Dali! Revealing new bonus features and commentary bring the Fantasia experience to life, allowing generations of moviegoers all over the world to enjoy this timeless classic like never before. See the music come to life, hear the pictures burst into song and experience the excitement that is Fantasia over and over again.

Box Office:
$2.28 million.
Domestic Gross
$361.800 thousand.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 124 min.
Price: $45.99
Release Date: 11/30/2010

Available Only As Part of a Four-Disc Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 Special Edition

• Audio Commentary with Walt Disney and Film Historian John Canemaker
• Audio Commentary with Fantasia 2000 Executive Producer Roy E. Disney, Film Historians John Canemaker and Scott MacQueen and F2K Conductor James Levine
• “Disney Family Museum” Featurette
• “The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure” Featurette
• Interactive Art Gallery
• DisneyView Presentation
• Sneak Peeks
• Bonus DVD


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Fantasia [Blu-Ray] (1940)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 1, 2010)

Ever since I first saw it many years ago, I’ve maintained a love/hate relationship with Disney’s 1940 “masterpiece” Fantasia. Actually, I should rephrase that: I’ve had a tolerate/hate relationship with the film during my prior viewings.

When I initially took in the movie, I was 16 and Fantasia was out in one of its many theatrical reissues. Normally I wouldn’t have gone to see a Disney animated flick at that age, but Fantasia had a reputation as a more sophisticated piece, so I gave it a shot.

As I recall, I wasn’t impressed. Actually, I’m pretty sure I found Fantasia to be a long-winded bore. But I was only 16 - what did I know?

A lot, I guess, because my opinion didn’t change one iota when I next saw the movie. Fantasia made its initial appearance on home video in late 1991, and a friend invested in the deluxe laserdisc boxed set even though he didn’t yet own a player. I did, so I agreed to check it out to make sure the package lacked defects.

I watched the whole thing, but only in a technical sense; I made active use of my remote’s “fast forward” button because I just couldn’t sit through many of the segments. My feelings about Fantasia exactly mirrored my opinions of eight years prior. While the movie clearly displayed some fine artistry, it nonetheless seemed terribly dull and almost never interested or delighted me.

Perhaps due to a masochistic streak, I decided to give Fantasia another shot in late 1998. Actually, this choice occurred because I went through a major Disney infatuation at that time. Prior to the end of 1998, I’d enjoyed modern Disney animated movies - from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast on - but I thought my interests were restricted to the newer films. I’d failed to feel enchanted by the older efforts and I doubted my opinions would change.

Yet they did alter, partially because the precipitous collapse in the laserdisc market meant I could find previously expensive boxed sets for a song. As such, I grabbed bargain copies of Cinderella and Snow White. No, I didn’t think I’d be wild about the films, but the prices were so cheap that I figured they merited a shot.

Fantasia boxed LD, I figured that even that clunker deserved another chance. After all, my attitudes toward the other Disney animated works had changed; perhaps I’d feel differently about my long-time nemesis as well.

To that end, I decided to avoid my experience of 1991 and I banished my remote control; love it or hate it, I was going to try Fantasia on its own merits and not fast-forward through any sections. At times, this became exceedingly difficult, but I made it to the end and granted the movie some mild respect when this occurred. My opinions didn’t make a radical change, but I found Fantasia a little more entertaining this time; I couldn’t claim to like the picture, but I managed to discover some good aspects of it.

Now that my Blu-ray screening has forced me to sit through Fantasia a fifth time, my feelings toward it remain fairly similar to those of the last showings. Frankly, much of Fantasia is darned dull, as it’s a long-winded effort that can become terribly boring at times. However, it provides a few solid moments that make parts of it good. I don’t think it deserves the “classic” status it maintains, but I don’t loathe it either.

Fantasia was an ambitious project that tried to integrate classical music and animation in a variety of styles. Most would attempt to tell a story, but others were more abstract. All would be combined into one long feature that attempted to offer a magical, enchanting experience.

At times, it succeeds. Fantasia’s most famous short, the Mickey Mouse effort “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, remains fun and lively. The cartoon defines the Mouse’s character as a lovable but flawed little guy who doesn’t have a mean or cruel bone in his body but who suffers from some weaknesses nonetheless. Here Mickey gets into trouble due to laziness; he uses magic to make brooms perform his chores, but he lacks the ability to stop them.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Mouse - Donald Duck always seemed more entertaining and compelling - but he works well in this piece. Mickey tended to be bland, mostly due to his popularity; the Mouse became so beloved that crowds rejected any attempts to make him anything other than perpetually good-natured and chipper. “Apprentice” modifies that presentation somewhat, but he certainly doesn’t compare with better-defined personae like Donald of Goofy.

