Most music is performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with James Levine conducting all numbers except The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Rhapsody in Blue (film version only). Levine also arranged most scores, except two pieces arranged by Peter Schickele, as noted below. The film was a modest box office success and was well-received by critics.
The composers and their works, in the order in which they appear:
- Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor-I. Allegro con brio – abstract patterns resembling butterflies and bats explore a world of light and darkness which are conquered by light at last.
- Ottorino Respighi's Pines of Rome – this segment features a family of frolicking humpback whales that are able to fly due to a supernova. At one point, the whale calf is separated from his parents when he's trapped in an iceberg, later finding his way out with his mother's help. The final section, the Via Appia gives the impression of the larger pod of adults in migration.
- George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue – an episode of 1930s-era New York City, depicting the day in the lives of several people within the Depression-era bustling metropolis, as scenes drawn in the style of Al Hirschfeld's famous cartoons of the era, including an animated cameo of Gershwin the composer himself at the piano. The little girl in the hotel is based on the Eloise character created by Kay Thompson and the red-haired man is based on John Culhane, the author for the "making of" books for both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.
- Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major-I. Allegro – based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Steadfast Tin Soldier. The setting is appropriate - the concerto was written as a gift by Shostakovich to his musically gifted young son, and the percussive rhythms also suit a story about a soldier. However, the ending is a happy one in contrast with that of the original story.
- Camille Saint-Saëns' The Carnival of the Animals (Le carnaval des animaux), Finale – A flock of flamingos try to force a slapstick member who enjoys playing with a yo-yo to engage in their "dull" routines, designed to delight children with the on-screen hysterics; music arranged by Peter Schickele. A number of real yo-yo tricks, including "Walk the Dog", "Rock the Cradle", and "UFO", are featured.
- Paul Dukas's The Sorcerer's Apprentice – a segment from the original Fantasia featuring Mickey Mouse. Mickey brings a broom to life with the magical hat left by his master to carry water to a cauldron, but is in danger when he can't stop the broom.
- Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance - Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4 – a pastiche of the story of Noah's Ark, with Donald Duck as first mate to Noah. Donald musters the animals to the Ark, and misses, loses, and is reunited with Daisy Duck in the process; music arranged by Peter Schickele, including a wordless soprano solo by Kathleen Battle as part of the No. 1 March ('Land of Hope and Glory').
- Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite - 1919 Version – the story of a Spring Sprite and her companion Elk. After a long winter she restores the life to the forest but accidentally awakens the fiery spirit of destruction (the namesake Firebird of the piece) in a nearby volcano. The Firebird proceeds in destroying the forest and seemingly the sprite. She is restored to life however after the destruction and the forest life is reborn with her after some encouraging from the Elk. The story is considered an exercise in the theme of Life-Death-Rebirth entities.
The plan for the original Fantasia movie was for it to be a kind of permanently running show, periodically adding new episodes while others would be rotated out. However, the film's failure to achieve success at the box office, combined with the loss of the European market due to World War II, meant that the plan went unused. Accordingly, Fantasia 2000 implemented this idea by retaining the sequence with Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer's apprentice, arguably the most popular segment from the original film.
Composer André Previn reports in his book No Minor Chords that he was approached by Disney to work on as a sequel to Fantasia. He declined the project when he learned that the soundtrack was, at that point, conceived of as an orchestration of Beatles songs.
Development for Fantasia 2000 began in 1990, and production began the following year. The music selections were made as a collective decision by Roy E. Disney, James Levine, and members of the production staff. Most were decisions driven by the musical preferences of the team; Roy personally chose the Pines of Rome. Other pieces were discovered long after the story ideas were set, such as the Steadfast Tin Soldier, where the visuals were based on artwork done for the original Fantasia, but the Shostakovich piece was presented to the team by an animator relatively late into the production schedule.
Fantasia 2000 was originally scheduled for a release in the mid-1990s with the name Fantasia Continued; it was later renamed Fantasia 1999 until the release date was moved into 2000. In order to tie Fantasia 2000 to the original idea of a rotating program, three sections from the original Fantasia were intended to remain in Fantasia 2000. However, only The Sorcerer's Apprentice made it into the final release. The late addition of Rhapsody in Blue replaced Dance of the Hours a year before release, and the Nutcracker Suite was a part of Fantasia 2000 until a few months before it reached theaters. After several test screenings and after much of the publicity material had already been produced, The Nutcracker Suite was removed to shorten the running time of the movie.
