Saturday, April 6, 2024

Walt Disney, part LIV: Pompous circumstance


Directed by Don Hahn, Pixote Hunt, Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, James Algar, Francis Glebas, Paul Brizzi, and Gaёtan Brizzi

Spoilers: moderate, I guess

Famously, Walt Disney's 1940 feature marrying animation to classical music, Fantasia, was not supposed to stop.  He'd hoped, rather, that it would continue indefinitely, with new sequences constantly replacing the old, permitting the film to become something distinctive enough that I'm not sure you could call it "a film" anymore, but an evolving permanent exhibition.  Equally famously, however, Fantasia's costly release strategy proved a stillborn disaster.  There were follow-ups of a sort, eventuallyFantasia's own butchered mid-40s wide release, and Disney's pair of post-war musical anthologies, Make Mine Music and Melody Time, which attempted something along broadly similar lines, though they're only grab-bags of stuff not even consistent enough to call "good movies"but even if the grander dream of Fantasia never quite died, it faded, and starting with Fantasia's failure, so too did Walt's enthusiasm for the art of animation itself.  For his part, Roy O. Disney, Walt's brother, always thought it was a bad idea.

Many years passed, and in 1984 Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg took charge of Walt's company, placed there by one Roy E. Disney.  Roy E. was Roy O.'s son, but at least as much his uncle's nephew, and he was set on bringing Fantasia back.  For seven years, Eisner managed to put him off.  Katzenberg, meanwhile, thought it was a guaranteed waste of money and continually said so; hence my suspicion that the biggest reason Roy came to hate Katzenberg's guts was his refusal to even mask his disdain, and I suppose you could get downright psychoanalytic about it if you liked.  But from a purely business standpoint, perhaps Eisner should've been equally assertive.  The problem with "maybe laters" is that, eventually, "later" happens, and bolstered by Fantasia's successful theatrical re-release and VHS sales, Roy finally got his way: in 1991, Eisner gave the go-ahead for Fantasia Continued, eventually to be called Fantasia 2000.

And the fact that Fantasia 2000 started nine years before its release date should already prompt worries.  The name would like you to think that it was at the business of ushering in a whole new millennium for animation, much as Fantasia, sixty years before, had helped define what animation was capable of in its century.  In practice, it's just descriptive, even misleadingly descriptive, given that its oldest segment was finished about six years earlier during a decade of revolutionary advances.  Either way, Fantasia 2000 premiered at Carnegie Hall in December 1999, prior to a monumental IMAX release beginning on New Year's Day, 2000.  It did reasonable business as a big-screen event, but it didn't create a sensation; it arguably allowed the public to grow disinterested long before its actual wide release in June.  Ultimately, Fantasia 2000 didn't even crack $100 million worldwide, on an $80ish million budget.  In this way, and this way alone, did it live up to its predecessor.

That's a pity, because I still admire Fantasia 2000.  More than the film itself, it's what it representsa potential vehicle for interesting cartoon shorts, for a start, but moreover, a final expression of the whole ethos that had brought into being the Disney Renaissance, an era which, even if you say it concluded with Tarzan, you'll agree it at least received its coda with Fantasia 2000.  In the end, I don't even want to blame it for its failures, whether commercial or artistic, despite my strong initial impulse to describe it as what you'd expect from somebody who didn't necessarily love Fantasia itself, and simply loved his uncle, so whose principal interest in Fantasia 2000 was to carry on his work, clumsily honoring that love to hopefully vindicate the man.  Though, frankly, that Katzenberg couldn't intuit this, and treat it with the appropriate empathy, is sort of the ultimate Katzenfact, a key datum in understanding why so many people really can't stand the dude.

