Part of a Review of Fantasia 2000

Would it truly be innovative? Would it be hand-drawn? Would I feel the magic I felt before? Or was it -- gasp! -- strictly a commercial endeavor?

The skeptic, sadly, proved to be right.

Gone is conductor Leopold Stokowski (save through a slow-moving window moving across the screen near the beginning and Mickey's finale to the reissued "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment), replaced by schtick (from Steve Martin, Penn & Teller, Bette Midler, Angela Lansbury and others) that feels better suited to a callow television variety show rather than the gargantuan IMAX screen. Gone too is the innovation, now represented by computer generated whales flying in the sky without the human touch represented in the hippos. There's even an attempt to one-up the famed "Sorcerer's Apprentice" set with a good (but not great) segment involving Donald Duck and Noah's Ark set to Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" (complete with a poor musical addition: an Alexander Courage-inspired choir presumably included to resonate the religious implications of the piece). The last segment set to Stravinsky's "Firebird," while somewhat dazzling, nevertheless steals elements from Princess Mononoke, even featuring a god-like entity that spawns grass on a deserted mountain.

I can't say that I was completely disappointed. I enjoyed myself, but I felt as if the magic was being forced on me in a tight commercial package, almost as if a subliminal message was chanting "The Mouse is God! The Mouse is God!" as I was watching it.

And it bodes ill when Disney blows up the 35mm "Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence on an IMAX screen, allowing it to look grainy as hell. Almost as if the original Fantasia was merely some old and grotty movie of dubious merit.

Now I'm not opposed to seeing Fantasia continue as a regularly updated series. But if the folks over at Disney are going to approach it in this way, then it may as well air on the Disney Channel.

Because the original Fantasia was not made for money. It was pretty important and mesmerizing to some of us. And I, for one, would hate to see that image bastardized.

Text by Edward Champion