Fantasia is a 1940 motion picture, the third in the Disney animated features canon, which was a Walt Disney experiment in animation and music. The soundtrack of the film consists of eight pieces of classical music, played by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. Animated artwork of varying degrees of abstraction or literalism is used to illustrate or accompany the concert in various ways. The film also includes live-action segments featuring Stokowski, the orchestra, and American composer and music critic Deems Taylor, who serves as the host for the film. Besides its avant-garde qualities, Fantasia was notable for being the first major film released in stereophonic sound, using a process dubbed "Fantasound".
Originally released by Walt Disney Productions (without then-distributor RKO Radio Pictures) as a roadshow film with booked engagements, RKO eventually picked up Fantasia for release in 1941 and edited the film drastically in 1994, leaving the film with only 84 minutes of running time. Future re-releases restored various amounts of the deleted footage, with the most common version being the 1996 re-release edit. The original version of Fantasia was never released again after 1941, and although some of the original audio elements no longer exist, a 2000 DVD release version attempted to restore as much of the original version of the film as possible.
- 1 Music program
- 2 The Sorcerer's Apprentice
- 3 Fantasound
- 4 Production and synopsis of the other segments
- 5 Film presentation
- 6 Release history
- 7 Critical reception
- 8 Updates
- 9 Titles in different languages
- 10 Parodies and References
- 11 See also
- 12 External links
The musical pieces used in the film:
- Johann Sebastian Bach — Toccata and Fugue in D Minor BWV 565 (Stokowski's own transcription for symphony orchestra) (abstract images)
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Nutcracker Suite Op. 71a (a variety of dances, just as in the original, but danced by animated fairies, mushrooms, fish, etc.)
- Paul Dukas — L'apprenti sorcier (English title: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, with Mickey Mouse in the role of the apprentice)
- Igor Stravinsky — The Rite of Spring (early history of the planet Earth, dinosaurs and their extinction)
- Ludwig van Beethoven — 6th symphony in F, Op.68 "Pastorale" (centaurs, fauns, and other creatures of classical mythology lounge about, cavort, fall in love, etc.)
- Amilcare Ponchielli — La Gioconda: Dance of the Hours. Also a ballet in the original, performed in the film by Ben Aligator, Hyacinth Hippo, Madame Upanova and Elephanchine.
- The last part of the film links:
- Modest Mussorgsky — Night on Bald Mountain (the nocturnal demon Chernabog summons from their graves empowered restless souls, until driven away by the sound of a church bell); to
- Franz Schubert — Ave Maria (monks march in the light of morning)
Most of the works played in the film are program music; that is, instrumental music that depicts stories in sound. However, the Disney program is generally not the same as the original. Beethoven meant to depict a joyous and inspiring visit to the Austrian countryside, not classical mythology. It may be noted that the animation accompanying Beethoven's symphony is of a kind that came to be increasingly associated with Disney studios, the rendering of otherwise serious and sometimes elevated subjects in a manner that makes them non-threatening and, occasionally, infantile, with a potential occlusion of their deeper significance. Schubert's music was composed as a song (1825) for single voice and piano ("Ellens dritter Gesang"; "Ellen's third song"), with German words translated by Adam Storck from Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake. In the song, the character Ellen prays to the Virgin Mary while in hiding.
Only the Dukas work is a straight setting of the composer's original intention. The story told musically by Dukas is taken from Goethe's poem "Der Zauberlehrling", which is in turn taken from the second century Greek writer Lucian. The one significant change is that Disney presents a multitude of brooms, instead of just two as in Goethe. The Dukas is often considered the best sketch in the film, and was the only sequence carried over into Fantasia 2000 (see below).
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
In the late 1930s, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse was losing his popularity with movie audiences. The Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts series had spawned the spin-off Donald Duck series, which was proving to be more popular (and profitable) than the Mickey Mouse series. Mickey's fame had also been eclipsed by that of Popeye the Sailor, a competing character and series from Fleischer Studios. Walt's brother and business partner Roy Oliver Disney urged Walt to discontinue the Mickey Mouse series because of its lack of profitability, but Walt wasn't ready to give up on his favorite character just yet. He devised a special short that would be produced as a "comeback" film for Mickey Mouse: The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which would be completely silent save for the classical music piece by Paul Dukas. (Walt feared that one of the reasons for Mickey's decline was the squeaky falsetto that Walt himself performed for Mickey. In addition, the writers who developed The Sorcerer's Apprentice originally suggested Dopey from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for the title role.).