Anyway, “Apprentice” stands as one of Fantasia’s high points, as it presents a fun and well-executed piece of entertainment. Also quite good is the film’s concluding sequence, a combination of “Night on Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria”. Actually, this program succeeds mainly due to the first half. The short starts with a vision of demons come to life, but they are eventually banished by the dawn and the appearance of religious pilgrims.

The latter sequence is a bit bland and unspectacular, as it sticks to simple images and little motion. “Night”, however, is simply terrific. Led by legendary animator Vladimir “Bill” Tytla, the segment seems dark and foreboding. It’s powerful and vivid piece that leaves a strong impression.

After that, Fantasia becomes much more of a mixed bag. Unquestionably the worst segment is “The Rite of Spring”. On the surface, it sounds like it’ll be really cool. Accompanied by Stravinsky’s music, the program depicts the birth and evolution of the Earth, going all the way through and slightly past the extinction of the dinosaurs. It should be exciting and fascinating.

It’s not. Instead, this 22 and a half minute segment feels like it lasts forever; at times it seems as though the story of the Earth’s development is being told in real-time. Technically, the piece is well-executed, but it defines the dullness at the heart of so much of Fantasia; it’s all about visuals and lacks anything else to make it entertaining or memorable.

I also disliked the more abstract sequences. Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue In D Minor” and “Meet the Soundtrack” dragged, but they bothered me much less than “Rite” just because they didn’t last nearly as long; “Toccata” clocks in at almost nine minutes, while “Soundtrack” only goes for about three minutes. Actually, “Toccata” probably could have been longer than “Rite” and felt shorter just because it appears so early in the film; my patience was greater at that point than by the time we reached “Rite”.

The remaining three sequences in Fantasia fall between the aforementioned highs and lows; each have merits but don’t completely succeed for me. Of the three, “Dance of the Hours” probably works the best, if just because it’s the most well-integrated and comical. Too much of Fantasia suffers from an excessively serious tone, so it’s nice to see some more light-hearted material. The others - “The Pastoral Symphony” and “The Nutcracker Suite” - have their moments but are less consistent.

All of them suffer from the same problem that affects virtually all of Fantasia: they’re simply too long. Frankly, I think each of the major segments should have been significantly briefer, as they really wear out their welcomes. Often I’d find myself intrigued by a sequence but would get tired of the material well before it ended; some of these pieces just felt as though they’d never end.

As it stands, Fantasia remains a landmark achievement in filmmaking, but I can’t consider it a success just because too much of the movie leaves me flat. I certainly appreciate it more than I used to, but I still feel little enthusiasm for the film.

A few notes about the version of Fantasia found on this disc. The package touts it as “Walt Disney’s original uncut version”. Technically, this is true. For one, the movie restores about five minutes of footage that appeared in the “roadshow” edition of the film. As I’ll note in the section of my review that discusses the sound quality, this restoration required some compromises that may become controversial.

However, the big issue about this disc concerned just how “uncut” it would be. The original edition of Fantasia included some very stereotypical images of a black centaurette in the “Pastoral” section. For the last few decades, these have been omitted from the movie in the interest of political correctness.

The announcement that the disc would be “uncut” sparked conjecture that these snippets would reappear. Nope - you’ll not see the problematic image. However, it doesn’t appear that the scenes have actually been cut. Instead, the picture either zooms tightly to avoid the “offending” material, or it uses digital techniques to simply remove to centaurette. For instance, at 1:21:24, we should see the black centaurette trail after the pinkish one, but she’s just not there.

Should the images have been restored? Yup. I don’t support the racist imagery seen in the original film, but I also don’t think that these kinds of alterations are helpful. One cannot learn from mistakes if one denies their existence.

Through their DVD releases, Disney have pretended that they’ve never included any even remotely non-politically correct imagery. From small edits in Saludos Amigos and Melody Time to the deletion of one entire sequence of Make Mine Music, we’ve come across far too many alterations made in their material. Some argue that the offensive shots in Fantasia detract from the film because they stand out so strongly, and that may well be true.

