“ Genre: Children's DVDs - Disney / Theatrical Release: 1942 / Director: Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Ford Beebe, Bill Roberts, Samuel Armstrong, Ben Sharpsteen, Paul Satterfield, James Algar / Actors: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor ... / DVD released 27 November, 2000 at Walt Disney Home Video / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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Directors: Samuel Armstrong, James Algar and others
Writers: Joe Grant, Dick Huemer
Narrator: Deems Taylor
Starring: Leopold Stokowski, The Philadelphia Orchestra
Released: 15 November 2010
Duration: 125 minutes
A 1940s Classic:
Fantasia, a film originally from the 1940s, is often thought of as one of Disney's true classics from across its seven decades of animated movies. In fact this Blu-ray edition is released very near to the 70th anniversary of this film. Fantasia was only Disney's third full-length animated film.
The animation may be nothing like what we are used to today. Colours are not so bright and characters are less expressive, but it is still beautiful animation, simply from an earlier time.
Fans of the recently released film staring Nicolas Cage - The Sorcerer's Apprentice - will especially enjoy a segment in Fantasia - in which the apprentice (Micky Mouse) uses magic for his own benefit, before he's really learnt anything more than the basics, to clean up his room by using magic to bring brooms to life and mop up. Of course it all goes wrong - the moral being that he shouldn't have looked for a quick fix, or used magic in the wrong way.
It was this Mickey Mouse segment from Fantasia that inspired the live action film The Sorcerer's Apprentice. And it was an extended version of this scene that I expected made up the majority of Fantasia. I thought it was no more than an hour long. Indeed the original cut of Fantasia was simply going to be this short piece of animation alone, and nothing else. However it blossomed into a full two hour epic release featuring eight short segments, to make up one epic film.
The different sections are spilt up by the host and narrator of the film, Deems Taylor, who introduces each piece in the film and gives background on the original intent of the composer. What follows is segments of animation, that are wordless, simply set to music including Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Johann Sebastian Bach), The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Paul Dukas), the Dance of the Hours, Ave Maria, The Nutcracker Suite (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky), Pastoral Symphony and Night on Bald Mountain.
Dance of the Hours is a segment featuring Madame Upanova and her ostriches and Ben Ali Gator and his troop of alligators. The finale sees the chaotic chase that ensues between all of the characters seen in the segment until they eventually decide to dance together.
The segment that covers the birth of the universe and the creation of Earth from the big bang up until the dinosaurs ruled - The Rites of Spring - is another standout section.
The Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria (Modest Mussorgsky) segment is also especially noteworthy featuring an array of eerie ghosts, skeletons, witches, harpies, and other evil creatures in Night on Bald Mountain. It pretty spooky and creepy for kids!
Overall it's nothing like what I expected, apart from the Mickey Mouse segment, but all in all I really enjoyed watching this slice of animatic, Disney, history.
Confession time: I'm not a fan of Disney. Well, maybe that's not that much of a confession seeing as if you knew anything about my likes, it'd probably be pretty easy to guess. Now sure they have made a few films here and there that I do like, such as some of their early productions that came before they packaged their movies into plastic lunchboxes and became virtual John Hammonds - and The Lion King's not too bad either - but on the whole there's just something so corporately distasteful about Disney that I could never really warm fully up to them (which is saying something knowing the general mentality of any big studio there is). Not to mention their conservative moral-control attitude just does not sit too well with me when combined with their general consumerist greed that doesn't really mix all that well together without sounding horribly hypocritical. It's just the perception of Disney being the torch-wielder for the safe-for-the-whole-family approach that lends the company a certain toothless lameness they like to guard above everything else, and with only a few instances of hints toward something more, they usually get drowned out in a sea of general mediocrity that marches under the Disney banner. But before Disney had such a big ego about themselves, they (and most specifically founder Walt Disney) did manage to put out some quality products that at least can be viewed as still standing the test of time even today - at least better than many of their more modern cinematic "jewels". And if one needed to really point out the one film in the Disney canon that truly tried to be something more than just a plain cartoon, then that film would undoubtedly be Fantasia. Originally intended as a vehicle to re-popularize Mickey Mouse, the rising costs of the single Mickey short ended up making Walt take up an earlier idea brought about by flamboyant conductor Leopold Stokowski to change the concept into a full-length film in the vein of their earlier Silly Symphonies shorts by choosing various pieces of classical music and setting animation to go with the selections instead of having the music act as simple accompaniment to the actual story. The results turned out to create perhaps the single Disney film that can also be considered as a true piece of art; a film that was a pioneering masterpiece of both style and innovation.