I said that was my initial impulse, though, and while I do think "Roy Disney didn't have his own, personal vision" could help explain why Fantasia 2000 is the way it is, fundamentally it's just that Roy, visionary or not, was never going to be the Walt of 1991, a quasi-benevolent tyrant who mobilized an entire animation studio on a whim to produce the most integral-feeling anthology film of all time in one single eighteen month span.  Consider that during the production of Fantasia, Walt had only the one major distraction to deal withPinocchiorather than the roughly ten that Roy would be faced with throughout the 1990s.  Eisner's grudging permission, it turned out, was only nebulously kinder than Katzenberg's contempt, and Katzenberg's departure from Disney afforded Roy no greater latitude.  Given the role of Fantasia 2000's executive producer, Roy was asked to fund his animated feature out of Fantasia's home video sales, and while this clearly wasn't the limit, it's indicative.  It would be constructed piecemeal, by whoever was available at the time, led by whatever artists were interested and weren't already busy, and from the other executives' perspective, it was just make-work that helped justify keeping people on salary even when they weren't doing anything immediately useful, and the plain fact is that, in the 90s, virtually everybody who was somebody at Disney was already engaged in something immediately useful.  I'd never imply that anyone at WDFA was less than talentedhell, my favorite thing here comes from a story artist I'd never heard ofbut it's hard not to perceive it as revealing of Fantasia 2000's production circumstances just how inordinately superstar-light this is for a Disney cartoon made in the 90s, so that I believe the only names in the entire credits list I've had reason to previously mention during this retrospective, not counting "Ludwig von Beethoven" or "Igor Stravisnky," are Hendel Butoy, Eric Goldberg, the Brizzi Brothers, Joe Grant, Andreas Deja, Anthony De Rosa, and John Pomeroynot all exactly super-stars, either, nor all of them particularly deeply involved in this film.

But that's more a symptom.  The cause is that very few people treated Fantasia 2000 like a real movie, so while its ancestor was a triumphal showcase for the heights that Walt's army of artists could reach in 1940, seven grandiose sequences unified by one singular, transcendent mission, Fantasia 2000 is more like those package films, a cobbled-together collection of tech demos, stylistic experiments, and pantomime gag cartoons that don't have anything to do with one another except they've been set to classical music, which it turns out is easier once you tear the music apart to use any way you felt like.  I am not a classical music guy, so this doesn't bother me on some ideological level; but even without being incensed by it, you can still feel it, even if you're not familiar with the piece.

Because that's where trying to compare Fantasia 2000 to Fantasia, as if they're properly comparable at all, breaks down: Fantasia is 125 minutes long; Fantasia 2000 runs 74.  Even that's understating the difference!  Fantasia 2000 is 74 minutes with modern-style credits, which begin rolling at the 69 minute mark; likewise, Fantasia 2000 is, in accordance with its predecessor's format, presented as a concert feature, with introductions to (most) of its segments, which I have not timed, but can't amount to less than seven minutes (and instead of an erudite Deems Taylor inviting us to experience a new form of entertainment and meeting us in the middle viz. music we might not be familiar with, they feature instead a cavalcade of celebrity presenters, often doing shtick in very dubious relationship to their segmentsnotably, there's a Penn & Teller routinewhile only some of them appear to have a firm grasp of what the words in their hastily-memorized spiels mean).  And then there's the kicker: Fantasia 2000, in its acknowledgment of the rotating, evolving exhibition of Walt's dreamsof course, "sixty years afterwards, on behalf of a movie you have at home," is just far too late to pretend that Fantasia had not long-since become a complete objectincludes the original film's "Sorcerer's Apprentice," a segment with a runtime of ten minutes.  (So I guess "James Algar" and "Fred Moore" are also names I've previously mentioned.)  Thus, as the math shows, over a production cycle a good six times as long as Fantasia's, Fantasia 2000Disney's 38th "canonical" animated feature, mind youonly barely managed to scrounge itself into existence on the basis of 52 minutes of new animation.

Meanwhile, the Don Hahn-directed host segments, leaving aside their entertainment or educational value, don't really bear up to any comparison, either, because Fantasia's host segments looked incredibly cool, and Fantasia 2000's barely even try to do sothe conceit is that the orchestra is on an asteroid or something, playing in galactic space, which amounts to segues into the animated segments by way of pan-ups into the star-filled sky, which then fade into the cartoonsso while I have the name of the man who shot the live-action parts of Fantasia at my fingertips, something I believe would remain the case even he weren't extrinsically famous, I don't see it being worth it to mention who the cinematographer on Fantasia 2000 even was.  Anyway, I was saying that I don't think you have to be intimately familiar with Beethoven to know he's not famous for writing music roughly the same length as Ramones songs.

