Happy 75th to Disney's Fantasia!

Today (11/13/15) marks the 75th anniversary of Walt Disney’s Fantasia!

It’s so established as a classic today, and has so many imitators, that it’s easy to forget how ahead of its time it was. It was a real labor of love for Walt–he honestly wanted to bring classical music to the public, and had hoped to re-release it every few years with some segments removed and new ones put in (a dream that wasn’t realized until Fantasia 2000).

Of course, it’s awakened many children to classical music. Or, in my case (seeing it at age 10, in the 1982 release) to things I hadn’t known were classical pieces. (I didn’t know until I saw it that “Hello Mudduh, Hello Faddah” was classical.)

But it’s the artistry of the animation that blows me away. They had to use a considerable amount of special effects–clouds of ink overlaid on the film for volcano smoke in The Rite of Spring, turning gears animated to look like snowflakes in The Nutcracker. All of it culminates in Night on Bald Mountain, probably the single best achievement of Disney animation ever. And when you re-watch these things, consider this–this was all only twelve years after Steamboat Willie.

So what are your impressions of this masterwork?

I was gonna make a thread about this movie next week anyway, but I didn’t realize yesterday was the anniversary, so by all means let’s talk about it now!

Previous threads:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  2. Pinocchio

I love Fantasia. It was my introduction to classical music, also. I’ve always preferred Toccata and Fugue on the organ, though; I think it sounds better than when it’s done by an orchestra.

I liked the song that had the dinosaurs in it (I always root for the Stegosaurus, though I know he’ll end up dying every time), and I love the ballet piece with the crocodiles, ostriches and hippos. The Nutcracker Suite pieces were wonderful, although the part with the Chinese mushrooms comes off as being kinda racist today, doesn’t it?

Night on Bald Mountain was magnificent, but I liked the Ave Maria afterwards even more. They actually wrote three or four new verses for Disney’s version, but only the first verse was used.

I love Fantasia . It’s one of the few movies I’ve seen more than once.
What gets me is that when it was rereleased on DVD a few years back there was only one commercial shown only once about it and I had a hard time finding it in the store.

The sequel, Fantasia 2000, was pretty good too. Not as good; not truly great. But a fair bit of good fun. The Donald Duck comedy was good for a larf, and the flying whales were kinda mystically eerie.

The original? Magnificent! A varied concert repertoire, including some jazz improv! And the introduction of one of the single most iconic…icons!..in the world of art: Mickey Mouse with a wizard’s cap.

“The Night on the Bare Mountain” is from Mussorgsky’s opera “The Fair at Sorochinsk.” In the opera, it is a vocal work, with nonsense syllables to indicate the chanting of the witches’ sabbath.

The opera is based on a play by Pushkin, which is based on a story by Gogol. One of the characters in the story is a poor little pig-faced demon that got kicked out of hell because he couldn’t scare anybody.

From that beginning…to the vast bat-winged horror in the movie! The tale grew in the telling!

While in college (in the 1970s) I bought the two-disc LP for Fantasia, with fantastic full-page scenes from each of the sections. I listened to these records for perhaps 15 years before I finally got a chance to see the movie in a theater, and I was blown away. I recall Roger Ebert’s review from 25 years ago, for their 1990 50th anniversary release, where he says the 1990 release was the first nation-wide release. It’s amazing to me how much more access we have to movies like this because of the internet.

If you live near a Cinemark theater, you might be able to see the movie tomorrow. My local theater is showing it at 2pm. (They have a regular program of older movies shown on Sundays and Wednesdays.)

I was able to see it in person in the theater during its 1970 anniversary revival tour. As a classical music buff from a very young age, I already knew all the music.

At the same time I’d recently completed my first read through the Lord of the Rings and was absorbed in the fantastic appendices. Chernobog (whose name I was not to learn for decades more) was cemented in my memory as the image of Morgoth from one of Tolkien’s appendices, as the Silmarillion would not be published for another 7 years yet. When I learned that his name was actually Melkor, and Morgoth was an epithet from his enemies that meant shithead or something like that. Anyway, whatever was available in 1970 was good enough for 10–11 year old me at the time.

Here’s a previous post comparing the 1940 with the 2000 version.

And here’s a shameless plug for my blog post on FANTASIA (on its 70th anniversary).

I did also. It was subtly marketed as a movie to see while stoned. I was in college at the time, so part of the target audience.

I saw the 2000 version in an Imax theater. I liked it but it didn’t have the spirit of fun and awe that the original one had.

I grew up with Fantasia - it’s by far my favorite Disney film. Sometimes I’ll still hear a piece of music that seems oddly familiar, before going “Oh yeah! The dancing flower people!”

I was raised on classical music and I knew the music long before I saw the movie, so to earnest young me, thoroughly enraptured with the magic of the movies anyway, being shown these familiar pieces of music in a completely different light was all kinds of magical.

Has anyone ever seen the Grecian fantasy land before it was cut to be PC? I’ve seen a couple of stills but that’s all.

I also first saw it during the 1970 release – it was my first date with my first high school girlfriend.

And I also made a Tolkien connection, but I thought Chernobog matched my image of what a balrog should look like.

I always fast forward through The Rites of Spring (dinosaurs), and the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 6th (centaurs in love). But the dancing crocodiles crack me up, most of the Beethoven is wonderful…and the Waltz of the Flowers just makes me gasp in awe.

As far as I know a couple of dark skinned zebra centaur servant girls were cut out for years, then added back in fairly recently.

I always wondered how they could make cuts after the final print was made, without altering the music. As far as I can tell, nothing is missing from Beethoven’s 6th.

Not exactly true. As this video shows, some material was cropped out, other shots were re-edited (to keep the film in synch) and some had material removed.

Interesting! Thanks for sharing.

I’ve seen the zebra centaur girls who helped escort Bacchus. But I’ve only seen stills of the little black girl centaurs, who were maids/helpers, when the older girls were making up for the guys. The girls had pigtails and kind of wide lips.

See the link I posted.

It’s my understanding that the original intention was for Fantasia to remain in theaters continually, but with segments constantly rotating in and out. So if you had a few hours to spare at the theater, you could always go see it, and get a mix of familiar and new.