One of the side effects of being Walt Disney's nephew is that you are constantly being asked for the name of your favorite Disney movie.
"God knows I've been asked a lot," Roy E. Disney was telling me. "I always say, 'Fantasia.' I put 'Snow White' second because I think it's another kind of a miracle. But 'Fantasia' to me was like a box of chocolates, if you'll forgive the Gump analogy. There's a lot of flavors in there and you can kinda pick and choose."
That was both the glory and the problem with "Fantasia," which was a flop on its first box-office release in 1940. Audiences who had cheered Disney's first two feature-length cartoons, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Pinocchio," were dubious about a selection of classical standards, matched up to animation that ranged from Mickey Mouse to near-abstraction.
Walt originally thought of "Fantasia" as a work in progress, Roy said; the plan was that from time to time new music would be added, and older segments put in storage. One day Roy's father, Roy O. Disney, even came home from work with the latest bright idea: "Walt's gonna do the 'Flight of the Bumblebee,' and he's gonna fly the bee all the way around the room in stereo."
With the 1940 box office disappointment, all such plans were put on hold - even after the 1957 re-release finally put the movie in the black, an achievement that greatly cheered Disney, who died in 1966. The movie was re-released again in 1968, Roy said, "and then we restored the film pretty thoroughly at the end of the 1980s and released it theatrically, and then on video in 1991. The 1968 release was the famous psychedelic one. For 'Fantasia' and '2001,' everybody had to go sit in the front row and smoke a joint, and it was - wow, what were they smoking when they made that movie?"
Now Roy, the kingpin of Disney animation, has dusted off the old vision and produced "Fantasia 2000," which is entirely new except for everyone's favorite segment from the original, Mickey Mouse in 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice.'