When the popular "Fantasia" had its premire in 1940, the Walt Disney studio meant to introduce a new concept in filmmaking. Since the movie consisted of several different segments, each combining whimsical animation with appropriate music, Disney saw it as a sort of work-in-progress that could be continually changed. See it again in a year or two and its contents would be different!
"Fantasia" became a classic, but Disney didn't follow through on its idea of forever altering and revitalizing the material - until now. In superficial respects, "Fantasia/2000" is bigger and bolder than its predecessor, opening on huge IMAX screens, and its release date - Jan. 1 - makes it the first major movie of 2000.
But in other ways, "Fantasia/2000" is mildly disappointing. Running just 75 minutes - about an hour shorter than its ancestor - it lacks the nonstop originality of the 1940 version. It's worth remembering that the dinosaur segment of the first "Fantasia" was set to Igor Stravinsky's ferocious "Rite of Spring," which had sparked a riot at its Paris premire less than 30 years earlier. The new "Fantasia" avoids such feistiness.
This said, "Fantasia/2000" has plenty to offer, especially when it pairs Al Hirschfeld's drawing style with George Gershwin's tunes for a jazzy "Rhapsody in Blue," and when it juices up the stuffy "Pomp and Circumstance" marches by putting Donald Duck into Noah's ark. And then there's Mickey Mouse in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," recycled from the original film. It's worth the price of admission by itself.
* 'Fantasia/2000' is rated G.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society