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Throwback Rotten Bananas: ‘Fantasia 2000’

The original “Fantasia” film released in 1940 and for the children of that era, it opened the musical ears to a world of classical music. “Fantasia 2000” is one to revisit for all of us today. 

The film, produced by Roy E. Disney and Donald W. Ernst, features a series of animated sequences set to masterworks of classical music. It serves as a sequel to the original Fantasia movie. To introduce the various segments, “Fantasia 2000” employs various actors, comedians, and professional musicians such as Steve Martin, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, magicians Penn & Teller and Angela Lansbury.  

Much like its predecessor, it utilizes Disney’s particular charm and talented teams of animators to bring classical works of music to life. It opens with a more abstract presentation of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony featuring flying swarms of triangles and flashes of light. It then moves on to a sequence based on Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome.” However, the sequence depicts a separated family of whales attempting to reunite rather than a succession of Roman scenes. After “Pines of Rome,” the film transitions to a uniquely animated setting of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, the seminal work blending jazz and classical music. It takes great inspiration from the style of American caricaturist Al Hirschfield and features a variety of stories set in 1930s New York. The next sequence animates the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” with Dimitri Shostakovich’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.” The musical cues in the scene are set up much like an opera. The three characters, the Soldier, The Jack-in-the-Box, and the Ballerina all have very specific motivic cues in the music. The next movement features a goofily animated sequence of a flock of flamingos fooling around with a yo-yo, underscored by the final sequence of “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens. After that comes, the original “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence from the “Fantasia (1940),” featuring everyone’s favorite animate mouse Mickey as he gets into trouble while trying to take a shortcut on his chores with a little magic. The film’s last two animations are based around Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” commonly featured at graduations and “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky. “Pomp and Circumstance” was originally intended to feature a sequence of Disney princesses carrying their newborn babies to a grand Greco-Roman anointing ceremony but after some controversy with the depiction, the piece was then set to an animated telling of Noah’s Ark starring Donald and Daisy Duck. “The Firebird” sequence is intended as an emotional equivalent to the final sequence from “Fantasia (1940)’s” sequence based on “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky. It stars a nature spirit befriending an elk and surviving the eruption of Mount St. Helens in the 1980s. The eruption is personified by a massive eagle made of lava. 

The film is a great watch for anyone because of how engaging the animators were able to make the sequences so that even those who don’t normally enjoy classical music can find something to latch onto with “Fantasia 2000.” The film receives an A- 

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