Fantasia is one of Disney's finest animated works. Amazingly - despite being made back in 1939 and released in 1940 - this musical masterpiece still stands the test of time. It consists of eight animated segments, each one lovingly matched to pieces of classical music conducted by the great Leopold Stokowski.
After Fantasia's release, Mickey Mouse's popularity soared, the film was nominated for numerous awards and it was recently remastered in high-definition for a whole new generation to enjoy. Now the magic and wonder of the film is being channeled into a whole new revenue source - a videogame.
Fantasia: Music Evolved is an interactive music game developed by Harmonix in association with Disney Interactive. It essentially allows players to control and compose music, just like Mickey did atop a cliff below the stars in the original film. For those who remember it, the music literally came to life as Mickey commanded orchestral elements with the waving of his arms.
Because of this, Fantasia: Music Evolved is a Kinect game that will be coming to both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. By tracking your movements and gestures, it puts players in control of music. Sweeping actions with either arm can bring in notes, bringing your hands together fluidly can change the swell of the music and players will even be able to manipulate pitch and tone.
With Harmonix' proven pedigree in rhythm games, the gameplay itself should be a success. Their pulling power has also ensured that a whole new generation of music is on hand as well, with licensed artists including Queen, FUN, and Bruno Mars. Fantasia: Music Evolved is a 70+ year old classic, given new life and an interactive twist for today's generation.
Will it be a success? At E3 I only saw a brief ten minute demonstration, so it is difficult to say. However, just like the original film, Fantasia: Music Evolved is a beautiful game that encapsulates the magic of Disney. More importantly, it allows people to "feel" music, by physically interacting with the audio with your whole body. It pleasantly forces you to experience the creation of music in a whole new energetic way.
For example, bringing in the different instruments in Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', such as cuing the vocals with your limbs, makes you appreciate the composition of music. It's also visually arresting, using colourful particle effects and animation to help keep young players entertained.
For the demonstration there were two 'worlds' available, both of which are inspired by or based on the Disney universe. One of them is an underwater world filled with musical fish, singing coral, and 'jazz clams' - a personal favourite amongst the dev team. Waving your arms around displays a reticule on screen that responds to 3D movement (all X, Y, and Z axis gestures). For example you can move it left or right, up and down with your hands, but also forward and back by 'pushing' or 'pulling' your hand toward or away from the TV.
This means players can sweep or brush objects, but also hit things with varying amounts of pressure and finesse. All of these variables have an impact on the audio output, giving players an organic and versatile method of customising and altering their favourite tracks. You can even change the genre or style of the music at various parts in the song. We heard Bohemian Rhapsody change seamlessly mid-song to include different styles of music such as jazz, rock and orchestral.
We were told that Harmonix have over 100 developers currently working on Fantasia: Music Evolved, so there is a lot of talent behind this title. There aren't many details on hand, but we were promised the game will include two player multiplayer and we imagine this game will be a lot of fun when shared with friends. The final track listing will also make a big difference, so we'll keep an eye on this one and see how it shapes up later in the year.
The Good: Mixes music and the magic of Disney
The Bad: Are Harmonix put to good use here?
The Ugly: Listening to Bruno Mars