So that leaves us with our motley arrangement, beginning with Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5," which more-or-less just slams into us as soon as we turn on the movie: Fantasia 2000 begins with images of the original Fantasia flying through that aforementioned galactic space, and the audio clip of Taylor they use, regarding the original's first segment, "Toccata and Fugue," appears to place "Symphony No. 5" under the heading of "abstract music" and, accordingly, "abstract animation."  (Its actual genesis appears to be a conversation between Roy and Fantasia 2000's Leopold Stokowski figure, James Levine, regarding the latter's crazy idea to do a decidedly Ramones-length version.)

I have been unremittingly negative about Fantasia 2000 so far (and I could go on and tell you that, structurally, I think beginning like this was a mistake), but it's well to point out that I enjoy all but one of its segments, including this one, which  may (or may not) represent director Pixote Hunt finding inspiration in the underlying history of Fantasia's "Toccata and Fugue," which originated as an experimental, exceedingly-abstract piece by Oskar Fischinger until Walt fired him due to their inability to agree on the worthiness of "dinky triangles."  Well, take this, Walt: just swarms of dinky triangles.  That's still being dismissive, but this is cute, as well as one of just three new segments in Fantasia 2000 that honestly feel like they're in the same narrative (or I suppose artistic) genre as Fantasia's segments, which all dealt with head-spinning notions of cosmogony and myth to some degree of abstraction or another.  "Symphony No. 5," despite Taylor's ghost's indication otherwise, is not really abstract (in fairness, Hunt has made it clear this was deliberate, and points out that if you like abstract computer-assisted art, sit around a while and your screensaver will pop on).  Instead, "Symphony No. 5" takes on a definite narrative, namely a struggle between good, multicolored creatures made of angular shapesthey're essentially butterfliesand a host of evil, black-and-red hell-bats that, along with the landscape, strives to keep the butterflies from ascending to heaven.  If I keep dwelling on it, I'll call it "gnostic" and "great," but I do have a lot of affection for it.  As a collection of pretty shapes corralled by Disney's Houdini swarming program, it's certainly dynamic, particularly as giant triangles of rock are hurled out of the ground at our heroic butterflies.  It's nice and cosmic, and while its effects animation's computer-assistance is extremely obvious, it's one of only two segments here that I might argue sort of actually look like Fantasia, though if I'm being vinegary, I might suggest it looks even more like a Trapper Keeper flung at your head.  (7/10)

Following that up is, indeed, another segment that understands, somewhat, that "Fantasia" denotes a vibe more specific than "random animation," coming at us with Ottorino Respighi's "Pines of Rome."  Much as in Fantasia, Fantasia 2000's segments don't necessarilyin fact, don't usuallyhave anything to do with the narratives or themes of the music.  Which is to say, Respighi called it "Pines of Rome," not "Flying Whales," but that's what Butoy, this segment's director, has given us.  (Butoy would, in fact, have been relatively high up on my list had I been executive producing Fantasia 2000 in the 90s: I'd describe the "Maruhute's Flight" opening of The Rescuers Down Under, which he co-directed with Mike Gabriel, as the most "1940s Disney" sequence Disney ever did since the actual 1940s, including anything here.)

This was the earliest segment completed for Fantasia 2000, and it shows.  For one thing, it's about flying whales, which pins it down to the early 90s by itself.  For two, its CGI was not, by the year 2000, what you'd call "cutting edge," or maybe what you'd call "good," but rather an immediate descendant of the wildebeest stampede software from The Lion King, albeit redeployed for something more meditative and graceful.  So let's meet a family of humpback whales who live in a humpback whale dreamscape, or else on an alien world, where much is frozen over, but the whales can also levitate.  The baby whale gets itself trapped in an ice cave, then it gets out, and then much more valuably weird shit happens, involving an ascent towards an impossible second sky.  (It may hurt it, a little, that its dynamicnot least its specific direction of movementis awfully similar to the preceding "Symphony No. 5.")

