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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

Fantasia [Blu-ray]

 

(1940) Directed by:

James Algar (segment "The Sorcerer's Apprentice")
Samuel Armstrong (segments "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" and "The Nutcracker Suite")
Ford Beebe, Hamilton Luske + Jim Handley (segment "The Pastoral Symphony")
Norman Ferguson + T. Hee (segment "Dance of the Hours") 
Wilfred Jackson (segment "Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria") 
Bill Roberts + Paul Satterfield
(segment "Rite of Spring")
Ben Sharpsteen (uncredited

 

From the UK: 2 Disc / 2 Movie Collection (Fantasia and Fantasia 2000)

Separate Blu-ray cases inside cardboard box!

US Edition only offered in a Four-Disc (both movies) Blu-ray/DVD Combo

UK also offers a 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD package only for Fantasia (1940) with Blu-ray Packaging

 

Out November 30th, 2010

 

 

NOTE: While we feel certain the transfers on both sides of the pond will be the same - we are covering the earlier-released UK version of Fantasia (only) in this review. Extras and DUB, subtitle options may slightly differ from the US release. 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Walt Disney

Video: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:04:27.501 

Disc Size: 39,689,420,531 bytes

Feature Size: 34,583,304,192 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.00 Mbps

Chapters: 17

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 8th, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 matted to 1.78

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 5201 kbps 7.1 / 48 kHz / 5201 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DUBs:

DTS Audio Dutch 1509 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit
DTS Audio Spanish 1509 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio Hebrew 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Polish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio Portuguese 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps
Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -6dB
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -6dB

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, Dutch, Hebrew, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• New Audio commentary by Disney historian Brian Sibley

Original DVD commentary (Interviews and story note recreations by Walt Disney - hosted by John Canemaker)

Original DVD commentary (Roy Disney, James Levin, John Canemaker and Scott MacQueen)

Disney Family Museum (4:04)

• The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure (13:51)

• Interactive Art Gallery

This package has a 2nd Blu-ray disc with Fantasia 2000 in 1080P (with further extras including Feature length documentary Dali & Disney + Destino - 2003 animated short debuting on Blu-ray)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Walt Disney’s timeless masterpiece is an extravaganza of sight and sound, now brilliantly presented in high definition with an all-new digital restoration. With Blu-ray you can finally experience Fantasia the way Walt envisioned. Plus, an exploration of the new Disney Family Museum and dynamic bonus features allow generations of moviegoers to enjoy this musical masterpiece like never before. No family’s Disney Blu-ray collection is complete without Fantasia so see the music come to life, hear the pictures burst into song and experience the excitement that is Fantasia over and over again through the magic of Blu-ray.

 

 

The Film:

At the risk of being utterly obvious and just a bit stodgy, perhaps, let us begin by noting that motion-picture history was made at the Broadway Theatre last night with the spectacular world première of Walt Disney's long-awaited "Fantasia." Let us agree, as did almost every one present on the occasion, that the sly and whimsical papa of Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Pinocchio and a host of other cartoon darlings has this time come forth with something which really dumps conventional formulas overboard and boldly reveals the scope of films for imaginative excursion. Let us temperately admit that "Fantasia" is simply terrific—as terrific as anything that has ever happened on a screen. And then let's get on from there.

For the vital report this morning is that Mr. Disney and his troop of little men, together with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra and a corps of sound engineers, have fashioned with music and colors and animated figures on a screen a creation so thoroughly delightful and exciting in its novelty that one's senses are captivated by it, one's imagination is deliciously inspired. In the same fresh, light-hearted spirit which has marked all their previous cartoons Mr. Disney and the boys have gone aromping in somewhat more esoteric fields; they have taken eight symphonic numbers which are generally reserved for the concert halls, let Mr. Stokowski's band record them on multiple sound tracks, and have then given them visual accompaniments of vast and spellbinding range. In brief, they have merged high-toned music with Disney's fantastic imagery.

Excerpt from Bosley Crowther at the NY Times located HERE

Renowned abstract film-maker Oskar Fischinger, employed in a distant capacity on the Bach sequence, called this Disney effort a 'conglomeration of tastelessness'. He wasn't kidding. Only the Dukas Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence, with Mickey Mouse, where the storyboard is effectively provided by the composer, achieves a respectable kind of success. For the rest, Disney's attempts at the visual illustration of Beethoven and Co - a dubious exercise anyway - produce Klassical Kitsch of the highest degree. Awesomely embarrassing; but some great sequences for all that, and certainly not to be missed.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE

 


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
 

Firstly, let's get this out of the way: This is the so-called 'censored' version. About thirty seconds of "Sunflower" from "The Pastoral Symphony" (with the politically-correct reasoning that the world is certainly a different place than it was in 1940) have been 'digitally' remastered so that the frame isn't simply zoomed-in. To pacify those seeking 'it' - we should note that it has not been present, in any official release, since 1969 - over 40-years ago. The offending images were judged as inappropriate now and Fantasia is a better film with them removed. So be it. In no way do they interfere with the narrative concept of the film. So, while this may not be a totally accurate representation of the original theatrical release in 1940 - we don't feel it is worth obsessing over. Get over it. There are valid arguments on both sides but I wasn't going to let it ruin my enjoyment.

