Premiered in: Fantasia 2000 (1999/2000)
Sequence Title: The Firebird Suite
I honestly don’t understand how Fantasia 2000 could be considered the start of the Post-Renaissance of Disney animated films. True, it only earned an extra ten million to the budget spent towards it but Fantasia 2000 will always have a special place in my heart. Not just because it was the first film I had ever seen in Imax that wasn’t anything to do with science or the like, but that it was the first film to truly make me realize that all one needs is a spark of imagination and piece of paper for a whole world of possibilities opens up to them.
Though there were plenty of antagonistic characters throughout the film’s segments there was only one that could even be remotely considered as the villain though this is, in itself, I feel something of a stretch considering not who but what this particular character is.
If Chernabog is Evil manifested in all of its purity, then the Firebird is Destruction tightly bound in the conformation of fire and is both severely weak and unbelievably powerful for it. Whereas Chernabog was limitless with his powers and abilities, it was by his own form that was his undoing by the virtues of mankind for as Darkness such as Chernabog could not exist in the light, so he was undone with the light of every morning. In the case of the Firebird, it is a Spirit of Destruction, there can be no question of that, but it is not the Spirit itself.
Contrary to Chernabog, who does indeed possess a level of intelligence that is beyond human comprehension, the Firebird is possesses enough intellect to guide his actions but is not sentient in the way that we humans can understand. To paraphrase a quote from the film The Dark Knight, there are some beings can’t be bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. There are some beings that just want to watch the world burn.
The Firebird is one such being.
His “nemesis,” the Spring Sprite, is a Spirit of Creation but again is not the Spirit itself. She is limited to that which grows from beneath the earth, the greens of trees and the radiance of flowers. While she can alter her form to further aid in the growth of plants, she cannot create anything that is not under the distinction of plant life though she easily attracts the attentions of those who are tied to them like butterflies. Likewise, the Firebird is exactly as his name implies, a creature composed mostly of fire. True, his body was more along the lines of molten magma but that again was a weakness binding him to a certain distance in which he could both travel from his “nest” and also how much destruction he could truly wreak as his undoing would undoubtedly arrive upon the shores of the ocean or with a sudden storm of rain.
The Firebird knew this and so set out to not only cause as much destruction as he could but to put an end to his “rival” before she could undo what he had wrought and bring an abrupt end to his role. I have no doubt in my mind that if the Spring Sprite had turned herself to rain as she had after being nearly destroyed by the Firebird, she would have easily overcome him. As it was, she learned a lesson of hope and humility for though life can and will continue on forever, so too must destruction and death.