I could harp on the CGI, and there is some real Mind's Eye tech demoing expressing New Agey silliness going on here, but it's not really the CGI itself: it's that some second-guessing clearly went into this, regarding worries that the whales would be incompletely sympathetic, so Butoy or somebody decided that they would have drawn-on eyes, which look googly and stupid placed atop these 199X-photorealistic renders.  (I also don't like the ice cave, either, which for incomprehensible reasons is shown to be translucent on both sides, apparently because your idiot child wouldn't understand editing.  It only wound up confusing the hell out of 41 year old me as to how the mom failed to notice her infant floating right in front of her, presumably making whale-sized noises.)  But leaving that aside, "Pines of Rome" bears a fascinating complexion.  It's kind of like the opposite of the unveiling of Deep Canvas back in Tarzan: where that film saw traditional character animation married to painted CGI backdrops and heavily computer-assisted effects animation, this sees fully-rendered CGI character animation plopped into what is mostly just CAPS multiplane, with numerous planes of hand-painted backgrounds and foregrounds threatening our poor little baby whale.  (I would not go so far as to call it "a meditation upon the changing technology of animation," but it is an interesting juxtaposition.)  Where it gets startling, though, is with its preponderance of hand-drawn effects animationthe sea is the ugly CGI water that would also be used in Tarzan, but it's punched up considerably by the distraction of Pocahontas-vintage hand-drawn splashes and plumes and crumbling icebergs and sheets of water falling off the humpbacks' bodiesand the final minute or so, which adds some old-school lighting effects, is gloriously beautiful.  The actual CGI whale movement is also surprisingly pleasant throughout; plus you can very easily imagine this to be either a sequel or prequel to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and I think that's neat.

The actual bad part, then, is how it reflects the overriding weakness of Fantasia 2000's truncated ambitions: there's a whole world imagined here, but there's very little variety in what we get out of it, whereas most of the segments in Fantasia encompassed whole cycles of myth and natural history, not just the one idea.  "Pines of Rome" is very much "the one idea," not merely the one situation attending its flying whales, but practically just the one color the whole time. (7/10)

Speaking of monochromes, we have George Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue," which wasn't actually intended for Fantasia 2000 initially, but was a project originated by Goldberg as another homage to Goldberg's favorite artist, Al Hirschfeld (see Aladdin).  One assumes the notion "homage Hirschfeld" came to Goldberg before "use Gershwin's attempt to hybridize classical and newfangled 'jazz'" did, and that's fine, but I'll admit to a certain parochialism, and that it does actually make me grumpy how obviously "Rhapsody" wasn't intended for Fantasia 2000, because, tied with the next segment (which was), it's the most incongruously un-Fantasia of all of them, taking as its subject a Hirschfeldian caricature of New York during the Great Depression as related through a quartet of city-dwellers: a young fellow who wants to be a jazz drummer but is stuck building skyscrapers, an unemployed middle-aged man who's stuck not building skyscrapers, a little upper-middle-class girl who doesn't get enough time with her careerist parents, and a wealthy middle-aged man who's required to spend too much time with his harridan, shopping-addicted wife.

It's not exactly the formation of the Earth out of the protoplanetary disk, or a promethean mouse foolishly cheating God; it's not even the love lives of centaurs or the sex crimes of alligators.  At bottom, it's pretty much a gag cartoon, and while there are some really enjoyable background gags about city life and a few decent slapsticky foreground ones, I just don't find these interleaved lives to be very amusing; in fact, the efforts made to comedically interconnect these lost-n-lonely souls backfire, most egregiously as Goldberg finds them all staring at the ice skaters in the park as if ice skating were some pre-established interest they all share, or that it meaningfully elucidates their characters to place them in ice skating-themed fantasy sequences.  (Incidentally, the limits of what kind of fantasy you can accomplish on an ice skating rink are discovered quickly.)  It's the longest segment here, even including "Sorcerer's Apprentice," which turns out to be a double-edged sword: unlike its fellows, it can elaborate, but then it does, and its elaborations are, a little bit, "so what?"