As work began on The Sorcerer's Apprentice in 1938, Walt happened to meet famed conductor Leopold Stokowski in a Hollywood restaurant. Stokowski offered to record the score for no charge, and assembled over 100 of the best musicians from Pinocchio in Los Angeles to record the score for the two-reel cartoon.
The animation department worked hard to make The Sorcerer's Apprentice one of the most ambitious works they had ever completed. Animator Fred Moore redesigned Mickey to give his figure shape and form, and to give him eyes with pupils for the first time on-screen. Everything about the film was done with extensive attention to detail and creativity: the color styling, the pacing and layout, the character animation, and the effects animation.
All of this excess came at a high price: $125,000, a price Walt (and especially Roy) knew they could never make back. To compare, most Disney shorts at this time averaged a cost of $40,000, which was $10,000 above the average budget for an animated cartoon outside the Disney Studio. Disney's most successful short cartoon ever, Three Little Pigs (1933), had made $60,000. Taking Stokowski's advice, he decided to expand The Sorcerer's Apprentice into a "Feature Symphony" with several animated sequences set to music, of which The Sorcerer's Apprentice would be one. To provide continuity and explanation, the composer and music critic Deems Taylor was recruited to provide live-action narrative introductions at the beginning of each segment. Stokowski suggested the title "Fantasia" (which literally means "A medley of familiar themes, with variations and interludes." ), which became the film's final title.
Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice has become such an iconic role for the character that he is regularly depicted as such in the Disney parks. Mickey is seen wearing his famous red wardrobe and sorceror's hat in numerous parades as well as in the nighttime spectacular Fantasmic! at both Disneyland and MGM Studios at Walt Disney World. The sorceror's hat is also an official symbol of MGM Studios and also is involved heavily in the plot of Mickey's Philharmagic at The Magic Kingdom.
A comic adaptation of The Sorcerer's Apprentice was featured in Mickey Mouse Adventures #9, published by Disney Comics at the time of the film's 50th anniversary.
The sorcerer in the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" is Yen Sid, which is Disney spelled backwards.
- Main article: Fantasound
Not only did Fantasia establish animation as a true art form, it also introduced movie audiences to multi-channel sound, which played a very important part in Fantasia. Stokowski enlisted the Philadelphia Orchestra, of which he was the conductor, to record the music for the six remaining segments. Walt was present on the sound stage during an early session, and was very pleased with what he was hearing until he heard the playback from the recording engineers. He felt the recorded version of the music sounded tinny and undynamic, and asked his engineers to see what they could do about developing a better sound system. The engineers (led by William E. Garity) responded by creating a multi-channel (stereophonic) sound format they called Fantasound, making Fantasia the first commercial film ever to be produced in stereophonic sound. The film also marked the first use of the click track while recording the soundtrack, overdubbing of orchestral parts, and simultaneous multi-track recording.
Always wanting to try new things, Walt also had plans to film Fantasia in widescreen and to spray different perfumes into the theatre at appropriate times during the Nutcracker Suite, but those plans were never carried out. george bruns franklin thomas ollie johnson martin short lisa l. moore
bill thompson verna felton from the creators of make mine music
Production and synopsis of the other segments
With The Sorcerer's Apprentice nearing completion, the rest of Fantasia entered production in early 1939, and the same attention to detail that was given to The Sorcerer's Apprentice was given to the other segments as well:
- Toccata and Fugue in D Minor contains abstract animation — a first for the Disney studio — and was inspired primarily by the work of German abstract animator Oscar Fischinger, who worked for a brief time on this segment. The first third of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is in live-action, not animation, and features an orchestra playing the piece, illuminated by abstract light patterns set in time to the music and backed by stylized (and superimposed) shadows. Although the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded the music for the film (excepting The Sorcerer's Apprentice), they do not appear on-screen; the orchestra used on-screen in the film is made up of local Los Angeles musicians and Disney studio employees like James MacDonald and Paul J. Smith, who mime to the pre-recorded Stokowski / Philadelphia Orchestra tracks.