Coming out in 1940 the film, however, fell far short of expectations, and despite original plans to make Fantasia an ongoing Disney feature, the lack of decent commercial revenue - combined with the expense of making it in the first place and the technical difficulties regarding its "Fantasound" not being available for most theatres (as well as WW2 biting the European market off) - left the film as being an interesting, but ultimately failed, experiment. It wasn't until the 1970s that audiences started to truly discover the film upon its reissue in 1969, finally starting to bring back profit after its initial creation, and over that time has gained a reputation of being somewhat of a cult classic among other Disney productions. Now it probably would be fair to say that if you're expecting movies to have a major story, then Fantasia may not entirely work for you since aside from the central "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" section (set to Paul Dukas' symphonic scherzo of the same name) with Mickey Mouse as a wizard's apprentice who gets his hands on his master's magical hat, brings a broom to life so that it can do his water-carrying duties for him, and eventually looses control of his creation, none of the other sections really offer a "story" as such. More than anything, Fantasia is more like an art house film with emphasis on its visual aspects rather than any real story impetus. That's not to say there is no story to tell in the other sections, of course, but none have the deliberately dramatic "plot" of Apprentice in as much as being choreographed scenes with musical accompaniment. That said, though not really the best segment in the film, Apprentice does hold within it a certain musical rhythmic style, and even though I can say I like Mickey Mouse about as much as I can call myself a Scottish lord, I must say he does manage to look particularly epic in his dream scene standing above a mountain top, and commanding down stars and tidal waves... before becoming as pathetic as he usually is.
The two sequences that fit the most into the idea of choreographed musical setting I mentioned above, though, are obviously the two sections using ballet music (Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda), the former featuring fairies of the forest between the changing seasons (the more beautifully artistic of the two), and the latter being a full-on ballet sequence with ballerina ostriches and hippos rumbling together with elephants and villainous crocodiles (this the more clearly humorous one). Both sequences are fun and entertaining in their own ways, but I do hold a preference to The Nutcracker segment just for its more ethereal qualities than the Hours' more slapsticky feeling of comedy (though I'd suspect for younger viewers it would be the opposite). Related to in a way, but being less obviously "dancy" than the ballet segments, is the lengthy section featuring various creatures from Greek mythology attending a bacchanal in the countryside, set to the music of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, complete with its flying horses, satyrs, centaurs, and even Greek gods having a go at the party by creating a violent storm for their own amusement. While this segment does tend to be somewhat rambling in its imagery, it nevertheless offers a colourful bit of fun, which is particularly welcome after the previous number of Stravinsky's violent Rite of Spring (though don't try to find the excised racial stereotype of a black centaur servant that has famously been permanently got rid of from this sequence in the 1960s). But it is really the remaining segments that make for the biggest impact over any of the other already mentioned sections above. Perhaps the hardest to get into for those expecting more Silly Symphonies type of comedy alike the Pastoral and Hours parts, is the opening D Minor Toccata and Fugue of J.S. Bach as orchestrated by Stokowski himself in 1926. This is the most abstract that Fantasia gets with its silhouettes of the orchestra, pictorial images inspired by the instruments themselves mixed with nature effects, and ending with a powerful image of Stokowski himself silhouetted against a blazing sunrise as the work thunders to its stern closure. It is one of those segments that needs one to appreciate more surrealism and abstract art to fully get the interpretation of sound exemplified by its imagery, and in its way actually makes for a great opening alike a classic opera overture. Personally being a fan of this type of stuff, I found this fascinating, but again at nearly 10 minutes will leave some twitching in their seats.
