I held off on posting reviews on Fantasia (and Fantasia 2000) simply because, even though Sleeping Beauty is my all-time favorite Disney movie, Fantasia is my all-time animation fan-girl movie crush. I have been in love with this movie as long as I can remember and it influenced a lot of my early art styles (when I was still actually did art). It's not like other Disney movies that comes out of the vault every 7 years, these two are very rarely released, usually only when a new format becomes available, and rarely ever stay out of the vault for more than a month or two. You can still buy it (I've seen it on Amazon), but they are usually foreign releases or worse, knock offs, so beware. Both movies are really a collection of shorts tied together, but we're gonna call them an entire movie.
People either love Fantasia or hate it, I rarely ever run across anyone who says, "yeah, it's OK" and everyone has probably seen a bit of it and not known it, especially Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer's Apprentice (and no, I don't mean that piece of crap with Nicholas Cage). There are those who know who Chernabog is, but doesn't know where he comes from...as well as the ballerina swans, the hippo and the crocodile, etc. These are faces that most Disney park visitors know, thanks to the Spectromagic parade. These were taken in 2009, so forgive the quality, but here is a sample:
I watched Fantasia first thing in the morning because I wanted to actually watch it and not fuddle it with stitching. I wouldn't have gotten much stitching done anyway because I'm like a moth to a flame when it comes to this movie. I saved Fantasia 2000 for the end of the night when I was done stitching, so again, I could give it my full attention. I've put it off long enough, lets get on with it already!
Walt had such high hopes for Fantasia, he meant it to be a regular series and the Disney Family Museum has a notebook of future additions to new Fantasia movies that is quite thick. The public, however, just didn't get Walt's vision and future plans were scrapped. I've never quite understood that because I "got it" as a very small child (and still get it, probably even more so today). It's not all about the blending of animation and synchronized music, it's about the technology and experimentation of different forms of mediums to achieve nirvana and to allow his artists to shine bright (or at least that's how I've always interpreted it). Animation isn't all drawings on cells, the camera angles, lighting effects and even special effects all add to the process and often taken longer than the actual animation. This movie was the pinnacle of that process and it's just a real shame that it's considered one of his failures.
Fantasia is conducted by Leopold Stokowski, a very famous composer at the time (1940) and, although I don't know much about classical music, I know enough that I could tell you could really feel the passion in Mussorgsky's Night On Bald Mountain (the Chernabog bit) more than in any other instance I've heard it, so the dude must have been good. It's also one of my favorite versions of Schubert's Ave Maria (which is at the end of Chernabog). I can't speak much on the other pieces, although I know them all, but those two fragments of music I know well and love even more because of Fantasia and my love of the Chernabog section, but that comes at the end.
Even the opening is quite extraordinary. As you watch the orchestra assemble, they are blacked out, their shadows highlighted large against the backdrop, and it adds to the overall grandness of the picture. Then it shifts into a synchronized light show on a backdrop of clouds that kind of prep you for the magic that is to come, all to the music of Bach (and I'm actually listening to Toccata & Fugue in D Minor while I'm typing this...three days later I'm still a bit in love again). I always get excited over this bit because it not only signals whats to come, but the technical details involved in filming this (not even counting the animation) where absolutely amazing for the 40's. I did manage to find part of the clip, the second half:
When I was a kid, I referred to this next section as the "naked fairies" section, but it is more than that. I'm not a fan of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, in fact, I do actually avoid it like the plaque come Christmastime (a lot of my coworkers and bosses do the local production of it). Come to think of it, I'm not a fan to Tchaikovsky at all (well other than Sleeping Beauty). But the animation piece actually references the changing of the seasons. Sunday night I still only saw naked fairies (can someone blush in the privacy of their own home?) but it also reminded me of another childhood obsession of mine, bubbles. I drew them more than anything else I ever did in my artistic career, I even found ways to incorporate them in my college projects! I don't know if it was the symmetry or the highlights and shading, or the fact that you can draw them in repetitive bunches and it satiates my Asper-ness, but whatever it was, I've had the desire to draw bubbles ever since and I haven't drawn anything since I dropped out of college! I did manage to find a clip of this section and most Disney park people will recognize these little guys, they usually appear as topiaries around Epcot:
Now we come to The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Even the most casual of Disney fan knows this section and the nerdiest of Disney geeks will be quick to tell you that the Sorcerer's name, Yensid, is Disney spelled backwards. We see Sorcerer Mickey all through the parks, especially in both coasts versions of Fantasmic (guess what the word Fantasmic is a a play on?) and, for those who have seen Fantasmic, who doesn't cheer when Sorcerer Mickey appears at the end on top of the mountain? We always do!
Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of high-quality Fantasia clips on YouTube so, although I did find the entire Sorcerer's Apprentice clip, the quality is poor.
Another one of my favorite pieces is the next section which is basically a visual representation of the origins of Earth, ironically with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring as the accompanying music selection. It's not meant to be a synchronized piece to the music exactly, but more of an interpretive kind of symbiosis. I really wanted to find the entire clip, but I did find a rather good quality clip of two dinosaurs locked in battle, one of the best scenes:
They take an intermission after this point, but don't panic and hit the fast-forward button when you see the 15 minute banner, that really only lasts about a minute. As the orchestra piles back in, there is an impromptu jazz session between certain instruments:
that is until the announcer arrives back to introduce the "soundtrack". This is another one of my favorite pieces because the animation on the "soundtrack" is nothing short of amazing partly because of it's synchronicity and partly because of the appearance of simplicity (although it's far from simple). I couldn't find a clip in English that didn't have subtitles, so please forgive:
Beethoven is next and another one of those nudity/bubbles sequences. Does nudity and bubbles go together and I've always somehow missed that? I don't know, but this is a very fantasy-laden sequence with Greek gods and goddesses and various mythological creatures. This is another one of those pieces that is more stylized to the music rather than exact synchronization and it works well here. It also is more "animated" than the other sequences (well, other than Mickey) and it has a more Disney-esque feel rather than a more artistic. As a kid, I was always obsessed with the donkey-corn (a donkey with a unicorn horn) and I can remember asking my parents why there weren't more donkey-corns in the books because they were so much more cuter than the unicorns!
Dance of the Hours is next and it's quite animated like the Greek piece (I have nicknames for them all), but it's my most favorite of the two, probably because a gator falls in love with a hippo...I mean, come on! How cool is that? It starts with ballerina swans, moves on to Hyacinth (the hippo) and her ladies, goes to dancing elephants and BUBBLES, and finally we see Hyacinth and Ben Ali Gator fall in love. I absolute love it when she constantly pulls her sheer, very tiny tutu down to try to cover her exposed butt. Pure animator genius! But here is the most famous scene that most people know:
Lastly is Chernabog's big debut in Night On Bald Mountain. This is my absolute favorite piece, hands down...the animation is perfect, the special effects are literally memorizing and I get lost in the music. You'd think that Satan raising his minions from hell would be scary to a small child, but I was always fascinated by it (pink elephants were quite terrifying, but not demons). This is also the shortest of the pieces because, as the sun comes up and old Chernie looses his grip on the night, it transitions into Ave Maria as the world awakens. I did manage to find both sections of the clip on YouTube, just not together.
I also have always wondered where the character names come from...it's not like they are part of the piece. Is it nicknames the animators give them? Or is it, like in the case of Suzy and Perla, Cinderella's female mice, where the fans name them and it sticks? Things that make you go hmmm....
Well, I didn't expect to ramble on this long, so I guess there will have to be a part 3 for Fantasia 2000. I don't have as much glowing praise to shower on it, so it should be shorter (theoretically). For those that have never seen Fantasia, give it a shot. Like I said, you'll either love it or hate it, but I really hope you do love it!
Live Action: 16
Full-Length Animation: 46 (haven't counted Fantasia 2000 yet)
Animated Shorts: 214
Live Action Shorts: 5
Mixed-Medium Shorts: 1
Animated Series: 13
Mixed-Medium Series: 2