- The Nutcracker Suite is a personified depiction of the changing of the seasons; first from summer to autumn, and then from autumn to winter. It features delicate fairies, fish, and flowers, many rendered carefully and painstakingly using techniques such as drybrush and airbrush.
- The Rite of Spring, a condensed version of the history of the Earth from the formation of the planet, to the first living creatures, to the age, reign, and demise of the dinosaurs, showcased realistically animated prehistoric beasts, and utilized extensive and complicated special effects to depict volcanoes, boiling lava, and earthquakes. There are some inaccuracies; a Dimetrodon is shown amongst the dinosaurs, and Stegosaurus was extinct well before the end of the age of the dinosaurs. The large carnivorous dinosaur attacking the Stegosaurus is a Tyrannosaurus according to the preliminary sketches by the artists, and has three fingers, which was what was believed at the time.
- The brief Meet the Soundtrack sequence gives audiences a stylized example of how sound is rendered as waveforms to record the music for Fantasia. The sequence features inspired animation by effects animator Joshua Meador and his team, who give the soundtrack (initially a squiggly line which changes into various shapes based upon the individual sounds played on the soundtrack) a distinct and interesting personality.
- Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony utilized delicate color styling to depict a mythical ancient Grecian world of centaurs, centaurettes (a Disney studio creation), a pegasus and his family, and the gods of Mount Olympus. It tells the story of the mythological creatures gathering for a festival to honor Bacchus, the god of wine, which is interrupted by Zeus, who decides to have a little fun by throwing lightning bolts at the attendees. This portion of the film was criticized for brief yet blatant nudity on the part of the centaurettes (although "Night on Bald Mountain" also contains nudity). Other criticisms center on the racial images of a centaurette servant who is part African Human, part donkey, and two attendants to Bacchus who are part African Amazons, part zebra. The servant has been totally obliterated, but the lively zebra-centaurettes appear in the definitive version.
- Dance of the Hours featured comic Madame Upanova, ostriches, Hyacinth Hippo, hippos, Elephanchine, elephants, Ben Aligator, and alligators all attempting to perform the actual ballet. The segment is animated with an energy and franticness rarely seen in Disney films.
- Night on Bald Mountain segment is basically a showcase for animator Bill Tytla, who gave the demon Chernabog a power and intensity that was rarely equaled in subsequent Disney films. Bela Lugosi served as a live action model for Chernabog, and spent several days at the Disney studio, where he was filmed doing evil, Faker and Rare demon-like poses for Tytla and his unit to use as a reference. Tylta later deemed this reference material unsuitable and had studio colleague Wilfred Jackson perform in front of the cameras for the reference footage.
- The horror of vulture, demons, ghosts, skeletons, and harpies in Night on Bald Mountain comes to an abrupt end with the sound of church bells, which send Chernabog and his followers back into hiding, and, in one of the most effective (and complicated) multiplane camera shots the Disney studio ever did, the camera trucks far, far away from Bald Mountain to reveal a line of monks with lighted torches, and the camera slowly follows them as they walk slowly and solemnly through the forest to the sounds of the Ave Maria. The animation of the monks is some of the smallest animation ever done: the camera had to be so close to some of the work that it had to be rendered at only an inch or so high. Even a slight deviation in the width of the final painted line would have been distracting to a movie audience on the big screen. In fact, as told by animator Frank Thomas in the book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life the entire sequence had to be re-shot twice, once because the wrong focal length lens was used, and once because of a small earth tremor that shook the animation planes out of alignment. The multiplane camera then finally trucks through the trees to reveal a beautiful sunrise as the film fades to its conclusion.
