Release Date: December 17th, 1999 (released June 16th, 2000 nationwide)
Budget: $80-85 million
Domestic Gross: $60.6 million
Worldwide Gross: $90.9 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%
IMDB Score: 7.2/10
Storyline (per IMDB): In this update of Disney’s masterpiece film mixture of animation and music, new interpretations of great works of music are presented. It begins with an abstract battle of light and darkness set to the music of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Then we see the adventures of a humpback whale calf and his pod set to “The Pines of Rome.” Next is the humorous story of several lives in 1930’s New York City, scored with “Rhapsody in Blue.” Following is a musical telling of the fairy tale, “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Then a goofy flamingo causes havoc in his flock with his yo-yo to the tune of the finale of “Carnival of the Animals.” This is followed by the classic sequence from the original film, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” starring Mickey Mouse and followed by “Pomp and Circumstance” starring Donald Duck as a harried assistant to Noah on his Ark. Finally, we see the awesome tale of the life, death, and renewal of a forest in a sequence …
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We get a little bit of an interesting spot here as this film was technically released in 2000 after the next two films, but because it was first shown in 1999 in New York it is considered by Disney the next official film in the canon. It is a bit weird that this is the second sequel following the Rescuers and it didn’t seem like there was much demand for a sequel to Fantasia, but believe it or not Walt Disney had originally intended for Fantasia to be a continuous release with different segments in each one. While that never materialized, we do finally get the sequel 60 years in the making and we will see how this one holds up.
Voice Cast: Much like the original Fantasia, we don’t have any voice actors to talk about though unlike the first one where we had just one host for the film, we have different actors introducing each of the segments. Having said that, we do have some familiar faces here as we have Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, and Angela Lansbury all introducing different segments, and we also have archival footage of Deems Taylor from the original Fantasia opening the film. It is also important to mention Tony Anselmo who voices Donald Duck as well as Wayne Allwine who voices Mickey Mouse at brief moments. For the newcomers, we have comedian Steve Martin, music producer Quincy Jones, conductor James Levine, and magicians Penn and Teller introducing the other segments, and I will also mention the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who performed the majority of the songs. These actors were pretty much just here to introduce each segment and nothing else, but it was still good to have some star power attached to this film.
Other Characters: I am going to be drawing a lot of comparisons between this film and the original Fantasia and for good reason, since this film is basically an updated version of Fantasia though the premise of it remains the same. As such, each segment has its own characters confined to that specific segment with no overlap, and none of these characters belong in one of the other categories so they will be talked about here. In the first segment, we have the butterflies representing light and the bats representing darkness, and then in the next segment we have the humpback whales that appear in the whole segment. We then have the next segment focused on the four people named Duke, Joe, Rachel, and John whose lives intertwine without them even knowing, and then in the next segment features the toy soldier who battles with the jack-in-the-box for the love of the ballerina. The next segment features the flamingos including the main one and then we have the return of Mickey and Yen Sid, and then we have Donald Duck in his first appearance since “The Three Caballeros” and the debut of Daisy Duck on the big screen. Finally in the last segment, we have the mythical Sprite, the elk she befriends, and the spirit of the volcano and while you can say these characters along with the soldier, ballerina, and jack-in-the-box could belong in the other categories, I didn’t feel it appropriate to include them in those. Again, these characters are specific to their own segment and it makes each one feel more special than if they intertwined with each other.
Songs: Much like Fantasia, the songs featured in this film are classic pieces of music that have been given specific animated sequences to be shown during the songs, and we do have one song returning from Fantasia and that is of course “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. We start off the show with Beethoven’s legendary “Symphony No. 5” and then we transition into “Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Respighi, and then we have the classic piece “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin followed by “Piano Concerto No. 2 Allegro, Opus 102” by Dmitri Shostakovich. Next, we have “The Carnival of the Animals Finale” by Camille Saint-Saens and that is followed after “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by “Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3, and 4” by Edward Elgar, and we close things out with “Firebird Suite – 1919 Version” by Igor Stravinsky. It was good that they showcased new pieces while featuring at least one piece from the original, and it made this film feel completely different from the first one while maintaining enough similarities to it.
