This week Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment opens the Disney vault to present the animated classics Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 for the first time ever in a Blu-ray High Definition and DVD 2-Movie Special Edition, featuring 4 discs of material. In addition, Disney is releasing three documentaries this week, including Waking Sleeping Beauty, The Boys and Walt & El Grupo, which pull back the curtain for audiences to experience Walt’s travels, the musical talent of a legendary Disney duo, as well as the ultimate Hollywood comeback.
I had the opportunity to review all but the Walt & El Grupo documentary, which I will do and add to this article in the coming days.
Fantasia was released in 1940 to great success, and the Blu-ray transfer of the film reveals the true magic, music and majesty of the animation classic, as never before experienced, with a state- of-the-art picture restoration and pristine 7.1 Digital Theater System Hi-Def Surround Sound. Fantasia is widely considered to be a better film than Fantasia 2000 for a number of reasons, but I enjoy both equally. The film contains seven sequences ranging in styles from abstract to humorous, resulting in a incredible piece of cinema history that lends itself well to the visual memory of the audience.
Fantasia begins with narrator Deems Taylor introducing the film and its reason for being. Disney would present eight classical compositions and set them to animated sequences that were not often the original intent of the composer. Taylor inserted commentary throughout the production, introducing new segments while an orchestra and conductor Leopold Stokowski were seen in silhouette tuning up or, in the case of the first segment, participating in the segment.
Opening the film was the Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Through abstract animation, using symbols and lines timed to the score, ‘Toccata’ moved from simple lighting changes with the orchestra to actual animation. Lines and music roll across the screen without a single thread of a plot, with animation perfectly timed to the score.
Fantasia then moves on to a section of The Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Illych Tchaikovsky, going from the birth of spring through the Death of winter. The segment followed various dancing flora, fauna, and fairies mimicking the ballet styles of the original Nutcracker production. Again, everything is perfectly timed and flows together.
Fantasia continues to build with segment after wonderful segment, creating a richly painted story line, that jumps off the screen, filling the mind’s eye with color and wonder.
Among the bountiful Blu-ray special features in this release is the highly requested Academy Award nominated short Destino. Available for the first time ever on Blu-ray, the seven minute film is the result of a unique collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali begun in 1946, but put on hold due to studio financial concerns. In 2003, Roy E. Disney worked with a team of modern day animators to complete the film as a tribute to Walt’s pioneering artistic vision. Accompanying the highly anticipated short is an all-new feature length documentary entitled “Dali & Disney: A Date With Destino,” which explores the origins of the relationship between Disney and Dali, their collaboration on Destino, and ultimately how the film came to fruition so many years after its inception.
Considered avant-garde during its time, Fantasia has gone on to become one of the most popular movies of all time and today is considered a classic. In 1990, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Fantasia DVD and Blu-ray Bonus Material
- New Audio Commentary with Disney historian Brian Sibley.
- Disney Family Museum (running time: approx. 5 minutes) – Walt’s daughter Diane Disney-Miller takes viewers on a tour of the new Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, California featuring a very large exhibit on Fantasia and most importantly, the Schultheis notebook with long lost Fantasia production notes found in more recent years in the walls of a convent.
- Disney View – This viewing mode maximizes the Blu-ray viewing experience with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio. Original artwork created by a Disney artist, in a style that complements the beauty of the film.
- The Shultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure (running time: approx. 14 minutes) –An in depth look at the recently discovered Schultheis Notebook. The detailed log was created by Herman Schultheis, an effects man on Fantasia, and intricately breaks down the film from a technical view. Many of the special effects used in Fantasia were a mystery to modern day animators until this notebook was recovered.
- Interactive Art Gallery and Screensavers – Viewers can explore the artwork of Fantasia as never before, in HD resolution with unique Blu-ray interactivity and programming.
- Audio Commentaries from the Fantasia Legacy Collection with executive producer Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, animation historian John Canemaker, and Scott McQueen, manager of film restoration. Additionally, the audio commentaries include interviews and story note recreations by Walt Disney, hosted by John Canemaker.
Fantasia is presented in a screen ratio of 1.33:1.
