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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Fantasia (1940)

Fantasia (1940)

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Released 29-Nov-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Featurette-"Clair de Lune" segment
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1940
Running Time 114:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:40) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Various

Warner Home Video
Starring Leopold Stokowski
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Deems Taylor
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Various

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The appellation of masterpiece is often thrown around with gay abandon by critics, and it ends up being a sadly overused descriptive in film. The fact of the matter is that very few true masterpieces have ever been created, whatever the field of creative arts you are talking about. Unfortunately, when it comes to the animated legacy of Walt Disney, the appellation gets assigned to just about everything that he did, which is of course patently absurd. Whilst he was a visionary as far as animation is concerned and he certainly created as well as pushed the boundaries of what animation could do, there are certainly comparative duds in that legacy. After all, can you name all of the Disney animated feature films in any order, let alone in the order they were produced? There are but a few of his works that can be considered true masterpieces - Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs being the most obvious. It is arguable that Fantasia also can be held in that lofty group of true masterpieces. This has long been recognized as one of the true gems of the Disney catalogue, for a couple of good reasons.

    First and foremost is the fact that this was, up until recently, an almost completely unique piece of work. This was not an animated feature that told a story, but was rather something very different that was the melding of sight and sound through the avenue of animation. It was an attempt to provide a visual impression of what the music selected was all about. Whilst there are probably others that I do not recall right now, and which will surely be reminded to me many times over after this is published, the only other entry in this genre of animated musical fantasy if you like is Fantasia 2000. Secondly, it was a very early attempt at the combination of live action and animation as well as sight and sound, and it still remains one of the best. Disney have long recognized the uniqueness of the film and this was one of the very first films to be placed on moratorium rotation. This was basically a way for a film only having limited release once in every generation, and has subsequently applied to quite a number of Disney films on video. Indeed, it has now been something in the region of ten years I think since this was last made available on video (I missed out on the last limited issue but my parents VHS tape is looking decidedly ropey now). This is of course a great way of maximizing the sales in every generation. Accordingly, it is with many great thanks that we receive this incarnation of the film on DVD.

   The film was put through something of a restoration process for the last incarnation on video and this is the transfer that we now have on DVD. Of course there is no plot per se to the film, as it is a collection of pieces of classical music, to which have been set eight interpretations done in animation. The pieces of music for the completists are:

   The interpretations provided by the animators are extremely fascinating, but there are of course two that stand above all others here and have achieved an immortality of their own. They are the very famous Mickey Mouse animation of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, with Mickey as the apprentice without the ability to control the magic he invokes, and the unforgettable Dance Of The Hours with the images of hippopotami and elephants prancing around ballet style. The latter has always been a personal favourite of mine, but I would doubt that anyone has not seen or heard of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which has taken on a life of its own beyond the film itself.

    The combination of sight and sound was an inspiration from Walt Disney, but the execution was sublime. To use the talents of Leopold Stokowski and The Philadelphia Orchestra, at the time the pre-eminent orchestra and conductor in America (with no disrespect to the New York Symphony and Arturo Toscanini), was an inspired choice and resulted in a soundtrack album that still ranks as one of the very best of all time. The blending of the live action silhouette film of Leopold Stokowski in particular with animated footage was brilliantly executed, even down to the little piece between he and Mickey Mouse. But above all else there is the animation, and this ranks amongst the best that came from the early days of the Disney company.

    The film has almost reached the level of the mystical and even sixty years on is still a great piece of animation that will once again be introduced for the first time to a whole new generation of children. It is of course starting to badly show its age at times, but this is as good as it has looked for a fair old while I would think. Certainly this is significantly better than I have seen it before, even though it is a less than perfect transfer. No collection is complete without some Disney animation, and this is one of the DVDs that should be in the collection, not because it is a great DVD, not because it has great extras, but because this is a classic in the true sense of the word. Disney use it on the front cover of the DVD and on the DVD itself - I have no problem with that at all.

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Transfer Quality


    It may have been subject to a restoration but remember that this is sixty years old. At times this is not a pretty sight at all. But, it is about as good as it is going to get - at least in the foreseeable future. Naturally made in the standard theatrical aspect ratio of the day of 1.37:1, the transfer is presented in a ratio of 1.33:1, and it is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    The main issue here is that the sixty year old transfer is looking decidedly soft at times, which does tend to detract a little from the show. This would not have been too bad if it were consistent, but unfortunately most of the segments also display portions that are very respectable as far as sharpness, detail and clarity go. This really highlights even more the softness of the general transfer. Shadow detail varies from decent to good, with the emphasis in the mid range. The silhouette sequences involving Leopold Stokowski are distinctly to the low end of the scale, but that is as intended. This is not in general a clear transfer at all and at times the grain that riddles the transfer gets pretty woeful. There is some low level noise in the transfer. Despite the obvious flaws in the transfer, I have to say that it was perhaps no worse than I was expecting considering its age, and in certain respects it is a lot better than expected, albeit for rather limited sequences.

