Original vs. Remake: Fantasia

This time on Original vs. Remake, I’m comparing the two versions of Disney’s classical music features. The 1940 original was Disney’s third feature-length animated movie, but considered by many to be one of the best. It was originally supposed to be one in a long line of Fantasia films which would change the musical chapters while featuring some recurring elements each time.

However, it took until 1999 when another Fantasia would be made. Here I compare the two…

The Similarities:

Each movie contains segments animated to classical music. These vary from fairly serious to the more abstract and comical segments. Both feature a piece by Ludwig Von Beethoven (Fantasia: The Pastoral Symphony; Fantasia 2000: Symphony No.5) and by Igor Stravinsky (Fantasia: Rite of Spring; Fantasia 2000: Firebird Suite).

The Mickey Mouse short, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (by Paul Dukas), is featured in both versions as a form of continuity. Also, the segment where Mickey congratulates conductor Leopold Stokowsky is kept and integrated into a longer piece in Fantasia 2000.

The Differences:

Original: The film is narrated by Deems Taylor alone who gives the background of all the songs and the animated sequences.

Remake: The film is narrated by a number of celebrities including Steve Martin, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, James Earl Jones, Penn and Teller.

Original: With a running time of 125 minutes, the movie features a comical/non-musical intermission called Meet the Soundtrack.

Remake: There is no intermission, but instead each of the narrations features some comical elements or short skits.

Original: There is some mild nudity in The Pastoral Symphony section. Also very grim scenes in both Rite of Spring and Night on Bald Mountain. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Dance of the Hours are the only strictly comical pieces.

Remake: This version features relatively little peril, mostly in Piano Concerto No. 2 and The Firebird Suite. There are more comical pieces such as Rhapsody in Blue, Pomp and Circumstance, and The Carnival of Animals Finale.

Original: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is the only segment to feature an established Disney character, Mickey Mouse.

Remake: Aside the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, established Disney characters are seen in Pomp and Circumstance, which features Donald and Daisy Duck.

How is it better?

Original: The animation quality and imagination of the animators is remarkable. Especially the Nutcracker Suite and The Pastoral Symphony stand out, as does Night on Bald Mountain and especially the Rite of Spring.

Remake: The segments feel more lively with only Pines of Rome being a slower and not as energetic piece. Even the mostly CG animated Piano Concerto No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich looks pretty amazing. The celebrity narrations also make the in-betweens of the animated segments feel more lively and fun to watch. The running time is definitely more bearable.

How is it worse?

Original: The 125 running time begins to feel really long, especially in the latter half of the film. The film could have really used another, more comical  segment like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Rite of Spring. Also, Disney has consequently censored a section of The Pastoral Symphony for featuring a character with a stereotypical black-face (which feels incredibly hypocritical).

Remake: Pines of Rome, while beautifully animated, does bring the whole movie to a halt very early on.

Final Verdict – Which one to see?

Remake: While the Original has fantastic animation quality, Fantasia 2000 just has a better flow with more energetic sequences, a more bearable running time and funnier celebrity narrations. Also, I just like the individual segments of Fantasia 2000 better. Both movies have contrasting styles, but Fantasia 2000 is just clearly superior in every way.