Fantasia was produced by Walt Disney and premiered on 13th November 1940. Music by Bach, Tchaikovsky, Dukas, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Ponchielli, Mussorgsky and Schubert. Conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer. Narrated by Deems Taylor. 125mins.
Eight animated segments set to famous classical music compositions.
Walt Disney (1901-1966) had some success with the Alice comedy shorts in the 1920’s, mixing animation with live action. But it was an animated mouse that would change his fortune forever. Mickey Mouse made his first appearance on screen in Steamboat Willie in 1928 it was the first cartoon with synchronised sound. By the early 30’s Mickey would become the most popular cartoon character in the world.
Disney would introduce more cartoon characters over the years, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Chip ‘n Dale and by the late 30’s a duck named Donald would eclipse Mickey as the worlds most popular cartoon character.
In the mid-30’s Disney started planning a feature length cartoon based on the fairy tale Snow White, critics thought it would be a major disaster and dubbed it “Disney’s Folly”. Some thought it would hurt the eyes looking at a cartoon for more than an hour. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1938 and broke all records, by May 1939 it had become the most successful film of the 30's.
Disney’s next animated feature was Pinocchio released in 1940 to rave reviews but it wasn’t a big hit, the film would finally make back its cost from successful re-releases in the late 40’s and 50’s.
The origin of Fantasia started to form when Disney had an idea for a Mickey Mouse special titled The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the cartoon would be in sync with Paul Dukas famous music. Realising this would be an expensive cartoon that may not be able to recoup its costs Disney decided to expand on the concept and make a full length movie featuring various classical pieces set to animation.
The Musical Segments
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1870) – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
Abstract patterns and shapes and shadows of the orchestra.
Peter Tchiakovsky (1840-1893) – Nutcracker Suite
Dancing flowers, leaves, mushrooms, fish and fairies.
Paul Dukas (1865-1935) – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Mickey Mouse is the sorcerer Yen Sid’s apprentice, after the sorcerer retires for the day Mickey grabs his hat and casts a spell on a broomstick, bringing it to life and things soon spiral out of control.
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) – The Rite of Spring
The beginning of life on Earth, primitive life in the sea evolves into fish and than to animals on land. Prehistoric animals hunt for food, it ends with the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Meet the Soundtrack,
narrated by Deems Taylor.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) – Symphony no.6 (The Pastoral Symphony)
A mythic setting, there are flying horses, centaurs, nymphs, fauns etc. A festival honouring Bacchus the God of Wine is interrupted by a mighty storm and Zeus throwing thunderbolts at fleeing mythological creatures..
Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886) – The Dance of the Hours
Ostriches, hippos, elephants and alligators dance in a comic ballet.
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) – Night on Bald Mountain
It is Walpurgis Night and the devil Chernabog awakens on his mountain, he summons forth ghosts, witches, spectres and various demons to dance for him. When dawn arrives the church bell drives the spirits back to their graves, Chernabog is repelled by the sound and hides back into the mountain.
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) – Ave Maria
A procession of robed monks walk through a forest and into a cathedral.
Referred to as The Concert Feature, after hundreds of suggestions for a title Disney settled on one of the working titles, Fantasia.
Production started on the film while Disney was still finishing Pinocchio, a pressbook for Fantasia noted that its production had involved "751 artists, 103 musicians, 600,000 celluloid drawings and 508 new characters."
Disney had envisioned Fantasia as an ongoing project, where he would add new animated sequences and music and remove old ones at each re-issue of the film so viewers would have a different experience of the film each time. But Fantasia failed to turn a profit on its initial release and many critics panned the film, so that idea was dropped.
Fantasia was the first film shown in theaters with stereophonic sound, the process was called Fantasound, basically directional four-track stereo sound.
The final Ave Maria sequence required a setup using multiple panes of glass and the camera on a 200ft track.
Bela Lugosi was one of the inspirations for the look of Bald Mountain’s resident evil, Chernabog.
Chernabog was a demon in Slavic mythology, the name is translated as “Black God”
One sequence planned, partially animated and finally abandoned was a segment featuring Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune, a restored version is included as an extra on the Fantasia DVD and Blu-ray.
Originally the Rite of Spring sequence was to have continued showing the evolution of life on Earth right up to the appearance of primitive man and the discovery of fire but the idea was dropped in case it upset religious groups.
Igor Stravinsky hated the way his music Ri