Walt Disney intended for Fantasia to be more than just a film; it was to be an event, something you would have to reserve seats for and dress up to go see. Special program books were prepared for the film, featuring production artwork and photographs, dedications by both Walt and Stokowski, and the credits and synopsis for each segment. Each theatre was rigged with 30 or more speakers, all lined around the perimeter of the ceiling, to provide the full Fantasound experience. The format of the film follows that of a concert rather than a motion picture. Besides the Deems Taylor narration passages, a proper presentation of Fantasia features a 15-minute interlude, which falls between The Rite of Spring and the Meet the Soundtrack segment. Unusual for an American animated film, Fantasia has no opening or closing credits in its original version, though some were added for the 1990 50th anniversary re-release of the film. (This is the edition that was issued on videocassette.) During the film's intermission, a solitary title card was to be played over the movie theatre's closed curtain, reading:
- "Fantasia. Copyright 1940 by Walt Disney Productions (Inc). Color by Technicolor. RCA Sound System."
But the title was not supposed to appear at the beginning of the film. The curtains merely opened to reveal the orchestra entering and taking their places.
For the film's 1946 re-release, and for all later theatrical releases, the title card seen during the intermission was transferred to the very beginning of the film, but no other credits appeared. This was the way the film was shown until 1990, when closing credits at the end, listing the entire technical staff, were added. These credits were shown against a background of the orchestra exiting, and that footage was taken from the "intermission" segment.
Fantasia was originally released in 1940 by Walt Disney Productions itself as a roadshow release, since Disney's distributor RKO Radio Pictures backed out of the film. Its first playdate (the premiere) was in New York City on November 13, 1940. The final scene to be shot (the long multiplane pan in the Ave Maria sequence) was shot, developed, printed, and rushed via airplane to New York that same day, where it was spliced into the film a mere four hours before showtime. Primarily because of the amount of audio equipment required and the time necessary to make the installation, the full-length Fantasound version of Fantasia was only shown at 12 theatres, and only 16 Fantasound-equipped prints were ever made. The financial failure of Fantasia left Walt Disney in financial straits, which is why he followed Fantasia with a relatively low-budget feature, Dumbo.
Starting with the January 29, 1941 play date in Los Angeles, California, RKO assumed distribution of Fantasia. They had the film's soundtrack remixed into monophonic sound, to make it easier to distribute, and added their logos to the film's solitary title card.
In January 1942, RKO had the 125-minute Fantasia chopped down to 83 minutes (done by deleting the entire Toccata and Fugue in D Minor segment and shortening the live-action Deems Taylor sequences as much as possible). This version of the film was released nationwide (the first time Fantasia was given a wide release) with the infamous tagline "Fantasia Will Amazia!" Unfortunately, audiences were not responsive at all to the film, and it played as a B-film in most movie houses.
Fantasia was edited once again in 1946, restoring Toccata and Fugue, but still keeping the Deems Taylor sequences at a minimum. This is the version most familiar to the public and the version most future releases of Fantasia would be based upon, and is therefore called the "General Release Version". It retains all of the animation from the original, but omits portions of the live-action.
In 1956, Fantasound was returned to Fantasia when it was released in CinemaScope-compatible SuperScope, remixed into four-channel stereo. The film was formatted into widescreen by removing the top and bottom portions of the frame.
The film did not turn a profit until its 1969 re-release. By then, Fantasia had become immensely popular among teenagers and college students, many of whom would take illegal drugs like marijuana and LSD to "better experience" the film. Disney therefore promoted the film as a "trip-film" for its 1969 re-release, even creating a psychedelic-styled poster to match this campaign. The re-release was a major success, especially with the psychedelic young adult crowd, many of whom would come lie down in the front row of the theatre and experience the film from there.
The film was once again edited for the 1969 release, this time to remove Sunflower, a centaur depicted as an African-American girl in the Pastoral Symphony segment. According to the Memory Hole, "Performing menial duties for the blonde, white female centaurs, Sunflower is a racial stereotype along the lines of Amos and Andy, Buckwheat, and Aunt Jemima."
For its 1982 reissue, as motion picture sound technology was advancing, Disney decided to completely re-record the film's soundtrack with a new digital recording arranged and conducted by Irwin Kostal, marking the first ever release of a motion picture with digital stereo sound. However, judicial edits were made, including replacing Deems Taylor's original narration with a sound-alike. This would be the version released numerous times throughout the 1980s.