Rhapsody in Blue was a work already in progress by director Eric Goldberg (lead animator for the Genie in Aladdin, also inspired by Al Hirschfeld's art) when Disney approached him to complete the piece for the movie. This decision was ideal given the head start on the work and so that the film could include a work from an American composer. Taking on Rhapsody in Blue also allowed Disney to keep the animators assigned to their feature Kingdom of the Sun (later released as The Emperor's New Groove) busy while Kingdom went through an extensive rewrite. Some press articles written after the completion of Groove reversed the roles, saying that Goldberg first approached Disney for Rhapsody for Fantasia 2000 and was initially rejected, and later the producers came back to him as a result of the need find something to do with the animation staff while the Kingdom rewrite was going on.
One significant difference in the musical styles between the films is that in Fantasia 2000 the piano features prominently in more than half of the selections, while the original Fantasia did not have a piano in any segment.
Fantasia 2000 features many technical innovations that would later be utilized in the Disney studio's other animation works, particularly in the use of computers. Both Pines of Rome and The Steadfast Tin Soldier were primarily CGI pieces, completed before Pixar's landmark film Toy Story was released. The horns on the elk in The Firebird were CGI-rendered on top of hand-drawn animation (giving them a higher consistency, when compared to Bambi which was all drawn by hand), a technique that would be used in Treasure Planet for the character Silver.
The producers felt that some break between the musical segments was necessary to "cleanse the palate", so a series of "interstitials" were directed by Disney animation producer Don Hahn. Instead of using a single narrator as in Fantasia, the individual pieces are introduced by people from different areas of the art world. After the film opens with Beethoven's Fifth, Steve Martin discusses the history of Fantasia being a continuing concept and is immediately followed by Itzhak Perlman, who introduces Pines of Rome. Quincy Jones leads into the Gershwin number, and Bette Midler gives an introduction to the Shostakovich concerto, both featuring on screen the piano players for the respective pieces. James Earl Jones introduces Carnival of the Animals with director Eric Goldberg, and, appropriately enough, magicians Penn and Teller make an appearance before The Sorcerer's Apprentice. When this piece concludes with Mickey Mouse's conversation with conductor Leopold Stokowski from the original Fantasia, Mickey then moves on to chat with Levine before the latter introduces Pomp and Circumstance. The final sequence of The Firebird is introduced by Angela Lansbury.
IMAX sound system
When the film was first released to IMAX cinemas in 2000, it featured a multiple-channel sound system that surrounded the audience. This sound system was put to comical effect in the narrative segment preceding Pomp and Circumstance, where Mickey Mouse went searching for Donald Duck. The soundtrack gave the illusion that Mickey Mouse was running about the theater, behind the audience's seating.
Fantasia 2000 was officially announced at a conference held by Disney in February 1999 in New York City where The Carnival of the Animals was screened for the first time. The film premiered at Carnegie Hall in New York City on December 17, 1999, for three nights as part of a five-city concert tour. The animation was presented on a screen above the stage while the Philharmonia Orchestra performed the music under the direction of Levine, who used a video auto-cue to time the music to the images. Performances followed at the Royal Albert Hall in London on December 21; the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris on December 22; the Orchard Hall in Tokyo on December 27; and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California on December 31, where Derrick Inouye conducted as part of a New Year's Eve gala event. Each of the seven performances cost over $1 million.
On Rotten Tomatoes, Fantasia 2000 holds an approval rating of 82% based on 82 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. Its consensus reads: "It provides an entertaining experience for adults and children alike."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times describes some of the animation as "powerful" though others are "a little pedestrian", but noted the film was "splendid entertainment" and rated it three stars out of four.
In his review for The New York Times, film critic Stephen Holden wrote that the film "often has the feel of a giant corporate promotion whose stars are there simply to hawk the company's wares" while noting the film "is not especially innovative in its look or subject matter."
