Toons & Tunes: Fantasia 2000 – Rhapsody in Blue
Disney’s Fantasia 2000 was met with mixed reaction, but there was one segment in it which I particularly enjoyed, and it’s the subject of today’s Toons & Tunes. It’s the movie’s sequence for Rhapsody in Blue, a 1924 composition by George Gershwin for solo piano and jazz band, which combines elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects.
Set in New York City in the 1930’s during the Great Depression, in the lobby of the Hotel New York, the segment tells the story of several people in a daily life during a rough period. It starts with the following:
- Construction Worker Duke heading off to work, while having dreams of being a jazz musician.
- A jobless man named Joe is having coffee at a diner, feeling depressed at having no job and having a lack of money and is treated badly due to being out of money, not even having enough to spend on food.
- A little girl named Rachel has to go various classes throughout the day while her parents work in the struggling economy, having to be with her nasty nanny throughout the day doing things she has no interest in or is bad at (such as ballet, which leads to her crashing into a closet, swimming, where she is covered from head to toe with various swim aids, singing badly to the point a dog faints, splashing her art teacher with blue paint, tying up someone with a gymnastic rope, just blocking a tennis ball with the racket, and almost falling off her piano-playing chair).
- A man named Flying John is out and about with his wife Margaret, getting stuff for her dog while he just wants to have fun.
The segment ends with all four protagonists getting their wish, though their stories interact with each other’s without any of them knowing.
The characters are designed in the style of Al Hirschfeld’s known caricatures of the time.
Of all the segments from Fantasia 2000, this is the one that’s always stood out for me. It’s not as flashy or surreal as many of the other segments, but it tells simple little stories (no “magic land lives an idyllic life, then some Big Evil strikes and some heroes have to spend the story defeating said evil” shtick here; I’ve always preferred simple plots, which is one reason why I’ve always enjoyed shorts over features), funny and sweet, and you feel for the characters without it having to veer into hammy, smarmy, heavy-handed bathos territory. And all this without a single line of dialogue being uttered. Well played, Disney. Enjoy.