The most ambitious animated feature ever to come out of the Disney studios, FANTASIA integrates famous works of classical music with wildly uneven but extraordinarily imaginative visuals that run the gamut from dancing hippos to the purely abstract. It's like a feature-length compilation of elaborate Silly Symphonies. This impressive attempt to combine...read more
The most ambitious animated feature ever to come out of the Disney studios, FANTASIA integrates famous works of classical music with wildly uneven but extraordinarily imaginative visuals that run the gamut from dancing hippos to the purely abstract. It's like a feature-length compilation
of elaborate Silly Symphonies. This impressive attempt to combine high art with mass culture was a financial debacle initially but in subsequent years it has become one of the studio's perennial cash cows.
Among the wonderfully kitschy combinations of sight and sound are J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" (a rare exercise in abstraction for the Disney artists); Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" (danced by fairies, mushrooms, flower petals, fish, thistles, and orchids); Stravinsky's "Rite of
Spring" (illustrated as the genesis of the planet); Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" (some key imagery is lifted from the opening scenes of F.W. Murnau's silent German Expressionist version of FAUST with Emil Jannings as Mephistopholes looming over a village; the fearsome "Black God" was
pantomimed by Bela Lugosi as an animation guide for the Disney artists); and Schubert's "Ave Maria" (a subdued Impressionistic sequence of villagers walking through the woods to church).
Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony" proved to be the most controversial segment, raising the hackles of music critics who didn't approve of the cartoon Bacchus, nymphs, and li'l' centaurs who accompanied it. (Reportedly, after screening the completed segment for the first time, a tearful Walt Disney
declared "This will make Beethoven!" Stravinsky also cried after seeing the film, but for very different reasons.) The film's most famous segment, Paul Dukas's "Sorcerer's Apprentice," stars Mickey Mouse (voiced by Walt himself for the final time) as the ambitious assistant who gets in way over
his head when he uses his boss's magic hat to put a broom to work doing his chores. Originally intended as a short, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" brought together Walt Disney and famed conductor Leopold Stokowski but when the production ran over budget, Disney decided that the only way to recoup his
investment would be to incorporate the segment into a feature.
The film began to appear in limited roadshow engagements in 1940, but due to wartime difficulties in getting the materials for the sound system that had to be installed in each theater, it was not until 1942 that it received general release. In the late 1960s FANTASIA re-emerged as a drug culture
favorite and it continues to delight both children and adults today.