For its 50th Anniversary in 1990, Disney decided to go back to the original Fantasound tracks, and using whatever film elements were still available, restored the film to more or less its original format to closely resemble the 1946 General Release Version. Both the picture and the Fantasound tracks were digitally remastered, and thus a new generation was able to experience the film with Leopold Stokowski's original Philadelphia Orchestra recordings. This was also the case for the film's release on home video the following year, which was labeled as "Walt Disney's Masterpiece" (though the 1988 Classics logo appears before the film).
Finally, for its 60th Anniversary DVD release in the year 2000, Disney recovered the remaining lost footage from the Deems Taylor segments that had been cut from the film decades earlier for general release, and was able to reconstruct the original 125-minute 1940 version, complete with intermission. Most of Taylor's narration for the long-lost sequences was unusable or missing, so Disney brought in voice actor Corey Burton to re-record all of Taylor's lines. Although it was advertised as the "original uncut" version, portions from Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 were censored by zooming in to avoid showing the centaur Sunflower. With the exception of these changes, this is the most complete version of the film that currently exists.
A 4-Disc 2-Movie Collection bundled with Fantasia 2000 is scheduled to be released on a BD/DVD combo pack November 30, 2010.
Fantasia theatrical release history
- November 13, 1940 (original release)
- January 29, 1941 (roadshow version in mono)
- January 1942 (b-film short version)
- September 1, 1946 (general release version)
- February 7, 1956 (SuperScope version)
- February 20, 1963
- December 17, 1969
- April 15, 1977
- April 2, 1982 (digital stereo version)
- February 8, 1985
- October 5, 1990 (1946 version with Fantasound; first version to feature end credits)
- June 25, 1993
- July 26, 1996
- June 19, 1998
The movie won two Honorary Academy Awards:
- Walt Disney, William E. Garity and J.N.A. Hawkins — For their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures through the production of Fantasia (certificate).
- Leopold Stokowski (and his associates) — For their unique achievement in the creation of a new form of visualized music in Walt Disney's production Fantasia, thereby widening the scope of the motion picture as entertainment and as an art form (certificate).
Critics to this day differ in their evaluation of the film. There are certainly many critics who admire the film greatly, particularly the animation work, and as an American animated feature film made with an unprecedented level of artistic ambition. The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Others have taken a more negative view, sometimes labeling it as kitsch. Famed movie critic Pauline Kael wrote "'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' featuring Mickey Mouse, and parts of other sequences are first-rate Disney, but the total effect is grotesquely kitschy." The Beethoven sequence is frequently singled out for criticism, because of the editing of the piece and the juxtaposition of the piece with the Ancient Greek setting.
Classical music lovers who know the pieces are sometimes offended by the cuts that were taken, which were particularly heavy in the Beethoven sequence. The cuts in The Rite of Spring angered Igor Stravinsky, the only living composer whose work was represented in the film.
The film is regularly recommended as an excellent means to introduce children to classical music.
Disney had wanted Fantasia to be an ongoing project, ideally with a new release each year. The plan was to repeat some of the scenes while replacing others with different music and animation, so that each version of the film would include both familiar material and new segments. However, the film's underwhelming box-office performance prevented such plans from being realized.
Clair de Lune
Ironically, one segment intended for the original Fantasia was completely animated, and then left out of the first release. Clair de Lune (based on Claude Debussy's piano piece), a casualty of Fantasia's excessive length, made it to the final pencil test stages before being deleted. Ink and paint and Technicolor photography were completed in January 1942 with the intentions of releasing Clair de Lune as a short subject, which would not be done for 54 years. Instead, the sequence was later completely re-cut and re-scored as the Blue Bayou segment of Make Mine Music (1946).
A workprint version of the original version of Clair de Lune was finally discovered, restored, and released by Disney as a stand-alone short subject in 1996; the accompanying Deems Taylor/Stowkowski footage was never found. This version of Clair de Lune can be found on disc 3 of the Fantasia Legacy DVD box set, or on the Disney Classic 'Fantasia' DVD (released in 2000) as a special feature.
