Blu-ray: FANTASIA (1940) and FANTASIA/2000 (2000)
For any film fan this release needs to be on your holiday wish list. Visually, both films are presented flawlessly in 1080p. In FANTASIA, the live-action sequences have never looks so rich. The silhouetted musicians are more dynamic because the blacks are so deep. As for the animated sequences, they look marvelous. There isn’t a hint of dirt or dust to be found. And unlike some restorations of Disney animated films, the cel painted frames retain their handmade quality. The landmark visual effects particularly stood out to me. The glow of the fairies in the “Nutcracker Suite” section felt more luminous than in previous presentations. The colors are rich and the true achievement of the film’s artistry has never been so crystal clear in a home entertainment release. The only slight issue is some color bleeding in the live-action sequences, but I’d argue that was from the negative.
The same praise can be heaped on FANTASIA/2000’s picture quality as well. The film looks slick in the way that modern animation looks. The “Rhapsody in Blue” sequence, my favorite, just pops with its deep purples and clean design. I’ve read in some places of fleeting moments of banding, blocking and aliasing, but the key word is fleeting. You have to be looking for it. I only noticed some very, very, very minor banding during some transitions, particularly when the whales enter the clouds in the “Pines of Rome” sequence. But it is so minor.
Now on any FANTASIA release one should expect nothing less than superior sound and Disney doesn’t disappoint. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround tracks are like having an orchestra in your living room. I played it on a 5.1 system and I was still blown away by the immersive feel as the music naturally flows over the speakers. The LFE track blew away my cats as they scurried from the room during one particularly loud percussion sequence.
As for the special features, FANTASIA offers three commentary tracks. Historian Brian Sibley gives a very scholarly approach to the history behind the making of the film. Introduced by Roy Disney and hosted by historian and filmmaker John Canemaker, the next commentary compiles interviews and audio recordings of Walt Disney discussing the production. This is the most insightful track and a must for all Disney fans. The third track features Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, Canemaker and film restoration manager Scott MacQueen. This track covers a lot of the same ground the other tracks cover, but adds in a few addition tidbits, especially regarding the restoration.
Because FANTASIA was not presented in widescreen so Disney offers a DisneyView presentation where the black bars on the right and left side are filled with artwork from Harrison Ellenshaw. I always find this feature distracting.
“The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure” featurette looks at the notebooks of Herman Schultheis, a special effects artist at Disney on FANTASIA, whose recently discovered notebooks meticulously explained how the Disney artists achieved the effects in FANTASIA. Until the notebooks were found many of the techniques were lost to history. It’s amazing how many live-action effects were seamlessly combined with the animation. It only makes the film more impressive.
Also included on the FANTASIA disc are an Interactive Art Gallery for both films, featuring concept art, storyboards, original paintings and other production materials; and Disney Family Museum, a short promo discussing the creation of the Museum in San Francisco.
FANTASIA/2000 has two commentary tracks. The first has the directors and art directors of each segment discussing their artistic approach to their work. It’s a nice insight into the artistic approach they took. The second has Roy Disney, James Levine and producer Donald W. Ernst discussing the history of the project, giving perspective in how many years it took to get it done and how Walt influenced the final film.
“Musicana” is a featurette that looks at the abandoned FANTASIA sequel titled MUSICANA. The film was to have segments set in various world locations featuring music from those locales. The mini-doc features interviews with many who participated in the development include Mel Shaw and Don Hahn.
“Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino” is an 82-minute documentary that wonderfully chronicles the odd partnership between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. The film follows their lives and how the unlikely pair come together to work on the short film DESTINO, which was never finished during their lives. Disney completed the film in 2003 and it is featured on the disc as well. This doc is the best feature on all the discs.
For Blu-ray Live users, the disc offers one of the best uses of the Internet functionality I’ve seen. Disney’s Virtual Vault allows users to access all the featurettes and supplemental material from the past DVD releases. That’s over five hours of additional material.
And yes one should mention that this FANTASIA is the edited one. The offensive image of "pickaninny" African American centaurs working as servants for the white centaurs is not there. If this cut keeps you from buying this release than the only person you are hurting is yourself.