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 <email@example.com>
The first feature film to be shown in multichannel sound. The original prints featured soundtracks that were recorded in a process known as Fantasound, a four-track directional stereophonic system that was invented especially to record the soundtrack for the film by RCA and the Walt Disney Studios technical team, led by William E. Garity. The Leopold Stokowski-conducted orchestra audio was recorded onto eight separate soundtracks (six channels recorded individual sections of the orchestra, the seventh recorded a mix of the first six channels and the eighth recorded a distant pickup of the entire orchestra), which were then mixed down to three tracks (left, center and right). The three music tracks were optically matted with a fourth control track (containing signal tones that varied the speaker dynamics) onto a filmstrip separate from the projector print. Over 90 speakers were used for the playback of the Fantasound audio during the premiere of the film on 12 November 1940. A more typical Fantasound setup used three speakers behind the screen and 65 others placed around the other three walls of the theater. However, Fantasound was discontinued due to the amount of sound equipment required and the time necessary to make the installation. The advent of wartime conditions also precluded the possibility of developing mobile units that could have lessened installation time and costs. Therefore, only 12 venues ever played the original Fantasound version of the film, and only 16 Fantasound-equipped prints were ever created. When RKO took over distribution for the roadshow version in January 1941, the film was shipped with a conventional monaural track. Disney technicians recreated Fantasound for the 50th Anniversary release in 1990 using modern digital technology and the original sound cues from the Disney archives, and this mix was encoded into the subsequent VHS and laserdisc releases. This mix is active, and even aggressive at times, with music swirling or jumping around the room. However, the DVD's mix sounds considerably different. While no official verification can be found that it was changed, the DVD's surround mix is more passive, with the music in the front channels and only concert-hall reverb in the rear channels. The sound is cleaner, but it is not Fantasound as it was described in 1940 and as it appeared in 1990. See more »
When the Pegasus foals are jumping in the water, the blue one jumps in, becomes the orange one, then the blue one surfaces and the black one, who is shown diving afterwards, and the pink one is suddenly in the water. 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 ...
See more »
Originally, the production credits were on a booklet distributed at the roadshow showings. They were finally put on screen for the 50th anniversary re-release. 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.
52 of 56 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?