Disney animators set pictures to Western classical music as Leopold Stokowski conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" features Mickey Mouse as an aspiring magician who oversteps his limits. "The Rite of Spring" tells the story of evolution, from single-celled animals to the death of the dinosaurs. "Dance of the Hours" is a comic ballet performed by ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators. "Night on Bald Mountain" and "Ave Maria" set the forces of darkness and light against each other as a devilish revel is interrupted by the coming of a new day. Written by
David Thiel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the "Pastoral Symphony" segment there was originally a scene showing stereotyped black assistant centaurs shining the hooves of white centaurs. The chief of these was Sunflower, who had a very stereotypical look: big, red lips and wild, messy hair. It was not until the 1969 re-release that this was thought to be objectionable, and all subsequent releases until 1980 had an abrupt cut at this point. Every subsequent release after 1990 includes the scene, but with the section blown up so that it only shows the faces of the white female centaurs. See more »
Two of the dancing mushrooms in the "Nutcracker Suite" inexplicably change size and shape (from wide and medium height to skinny and tall) when the angle changes. See more »
How do you do? My name is Deems Taylor, and it's my very pleasant duty to welcome you here on behalf of Walt Disney, Leopold Stokowski, and all the other artists and musicians whose combined talents went into the creation of this new form of entertainment, "Fantasia". What you're going to see are the designs and pictures and stories that music inspired in the minds and imaginations of a group of artists. In other words, these are not going to be the interpretations of trained ...
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There are no closing credits of any kind. Not even the words "THE END" appear on the screen. See more »
There cannot be one verdict on "Fantasia". There must be eight: one for each of the seven segments, and an eighth for the film as a whole - for, varied though the seven segments are, they undeniably belong together. And, alas, space does not permit me to lay out all eight verdicts. I shall have to confine myself to details representative of the whole. At any rate, I shall try.
We learn the modus operandi of "Fantasia", the linking theme, in the second segment - an abridged version of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" suite. (Missing are the overture and the march.) Tchaikovsky's ballet involves anthropomorphising inanimate things, plus the odd tiny animal. So does Disney's "Nutcracker". But Disney has thrown out the particular details. The Chinese Dance is danced by mushrooms (who look, but are not, Chinese); the Arabian Dance by "Arabian" goldfish; the Russian dance by "Russian" thistles and orchids. Sometimes it goes further: "Waltz of the Flowers" shows two entire changes of seasons, with leaves, fairies, seed pods, seeds, snowflakes - everything but flowers. But in ignoring the letter of the instructions Disney is perfectly true to the spirit. Indeed he is more true to the spirit than the original ballet - for, let's face it: stage ballet is a degenerate and over-formalised art, which makes some of the world's most exciting music dull as wallpaper. Disney's amazing images express Tchaikovsky's sense of motion more than earthbound dancers ever could. This, one feels, is the kind of thing ballet music was TRULY designed for. The same goes to a lesser extent for the other two pieces of ballet music on the program.
This basic device - ignoring explicit instructions, but remaining true to the spirit - is carried through into every segment. (Some segments are better than others, but none can be called a failure.) Dukas's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" has been turned into a Mickey Mouse cartoon - but it's the best Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made; and we realise that the story of the Sorcerer's Apprentice is really the archetype that all of the best Mickey Mouse cartoons had been reaching towards, all along. The Pastoral Symphony adheres to Beethoven's program but moves everything from the woods of Central Europe to a dreamland from classical mythology. (The second movement - the section with the courting centaurs - is a failure. For once the spirit as well as the letter of Beethoven is ignored. Unfortunately some critics cannot see beyond this movement to the superb interpretations that flank it on either side.)
I doubt that so much genuine creative work has gone into a film, before or since - even if you don't count the contributions made by the composers. What's my favourite film? I really don't know. But if you tell me that I must sit in a large dark cinema for two hours; and ask me what I would like to occupy my eyes and ears over those two hours, I would answer, without hesitation, Fantasia.
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