Visually Marvelous, But Not Much Else
There comes a time in every critic's life, in which they have to give a negative review to a well known and loved classic. Unfortunately, I am in the situation of giving a negative review to one of the best known and best received animated films of all time; Fantasia.
Fantasia really doesn't have a plot of any kind. Instead, it boasts a unique premise. We are introduced at the beginning to a new kind of entertainment called Fantasia. This is a combination of music and visuals. There are three different varieties of this: The first being music that tells a story. The second being music with no particular plot, and the third being music that exists just for music's sake.
After seeing the introduction explaining this, I grew quite excited. I was certainly intrigued, and I was sure the magicians at the mouse house were about to present another true masterpiece. So imagine my disappointment when Fantasia turned out to be little more than a technical demo. An animation experiment, really.
And as such, the animation is a wonder to behold. Visuals are absolutely gorgeous. Abstract images, and defined images are portrayed beautifully creating a visually splendid film. So it's a shame to report that the visuals are one of the few appealing things about Fantasia.
Let's face it, Fantasia is dull beyond reason. Say what you want, but two hours of random images and classical music is way too much for any viewer. I really do appreciate music and movies, but Fantasia simply does not do either art any justice. We want to be entertained. Yet we're presented with little more than a series of laptop screen savers.
Fantasia is probably most popular for the segment titled "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." You've no doubt heard of it (and probably seen it), and know what it's about. For the benefit of you that haven't heard of it, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is about Mickey Mouse deciding to use the magic of a wizard to do a common household chore. Unfortunately for Mickey, the magic gets out of hand and the result is disastrous.
To be honest, I really wasn't all that impressed with this segment. I've seen much better Disney shorts than this. It's not that it was bad, it just wasn't that great. Still, I can certainly agree that this was one of the main highlights. It at least wasn't boring like a majority of the rest of the film.
For a movie about music, I certainly expected a better musical score. In fact, I expected an original score. And at least 75% of the score was classical music by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky among others. And while I have little against classical music, I'm disappointed that Disney didn't bother to bring us a musical score. Fantasia is all about music so for crying out loud, don't use recycled material!
And because the music was composed first, it's been paired up with some bizzare animation that really doesn't blend. There was great potential here for the music. Being a composer myself, the scenes in the film were extremely inspiring, so it was hard to see them wasted with an ill-fitting score. The potential in the music department was huge, yet no one bothered to do anything remotely interesting with it.
I suppose that if the music Fantasia had chosen to showcase was very good, I wouldn't complain as much. But alas, we are presented with the most uninteresting works of the composers' careers! And it doesn't help that the arrangement for these piece are so unexciting. They're not bad, but they're extremely straightforward and uninteresting. If anyone can put a unique spin on tired old tunes, it's Disney. So why did they choose to play it safe? It's basically the same arrangement of these tunes you've heard all your life.
Come on Disney, at least change it up a little! Add some spice to it! Change the instruments, the genre, the feel! Something! It's a shame that in a movie about music, the score becomes the most disappointing part.
Well, maybe second most disappointing. The entertainment value here is the most disappointing. Sure the animation is pretty to look at initially. But after a while, it starts to get pretty dull. With almost no dialogue, no characters (except for the narrator, the "soundtrack" which I'll discuss later, and a brief appearance of Mickey and a wizard), and no plot, it becomes difficult to concentrate on the film. I ended up glancing at my watch as often as the screen.
There are only two truly entertaining bits. The first one occurs right after intermission. This involves the narrator introducing us to a character called, "The Soundtrack." He's a little bar that represents sound. So the Soundtrack does a few impressions for us. I laughed once here, and that's more than I can say for almost any of the rest of the film.
The second entertaining part of the film occurs during the penultimate segment, in which Dance of the Hours is adapted into a ballet with animals. There are a couple decent bits here, but the best part is at the end of the ballet. This is when a group of alligators dance with a group of hippos. This is one of the only times when humor is used during Fantasia, and one of the few times when I was actually enjoying myself.
You can argue that Fantasia isn't necessarily made to entertain. Than what is the point of it's existence? Is the point of a film not to entertain? Isn't that why we all sit around the television or drive to the cinema? To be entertained? We certainly don't watch it to be bored or blankly watch obscure images over a course of two hours. So is there any real reason for Fantasia to exist? I can't think of any.
Despite some beautiful visuals and rare moments of entertainment, Fantasia is a pointless film in almost all respects. It wastes it's gigantic potential on little more than an overlong montage. As a short film, this might've worked. But as a full length feature? Hardly! Fantasia represents a technical achievement, Mickey's most famous role in history, and two hours of my life I'll never get back.