Making a sequel to a sixty year old, revered film wouldn't be the brightest idea but that's exactly what Disney Animation did back in the 2000s. The pet project of Walt's nephew Roy Disney, Fantasia 2000 was envisioned as the culmination of Walt's dream to make a Fantasia film every year (something which didn't happen because of financial troubles) and while it's a charming love letter to the original film, it also hardly breaks new ground and remains on the family-friendly side of things.
Like the original Fantasia, Fantasia 2000 mixes pieces of classical music with animation sequences to tell some sort of story. But, the big difference here is that in Fantasia many of these sequences didn't tell a specific story, and were rather abstract segments, giving the animators unprecedented freedom to interpret the music and give their own input to the animation scenes. In contrast, all the sequences in Fantasia 2000 tells a specific story making it more accessible to all members of an audience. While this may make the film easier to watch, it's also not as bold or ambitious as its predecessor. It was clear that the Disney in the 2000s did not trust their audience as Walt did in 1940; Fantasia may not have been all that highly regarded when it first came out, but time proved to be on its side and now it's considered a classic. Fantasia 2000 on the other hand, is a likeable and enjoyable affair, but I don’t think it'll ever achieve the stature of its predecessor. That's not to say Fantasia 2000 is a complete loss, as it provides many segments that are enormously engaging and impressive.
Divided into five numbers, Fantasia 2000 tried to emulate its predecessor's boldness by using a variety of animation techniques in each one of them - techniques that were considered groundbreaking for the time - and while some of them are nicely done, I think that, in the end, it wasn't the animation that set Fantasia apart, but the way it interpreted the music and wasn't afraid to create segments that challenged the audience on an intellectual and sensory level. Fantasia 2000 tells pretty straightforward stories that aren't difficult to understand. But while some of them are forgettable, others are really good. Particular stand-outs are “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Firebird Suite,” which are excellent examples of a good and emotional story, stellar animation and superb music. If all the segments were on the same level as those, Fantasia 2000 could've been a much better film than it actually is. Nonetheless, considering the films that came after this one, Fantasia 2000 is one of the few bright spots from this era and offers perfectly enjoyable entertainment for the whole family. Rating: 3.5/5.
Next Week - Animated Classic #39 Review: Dinosaur (2000).