Plot: In the original Fantasia, Deems Taylor described it as being three different kinds of music with the first being ones that tell a definite story, another being that might not have a plot, but paints a series of definite pictures, and the last being music that exists simply for its own sake. The same held true for the animated scenes that were made for those specific pieces and now we see that happen again here. Much like the original, there is no main plot as each piece belongs in one of those three categories, with the tale about the soldier, ballerina, and jack-in-the-box, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, and the story of Noah’s Ark featuring Donald and Daisy Duck being ones that tell a definite story. We then have the stories about the whales, the four people, and the Sprite ones that paint a series of pictures, and finally we have the first piece and the flamingos that exists for their own sake. That is what made Fantasia so special when it first came out and that is what makes this film special too.
Random Watching Thoughts: It was wise showing the various clips of the original Fantasia to let those that have never seen it get a quick glimpse of what to expect; Similar to the original, we start off the with the orchestra taking their seats, though this time it feels more spread out than it did in the first one; Unlike the first one where the title card is shown in the middle of the film, we get it at the beginning like normal; I think it would be safe to say that “Symphony No. 5” is Beethoven’s greatest work; It’s always weird to hear a song that sounds upbeat yet the animation with it is dark; As it usually is, the light always manages to overcome the dark; Steve Martin’s Two-Week Master Musician Home Study course; Looking back, “Fantasia” is definitely a much better title than “The Concert Feature”; I wonder how often they would’ve re-released Fantasia in theaters with new material each time, it probably would’ve been a drain financially; Obviously, Steve Martin is not well versed in the violin though he does actually play the piano and the banjo; The Disney animators heard “Pines of Rome” and the first thing they thought of was flying whales; Could you just imagine being out on a boat and all of a sudden, you saw a bunch of whales just flying around in the air?; That calf tried to do too much too soon and it nearly cost him his life; Of course, there would be a random light in that cave that can lift the calf into the air and out of the cave; It is pretty interesting how they basically turned the sky into the sea for the whales; I also like how individual musicians are recognized as well; That dude really needs to tidy up his room; That’s quite a strong cat if he’s able to pull off the cap of that milk bottle so easily; He just stepped in wet cement and yet left no footprints; This was set in the early 1930s so we are right in the thick of the Great Depression; That waitress looks like she would rather be anywhere than at work; People just running on and off the subway; At least he was willing to give that gold coin back before just using it to pay for his coffee; The menu says Eric Goldberg who was an animator at Disney and also directed this specific piece; So 2 eggs cost the same as a hamburger at $.10?; That guy is so happy even though he was 5 minutes late to work; He keeps the same, disinterested look on his face even while falling to the next level; How were that many people able to get through those doors at once?; The bellhop thought it was over only for another wave of people to come through the doors; Everyone just stays in the same position as they get off the subway, go up the elevators, and then disperse to their respective rooms; That is a pretty efficient way to crack some walnuts, points for ingenuity; He really wanted the apple only to try and do the right thing by put it back, yet he’s reprimanded by the officer who thinks he was stealing only to eat it himself; That girl had quite a number of activities to take part in, it’s like just pick one and go with it; The monkey steals all those peanuts and the vendor is rightfully upset, but the monkey’s owner just shrugs it off like it’s nothing; He was more interested in acting like a dog than helping his wife with her dog; So all four are using the skating rink to reveal their ultimate wish; That’s quite the hefty bill rung up; The one guy decides to quit his job as a construction worker just as the guy who needs a job walks past and is tossed the jackhammer which gets him the job he needs; That is pretty rude of those taxis to just drive by when someone is clearly trying to call for one; It took the girl nearly getting killed trying to get her ball back for her parents to finally spend more time with her; In the end, everyone gets the thing they wanted; I like how they show the drawings leading up to the film of the potential ideas they had for the film; So Walt Disney originally wanted to include “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” in the first Fantasia, but was dissatisfied with it and shelved it; If you get a box of soldiers and see one is missing