    One aspect of this film that was always going to cause a mastering nightmare were the colours. Every VHS tape I have seen of this film has demonstrated significant oversaturation of the colours - especially the blues and reds - and this to some extent is inherent in the source material. Accordingly, as good as the effort made here is, there are still problems at times with oversaturation of the colours. Nothing that gets too bad, but enough to be just a tad noticeable. Similarly there did appear to be some colour bleed in the more intense blues in the orchestra scenes. Just like the general transfer though, there are segments of the film that come up really very well indeed for the age of the transfer, and overall I would have to say that this was a decent transfer with some nice vibrancy to the bright colours on offer, albeit with some inconsistency.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, nor did there seem to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. This was made up for by the film artefacts, as is to be expected in a sixty year old film, even one subject to restoration. The flecks that were there might have been a little frequent but I would not consider any of them to be distracting to the film.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD, with the layer change coming at 85:40. This is a well placed change, at the end of the music concerned and just before the introduction to the next piece. As a result, it is not too noticeable, and I doubt that any better effort could have been made.

    There are just two subtitle options on the DVD, English and English for the Hearing Impaired. There is nothing wrong with them at all, although they obviously don't have an awful lot to do.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is just the one soundtrack on this DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. It is a soundtrack that was part of the restoration but really is not as good as I would have expected. It really cries out for this to be restored by someone like Mike Dutton, whose work with reissuing old 78 recordings on CD (on the Dutton Laboratories label mainly) has drawn huge praise in general for their quality. This just seemed to lack the sparkle that someone like he could bring to this soundtrack.

    What little dialogue is here has come up well in the transfer, although the introductions do seem to show just a slight hint of audio sync problems. However, this is not unexpected in a sixty year old film.

    Need any more be said about the music score? Some great classical music performed by a great orchestra conducted by a great conductor. One of the best film soundtracks of all time.

    Despite this being a remastered Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack, there is not much here as evidence. The surround channels barely seem to get any action at all, with the rear channels being especially lacking in detail. The overall sound is just a tad congested at times and whilst it does not suffer from the obvious problems of the Clair de Lune segment in the extras, it is still noticeably poorer than should be expected for a 5.0 remaster. There is obviously no bass channel use here. Not the best restoration I have heard for a sixty year old soundtrack, but I suppose that it could have been a lot worse than this - so be thankful for small mercies, as we can actually hear the music quite well indeed.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Sixty years old and yet Disney manage to give us an extra. Yes, a single extra.


    Rather obviously themed of course (what did I say about The Sorcerer's Apprentice?), but beyond that not much to be concerned about at all.

Featurette - Clair de Lune segment

    The mythical Clair de Lune segment has had something of a chequered history, and one that is always worth repeating. This was fully animated and scored back in 1940 but owing to length considerations was deleted from the final film. However, not wishing to waste a good thing, it was put aside until 1942, when it was finally completed with inking, painting and finally given the Technicolor photographic treatment in anticipation of it being released as a short. This was not to be and the segment again languished until 1946 when it was finally redone to become the Blue Bayou scene in Make Mine Music (regrettably not yet available in Region 4 but it is out in Region 1). In 1992, after certain lost elements had been rediscovered, it was reconstructed into its original form as it is presented here. Presented in Full Frame format (not 16x9 enhanced) with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this is an interesting inclusion indeed - even allowing for the almost snowstorm of film artefacts that riddle the transfer, and the rather congested and slightly distorted sound to be heard. It also quite a grainy presentation, just like the main feature. Unfortunately there is no timing encoded into the piece so all you get on your DVD display is the useful message of "play": the segment however seems to last for about five minutes or so.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    It would appear that the single DVD Region 1 release is nothing like the same as the Region 4 release. The Region 4 release apparently misses out on:     I take it that you are not expecting me to recommend the Region 4 release over the Region 1? For aficionados of the film, the Region 1 release is by far the best option for getting the film and it is a travesty that we in Region 4 are not apparently going to see all the extras on the Region 1 release of the film. This is one instance where I strongly urge you to go Region 1 if at all possible. Does anyone know whether this is a dual coded Region1/Region 4 DVD like others Disney have been known to issue to satisfy the South American market?


    Fantasia is probably deserving of the appellation of masterpiece, and even though the film is showing a lot of its sixty years here, the DVD is still worthy of consideration purely on the basis of the film itself. This is not a film that can be played endlessly over a short period of time to keep the family quiet, but is a film that can be returned to on a consistent basis over decades. Certainly it is a film that I return to with relish every year or so, and have done so for three decades. However, please tell Disney where to go by buying the Region 1 DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Sunday, December 10, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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