However, I remain opposed to alteration of movies in this manner, if just because of the “slippery slope” on which it starts us; too much arguably questionable material appears in movies to let us begin to pick and choose what we want to pretend never existed. To modern sensibilities, the black centaurette in Fantasia is offensive, but it clearly wasn’t seen as such 70 years ago, and it should have remained as a depiction of the era’s standards. The Blu-ray makes these alterations much more smoothly than its DVD predecessor did, but the changes still shouldn’t have occurred.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Fantasia appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie boasted an excellent presentation.

Sharpness appeared crisp and well-defined. Though I expected the animated sequences to look much better than their live-action counterparts, in reality, all segments demonstrated strong definition. At its best, the transfer appeared terrifically concise, and at worst, it still looked pretty darned tight. No issues with softness manifested themselves here.

Of course, examples of jaggies or shimmering were absent, and I didn’t sense any kinds of artifacts. Source flaws were non-existent. Throughout the film, no signs of specks, marks or other blemishes appeared; the flick remained clean.

Colors appeared nicely bright and bold. Fantasia displayed a wonderfully varied palette and all of these hues seemed well-reproduced. Even the potentially messy colored lights of the live-action bits came across as smooth and tight.

Black levels seemed deep and tight, with no signs of fading or gray tones, and shadow detail appeared appropriately dark without any excessive heaviness. I really couldn’t find anything about which to complain in this stunning presentation.

While not as impressive, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Fantasia certainly worked well given the movie’s age. Although the interstitial segments offered dialogue and some minor effects, music is clearly the star of this show, and the soundfield displayed the classical works with good breadth. In the front speakers, the sound presented a generally solid stereophonic image. At times I thought the mix tended toward too much gimmicky use of the stereo capabilities; I’d hear the music swish from one side to the other for no apparent reason.

This seemed somewhat distracting but made sense within the parameters of the era; stereo was a gimmick, and I’m sure Disney wanted to show off the capabilities as much as possible, with led them away from a more naturalistic - and listenable - presentation. Truly integrated stereo occurred for much of the movie, however; the gimmicks stood out to me but they didn’t dominate the film.

Surround usage usually tended toward the “reinforcement” side of the street, but some performances provided greater information from the rear speakers. Indeed, they could become a bit gimmicky themselves, as the back channels occasionally threw out too much information; at times, it felt like the sound designers utilized the surrounds because they could, not because they should. However, those instances were rare; the surrounds usually added decent life to the package.

Audio quality seemed dated but generally quite good. For a 70-year-old recording, the fidelity was solid. The instrumentation came across cleanly and smoothly for the most part, and the track lacked much of the shrill quality that often pervades audio of this vintage. A little mild crackling could be heard on occasion, but overall the audio seemed largely free of distortion or other overt flaws.

Bass response was fairly good, though occasionally a little too loud. I thought the 2000 DVD lacked much presence, and it felt like this version went too far in the other direction. However, that didn’t happen often, so the extra heft was usually welcome. While the sound of Fantasia didn’t compete with modern affairs, it seemed very good for its vintage.

How did the picture and audio of the Blu-ray compare to those of the 2000 DVD? Both showed improvements. The two discs’ audio seemed the most similar, but the Blu-ray’s lossless track seemed clearer and more dynamic. It didn’t provide a stunning improvement, but it fared better.

The visuals demonstrated the more impressive step up in quality, though. I thought the DVD looked fine, but it suffered from some softness – particularly during live-action shots – as well as a mix of minor source defects. These issues vanished during the Blu-ray. It boasted a much stronger visual presentation with virtually no problems, so it was a major upgrade.

One other audio note: the old DVD had some lip-synch problems that were less noticeable here. Apparently Deems Taylor’s interstitial dialogue no longer exists, so an impersonator dubbed his notes back in 2000. This resulted in some lines that didn’t fit Taylor’s mouth especially well. At times, the synch still seemed a bit off on the Blu-ray, but not as noticeably.

Some of the old DVD’s extras carry over here, and we find some new pieces as well. We open with three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from Walt Disney himself. No, they didn’t thaw him out to chat about the film; instead, his remarks have been culled from decades of interviews plus transcripts of conferences. Film historian John Canemaker also adds some connecting statements and other facts about the film and the Disney studio.

Overall, I really like this commentary. Although it begins with a concentration on Fantasia, it eventually develops more into a discussion of Disney’s philosophies and ideas; for example, he talks about his dedication to continued investment in the studio, and also relates his thoughts about critics. Canemaker becomes more active as the track progresses as well; he includes a fair amount of valuable information about the movie and the studio. However, Walt remains the prime attraction, and while some may find it disappointing that his remarks don’t focus exclusively on Fantasia itself, I thought the track offered a fine balance. We get a nice balance of statements from the man himself, and it’s a very nice compendium.

