I happened to be the one who bought this print much earlier this year. It had some pretty bad vinegar syndrome, almost all of the color was gone, and it was most certainly not a “1940 print.” It was a reprint of the general release version from the late 40s. Promptly returned it.
Fantasia suffered, man. For those unaware of the film’s troubled sound history, the long and the short of it is that the original nitrate stems, that made possible the final 4-track Fantasound mix, no longer exist. All that was left for sound engineer Terry Porter to work with for the Dolby remix in 1990 was a magnetic copy of the original mix made in 1955 (only one Fantasound print had survived by that point, so Disney worked fast to preserve what was left). In addition, he used notes by Stokowski himself that told mixers where to pan the sound and when during the film, so it would say things like, “Left wall…,” “Kill the fronts…,” “Back only…,” and so forth in order to correlate the movement of the sound with the movement on and off screen. For instance, the church bells near the end of Bald Mountain ring from the back of the theater as they were meant to, originally causing Carthay Circle Theatre patrons to turn around in their seats in complete disbelief that they were hearing what sounded like actual church bells coming from the back of the room.
Armed with Stokowski’s copious mixing notes, the resulting remix was as faithful a recreation of the intended Fantasound as anybody has ever gotten. So far, VHS tapes and LaserDiscs of that same reissue, fed through a receiver with Dolby Pro-Logic decoding, are the only way you can hear that mix, with hard pans to the left, right, front, and back. Pretty cool stuff.
The 60th Anniversary Edition DVD from 2000 has a 5.0 mix that, on paper, looked like it was going to be a discrete version of the same Dolby mix from the 50th anniversary edition, which would’ve been welcome, but the score never steps out of the front to move around the room as it did before. Plus, it sounds insanely compressed, even in DTS.
The 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray from 2010 has a 7.1 mix that is a truly curious case. The left/center/right Fantasound audio was not only DNR’d to death but also thrown to the back of the room (???) while a mono downmix of that very same information overpowers it from the front, narrowing if not completely erasing the original stereo image during playback. It’s like this throughout the entire film, not once moving around the room the way that it should. As a result of the previously mentioned (and excessive) DNR’ing, details in quieter passages have been filtered out along with most of the noise floor, and now sound muddied. What’s more, there’s this strange series of chirpy, crackling artifacts found in the upper frequency region during loud passages that’s almost impossible to ignore. A seriously troubled mix this one is, and to think it got a 5/5 on several well-known Blu-ray review sites.
I’ve heard professional captures of the magnetic stereo mix from a SuperScope reissue (not from poita’s upcoming project, but from a collector who owns a 1963 stereo print) and the film is much better heard this way than through anything else officially available to consumers. In addition, Fantasia also had what sounded like a dedicated mono mix-- it wasn’t just a fold down of the 4-track stereo mix. Different sections of the orchestra were better prioritized here than they were in the stereo version, and because of several technical tells I am thoroughly convinced that what you’re hearing really is a dedicated mix that sourced the original stems before they were forever lost to time… with an exception made to what sounds like an alternate take for “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker Suite; doesn’t line up with the stereo mix at all. Julietta Novis’ first “Ave Maria” towards the end of the film sounds like a different take, too, but the rest of her vocals and the segment in general sounds otherwise identical to the stereo version.
It’s a shame neither the mag stereo nor the optical mono tracks were just given as clean a capture as possible and offered as a listening option; both sound great.
Excuse me? I know what you’re thinking of. It’s the original theatrical release.
That’s not what he was referring to. There’s a 73-minute work-in-progress version of The Lion King that used to be available on a private torrent site.
Hi. About IB prints, it’s important to note that this print might date from several generations and since then, the color maight have been manipulated several times (among othe factor). At this point, I don’t think we’ll be able to get it 100% accurate with all the elements we have (I might be wrong, though).
Oh, of course! I’m well aware that the '69 print I got to see was several generations away from the original 35mm elements (could’ve sworn I pointed that out somewhere in my last reply). Still, there were one too many times during both screenings I attended last year where the color palette was strikingly similar to what we ended up getting on the 2010 restoration. Again, this doesn’t for a second mean that the Superscope print should therefore look the exact same way. Accurate to the original color timing or not, I just found it so fascinating that what I saw at the MoMA was so close to what’s on the Blu-ray.
Also, even though I’d hoped desperately for the magnetic stereo track, I was still blown away by the quality of the optical monaural mix. Completely dry and not nearly as hissy as I was expecting it to be-- noise levels were extremely low and the dynamic range was very good, too. The LaserDisc has the same mix on the analog tracks, and while it’s totally listenable it still has noticeable reverb. Kinda wish Disney had just cleaned up the optical mono, put it on the LD and left it at that. Ah, well…
Thank you very mnuch for the info.
Wow, i had never thought that those shots had indeed a sky blue backgound.
i was so used to the dark-almost black background and it also made sense narratively…
Anytime! I’m happy to help anyway that I can. ^-^
I swear I’m NOT trying to turn this into a Beauty and the Beast color discussion, but I can certainly empathize with finding a color choice (or discrepancy) making more sense in the body of the narrative. Remember how in the VHS version of BatB the Beast was almost silhouetted in both the prologue and his introduction scene in the castle den? I LOVED that. It made it far more menacing to leave the details of his body mostly to the imagination, save for his white teeth and the sclera of his eyes.
Likewise, that darkened background in that Toccata shot certainly gave the abstract imagery more focus. =D
EDIT: I… think my TV from way back wasn’t properly calibrated or something, 'cause I just went back to both of those scenes and the Beast is very clearly seen. Disregard everything I just said. xD
Last summer, the MoMA screened a 35mm I.B. Tech print of Fantasia… twice. Naturally, I attended both screenings knowing it’d be forever until I’d see the film in that format again. x)
Before going to either screening, I went in ready to take mental notes in order to properly compare the color palette from the 35mm print to that of the Blu-ray. (I believe somebody on the Blu-ray.com forums pointed out that same 1990/2010 shot comparison, titanic.)
On the 35mm I.B. Tech print, that Toccata shot was extremely close to what is seen on the Blu-ray. No darkened backgrounds, all blue. In addition, most all of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Dance of the Hours, The Nutcracker Suite– all nearly identical to the Blu-Ray. Hardly anything was difficult to make out and the colors were incredibly vibrant. The other segments, Rite of Spring, The Pastoral Symphony, A Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria, I swear were somewhere in between the 1990 and 2010 restorations. Some shots looked like the BD, others more like the murky 1990 print. I can’t explain it, but that’s exactly what I remember thinking after walking out of both screenings. (God, I wish there were pictures of what I saw readily available!)
Now, does this mean that the Superscope print, therefore, should line up exactly w/ what I saw last summer? Not necessarily. Especially considering the print I saw was from 1969, and I don’t know enough about the Technicolor process (or what the original Fantasia negatives even looked like) to call out an “accurate print” when I see one. But I’m just throwing this all out there for anybody who perhaps heard of the screening and was unable to attend for whatever reason. In any case, the Superscope stills posted so far all look incredible and I can’t wait to finally see this print in full.
(If nobody can tell by this point, Fantasia ranks as my absolute favorite Disney film, so this entire project means a great deal to me. Major kudos to everybody involved. ^-^)