It's also stylistically distinct to the point of being addling, which is why I'm still happy to see it here.  ("Stylistic cohesion" was never going to happen after "Symphony No. 5" anyway.)  What it is, is amazingly flat animation, even for a definitionally-flat medium: my favorite thing in it is probably its very first gesture, the planimetric construction of Manhattan that doesn't even initially manage opacity for its layers of buildings, and my second favorite is an image of automobiles as an abstraction of automobile-shaped colored lines barreling toward what appears to be, based on their trajectories, a dozen-pointed intersection, whereas my third favorite is a final image of the city in an indigo night, created entirely by glowing neon.  In other words, I would like "Rhapsody" more if it were just twelve minutes of non-narrative cityscapes and architectural features.

But don't let me shortchange the character animation, which is terrifically successful in its forcible imposition of movement upon a style by no means designed to support it.  I probably prefer the funnier limited animation of the background characters, but I respect the hell out of the full-tilt Disney fluidity and freedom of motion that Goldberg manages to instill in his foreground cartoons, despite their odd curvilinear shapes, without the cheat of formlessness (and hovering legslessness) that he got to use on Genie.  If the animation is very lavish, however, the color (courtesy Eric's wife Susan) is strict, and the limited color, though maybe a little random on the characters, is awfully agreeable in the way it reasserts the fundamental flatness of the piece.  "Rhapsody In Blue" fits the cartoon very wellit's one of the few here that really feels like it's using the specific music that's been selected, and also one of the few that feels fully in rhythm with it, probably thanks to its twelve minute ambit.  But I'm always at a slight loss about how to rate this one, because its formal achievement significantly outstrips how much I actually like it. (7/10)

Then comes Dmitri Shostakovich's "Piano Concerto No. 2," the one segment that's an actual flop, thanks to the problems that permeate many of Fantasia 2000's segmentsit has no interest in cosmic grandeur; it takes place way too close to the presentbut also problems all its own.  It's an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's "Steadfast Tin Soldier," which already feels incredibly aberrant for a Fantasia, but beyond that its story is twerpish and its aesthetic is ugly.  Another one directed by Butoy, and after I said such nice things about him, this finds him again experimenting with CGI character animation, of a kind that wouldn't really be worked out for years and years; so I suppose some credit is due for resisting the photorealistic urge.  It's basically an attempt to do flat CAPS-style animation with fully-rendered CGI, but it just looks uncanny.  Some of that is its subjectsa tin soldier, his girlfriend, a clockwork ballerina, and the evil jack-in-a-box that wants to fuck the ballerinaand one assumes that Butoy's expectation was that any weaknesses of the approach would be hidden by the avowed artificiality of the figures, either because he saw it work in Toy Story, or because it occurred to him independently.

And yet it sucks: maybe it isn't even the technology, and they're just too toyetic in their designthe ballerina comes off either the best or the worst, because life-reference was used in her movementor maybe it's too many shininess filters applied to their freakishly smooth surfaces, or how annoyingly broad the facial expressions are on the soldier.  It is, at least, partly the staging and conception, particularly in the ways the soldier is locked to his stand (the hazy, shrugging gesture towards "personality" in this romance is the absence of one of the soldier's legs, which he believes for two seconds is mirrored in his ballerina paramour, so mostly it just makes me wonder how he could have so cleanly lost a leg connected in two places except through deliberate, Sid-like toy torture).  The upshot is that the solider can't move except by hopping (but then, this is also true of all his comrades), and as it's an awkward mode of locomotion, he mostly doesn't move at all.  So even looking past how burdensomely unattractive this isthe CGI characters don't work so hot with the hand-painted backdrops this time, eitherit's also boring.  These deficits are only addressed briefly when the soldier, thrown out a window, gets vaguely menaced by bugs and rats in the sewer he gets washed into, only to finally be accosted by some blatantly CAPS-animated fish, because, well, "fuck it," I guess.  And without the nuts to end the same way the Andersen does, it's devoid of even that much emotion. (4/10)

