To cut a long review short, I'll open with the tl;dr (too long; didn't read) version. Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 on Blu-ray is a perfect release. The transfers are flawless and the 7.1 DTS HD representation of the classical scores are aural nirvana. The stunning picture and audio bring the old Fantasia soundbite of 'seeing music and hearing pictures' to new levels of immersion. I'll put my neck on the line and describe Fantasia as the finest moment of Disney's Golden Age, an act of startling genius, and similarly claim this to be the most impressive Blu-ray release for any of the House of Mouse's classics yet. Fantasia 2000 makes this edition well worth choosing over the Fantasia solus release, although it is undeniably the lesser of the two films. Your kids might not love the world of Fantasia initially, but that's nothing that a trip to the hospital for a soul transplant can't fix.
Now with that out of the way, let's do this thing.
In truth, the packaging isn't much to write home about. While the very reasonable price has to be taken into consideration, it's just two separate common or garden Blu-ray cases in a box of thin card. No booklet beyond an advertorial pamphlet. It does conform to the stylings of the splipcases from previous Disney classics and has an embossed front, but if you were hoping for a digipack, stop hoping.
The likes of Dumbo and Pinocchio have been fine on Blu-ray but watching Fantasia is the first time I've been blown away by a Disney classic. The drawings and animation truly do have an ageless quality to them and it's difficult to imagine how they can improve on this. One thing you want from HD is great colour and Fantasia has a lot of colour for Blu-ray to work its wonders on. Naturally, Fantasia 2000 benefits from being little over a decade old but could have suffered because of those scenes that use what is now eleven-year-old CGI. As it happens, while there is a comparative soullessness to some of the CGI sections, it still looks good. The more traditional animation is spectacular and the transfer is again flawless.
Fantasia comes in its original aspect 1.33:1 ratio while 2000 is widescreen. You also get the optional Disney View for Fantasia to fill in the black bars down the sides with still drawings, but that usually just ends up intrusive.
Audio is often relegated to a secondary concern for the average consumer, but with Fantasia it's at least as important as the visuals. Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Schubert and Beethoven demand the finest quality and they get it with the 7.1 HD surround sound. Thunderous percussion and lush strings all the way. Of all the releases on Blu-ray, this is a prime example that demands you take your audio set-up seriously.
Brian Sibley's audio commentary for Fantasia delivers worthwhile insights into all aspects of the film. You'll never need Wikipedia again! The other major bonus comes on the Fantasia 2000 disc in the form of Destino, the six-minute collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. The audio here is 'only' stereo and the visuals aren't as crisp as the main features, but it's good enough. The remaining extras aren't all that worthwhile beyond another commentary for each film from previous DVD releases, but when you're getting two great films and another short one, that's more than worth the asking price.
Fantasia remains a genuinely remarkable film, quite unlike anything else from Disney. In places it still matches the finest in avant-garde. A visual concert from start to finish with the only dialogue coming from Deems Taylor's introductions. In Nutcracker Suite two leaves perform a pas de deux, later echoed by a hippo and alligator in Dance of the Hours. It famously flopped on release. Well, of course it did, some things are just too ahead of their time and outrageously imaginative for their own good.
Mickey Mouse has always been the poster boy for the film, and although he isn't star in the way newcomers might expect, his one sequence, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, is perhaps his most iconic short (sorry, Steamboat Willie). It also has some of Mickey's darker moments, but Night on Bald Mountain is Disney at its darkest, with demons and nudity (yeah, well, as a prude, I think nudity is a pretty dark place to go...). Not forgetting The Rite of Spring, which depicts the extinction of the dinosaurs. I'm a little surprised there's not a single word of caution beside the U rating.
Fantasia 2000 is a worthy if understandably inferior follow-up. The introductions by the likes of Steve Martin and Penn & Teller are the worst parts, in fairness. On the plus side, you do get to feel the presence of a James Earl Jones intro. In places, such as the excellent Rhapsody in Blue, it completely does away with conventional Disney style for something altogether more European, but when juxtaposed with the CGI elsewhere, it leaves the film feeling more disjointed. No one segment can be singled out for criticism, though. Firebird Suite would not be out of place in a Studio Ghibli film and Donald Duck makes a crowd-pleasing appearance in Pomp and Circumstance.
Are you really still reading? I do apologise, just buy it already! There is no Blu-ray collection that this doesn't belong in.