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>
One element in "The Rite of Spring" segment which is often overlooked is that none of the dinosaurs and other animals are anthropomorphic or have anthropomorphic facial expressions or emotions. This was an unusual product from the Disney studio, which specialized in anthropomorphic animals. The breaking with studio traditions was intentional, however. Walt Disney aimed to have the depiction of the prehistoric animals as realistic as possible. See more »
In the full-length introduction to the "Nutcracker Suite", heard only in the roadshow version of "Fantasia", Deems Taylor states that this music is from a longer ballet called "The Nutcracker", which "nobody performs it anymore". The full-length "Nutcracker" had not been performed in the U.S. yet in 1940, but in both Russia and England it had been staged in 1934, and had already been staged in Russia twice before that, in 1892 and 1919. However, although the "Nutcracker Suite" was immensely popular even in 1940, the full-length ballet was still a long way off from becoming the annual phenomenon it now is in the United States. See more »
How do you do? Uh, 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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This is the second Walt Disney feature-length film ("Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was the first) on which the credit "Walt Disney presents" never appears. It appeared on all the other feature-length films that Disney personally produced. See more »
For its 50th Anniversary re-release in 1990, Disney went back to the original Fantasound tracks originally recorded by the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the picture and soundtrack restored from whatever elements were available at the time to resemble the 1946 re-release version of 115 minutes. The only new alterations made were:
The edits made to the "Pastoral Symphony" that are present in all post-1969 prints of the film. See above.
The addition of an end credits sequence played against footage of the on-screen orchestra exiting the stage, as first seen preceding the intermission in the Roadshow Version. The 1990 version has been released on VHS and LaserDisc. No other version of Fantasia features a credits sequence (the credits were made available to the 1940-1941 roadshow patrons in a specially prepared commemorative booklet).
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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