Fantasia 2000 first opened in theaters on January 1, 2000, for a four-month run at IMAX venues, becoming the first animated feature-length film shown in the format, along with a six-channel digital sound system. A temporary theater costing almost $4 million was built for its run in Los Angeles, as Disney was unable to reach an agreement to exclusively show the film at the city's sole IMAX theater located at the California Science Center. After opening at 75 theaters worldwide, the film grossed over $2.2 million in 54 cinemas in North America in its opening weekend, averaging $41,481 per theater. It set new records for the highest gross for any IMAX engagement and surpassed the highest weekly total for any IMAX film previously released. Its three-day worldwide gross surpassed $3.8 million, setting further records at 18 venues worldwide. Fantasia 2000 grossed a worldwide total of over $21 million in 30 days, and $64.5 million at the end of its IMAX run. Following its release in 1,313 regular theaters in the United States on June 16, 2000, the film grossed an additional $2.8 million in its opening weekend that ranked eleventh at the box office. Fantasia 2000 has earned a total worldwide gross of over $90.8 million since its release.
Fantasia 2000 was released on its own on VHS and DVD in 2000, together with the 60th Anniversary Edition DVD of Fantasia. A DVD box set, The Fantasia Anthology, was also released, including the two films and a bonus disc with special features entitled Fantasia Legacy. These are currently unavailable, "locked" in the "Disney Vault", and currently exclusively sold at Target.
- All of the animals in the Pomp and Circumstance suite resemble animals from other Disney films, like the mice from Cinderella, beavers from Lady and the Tramp, the pigs from the The Black Cauldron, the ducks, pelicans and flamingos from The Little Mermaid, the frogs from The Aristocats, the pandas, cattle and chickens from Mulan, the horses, goats and wolves from Beauty and the Beast, the turtles and raccoons from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the owls from Sleeping Beauty, the skunks, squirrels, chipmunks, deer and rabbits from Bambi, the moose and bears from Pocahontas, the crocodiles and bats from the The Rescuers, the foxes, and porcupines from the The Fox and the Hound, the penguins from Mary Poppins, the camels and tigers from Aladdin, the gorillas and lemurs from Tarzan, the rhinos from Peter Pan, the hippos from Dumbo, Colonel Hathi and his wife Winifred from The Jungle Book, the lions, zebras, wildebeests, antelopes, giraffes, cheetahs, chameleons, and storks from The Lion King, Marahute, Frank, kangaroos and koalas from The Rescuers Down Under.
- The Pomp and Circumstance segment was added at the insistence of Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who had just seen his son graduate and wanted a song "everyone can relate to."
- This is the third sequel from Walt Disney Animation Studios, after The Three Caballeros and The Rescuers Down Under and then followed by Winnie the Pooh in 2011, Ralph Breaks the Internet in 2018, and eventually Frozen II in 2019
- While Mickey was searching for Donald, there was a scream, which Mickey said "Oh, sorry, Daisy." meaning Daisy was in the middle of changing into her Pomp and Circumstance outfit.
- The film was originally going to include Dance of the Hours and the Nutcracker Suite from the first film. In fact, a glimpse of Nutcracker can be seen in the original trailer. French-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma had even recorded a host segment for the Nutcracker Suite.
- Although never mentioned, the main characters of the Rhapsody in Blue segment all have names: The construction worker is named Duke. The man who needs a job is, appropriately, named Jobless Joe. The little girl is named Rachel, named and modeled after Eric and Susan Goldberg's youngest daughter. (Rachel's real-life sister Jenny was the model for a character in Rachel's scenes, the girl with blue hair that can perform all the actions that Rachel can not. At the time the segment was being produced, the real Jenny had blue hair.) The portly fellow is named John, sometimes referred to by the animators as "Flying John", and he is named after animation historian John Culhane, who was also the inspiration for the character Mr. Snoops in The Rescuers. (He was originally based on Al Hirschfeld's caricature of writer Alexander Woollcott). Duke and Jobless Joe are not named after particular individuals.
- Unveiled just after the clock struck midnight on December 31st, 1999, making it the first film to be released in the new millennium (pedantry over the date of the beginning of the millennium notwithstanding).
- The Broadway ending sequence of Rhapsody in Blue contained so many different colors (over 200), that the CAPS system had trouble rendering it, causing delays in the production of Tarzan.
