The Firebird is the main antagonist of the final segment "The Firebird Suite" of Disney's 38th full-length animated feature film Fantasia 2000, and the overall main antagonist of the film. He is a massive bird-like deity of fire and destruction.
While the segments all have no dialogue in the entire film, the segment's music was performed by James Levine and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The Firebird appears to be a giant eagle with huge wings and is made entirely out of lava. Though his body bears some resemblance with the Spring Sprite, he lacks any pair of legs unlike her, as he morphed into lava mass whenever he traveled on the land. It is unclear whether he can fly like the Spring Sprite or not.
Unlike Chernabog in the 1940 original Fantasia film whom sides with the force of evil, The Firebird is a powerful, dangerous, aggressive and treacherous fire spirit who has no alliances; he serves no one, he cannot distinguish friend from foe - he is a primal living force of destruction. He lives only to destroy and despises all that brings life and creation (ex. The Spring Sprite).
However, his only weakness is that he only destroys - he cannot create nor can he persist, as he returned to his slumber when there is nothing left for him to destroy. This explained his disappearance after destroyed much of the forest.
The Firebird Suite
The Firebird is first seen inside a mountain (more likely a volcano since nothing grows near the mountain), where the segment's protagonist, the Spring Sprite, inadvertently wakes him up. This makes him so mad that he chases after her. As he does, he then burns the trees everywhere in the forest that she had already worked so hard on growing until, he consumes her. However, she is revived by the Elk. It is unknown what has happened to the Firebird after that, although it is suggested that he comes every time a volcano erupts. Volcanoes can cause serious damage to an ecosystem, but the ecosystems are known to heal in time.
The Firebird's scene was inspired by the 1980 eruption of the active stratovolcano known as Mount St. Helens, which is located in Skamania County, Washington in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States of America. Mount St. Helens is located near a lush national park and when it erupted, much of the forest was destroyed. Many doubted the land would ever heal, but much to everyone's surprise, the area is healing, just as everything is healed in the segment.
If one looks closely while the Firebird's awakening, anyone can see evil spirits, demons, and lost souls swarming around.
He is the only character from Igor Stravinsky's ballet to appear in the segment. However, his interpretation in Fantasia 2000, actually conflicts with the original version of Igor Stravinsky's ballet. In it, he was described as a benevolent, peaceful and caring being who bore no traits of evil. However, Disney's version was violent, destructive and merciless, showing no qualms of destroying a newly created forest.
The Firebird's defeat is similar to Chernabog from Fantasia; when the segment ended, they were both sent back to the ground from which they came.
However, the difference, while Chernabog was sent back from which he came by force, the Firebird merely returned by his own terms given that after the destruction that he has done, he was deprived with things that he can destroy.