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Walt Disney Records THE LEGACY COLLECTION: FANTASIA (review)

Review by Todd Sokolove

Walt Disney Records started off 2015’s Legacy Collection releases with their first four-disc set –  FANTASIA, on the 75th anniversary of its release.

Fantasia, the movie is one of the studio’s most lavishly animated, if not most daring out-of-the-box produced by the Walt Disney artists.  But the music has always been a thing of controversy.

While the film was not necessarily a box-office hit upon theatrical release (cited by many as being ahead of its time), Disney was met with harsh criticism for his lowbrow attempt to bring Classical selections to a mass audience.

Most of the music selections in Fantasia are edited and arranged different than their initial composition, which alienated traditionalist music critics.  Some felt the music being “interpreted” by artists visually was also something of a disservice.

Of course, 75 years later it’s regarded one of the most important films in American Cinema history, and what this new CD set celebrates, and frankly archives, is a definitive representation of the original musical backbone.

As with other Legacy Collection sets, there’s a retread of previously released material.  And also like the other sets, there are some surprisingly welcome bonus tracks, and an incredible detailed booklet well worth the purchase price, even if you own the previous editions.

To understand the significance of this newest, most complete version of Fantasia on CD, you have to look back to the film’s complete soundtrack discography.

There have been plenty of Fantasia soundtrack releases over the years, but amazingly the first wasn’t until 1957.  Stokowski’s “Fantasound” recording, that many theatrical exhibitors provided never came through on those mono LPs, but stereo rereleases came a little closer to Walt’s intended surround-audio experience.

The limitations of the original late 1930 Stokowski score recording proved to be too challenging for Disney to remaster in 1982, so the film was re-recorded completely, albeit in Digital Dolby Stereo.   Irwin Kostal replaced the Stokowski recordings, still in line with all the cuts and pacing changes with the exception of the Night on Bald Mountain sequence.  This version of the soundtrack was available post that 1982 and a 1985 theatrical exhibit.

Walt Disney Records has made the wise decision to include the full remastered editions of both the full-length 1946 release soundtrack (the initial 1940s RKO theatrical run was much shorter in length) and the 1982 re-recorded Kostal version.

In addition are some tracks very welcome to any Disney fanatic:

– The original Stowkowski recording of Claire de Lune, which was a planned segment that never saw inclusion in the original Fantasia.

and

– The story recordings of Peter and the Wolf and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by veteran Disney voice-actor Sterling Holloway.

From what I can tell, the previously restored and numerously released original Stowkowski score sounds as good as it did since 1990.  No massive improvement.  The 1982 recording was actually captured digitally, so the CDs have always sounded pretty impressive.

This is the first of the Legacy Collection installments that could have benefited greatly from a vinyl release, and there’s certainly been a demand for that.  One hopes it’s in the works.

In the meantime, additional CD releases in The Legacy Collection from Walt Disney Records for 2015 include…

• Pinocchio, Available Now
• Toy Story, March 17, 2015
• Disneyland, April 7, 2015 
 Lady and the Tramp, May 12, 2015
• Pocahontas, June 23, 2015 
• The Aristocats, August 14, 2015
• Cinderella, August 14, 2015

For more details visit disneymusicemporium.com
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