After a rather long absence, I have returned to the Disney Classic Challenge with Fantasia,
so sit back and enjoy!
Once Upon A Time…
Walt Disney wanted to boost Mickey Mouse’s popularity by making The Sorceror’s Apprentice, an animation short in the Silly Symphonies series. He met Leopold Stokowski, a conductor, who agreed to conduct the music behind the short. As what seems to be the way with Walt Disney, the project grew more elaborate and complex, as well as increasing in budget. Walt and Roy Disney decided that the project would recoup the money in its current form, so Walt came up with the idea of turning it into a animated concert. And so Fantasia was born.
Memories From My Childhood:
I initially thought I’d never seen Fantasia, however after talking to my mother, it turns out we owned the film on video – which probably isn’t a good sign I can’t remember single thing about it. So I’ll be going into this as if I’ve never seen Fantasia before.
My Impressions Today:
Fantasia opens with the orchestra members taking their seats. Every single member. Once they are seated , they start their warm up. I’m starting to think Walt Disney was padding Fantasia’s 2 hour run time. Anyway, this man (I forgot his name, so I’m going to call him Spoiler Guy, you see why in a moment…) walks in and explains what we are about to watch. In minute detail. They the conductor walks in and starts, well, conducting. The first piece of music is very abstract. There are strings and clouds of different colours. The Aurora Borealis daces across the screen in time to the music. To be honest, there isn’t much else to this first piece apart from lots of shapes and colours. It finishes with sunrise, which appears to be a motif that will reoccur.
Then Spoiler Guy comes back and tells us all about The Nutcracker Suite. Again, all of it. The Nutcracker isn’t as abstract as the first piece of music but it doesn’t much in the way of story. We follow a group of fairies dancing in a meadow, bringing flowers to life and spreading fairy dust. Oh, and the fairies appear to be naked. But before we can focus on that, we get watch dancing toadstools! Yes, dancing toadstools. And this dance goes on for quite awhile. We finally move onto flowers in a river, who also decide to start dancing. Yes, this piece becomes quite surreal. At one point I thought there was going to be bug-eyed aliens, but these turned out to fish, that also wanted to dance. To finish off the piece, we rejoin the fairies as they dance with thistles and flowers throughout autumn and winter.
Spoiler Guy takes the stage once more and introduces The Sorcerer’s Apprentice… and then proceeds to tells us the whole plot. I starting to see a pattern with this guy and its starting to get tedious… Anyway, enter Mickey Mouse as the apprentice, who is unhappy at having to carry water around while the Sorcerer gets to play around with magic. So he comes up with the bright idea to use the Sorcerer’s hat to bring a broom to life while he gets to take a nap. Of course, this goes swimmingly well…not. Mickey wakes up to find the place flooded and the broom adding more water to the mess. Mickey decides that the best course of action is to chop the broom with an axe. But that doesn’t stop the determined little broom, whose splinters magically grow up and become separate brooms, which continue the job. Mickey clings to book, kind of like Kate Winslet in Titanic. When all seems lost, the Sorcerer reappears, stops the broom and beats Mickey with it. Yep. But even The Sorcerer’s Apprentice needs a surreal moment, so Mickey Mouse runs onto the stage and shakes hands with the conductor.
Then our favourite guy comes along, Spoiler Guy, and tells us about Rite of Spring. This time, he is not content with just telling us about what we are going to see, he launches into a full blown science lesson about evolution. Eventually we get to see a picture of the galaxy, which we then zoom to the Earth, that more resembles Mars. After watching volcanoes erupt to the time of the music, we see single cell organism evolve into dinosaurs, which then eat each other. The Tyrannosaurus Rex deserves a particular mention as he pretty much tries to kill every other dinosaur. He eventually does succeed killing one in a pretty graphic scene. This is meant to be aimed at children…right? But don’t worry he gets his comeuppance, as every dinosaur dies of starvation. And that’s the end of the piece. Who said Disney only did happy endings?
Now we come onto one of Fantasia’s oddest moments. Spoiler Guy announce they are having a 15 minute intermission and everyone gets up and leaves. Everyone. Even Spoiler Guy. The ‘curtain’ closes and a title card is shown on the screen. Fortunately, the intermission doesn’t last fifteen minutes, more like 20 seconds. Everyone comes back and starts warming up again. Then Spoiler Guy says he wants to introduce to someone really important. The soundtrack. Right. Moving swiftly on, he goes ahead and tells us all about the Pastotal Symphony. At least he is consistent.
We then get to seen a herd of My Little Pony unicorns prancing around with flying horses, well, flying. Then we get to see naked lady centaurs having make overs with naked cupids. Apparently this is all a centaur mating ritual which gets gatecrashed by Dionysus, the god of wine. Everyone is happy until Zeus decides to be a bit of a bully and terrorises the party goers with lightning bolts. Eventually he gets bored and kicks the remaining lightning bolts off his cloud and falls asleep. Everyone comes out of hiding as a rainbow appears and everyone is happy.
Spoiler Guy then introduces (and spoils) Dance of the Hours, which tops everything we have seen so far. We start with a group of ostriches dancing in a hall . They get freaked out by a bubbling pool and run away. A hippo emerges from the pool and starts to dance. It soon gets tired and falls asleep. While its sleeping, it gets tormented by a group of elephants. But don’t worry they get blown away by a gust of wind before they can way the hippo up. Yes, blown away. Then the creepy caped crocodiles appear and one of them appears to fall in love with the hippo. Hippo wakes up and starts dancing with the crocodile, in what appears to be a hippo/crocodile dance off. And that’s how this piece of music finishes.
The Spoiler Guy walks on stage for the last and introduces (and spoils) the last piece, Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria. We get to see Chernabog, god/demon of evil waking up on the mountain and summon his minions. A twisted version of a Disney parade happens as all the bats, ghosts and ghouls make their way to the mountain. At the mountain, Chernabog torments the demons with fire and making them dance. Eventually dawn breaks and the monsters run away, while Chernabog retreats to the top of the mountain. There is then a procession of people with lights walking towards a rising sun. Then we get a black screen. That’s it. The end.
And They All Lived Happily Ever After…
I’ll have to admit, I was a little disappointed with Fantasia. It sounded like a great idea and something that hadn’t been tried before but in the end to left much to be desired. Spoiler Guy tells us everything before we get see, which leaves us with nothing to experience or interpret. I think this is what affected my experience the most. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy some parts of it, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Night on Bald Mountain, I really enjoyed but that’s because they had slightly less abstract stories to them. And I wished they used Chernabog a little more. However, there is no doubt that Fantasia has given us I think Fantasia is one of those films you should watch because it is a classic but I don’t think it is everyone’s cup of tea.
A Fun Fact To Depart On…
At just over two hours long, Fantasia remains the animated film with the longest run time in the Disney Classics range.
Next time, I’ll be watching ‘the ninth wonder in the universe’, Dumbo.
Thero used the following as sources for this blog: the Fantasia wikia page, the Fantasia Wikipedia page, pages 238 and 239 of Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition by Dave Smith and pages 46 and 47 of The Disney Book.