Equally impressive is Fantasia 2000, the awe-inspiring extravaganza of sight and sound, executive produced by the late Roy E. Disney. Featuring an array of celebrity hosts including Steve Martin, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn and Teller, Angela Lansbury, Itzhak Perlman and Quincy Jones, Fantasia 2000, like its predecessor, expertly visualizes classical music compositions with various forms of animation and live-action introductions. Fantasia 2000 is primarily performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and conducted by James Levine.
The stunning sequel begins where its predecessor left off, and includes seven completely new segments, with viewers watching a bustling Depression-era metropolis in the style of Al Hirschfeld’s famous cartoons, a flock of flamingos with slapstick yo-yo talents, an ark full of animals gathered by Donald Duck as Noah’s first mate, and musical life breathed into a family of flying humpback whales.
Fantasia 2000 DVD and Blu-ray Bonus Material
- Musicana – Walt’s Inspiration for a Sequel (running time: approx. 10 minutes) – This documentary reveals rarely-seen art created for Musicana, a late 1970’s project intended as a Fantasia sequel with a focus on exploring other cultures via their greatest musical compositions. Viewers are offered a look at the origins of pieces that were started by Walt, such as “The Emperor and the Nightingale” which was then taken over by a very young John Lasseter. Ultimately, Musicana was stopped to begin production on “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” but the memories of this piece still live on with the animators who conceived it.
- Dali & Disney: A Date With Destino (running time: 82 minutes) – This feature length documentary explores the collaborative relationship between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali, revealing how and why the Destino short came to fruition under the lead of Roy E. Disney in 2003 so many years after its inception in 1946.
- Destino (running time: approx. 7 minutes) – The legacy of Walt Disney and Salvador Dali lives on in this highly anticipated short film.
- Disney’s Virtual Vault – BD-Live Feature Original DVD Bonus Features from Legacy Collection
- Audio Commentaries from Fantasia Legacy Collection (total running time: 84 minutes) with executive producer Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, and producer Don Ernst. Audio commentary with the directors and art directors for each segment.
- FastPlay enabled
Fantasia 2000 is presented in a screen ratio of 1.78:1, with a 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix (DEHT), 5.1 DEHT, and French and Spanish Language Tracks English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles.
Between 1984 and 1994, The Walt Disney Studio’s animators created a series of highly acclaimed box-office hits, including The Little Mermaid, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. The documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty reveals a rare behind-the-scenes look at the studio’s resurrection, and at the internal strife that led to its subsequent decline.
It all began in 1984, when a stockholder revolt ushered in an aggressive new management team consisting of Michael Eisner, Frank Wells, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney. The new team and their young artists set out to reclaim the Disney legacy of making films that represented the cutting edge of animation, filmmaking and technology. However, with success came quarrels among the executives over who should take credit for the rebirth. The death of chief operating officer Frank Wells in 1994 only intensified the issues.
Director Don Hahn and Peter Schneider use film clips, home movies, and interviews, to present a absorbing portrait of the rise and fall of a storied entertainment company.
Waking Sleeping Beauty DVD Bonus Material
- Why Wake Sleeping Beauty? is an overview featurette.
- Deleted Scenes include: Black Friday; Howard’s Lecture; Losing Howard; Recording Part of Your World; Research Tips; and To Sir With Love
- The Sailor, the Mountain Climber, the Artist and the Poet – Celebrating Roy Disney, Frank Wells, Joe Ranft and Howard Ashman
- Studio Tours – Randy’s tours, Roger Rabbit studio, Oliver studio and the tour of the Animation Research Library
- A Reunion – Rob Minkoff and Kirk Wise • Walt – What would Walt do? A comparison of Walt’s era and the current era
- Audio Commentary – View the film with commentary by director Don Hahn and producer Peter Schneider
Waking Sleeping Beauty is presented in Widescreen (1.78.1), with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, in English.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story is an in-depth journey through the lives of Robert and Richard Sherman, the incredibly prolific Academy Award-winning songwriting team. While their songs celebrated family entertainment and happy endings, their life together was not as harmonious. ‘The Boys’ goes behind the scenes, featuring interviews with Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury, Roy E. Disney and many more, for a fascinating glimpse into how Walt Disney used the language of music to bring the brothers together.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story DVD Bonus Material
- Why They’re “The Boys”—Through interviews with their friends and co-workers from throughout the years, learn why Bob and Richard Sherman are called “The Boys” and, in turn, why this film is called what it is called!