Next is Goldberg's second segment, Camille Saint-Saëns's "Carnival of the Animals (Finale)," which, like "Rhapsody," is simultaneously magnificent and unsatisfying.  In this case, it's not unsatisfying because it's a gag cartoon that's not funny, though unfortunately that is how I find it.  As James Earl Jones introduces it, with appropriate skepticism, it's the answer to the "age-old question of what happens when you give a flamingo a yo-yo," though no one does, in fact, give it to him.  It isn't even "a yo-yo falls out of the sky, Gods Must Be Crazy-style, and a flamingo learns to yo-yo," which might've stood a chance of being amusing; it is, instead, "a dick flamingo annoys his conformist fellows with a yo-yo," and I sit through the whole thing stone-faced.  But I sit with my eyes glued to it nonetheless, because it looks amazing.  In fact, it looks altogether unique: because it's been entirely done by Goldberg (or, rather, the Goldbergs) in watercolors, soup-to-nuts, backgrounds and animation.  (It is, therefore, the piece that most looks like Fantasia, because it has brushstrokes.)  And that's virtually unprecedented, because it takes too much time and work, even if the results are so striking. Goldberg directs it with an irrepressible energy, so that it's a lot of fun even if the gags don't really have timing or payoffs to speak of; it's compelling on the basis of pure movement and color and texture.  (The sudden shifts in the minimalist backdrops are fantastic.)  And so of course it's all of three minutes long.  (7/10)

Then there's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," which is a 10/10 but inapplicable.  The 40s true-traditional ink-and-paint comes off fucking weird here, somehow weirder than Butoy's CGI experiments.  And, needless to say, it makes the rest of Fantasia 2000 look half-assed.  It's especially harmful right before the next segment, which gets introduced with Mickey Mouse as if he (and Stokowski!) were caught in a time trap and still both performing this cartoon from 1940 live alongside Levine in the year 2000; it slightly makes my head cave in.  But anyway, what "Sorcerer's Apprentice" highlights about Fantasia 2000 is how most of the latter's segments don't have much in the way of substance to them, and that they're noticeably weighted towards comedy in a way the vast majority of Fantasia wasn't.  "Sorcerer's Apprentice" has fully six phases, whereas its ideas, if conventional genre is to be applied at all, would probably be best-categorized as "horror."

Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" (that is, the famous part of it) is definitely comedy, and while it does not benefit from being compared to "The Sorcerer's Appretice," by God, does it ask us to.  We've seen Mickey work for a wizard; now we learn what Donald Duck was up to in olden times.  It turns out that Donald was Noah's assistant during the Biblical Flood, and "Pomp and Circumstance" is about how Donald and Daisy, in their general incompetence, accidentally convinced each other that they died trying to get all the animals aboard the ark.  It's no "Sorcerer's Apprentice" and it's my favorite segment here anyhoweven though it's easily the least ambitious.  Which is not to say the least lovely, but it's ultimately just some clean, crisp CAPS animation in a standard 90s WDFA style, pretty much all of that style in service to jokes, so that while the subject matter is just about the most "Fantasia" thing here (and we do get some sense of titanic scale in the layouts), the execution is naturally only a parody of the epic.

