ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.8 - NOVEMBER 1999

Fantasia 2000: Millennium Magic
For A New Generation

by Laura Schiff

When Disney's Fantasia 2000 makes its world-wide debut at IMAX theaters on January 1, 2000, it will become the first theatrical feature-length film ever released in the large-screen 70mm format. Acclaimed conductor James Levine leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through some of the greatest classical music ever written, with seven exciting new animated segments and one returning favorite, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." The IMAX version will run throughout April, then take a short hiatus. A 35mm version goes into wide release in summer 2000.

Fantasia 2000 begins with an homage: images from the 1940 Fantasia float through the cosmos as snippets of the original music swell and recede. The images drift away, revealing several Disney artists seated beside an orchestra. The musicians tune their instruments and the artists sharpen their pencils in anticipation. Conductor James Levine approaches the podium, raises his baton, and launches us into the familiar strains of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5."

Like the first Fantasia, Fantasia 2000 begins with an abstract sequence, Ludvig Van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5." All images © Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Director Pixote Hunt (The Rescuers Down Under, The Pagemaster) uses abstract imagery and pastel palette in this `good vs. evil' scenario. Says supervising director Hendel Butoy, "There are some triangular shapes that mimic butterfly motions, colorful shapes that are good or sympathetic. And then you have the antagonistic shapes, which are dark and come out of these cracks in the ground." The two groups battle for control as traditional hand-drawn animation meets innovative CG graphics in a dazzling display of color and texture.

A pod of whales takes flight when a supernova explodes in "Pines of Rome."

Actor Steve Martin then welcomes us to Fantasia 2000 with a brief history of Walt Disney's original vision for the film. Martin introduces the great violinist Itzhak Perlman, who then leads us into the next segment, composer Ottorino Respighi's "Pines of Rome." Says director Butoy, whose previous credits include The Fox And The Hound, The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective, and Oliver & Company: "I like to describe this segment as a fantastic journey. When I first heard the music, the very first notion that I had, right off the bat, was a sense of flight." From this was sparked a whimsical vision of flying whales and exploding stars. "We combined computer-generated imagery of the whales and water with traditional background painting and traditional effects. We had to write our own computer code to make those things happen. I still haven't seen anyone else do what we've done."

"Rhapsody in Blue" pays tribute to the style of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld in a story set in Manhattan during the Jazz Age.

Next, film and music producer Quincy Jones introduces Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," with Bruce Broughton conducting an orchestra of top studio musicians. Veteran Pocahontas director Eric Goldberg pays tribute to the style of legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfeld in this story set during the Jazz Age. "Eric wanted to depict a day in the life of four people in New York who have hopes and dreams that get fulfilled because of their interaction with each other," explains Butoy. "I would call it a character piece, in the sense that you get to know and feel emotion for these characters. Eric based the whole `Rhapsody in Blue' on traditional flat line work. It begins with just one line that starts to draw the whole cityscape of New York, and then from there we begin to come into the characters' lives."

Computer-generated imagery is used to tell Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale,
"The Steadfast Tin Soldier."

Actress Bette Midler presents Shostakovich's "Piano Concerto #2, Allegro, Opus 102," with animation based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, "The Steadfast Tin Soldier." Hendel Butoy again directs. He explains, "`Tin Soldier' was actually a piece that the Disney artists had boarded and were intending to do fifty years ago, but they ended up shelving the idea. Somebody found those sketches in the archives here at Disney," and Butoy gave them new life. Computer-generated imagery blends seamlessly with traditional hand-drawn animation to tell the story of a one-legged tin soldier who battles a Jack-in-the-box for the love of a ballerina. Says Butoy, "It's a little bit of a love story, and a little bit of a story about circumstances that go your way if you stand steadfast and firm."

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Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.


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