Disney's biggest challenge when bringing Fantasia back to the big screen was undoubtedly how well a film without dialogue and set to classical music would play to kids used to the wisecracking Woody and Buzz Lightyear. They needn't have worried: though a few minor problems bar this from being a `true classic', Fantasia 2000 is every-thing you'd expect from a company that knows how to put on a show, especially if you catch it during its four month run at selected IMAX cinemas.
Like the little girl who, when she was good, was very, very good, Fantasia manages to hit the sort of highs most other animated features can only dream about. Of the eight segments, the highlights are clear. The story of Noah's Ark starring Donald Duck is cleverly matched to Elgar's Pomp And Circumstance, and even more impressive is the choice of a character whose personality can be clearly indicated without him speaking (or quacking) once. A sequence that matches Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue with the drawn style of cartoonist Al Hirsch-field (whose work inspired Aladdin's genie character) is a triumph of animation, starting slow with an Etch-A-Sketch portrait of New York and climaxing with several small stories blending together.
The only surviving segment from the original, classic Mickey Mouse-starrer The Sorcerer's Apprentice, does suffer slightly in comparison. A little cleaning wouldn't have gone amiss as the flaws in the print are all too obvious on the giant, IMAX screen.
The host sections are a little more hit and miss. While Steve Martin makes the most of an all too brief appearance, and James Earl Jones displays a light comic touch to go with his usual bass tones, did we really need Penn and bloody Teller, rent-a-trick pop magicians, to introduce The Sorcerer's Apprentice? US TV's annoyingly ubiquitous show-offs add little to the proceedings.
But the occasionally dubious choice of hosts (wait `till you see a 70-foot-high Angela Lansbury - - thou shalt know horror) shouldn't deter anyone from going to see this as soon as possible - - and on an IMAX screen.
Disney's original "work in progress" returns in a blaze of animated glory, and is all the more striking for bringing a classic back to the screen in an age when kids want explosions, not Elgar. Catch this now - - you won't regret it.
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