Whether it's your cup of tea or not, 'Fantasia' has gone down in cinematic history as one of Disney's big gems. Despite all of the controversial issues that lie within, it does still do a fine job of combining its animation with a great selection of classical music from classical artists. I personally loved it, so I looked forward to giving its sequel my first watch for this review; nice and fresh. This launches the "Post-Renaissance" era; the 6th, and last before the present "Revival" era.
Typically, a Disney animated sequel would be sent straight to video at this point in time. It's still pretty untypical, as (correct me if I'm wrong) I think 'Frozen II' is the only one that managed to pull it off besides this. But truth be told, a sequel was in the works for quite some time, but there was some doubt about audience interest. That is until the 1991 home video release of the original 'Fantasia' started setting things back into motion for the development of this great sequel. Eventually, this would finally come along, approximately 60 years after the original.
Symphony No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven: A similar sort of opening act to the original is introduced by Deems Taylor (musical advisor for the original) through some archived audio recordings. This one uses geometric shapes of both vibrant colours to represent butterflies, and black to represent bats, telling a basic story of light conquering the darkness. It was interesting, and I appreciated the artistic style. But it's soon overshadowed by a bunch of whales, and ends up almost being forgettable. 3/5
Pines of Rome by Ottorino Respighi: Introduced by Steve Martin and Itzhak Perlman., this one was probably my favourite of this collection. It features a family of humpback whales with the ability to fly and tells the short story of a mother's love for her calf. This is just an all-around beautiful piece and makes me think of something from a dream. I'm an absolute sucker for this kind of wondrous atmosphere, and it sort of reminds you of what Disney magic is supposed to look like. 5/5
Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin: Introduced by Quincy Jones and pianist Ralph Grierson, this one takes inspiration from 30's caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. The segment is also set in the 30s, in New York City. It follows four separate characters whose stories coincide, as they all wish for something "more" than what they have. I really liked the jazzy concept of this whole segment in both the music and the animation style. It's almost like a love letter to 1930s urban culture, and provides a feel-good atmosphere by its conclusion. 4/5
Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102 by Dmitri Shostakovich: Introduced by Bette Midler featuring pianist Yefim Bronfman, this one features the music playing overtop of an animated rendition of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier". It's fun, and the animation really sticks out, providing a neat little adventure with an ending much happier than the original story. 4/5
The Carnival of the Animals (Le Carnival des Animaux), Finale by Camille Saint-Saëns: This is far from my favourite segment, but it definitely has my favourite intro of the film by James Earl Jones. The segment portrays a flock of flamingos and the "odd duck" among them. His interest in a yo-yo distracts him from proper flock activities. It's cute, but nothing really stands out about it. 3/5
The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas: Introduced by Penn & Teller, this classic and most popular segment is brought back for another go. This one depicts Mickey Mouse as Sorcerer Yen Sid's apprentice. He attempts to use magic to make a clean-up job easier, but it gets completely out of hand. This is and will forever be a total classic. I gave it 5 once, and I'll give it 5 again. 5/5
Pomp and Circumstance – Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4 by Edward Elgar: Composer James Levine along with Mickey Mouse introduces this one. Donald and Daisy Duck are featured in a rendition of the 'Noah's Ark' story from the 'Book of Genesis'. Donald is tasked with gathering the animals and loading them two by two, begging the question of why Donald and Daisy don't count as the two ducks on the ark. Anyway, between the song that everyone hears at graduation, and the story about Noah's Ark, I kind of just felt like I was in class. 3/5
Firebird Suite—1919 Version by Igor Stravinsky: Angela Lansbury introduces the final and certainly one of the best segments of the film. It features an elk and a sprite who accidentally awakens a fire spirit. The segment is about the cycle of life, death and renewal, and is a pretty solid closer to this when compared to the original's 'Night on Bald Mountain', which was very similar. 5/5
The only thing I found truly a bit odd about this experience was its length. While the original clocks in at just over two hours, this is just 1 hour and 15 minutes. When Lansbury said that it was time for the final segment, I had wondered if I was watching some edited version. It doesn't really take away from the experience, but it does make it feel like more of a Disney Sunday Night Special as opposed to a full-fledged 'Fantasia' sequel. Still though, I'm very glad I watched it, because a few segments really stuck out for me, providing a pretty grand experience despite its length.