IN 1940, Walt Disney bravely set out to introduce classical music to the American masses in Fantasia. The concept, revolutionary for its time, set animation to eight pieces of classical music. The film initially lost money, largely due to the cost of the sound system theaters were required to install, but with each subsequent reissue the film's reputation grew, to the point where it's now rightfully considered a classic.

Disney's dream was to have Fantasia reissued with new pieces every few years, a dream which did not come to fruition until now. And Fantasia 2000 is a worthy successor to the original, with animation that is nothing short of stunning -- even more so considering that for the first four months it'll be shown only in IMAX theaters.

There's more than a slight echo of the original in 2000. The opening number, the first movement of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5," has abstract visuals similar to those in Fantasia's opening, Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor." Later, the goofy antics of the flamingos in Saint-SaËns' "Carnival of the Animals" bring to mind the ostriches of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours." Not that 2000 doesn't have inspired sequences of its own. Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" provides the backing for Donald Duck's star turn in the story of Noah's Ark (and no, it's not too cutesy). 2000's best sequence has a school of humpback whales soaring through the skies as Respighi's "Pines of Rome" echoes their jubilation ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice," from the original Fantasia, is also in 2000's lineup).

Some classical music critics have already hurled brickbats at 2000, saying its edited versions of the musical pieces are nothing short of butchery. Don't buy that elitist snobbery. There's more than one adult classical music fan out there who was introduced to the genre by the original Fantasia (myself included). Those who see 2000 primarily for its animation (I recommend sitting in the back rows) may also find themselves drawn to the music as well. I can think of no better way to enter into the next millennium, provided we don't all go up in flames.