The weakest thing about it is that CGI water again, and somehow this isn't very important in this story of, ahem, the Great Flood, possibly because they dispense with the traditional forty days of rain, or at least they seem to, because it would make the already dodgy premise of Donald and Daisy never running into each other on the boat even less credible.  The lighting effects are strong; Donald, supervised by Tim Allen, looks real good, and his expressiveness is funny in and of itself.  But the gags are great: they use Donald's irascible, error-prone character about as well as such a vocal character could potentially be used in pantomime, especially the rushed pantomime that Fantasia 2000 so uniformly demands, and they're even fairly varied gagsbesides broad but well-done slapstick, there's some really rewarding conceptual stuff, like the mythical creatures laughing off the idea of extinction, or the particular contours of Donald's fourth-wall-breaking reaction to a pair of actual ducks.  And at the risk of scandalizing you, because I realize Elgar's piece has been torn to shreds and sewn back together in a shambling simulacrum of his intentions, but I think this is the finest join of music and animation here, with the iconic part of the piece being used incredibly well as a timing mechanism, "resetting" the comedy back to its cod-serious baseline so that the comic elaboration can begin again.  So, however you feel about it, I'm sure we'll agree that by no means is it the worst outcome imaginable for a segment that exists solely because Eisner's son graduated high school, and he told director Francis Gleban to do something with that "graduation song."  (Of course, we don't have to imagine: Eisner's own idea, which saw everyone at the table just staring slack-jawed at him, was a mass wedding of Disney Princesses, carrying their future babies in their arms.  Wow!) (8/10)

That leaves Stravinsky's "The Firebird," and, happily, Fantasia 2000's last segment is also its other biggest success, and I suppose I can even accept the reimagining of Stravinsky's helpful phoenix as a cross between Chernabog, Rodan, and FernGully's Hexxus.  This is the one that most feels "of Fantasia," conceptually, reaching for something primal and mystical in complementary cycles of creation and destruction, chaos and order.  (It is also, perhaps, evocative as a metaphor for what Roy hoped Fantasia 2000 would beindeed, over-evocative, for a film that came at the end of a cycle of creation and order, with little but destruction and chaos ahead for years.)  It involves a green "Sprite"this is where De Rosa comes in as a supervising animator, while the Brizzis directed this segmentwho finds herself invoked by an impassive male deer in some kind of opaque pre-human ritual, though the upshot is that she awakens and brings springtime to his wintry forest.  But the Firebird, a volcanic monster, spills forth, destroying the forest and, ultimately, the Sprite, too.

It's rad and metal and Stravinsky, and that's sufficient.  (There's something quite indefinably anime about the Sprite, and really the whole piece, that I find interesting in a WDFA production, even if the fusion thereof in the Sprite's aggressively wide-eyed face is a little wonky.)  It's reasonably involved as a narrative, in its multiple phases, and the technology and effects animation is downright ravishingthe Sprite herself is largely a CGI-dependent effects animation, and the Firebird, supervised by Pomeroy, is more-or-less all effects animation (even specifically Bluthy effects animation); only the "inflatable trees" effect, during the rebirth phase, is likely to really let anybody down.  Any serious problem here is one of omission: only sitting down to think about it did it strike me how empty this forest is, devoid completely of all animal life except the deer and, in the end, a Houdini-conjured swarm of butterflies. (8/10)

And, while those butterflies interacting with the Sprite represent a very stimulating image, that's kind of what I've been getting at with the distinction between Fantasia and Fantasia 2000: it's an afterthought of a movie, often with few moving parts as far as any of its primary animation goes.  I wish, in so many respects, that it could've been more.  But for all I've groused, I enjoy Fantasia 2000 for what it actually is, a mostly random anthology; and a name is, in the end, just a name.

Score: 7/10


  1. Truly, you are a cold-hearted, steely-eyed man to watch Yo-Yo Flamingo without cracking a smile: I was grinning from the minute Mr Jones (Or should that be M’Lord Jones? He’s clearly a peer of the First Galactic Empire, after all, though whether he counts as an Earl or a Baron in Earth terms I’ve never been sure).

    Still, at least a few of the other bits and pieces in this production warmed that steely heart of yours, proving there’s something for everyone. (-;

    1. It is wonderfully colorful. But it just feels like the nakedest technical experiment to me. I do still think it's pretty (and difficult enough to put it over "Symphony No. 5, which if it has substance it's probably by accident, and was a lot easier to pull off).

    2. ‘Different strokes for different folks’ as the wise man put it - one must confess to being much less interested in the technical details than in the overall experience (Yes, behold, I stand revealed as a mere philistine!). (-;

    3. Hey, in fairness, I think you're in the majority about its ranking viz. the other segments.