a leg, you would think that you would want to get it fixed; If that jack-in-the-box wasn’t so snobby, maybe the ballerina would’ve been more accepting of him; The soldier was so excited thinking the ballerina had one leg only to be disappointed when he saw she had two; That brief moment where you thought the solider was going to land in the furnace; That soldier went through that whole ordeal and didn’t even get a single scratch; They are in the middle of a sword fight and the ballerina decides to dance; For those that remember the original fairy tale, the ending saw the solider and the ballerina end up in the furnace, but it was changed to see the soldier send the jack-in-the-box into the furnace and live happily ever after with the ballerina; Interesting having the animators on the stage along with the orchestra doing some work; James Earl Jones does this big grand introduction for the next segment only to be aghast as to what the segment actually is; These flamingos are keen to do their thing in perfect harmony, but there has to be the one that just wants to play around with that yo-yo; They thought they showed him by getting rid of the yo-yo, but he ups the ante with a whole bunch of yo-yos; I wonder if Penn and Teller got any kickback for basically admitting that stage magic is fake; Of all the segments from the first Fantasia to include in this film, they were wise to pick ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” since it is the most famous one from the original; I like how they didn’t update it for the modern era and showed it as it was first presented in 1940, right down to having the original orchestrations and not having the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play it; You can check out my review of the original Fantasia for all my initial comments on “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”; It was cool that they even included the bit after the segment of Mickey meeting the conductor, and that segues into the modern day where the more modern Mickey meets the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra though they dubbed over Walt Disney’s original dialogue and instead had Wayne Allwine redo it; So “Pomp and Circumstance” was written for solemn events yet became better known for being played at graduation ceremonies, and of course us wrestling fans know full well that it is the theme song for the iconic “Macho Man” Randy Savage; Donald waits until now to take a shower?; It is funny that they would use this song to go with the story of Noah’s Ark; It’s a good thing those turtles were turned around because they were going the wrong way; Apparently, Noah didn’t anticipate this many animals showing up; That was a quick turnaround from sunshine to rain; The animals are adamant about not getting on the ark until a bolt of lightning quickly convinces them to do so; Now we know why the dragons and unicorns are extinct, they didn’t get on the ark and drowned in the flood; So both Donald and Daisy are on the ark yet they think the other didn’t make it in time; You know, considering the types of animals that are on the ark, it’s amazing that the predators didn’t have a field day and kill off the weaker animals; That dove didn’t want to leave his mate; Another quick turnaround for that water to recede; Those rabbits had no problem getting busy on the ark; For everything that Donald went through, it was nice to see him and Daisy reunite and he gets his happy ending; Of all the places to find a Sprite, it would be in a cave; That Sprite was all too eager to start spreading her love across the land; I don’t think that a volcano would be the best place I would go exploring; That firebird really had a vendetta against the Sprite if he went to those lengths to kill it; How was that elk able to survive all that?; The Sprite is completely despondent until she sees her tears makes everything grow; After not being able to grow anything on the volcano, now all of a sudden she can after it’s erupted; Unlike the first film where we had an intermission where the credits were shown, they come at the end like a normal film; Did they actually leave Steve Martin there by himself?
Overall Thoughts: Overall, this was a pretty solid film that was about on par with the original Fantasia and I would argue that it was even slightly better than the first one. Obviously, things have changed since 1940 due to animation being much more modern and you can see it here as they kept “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” as is while the other segments were in modern times. Again, I don’t know how many people were clamoring for a Fantasia sequel and even more crazy is to think that Fantasia was going to be a recurring film re-released periodically with new material each time. Even though the Disney Renaissance was over, Disney was still riding fairly high going into the new millennium and it was going to be interesting to see how the next set of films do. As for this film, it is a perfectly fine film that serves as a good compliment to Fantasia and one has to wonder if we will get a third Fantasia in the future.
Final Grade: 6.5/10