 

 

Right of the bat we get an important viewing option. 'DisneyView' (see sample below). As with the previously released Pinocchio and Snow White we get the option of original 1.33 viewing OR having Disney art fill the black vertical bars at the sides of HD (1.78) TV frames with custom imagery. I like it - there is good variety and the side borders that don't change so frequently as to be intrusive. BUT they change frequently enough though so as not on incur any concerns of burn-in on plasmas. This will be an option that is easy to embrace or reject fairly quickly. It's great to have the choice. Purists will opt for the original 1.33 and kids may prefer the full HD screen. I'm somewhere in the middle.

 

 

The Blu-ray image quality is far better than I anticipated - and my expectations were quite high. I've owned this on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD and these don't even come remotely close to what I see on this Blu-ray. The 1080P quality produces a totally hypnotic image - one you have trouble turning your eyes from. It is brighter, stretching your attention to the background and other vibrant visuals that I don't recall even seeing before this transfer. Colors rival modern reference discs. Blues and reds virtually glow. Contrast produces some rich inky black levels. I doubt the film looked this good, 70 years ago. It couldn't have. This is visually magnificent.

 

NOTE: Prior to the 1990 re-release, the film was shown with no credits - just the title with the RKO logo. The title card is now has the original RCA 'sound system' - seen on right side (above)  (akin to its initial theatrical run). You can only see it during the intermission - and there are, again, no other credits.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DisneyView (16X9 filled)

 

 

Audio :

I couldn't resist really cranking the volume during some music; Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BMV 565", "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", Mussorgsky's "A Night on Bald Mountain", and Schubert's "Ave Maria, Op. 52 No. 6" - all as conducted by Stokowski. We get it here is an amazing DTS-HD Master 7.1 at an astounding 5201 kbps. It blows away any original remastered CD versions that I have ever owned of this score and I don't believe the soundtrack ever made it to SACD. It is easily the best this original music has EVER sounded for your home - short of hiring an orchestra for your living room. It has balanced depth and strength but it never goes beyond its effectiveness or place in the narrative. I barely concerned myself with the range - although the rear speaker subtleties are notable. Simply put it sounds 'brilliant'. There are DUBs and subtitle options and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

 

NOTE: Deems Taylor's voice is again over-dubbed (the last DVD stated that the original narration was 'unsalvageable'). Disney have made the decision to dub over all of Taylor's voice selections, as opposed to having some mismatches with a different actor's voice. It makes sense and although one might note it is a 'dub' in a couple of instances - basically this wasn't a problem for my viewing. You resign yourself to some complications of a film of this age. This is minor.

 

 

Extras :

The extras give us a new audio commentary with Disney historian Brian Sibley. It is excellent - covering extensive ground and vital information. We also get the Disney Family Museum running about 4-minutes with Walt's daughter, Diane Disney-Miller, taking viewers on a tour of the new Disney Family Museum located in San Francisco. It features a large exhibit solely donated to Fantasia and the Schultheis notebook with previously lost Fantasia production notes. Actually there is a complete 14-minutes on The Shultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure. It provides an in-depth look at the recently discovered find - which was a comprehensive, detailed log created by effects coordinator Herman Schultheis during production of Fantasia. It is an excellent technical overview and surprisingly many of the special effects used in Fantasia were a head-scratching to present day animators prior to this discovery. Fascinating stuff. Included is an interactive Art Gallery in HD and past DVD commentaries with story note recreations by Walt Disney - hosted by John Canemaker and another with Roy Disney, James Levin, Canemaker and Scott MacQueen.

 

The package used for this review has a 2nd Blu-ray disc with Fantasia 2000 in 1080P (with further extras including a feature length documentary Dali & Disney as well as Destino - the 2003 animated short's debut on Blu-ray and more.)

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Fantasia has always worked as a great demonstration disc when you have friends over - especially if they have children. But on Blu-ray  it is even elevated beyond that. If it is actually 'playing' on your system it will surely detract from any conversations you might want to engage in. After the Blu-ray's significance as visual eye-candy and aural majestic-ness - Fantasia also has such deep historical roots in cinema. This is true for its uniqueness in regards to both sound (stereo for the first time in 1940!) and film production. Technology appears to be moving too fast at times... but the fact that we can actually own this 'product' and utilize it in the comfort of our home really b-l-o-w-s  me away. I'd be tempted to buy this if it only had the lossless audio - let alone the magnificent image and supplements. This should get some definite votes for our year end poll and it has our strongest recommendation. 

Gary Tooze

November 10th, 2010

 

 

From the UK: 2 Disc / 2 Movie Collection (Fantasia and Fantasia 2000)

Separate Blu-ray cases inside cardboard box!

US Edition only offered in a Four-Disc (both movies) Blu-ray/DVD Combo

UK also offers a 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD package only for Fantasia (1940) with Blu-ray Packaging

 

Out November 30th, 2010

 

 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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