- When Eric Goldberg first approached cartoonist Al Hirschfeld about adopting his visual style for the Rhapsody in Blue segment, Hirschfeld told him that if he was 50 years younger he would have been on a train the next day to come work on the project. Eric Goldberg showed Rhapsody in Blue to Al Hirschfeld shortly before the artist's 96th birthday. Hirschfeld's wife Louise called it the best birthday present he ever received.
- Composer Bruce Broughton was initially contracted to pen original music for the interstitial sequences, and also conducted the recording of Rhapsody in Blue that is featured in the final film. Broughton ultimately did not provide any original score for the film, and the recording of Rhapsody in Blue on the film's CD soundtrack is an alternate version conducted by James Levine, who conducted every other recording for the final film.
- The Pomp and Circumstance segment was originally going to be about every Disney character from the past 60 years witnessing the graduation of every Disney prince and princess. At the end, the princes got diplomas while the princesses got babies. They invited the remaining members of Disney's Nine Old Men to animate their own characters again but left soon after the presentation.
- Out of all the composers who had their compositions featured from the original Fantasia, Beethoven and Stravinsky were the only two composers to have different compositions to be played in Fantasia 2000.
All musical selections performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and conducted by James Levine, except where noted
- Designed and directed by Pixote Hunt
- Music composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
- Story by Kevin Yasuda
- Introduction by Deems Taylor (archived footage)
- Directed by Hendel Butoy
- Music composer: Ottorino Respighi
- Story by James Fujii
- Art Direction by William Perkins and Dean Gordon
- Introduction by Steve Martin and Itzhak Perlman
- Written and directed by Eric Goldberg
- Music composer: George Gershwin
- Art direction by Susan McKinsey Goldberg
- Design consultant: Al Hirschfeld
- Introduction by Quincy Jones
- Performed by Philharmonia Orchestra (uncredited)
- Featured pianist: Ralph Grierson
- Conducted by Bruce Broughton
- Directed by Hendel Butoy
- Music composer: Dmitri Shostakovich
- Based upon "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" by Hans Christian Andersen
- Story development by James Capobianco and Ron Meurin
- Art direction by Michael Humphries
- Introduction by Bette Midler
- Featured pianist: Yefim Bronfman
- Music composer: Camille Saint-Saëns
- Written, directed and animated by Eric Goldberg
- Art direction by Susan McKinsey Goldberg
- Introduction by James Earl Jones
- Originally from the 1940 Fantasia
- Musical score: Paul Dukas
- Directed by James Algar
- Story development by Dick Huemer, Joe Grant, Perce Pearce, James Capobianco, and Carl Fallberg
- Art direction: Tom Codrick, Charles Phillipi, and Zack Schwartz
- Animation supervisors: Fred Moore and Vladimir Tytla
- Animators: Les Clark, Riley Thompson, Marvin Woodward, Preston Blair, Edward Love, Ugo D'Orsi, George Rowley, Mickey Mouse (voice of Wayne Allwine), and Cornett Wood
- New introduction by Penn and Teller
- Performed by an ensemble of Hollywood studio musicians, conducted by Leopold Stokowski
- Directed by Francis Glebas
- Music composer: Sir Edward Elgar
- Art direction by Daniel Cooper
- Based upon "Noah's Ark" from the Book of Genesis
- Story development by Robert Gibbs, Terry Naughton, Todd Kurosawa, Pat Ventura, Don Dougherty, and Stevie Wermers
- Introduction by Leopold Stokowski (archive footage), Mickey Mouse (voice of Wayne Allwine), James Levine, Donald Duck (voice of Tony Anselmo), and Daisy Duck (voice of Russi Taylor)
- Choral performance by Chicago Symphony Chorus (Kathleen Battle - featured soloist)
- Supervising animator: Mickey Mouse (from the introduction) by Andreas Deja
- Supervising animator: Donald Duck and Daisy Duck by Tim Allen
- Written and directed by Paul and Gaëtan Brizzi
- Music composer: Igor Stravinsky
- Art direction by Carl Jones
- Supervising animator: Sprite by Anthony de Rosa
- Supervising animator: Elk by Ron Husband
- Supervising animator: Firebird by John Pomeroy
- Introduction by Angela Lansbury
- Directed by Don Hahn
- Art direction by Pixote Hunt
- Story by Kirk Hanson
- Screenplay by Don Hahn, Irene Mecchi, and David Reynolds