- Disney Studios in the ’60’s—Take a look at the era of the legendary studio when the Sherman Brothers were under contract and part of the life and culture of a creative playground of animators, filmmakers and producers.
- Casting Mary Poppins—Learn how Julie Andrews got the part of Mary Poppins from the point of view of Bob and Richard and those who know them.
- The Process—Join Richard Sherman for a look at the Sherman Brothers’ song writing process.
- Theme Parks—In addition to composing scores for many classic Disney movies, the Sherman Brothers also wrote many popular songs for Disney theme parks. Learn how they went about composing a song for rides such as “It’s a Small World.”
- Roy Williams—Roy Williams was a Disney animator who had an office right next to the Sherman Brothers. Through Roy’s artwork, we learn some of the stories of what it was like to work in the Animation Building in the 1960’s.
- Bob’s Art—In addition to being an amazing lyricist, Bob Sherman’s other passion is painting. Here he shares his inspiration.
- Celebration—A collection of testimonials from celebrities and Hollywood legends who share their experiences about the Sherman Brothers, this piece earned “The Boys” a special honor from the President of the United States.
- Sherman Brothers’ Jukebox—This collection of Sherman Brothers songs – and stories behind the songs – provides a unique look into the extensive careers of Bob and Richard. They include: Tall Paul; Chim Chim Cher-ee; Feed the Birds; Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love); There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow; Jolly Holiday; Oh, Gee, Georgie!, performed by Eddie Cantor in 1924); Up, Down and Touch The Ground; A Spoonful of Sugar, performed on the guitar by Laurence Juber; Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; Ugly Bug Ball, which was a Der Wienerschnitzel commercial.
The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story is presented in Widescreen (1.78.1), with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Dolby Digital 2.0, in English, with Spanish Sub-titles.
Walt & El Grupo centers on when the U.S. Government asked Walt Disney to be a cultural ambassador to South America in 1941. With a group of handpicked artists, later called “El Grupo,” Disney’s WWII road trip paved the way for two classic Disney films, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.
I will add a review for Walt & El Grupo after I receive the DVD.
Walt & El Grupo DVD Bonus Material
- Audio Commentary—With director Theodore Thomas and historian J.B. Kaufman.
- Photos in Motion—How the photos shown from the original journey transcended time and literally came to life through technology
- Material from the Director’s Cut includes: Home Movies for the Big Screen—The 16mm Kodachrome footage shot by El Grupo was originally intended to be reference material. With the making of Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros after the trip, these “home movies” took on unexpected importance; My Father’s Generation—The return voyage from South America on the SS Santa Clara is the setting to understand some of the remarkable qualities of the Disney group and their generation. Cecilia Acle, daughter of a Chilean passenger, and Cindy Garcia, daughter of Disney storyman Ted Sears, tell the story; And Artists and Politicians—In a return to the Urca Casino, conductor and music historian Roberto Gnattali reflects on the golden age of the samba and the Brazilian government at the time.
- Saludos Amigos Original 1942 Release—One of the films inspired by Walt & El Grupo’s trip to South America in its original form.
- Original Theater Trailers for Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1944).
All items will be released on November 30, 2010.
- People / Bands: Angela Lansbury > | Bette Midler > | Brian Sibley > | Deems Taylor > | Dick Van Dyke > | Don Hahn > | Frank Wells > | Itzhak Perlman > | James Earl Jones > | James Levine > | Jeffrey Katzenberg > | John Canemaker > | Leopold Stokowski > | Michael Eisner > | Quincy Jones > | Roy E. Disney > | Scott McQueen > | Steve Martin >
- Shows / Movies: Fantasia > | Fantasia 2000 > | Penn and Teller > | The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story > | Waking Sleeping Beauty > | Walt & El Grupo >
- Genres: > Animation >
- Story Types: Home Theater > | Reviews >