One complaint: I would have loved to have the dates of the comments identified. Disney's remarks span decades, so it would have been nice to have this data more clearly indicated. Despite that omission, I really like this supplement.

In the second audio commentary, we find a more general track from a variety of participants. This crew includes Canemaker, Fantasia 2000 executive producer Roy E. Disney, film historian Scott MacQueen and F2K conductor James Levine. Although it’s not quite as fascinating as Disney’s track, I also find this commentary to present a lot of valuable information.

Canemaker dominates with many remarks about the illustrators and other aspects of the production, but all of the commentators add useful facts. For example, MacQueen mainly focuses on issues related to the restoration. All in all, it’s a solid listen that complements the experience.

In addition to these, we get a new commentary from Disney historian Brian Sibley. In his running, screen-specific chat, he discusses the filmmakers and their specific tasks, the music and its adaptation for the movie, animation, social areas, the flick’s release and reception.

Inevitably, some material Sibley covers repeats from elsewhere. Nonetheless, he makes this a consistently informative piece that delivers a terrific overview of the production. We get a terrific amount of info related to the various animators and discover good tales about their work. Despite a bit of redundancy, there’s a lot to enjoy in this fine track.

One additional note about Sibley’s commentary: it’s the only place you’ll hear any reference to the censored shots of the black centaurette. Sibley essentially defends Disney’s move; that doesn’t shock me, but it disappoints me, as it’d be nice to hear an animation historian vote against historical revisionism. Instead, Sibley apparently feels that we don’t need to see the shots in the actual film because we can see stills of them in reference books about animation. Sigh.

Two featurettes follow. Disney Family Museum goes for four minutes, five seconds, as it shows a look at that location. We hear from Walt’s daughter/Walt Disney Family Foundation secretary Diane Disney Miller, grandson/Walt Disney Family Foundation president Walter ED Miller, and Walt Disney Family Museum executive director Richard Benefield. They tell us a little about the museum and entice us to visit. Which works – I sure want to stop in there someday – but this remains essentially an ad for the joint.

The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure lasts 13 minutes, 51 seconds and features Diane Disney Miller, Canemaker, Benefield, Walt Disney Family Foundation Director of Collections Michael Labrie, and animation historians JB Kaufman and Charles Solomon. Referred to as the “Rosetta Stone of animation”, the titular notebook reveals a wide variety of effects techniques used for Disney’s classic movies. The featurette mostly covers methods found in Fantasia. This becomes an interesting and informative piece.

Next we get an Interactive Art Gallery. This offers stills from both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. For Fantasia, we get 251 images across seven subdomains, while Fantasia 2000 provides 161 elements over its six subsections. These show concept art, character designs and other drawings. All are good to see, and this adds up to a fairly comprehensive collection.

One unusual “bonus”: something called the DisneyView Presentation. Also found on the Snot White Blu-ray, I thought this would offer a picture-in-picture commentary, but instead, it provides complementary artwork to fill the black bars on the sides of 16X9 TVs. This sounds tacky, but it actually works pretty well. The art meshes nicely and doesn’t distract from the film. It also helps avoid potential “burn in” problems on your set; the art remains dark, but it’s not black and it changes. It’s a clever way to frame the movie.

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 a couple of the same supplements found on the Blu-ray; Sibley’s commentary and the “Museum” featurette reappear. 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. 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 additional DVD with the old extras on it! Their omission was a tacky purse-strings decision.

Many years after I first saw it, my feelings about Fantasia remain mixed. While I respect it as a fine piece of technical work, the film itself still largely leaves me cold; some parts of the movie are compelling, but many others appear dull and boring. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture plus relatively strong sound and a few good extras highlighted by three interesting commentaries.

Fans of Fantasia will feel enormously pleased with the movie’s visual upgrade here, but some disappointments persist. We still get the same issues with censorship that dogged the 2000 DVD, and the Blu-ray lacks many of the old package’s extras – at least as “on-disc” features. I still recommend the Blu-ray to fans simply because the film has never looked or sounded better, but I wish Disney had done more to make this the ultimate Fantasia.

Note that as of late November 2010, you can purchase Fantasia on Blu-ray only as part of a four-disc combo pack along with Fantasia 2000. This set includes both of those films on Blu-ray as well as on DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4 Stars Number of Votes: 10
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main