Disney Odyssey #38 – Flying Whales Are Neither Pines Nor Roman: Discuss

For this installation of the Disney Odyssey we turned to a couple of real experts: Maureen Smith and Daniel Johanson of Chicago’s own Scapi Mag! Two trained opera lovers and performers, Daniel and Maureen have made it their mission to seek out and promote independent artists, companies, collectives, and projects of all kinds in the city of Chicago, whether it’s theatre, poetry, music, opera, or beyond. As I have never seen this movie and don’t know a whole lot about which classical hits are included, I thought it would be neat to get an inside perspective from these two phenomenal music nerds on what pieces are included, why they’re unusual, and how well the animations play along (or don’t). 

 

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The Film: Fantasia 2000  (2000)

The Facts:

  • A ‘modern’ anthology based on the first Fantasia film, this movie likewise showcases animated shorts backed by classical music numbers. Interestingly, the music in the original Fantasia contains contemporary (to that time) music hits and Fantasia 2000 contains classical music for this time, but still cutting edge to the 1940s when the first movie was made. In that sense, the musical component of the film is not an ‘update’ or ‘modern’ despite the animation quality and technique being considerably advanced.
  • This movie was the first Disney animated feature film released for IMAX.
  • The “Rhapsody in Blue” sequence is partly influenced by Woody Allen’s film Manhattan and highly based on caricaturist Al Hirschfeld‘s artwork.
  • Aside from the Pixar movies, the “Steadfast Tin Soldier” sequence is the first time the lead characters in an animated story are completely CGI. (The whales in “Pines of Rome” are computer animated but they all have hand-animated eyes.)
  • The “Carnival of the Animals” sequence was completely animated by Eric Goldberg all on his own. His last project before that was co-directing Pocahontas and he was ready to get back to the literal drawing board.
  •  It was the first Disney film since Aladdin to not be released in June. Instead, it was aptly released on January 1, 2000, making it the first film released in theatres in the new millennium.
  • Originally they intended to release many of the old sequences from Fantasia with only a few new ones, but the executives at the studio thought that was pointless, and had them rework it to be mostly new segments with the only old segment being “The Sorceror’s Apprentice.”
  • The musical segments are as follows:
    • “Symphony No. 5” by Ludwig von Beethoven
    • “Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Rhespigi
    • “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin
    • “Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102” by Dmitri Shostakovich
    • “The Carnival of the Animals, Finale” by Camille Saint-Saëns
    • “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas
    • “Pomp and Circumstance, Marches 1, 2, 3 & 4” by Edward Elgar
    • “Firebird Suite – 1919 version” by Igor Stravinsky
  • Worldwide total gross in the first month was $21.1 million, which is hardly a scratch compared to the budget of $90 million. Needless to say, Michael Eisner had good reason to tag this film as “Roy Disney’s Folly.” Critics were not terribly impressed with the film as a whole, although many argued it had some excellent moments sprinkled throughout.

 

The Observations:

  • The opening bits are a lot like Twilight Zone… but with 100% more Walt.
  • First segment is IMMEDIATELY one of the most famous pieces of classical music ever: Beethoven’s Fifth. Which immediately makes Aly want to refer to P.D.Q. Bach’s treatment of this piece, “New Horizons in Music Appreciation” where they treat it like a baseball game. MUSIC NERDS AHOY.
  • Maureen points out that all of Beethoven’s pieces have subtitle names. The name for this piece is “Fate.”
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  • PAPER BUTTERFLIES BE FREEEEeeee!
  • Maureen: “That guy looks like Marvin Hamlisch — no, no it’s not. It’s Itzhak Perlman.” Aly: “…who is that?” Maureen: “It’s Itzhak Perlma– NO, no it’s not. It’s James Levine. I’m so sorry.”
  • Second segment is humpback whales, set to Rhespigi’s “Pines of Rome,” which Maureen explained is a tone poem with each movement being a portrait of a different kind of pine tree that is native to the countryside in and around Rome, Italy.
  • Aly explained that humpback whales don’t have teeth, but brush-like mouthpieces called baleen, which work by the whale intaking a lot of water (and krill), and then the whale pushing the water back out through the baleen, which keeps the krill in and lets water out.
  • Maureen: “You’ve been to Rome. Are there many different kinds of pine?” Daniel: “I think so. I think there are different kinds of Rome. I mean pines.” Aly: “That’s true. There’s Drunk Rome… History Rome… Art Rome.” Maureen: “Food Rome. Way Too Hot Sunburn Rome.” Aly: “Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck Rome.”
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  • Aly: “I’ve legitimately had this dream.”
  • Maureen: “This is really triumphant music about a tree.” Aly: “Well, the pines are pretty f*ckin’ noble, aren’t they?”
  • Next up is Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”… which is a nostalgic glance back at New York in the 1930s inspired by the caricatures of Al Hirschfeld.
  • Daniel: “That wasn’t much of a wail on that opening note… I’ve heard wail-i-er versions of ‘Rhapsody’. WaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! wawawawa wa-wa-wa-WAAaaa!”
  • The caricature style, the movements, and the body shapes are similar too to 101 Dalmatians in a way.
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  • Heyyyyyy Gershwin cameo.
  • It was at this point in the film that we realized that this movie is seventeen years old.
  • Next is the Shostakovich piece… set to the fairy tale of the Steadfast Tin Soldier. It has an exquisite blend of hand-drawn and CG animated structure.
  • The evil jack-in-the-box is oddly reminiscent of Judge Frollo – similar nose and chin combo.
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  • Maureen: “Oh no, rats!” Aly: “I’m sure you’re aware of the long standing history of violence between tin soldiers and rodents. They absolutely despise each other in nature.” Maureen: “Why is he even interested in the soldier though? It’s not like he’s made of food.”
  • “Carnival of the Animals” is next – a flamingo and a yo-yo. Before Aly saw this movie, she was pretty sure this was the “Rhapsody in Blue” animation… but alas.
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  • Aly: “I do love this color palette though. Absolutely.”
  • It would be one thing if he was bad at the yo-yo… but he’s actually really good at it. What are the other flamingoes even upset about?
  • Next up is… GASP. “The Sorceror’s Apprentice”!? MICKEY MICKEY MICKEY– wait, did they just copy-paste this one from the original Fantasia to the new one??? Whatever. It’s early perfect. Not even mad.
  • Maureen: “We can all relate to this. Finally achieve your dream of doing real magic, crash real hard after celebrating… brooms get outta control. We’ve all been there.”
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  • Maureen: “Are there enchanted brooms in the D&D Monster Manual?” Daniel: “What, do you want to just play a Fantasia themed campaign?” Maureen & Aly: “EEEEEEEEEEEE!”
  • After a charming transition from Mickey, we get “Pomp and Circumstance” with Donald Duck….. but…. it’s NOAH’S ARK. And Donald… is Noah?! or is Donald the duck?
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  • “Build an ark, He said… it’ll be easy He said… nailed it. Well done, me.”
  • This segment is especially sweet because we so rarely see Donald and Daisy in the same cartoon together. It’s a nice change!
  • The last sequence of the film is Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite”  – but to our surprise, Disney doesn’t seize the opportunity to tell that particular story. Although initially disappointed, we all quickly dissolved into coos of disbelief and admiration. This is definitely one of the most beautiful things Disney has ever done. So we’re posting the whole thing.
  • Aly: “It’s Bambi! It’s old Bambi! HE CAME TO WAKE UP SPRING!” 
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  • Maureen: “Disney’s really good at, like, spewing monsters.”
  • Aly: “Girl, fly! FLY AWAY! Can’t you fly?!” Maureen: “She is! She’s trying to!” Aly: “No, she’s just doing really good parkour.”
  • Apparently, this sequence was inspired by the eruption of Mount St. Helens.
  • [The Sprite crouches on the ground and the Elk tries to coax her up again.] Maureen: “…I’ve been that hungover before.”
  • [The Sprite is reborn and renewed.] Daniel: “That’s some end-of-the-first-Pokemon-movie shit right there.” Maureen: “It’s Rose Quartz!”
  • It is definitely the strongest story told in Fantasia 2000 and a wonderful end to the movie. Bummer the whole thing didn’t have that oomf…but it was still highly enjoyable.

  


Extra special thanks to our amazing patrons who made this and all Disney Odyssey posts possible: AE, Alexis, Allen, Andy, Ben, Cameron, Candace, David, Dennis, Eric, Erika, Josh, Kat, Katie, Mary & Rhett, Mary-Kate, Matt, Mel, Michael, Rebecca, Robin, Rourke, Stephen, and Tiffany!!!

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