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David BruceWalt Disney Pictures' "Fantasia 2000" made its world premiere in an exciting way, as the first animated feature to be formatted for and exhibited in IMAX theaters. It is a marriage celebration of music to animation
Review by David Bruce

F
ANTASIA 2OOO
(1999)

Page created in November 1998
This page was last updated on May 23, 2005

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ROY DISNEY BULLETIN BOARD

Walt always hoped we would build upon the original "Fantasia" and update it with new pieces of music throughout the years. "Fantasia 2000" makes his dream a reality. The new film pays tribute to its predecessor by encoring fully restored versions of the three best-loved pieces from the original -- "The Nutcracker Suite," "Dance of the Hours," and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." But audiences will also see six new pieces set to the music of Camille Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals," Ottorino Respighi's "Pines of Rome," Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance," and Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird."

Adding to the spectacle, "Fantasia 2000" will begin its run exclusively in IMAX theaters around the globe, and its premiere will be accompanied by special festivities worthy of such a tremendous cinematic event.

As we enter the new millennium, the future of "Fantasia" looks as bright as its shining past.

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"POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE -- MARCHES 1, 2, 3 AND 4"
Composer: Sir Edward Elgar
Director: Francis Glebas
Art Director: Daniel Cooper
EQUAL TIME FOR DONALD

SPIRITUAL NOTE: This is a wonderful retelling of the biblical Noah story with Donald Duck! It actually works.

The rivalry between Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck has been a long-standing one. So after six decades of having the "Fantasia" spotlight all to himself, the team responsible for "Fantasia/2000" decided it was about time to give the highly flappable duck equal billing with a sequence of his own. "Pomp and Circumstance" is a famous and traditional march by England's Sir Edward Elgar that is familiar to anyone who has ever attended a high school or college graduation.

In fact, it was this familiarity that led Disney Company chairman Michael Eisner to suggest it as a piece for "Fantasia/2000." Eisner felt that the music was so closely associated with happy occasions and a variety of deep emotions that it would be an ideal candidate to include in the continuation of "Fantasia."

As it turned out, the filmmakers chose to tell the story of perhaps the grandest procession of them all. Director Francis Glebas recalls, "I'd been working on several different pieces for 'Fantasia/2000" and one of the ideas I came up with involved Noah's Ark and the hard time he must have had getting all those animals on the ark. It seemed like an idea laden with comic possibilities and I did a little test with Noah as the main figure set to the music of 'Barber of Seville.' I thought it was very, very funny but it needed something more. Next, we tried it with Dvorák's Ninth Symphony, which gave it a very regal uplifting sound. None of the things we tried quite worked. Around this time, the filmmakers were trying to find a story to go with 'Pomp and Circumstance' and which would feature Donald Duck. So I suggested using Donald as Noah's assistant. It basically evolved from there. Roy Disney suggested that we put Daisy in the story and that gave it a lot of resonance. The idea of star-crossed lovers that couldn't find each other added all kinds of dramatic possibilities and an emotional richness that it didn't have before."

Glebas adds, "The real challenge with this piece has been to tell the story to the beat of the music. We've rearranged it slightly but you still have to basically go with the flow of it. The other thing is that it's like making a silent movie without subtitles, in a sense. You have to figure out how to say something on the screen without any words. And I think our animators have achieved that brilliantly. Donald's personality comes across very clearly even without his characteristic quacking. He doesn't say a word and yet you still know its Donald. One of the joys is having a new generation of kids discovering Donald for the first time."

THE MUSICAL PROGRAM: "SYMPHONY NO. 5"
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Director: Pixote Hunt
Art Director: Pixote Hunt
FOUR FAMOUS CHORDS & AN ABSTRACT ADVENTURE

SPIRITUAL NOTE: This is a rhythm of color and motion retelling the eternal story of good versus evil.

Da Da Da-Daaa! Those famous four notes herald the beginning of Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony. During the Second World War, it was used to signify "V" for victory because of its resemblance to the Morse code signal for V. Others have interpreted it to mean fate knocking.

