At the time of Fantasia 2000’s release, the idea to skip commercial multiplexes altogether in favor of screening a film exclusively on 72 IMAX screens across the United States seemed absurd. Up to then, IMAX auditoriums were mostly found in museums or zoos, and mainly showed nature documentaries or science films. I have many fond memories of these times, but back then, the thought of watching a feature-length major motion picture on IMAX sounded like a completely bold and foreign concept.
Naturally, my family had to check it out. My parents bought tickets weeks in advance. At the screening, it turned out dozens of people had driven in from other states. It was a big, big deal.
When the movie started, the reason was clear: The world had never seen anything like Fantasia 2000 on IMAX. It was an overwhelming sensory experience. We were enveloped in the sheer size and scope of Disney’s remarkable animation, encircled by the symphonic music blaring loudly and clearly from all directions, and amazed by Disney’s ability to master this format for something other than nature documentaries. It remains one of the single greatest IMAX experiences I have ever had.
And here’s the crazy part: Compared to the original film, Fantasia 2000 is a massive disappointment. The animation is less impressive, the musical choices less insightful, and the entire experience dumbed down from Walt’s original vision for an interpretive visual concert. The original Fantasia is, without question, the greatest of all American animated films, an absolute triumph of aesthetics that challenges the way viewers understand visual and aural form in filmmaking.
With that in mind, Fantasia on IMAX would be a simply mind-boggling experience. Forget the visuals for a moment. Just consider how stirring and powerful Leopold Stokowski’s classical soundtrack would sound coming out of an IMAX surround system. It would be the closest listeners could ever come to hearing the music performed live.
And the animation, of course, would hold up beautifully. It is the most lush and detailed work Disney’s team ever attempted, and moments like the erupting volcanoes in “Rite of Spring” or the mournful procession in “Ave Maria” would take on bold new dimensions expanded to IMAX size.
Disney recently restored the film for its Blu-Ray release, with cleaned-up visuals and a remastered 7.1 audio track, meaning the film has literally never been more fit for IMAX presentation. Knowing how wonderful the sequel worked in the format, I can think of no film better fit for IMAX than Fantasia. It is an overpowering audio/visual experience on its own, but on IMAX it could ascend to a whole new level.
What films would you like to see released on IMAX? Sound off in the comments below!
Follow author Jonathan Lack on Twitter @JonathanLack.Previous