Other proposed sequences and Fantasia 2000
Other segments such as Ride of the Valkyries, Swan of Tuonela, and Flight of the Bumblebee were storyboarded but never fully animated, and thus were never put into production for inclusion in a future Fantasia release. Both World War II and overseas costs prevented Disney from revising Fantasia during his lifetime.
Disney's dream was belatedly and finally realized with the Dec. 17, 1999 release of Fantasia 2000 in IMAX theaters, and in general release half a year later. Fantasia 2000 reused The Sorcerer's Apprentice with Mickey Mouse, but otherwise consisted entirely of new material. By the time of this film's production, the prestige of the original became so prominient that many celebrities like Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin and James Earl Jones eagerly agreed to host the various sections of the film.
Titles in different languages
Unless otherwise listed, most foreign titles translate to "Fantasia".
- Bulgaria: Фантазия (Fantaziya)
- Bosnian: Fantazija
- Chinese: 幻想曲 (literally Fantasy Tune)
- Croatian: Fantazija
- Danish: Fantasia
- Dutch: Fantasia
- Finnish: Fantasia
- French: Fantasia
- German: Fantasia
- Greek: Φαντασία
- Icelandic: Fantasia
- Italian: Fantasia
- Japanese: ファンタジア (Fantajia)
- Korean: 판타지아
- Hebrew: פנטסיה (Fantazya)
- Norwegian: Fantasia
- Polish: Fantazja
- Portuguese: Fantasia
- Russian: Фантазия
- Serbian: Fantazija
- Spanish: Fantasía
- Swedish: Fantasia
- Thai: แฟนตาเซีย
- Turkish: Fantazya
Parodies and References
In 1943, Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons) director Robert Clampett did a Fantasia spoof short film, A Corny Concerto, with Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck acting out the musical segments (and Elmer Fudd doing an impression of Deems Taylor). Bugs himself impersonates Leopold Stokowski's conducting style in 1949's Long-Haired Hare.
In 1976, Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto released his own Fantasia parody called Allegro Non Troppo.
The animated series The Simpsons parodied Fantasia in the episode Itchy & Scratchy Land as Scratchtasia, which involved Scratchy the cat (in Mickey Mouse's apprentice grab), avoiding the sharp axe of Itchy to orchestral music. In the episode Treehouse of Horror IV there is a scene where Ned, being revealed as Satan, was insulted by Homer. He then transforms into a red version of the demonic character from Night on Bold Mountain and disappears in smoke, similar to the way the demon does.
The animated series South Park also parodied the Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of Fantasia in the episode Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls, in which Mr. Hankey dons a wizard outfit and drives out an independent film festival by summoning a wave of sewage, similar to Mickey's dream of summoning a storm.
The Disney animated series Timon and Pumbaa parodied Fantasia with the musical segments "Bumble In The Jungle" and "Beethoven's Whiff".
Chernabog from Night on Bald Mountain was a boss in the videogame Kingdom Hearts. Yen Sid from the Sorcerer's Apprentice appears in Kingdom Hearts II and advises Sora early on in the game. From dialogue and details found in his room(a bookshelf apparently chronicling Mickey's mishaps when he was being taught by Yen Sid), the Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence actually has a place in the series continuity.
A version of the Rites of Spring scene (the rise and fall of the dinosaurs) was shown with the Rush song 2112 dubbed over it at the Rush fan convention, RushCon, in Toronto in 2006.
- History of cinema
- List of animated feature films
- A Trip Through the Walt Disney Studios, a documentary from 1937 in baby mozart
- make mine music
- masterpiece collection
- mickey mouse
- nutcracker sutie
- unicorns and flying horses
- bald mountain
- ostrich dancers
- crocodile ballerina
- hippo ballerina
- deleted chraacters
- dodo bird
- monkey ballerina
- Fantasia at the Internet Movie Database
- Big Cartoon DataBase: Fantasia
- The Character Cut From Fantasia
- Fantasia at JustDisney.com
- Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 - DVD Review with Pictures
- Walt Disney's Psychedelic Movie (Stories About Fantasia) at YoursDaily.com
- Reverse Shot essay on the film
- "Fantasia as Masterwork" blog essay on film