"We picked Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to be our first number because we wanted the audience to have a sense of instant familiarity," notes Roy Disney. "The opening notes are probably the most famous four notes in music and I think everybody in the Western World knows them. We also liked the fact that it was a deep piece of music that lent itself to the abstract, handmade looking short piece we wanted to open the film with. We were searching for a rhythm of color and motion to tell our story of good versus evil. The music is really very emotional and stirring. We developed and gave serious consideration to several different stories and stylistic approaches before settling on the final one. Pixote has done a stunning job taking the audience into a pastel colored world of shape and form filled with clouds and waterfalls."

Pixote Hunt spent two years creating the story and imagery that accompany this three-minute musical selection in his role as director and art director. He recalls, "Roy and Don Ernst asked me if I would consider coming up with some new ideas for the visuals to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I don't think any artist really believes it when someone says, 'go dream and come back with something.' Usually they say, 'go dream, but come back with my vision.' This was a rare opportunity. "When I listened to the music, it sounded like a great controversy was going on between good and evil," adds the director. "It was pretty clear to me that a battle was going on. There was a little bit of melody and a lot of power. I came up with these triangular shapes to represent the two sides. The good shapes would move like butterflies; the bad ones would move more like bats. I didn't want to be too literal. It's more fun to let that reveal itself. The music and the tempo are so fast, you don't really have a lot of time to study things. You get hit with all this passion and when it's over you take a breath. The good shapes are multicolored and attracted to the light. The bad shapes, represented in dark colors, want to attack them and stop them from reaching the light."

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"RHAPSODY IN BLUE"
Composer: George Gershwin
Director: Eric Goldberg
Art Director: Susan McKinsey Goldberg Piano: Ralph Grierson
CLASSIC AMERICAN STYLINGS: HIRSCHFELD MEETS GERSHWIN

SPIRITUAL NOTE: This is pure pop culture at its finest. It is the joyful celebration of art, music and the richness of the human imagination! The story is about the meaning of human community. It reflects humans as created in God's image -we are a creative community: "Let US CREATE humanity in OUR likeness."

Director Eric Goldberg first paid homage to the style of legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld (still actively illustrating at age 96) when he designed and supervised the animation of the Genie in "Aladdin." Here (with Hirschfeld's blessing and approval) he takes his admiration to the next level as he creates a whole world designed in the artist's unmistakable linear style. Set in Manhattan during the Jazz Age, this whimsical tale follows several diverse characters as they weave in and out of each other's lives during the course of their daily routines.

"Seven years ago, I first spoke to Al Hirschfeld about the possibility of doing 'Rhapsody in Blue' using his artistic style," recalls Goldberg. "He said if he had been fifty years younger, he would have been on a train the next day to work on the project. Instead he gave us his permission to adapt any of his existing work. I knew the idea of Gershwin plus Hirschfeld plus 1930s New York was a strong one. And I was thinking about it as a piece for 'Fantasia' because I heard that the continuation was moving forward. I initially conceived it as a tone poem with a roving camera but I also knew that it would have to be story oriented with characters you could follow.

"Eventually, we came up with four main characters," continues the director. "There's Duke, a construction worker who dreams of being a jazz musician. There's John, who was modeled after journalist John Culhane (author of the Disney Editions book on the making of 'Fantasia/2000,' the physical inspiration for the character of Mr. Snoops in 'The Rescuers' and a longtime observer of the Disney Studio), who dreams of having fun in life and not being stuffy like his wife, Margaret. Then we have Joe, who is perpetually out of work and desperately in search of a job. And finally, there's Rachel, who is patterned a bit after my own daughter. She's a little girl who basically gets dragged from lesson to lesson by an overzealous nanny. She's not good at any of the lessons and really just wants to spend time with her mom and dad who are too busy with their daily routines to be with her. All four of them have problems that need resolution.

"Having lived in New York for many years I was fascinated by the idea that this city, perhaps more than any environment in the world, is accepting of so many different types of people from so many different types of backgrounds and walks of life. People coexist on this tiny island and manage to achieve their goals by helping one another without ever realizing that they're doing so just by the fact that they're living cheek to jowl in an urban environment. This is what fascinated me about 'Rhapsody in Blue' and got me interested in doing it in the first place. The music itself has slow passages, fast passages, humorous passages, repeats ÿ things that you can capitalize upon in animation. You have to let the music drive the story."

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