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[whitespace] 'Fantasia/2000'
Peekaboo: A woodland nymph graces the IMAX screen in Disney's 'Fantasia/2000' at the Tech Museum in San Jose starting New Year's Day.

Disney to the IMAX

Almost new 'Fantasia' gets really big

By Richard von Busack

LIKE THE 1940 original Fantasia, the new IMAX Fantasia/2000 is a mix of classical music and dialogue-free animation, including cameo animated appearances by the likes of Steve Martin, Bette Midler and James Earl Jones. The best sequence of the first Fantasia is blown up for IMAX: Mickey Mouse as the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" (scored to the music of Dukas' tone-poem). The remaining segments are new. This version is sometimes annoyingly grainy and sometimes pleasingly grainy, like old-fashioned airbrushing.

Easily the best of the new work is Hans Christian Andersen's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" (with, of course, an un-Andersenian happy ending and none of the lust and mystery of the tale). Still, this is the darkest piece in Fantasia/2000, and it's scored to an uncommon piece of music, too: Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2. The huge jack-in-the-box villain (very impressive) looks like something that would be stashed in the Batcave. Also fairly good is a comic retelling of the story of the Flood, with Donald Duck as Noah's clerk, set to Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance."

As for the other works, the Al Hirschfeld characters animated to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue are a seeming natural, showing three different lives in a hectic 1930s New York. But the gag writing for this sequence is weak, or maybe the music is too familiar, too redolent of United Airlines and Woody Allen. One laugh has a character cracking walnuts with a pile driver--the joke is too close to the way IMAX works to be funny.

The finale is "Firebird Suite--1919 Version," using Stravinsky's famous piece; it is an allegory about the rebirth of nature after a volcano (a water sprite who looks rather a lot like Jewel plays the healer). The sequence pales next to the strikingly similar imagery from Princess Mononoke. It also compares poorly to the finale of Bruno Bozzetto's 1976 animated hit, Allegro Non Tropo, in which "The Firebird" accompanied a bitterly funny story about the Fall of Man (an unfortunate snake, unsuccessful in tempting Adam and Eve, ate the apple himself and was transported to a 20th-century purgatory of advertising, drugs and television). Of all the pieces, the one that uses the IMAX format best is the cosmic-whale ballet set to Respighi's "Pines of Rome," IMAX being a format suited to whales. And here it is, whale kitsch at its whale-kitschiest.

Fantasia/2000 (G; 75 min.), an animated IMAX film, opens Jan. 1 at the IMAX Theater at the San Jose Tech Museum.

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From the December 30, 1999-January 5, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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