However, the two remaining segments truly trump up pretty much anything else in the entire film. The Rite of Spring is one of the longest pieces of this film and is the only one featuring more avant-garde music. Stravinsky was the only still living composer when Fantasia was made and thus had more of an opportunity to observe the usage of his music first hand, though he had no direct input on the editing and performance of the music itself. The segment essentially deals with evolution, beginning with the creation of the world, the eventual appearance of life (sea creatures and dinosaurs), and finally the extinction of the dinosaurs, showing a primal Earth undergoing tumultuous changes that not only brings life, but also indiscriminate death to all eventually. It was originally supposed to include history up to the coming of man, but length considerations and protests from creationists made Disney condense the ideas significantly to just the extinction of dinosaurs. Still, it is one of the more powerful segments of the film in both its primal power as well as its unapologetic sense of realism (the fight between the Tyrannosaurus and the Stegosaurus, and the final march of death of the dinosaurs in the blistering desert heat are quite gripping moments). But perhaps the most famous segment aside from Apprentice in the entire film comes last with the hellish Chernabog (a pagan god closely resembling Satan) having an orgy with ghosts and imps during Walpurgis Nacht on Bald Mountain overlooking a small village, all set to another Stokowski-made arrangement of Mussorgsky's tone-poem Night on Bare Mountain. It is one of the most phantasmagorical and shocking of Disney's creations (seeing the company's reputation today), and the devil Chernabog is a very effectively frightening entity, sure to make anybody more familiar with modern Disney wonder how the company ever managed to put something like this into anything they've made (note to soccer moms: yes, there is very slight nudity here as well). This segment of pure evil is then beautifully contrasted with a segue to the serenity of Schubert's Ave Maria, as a congregation of monks carrying torches walks in solemn procession in a forest toward the ruins of a monastery just as the morning sun climbs up to wash away the horrors of the night for a remarkably spiritual conclusion without ever feeling like it is tacked on in the end as if some kind of an overbearing Christian moralistic message.
On the whole Fantasia is a remarkable film in both its technical achievements - particularly in regards to its pioneering sound recording techniques in film - as well as in its overall vision that showcases multiple different scenarios without ever feeling like a disjointed series of individual shorts. The film is all bridged together with the narrative bits of music critic Deems Taylor, who prefaces all the various segments with his little informative bits, and also includes a small interlude with explaining how a soundtrack works. For all intents and purposes, though, the Taylor narrated bits are perhaps the only truly weak spot of the film. Taylor was well-known for his more light-hearted discussions on music that didn't focus on too much technicalities, but his narration in Fantasia is strangely stiff and dry. There's nothing really of much interest he has to say, and he comes across more stodgy and dated when you watch the film today. Thankfully these bits aren't terribly long, and the real meat of the film is more than enough to dwindle these problems to nothing. While one must admit that Fantasia is probably one of those movies you are likely to either appreciate or then wonder what the point of it all was - and with the filmmaking here most likely ringing either boring or strange to younger people's ADHD sensibilities - it can't be denied that Fantasia is a real experience, and its 1990 restoration has made the film look as if it was made just yesterday. The original plan for Fantasia was to rotate one of the older segments with a new one each year to make the film an ongoing project, but this idea quickly fell through when the film failed to make a profit in its initial showings. And in a way I'm glad that these original plans ended up falling through simply for making the original film much more of a unique one-off rather than something that could ultimately have devolved into a random clipshow of disjointed segments that could never really be compiled into a sensible whole. However, should you want to have Fantasia on DVD or Blu-ray, you better act now as per Disney's moratorium practices, Fantasia will once again be made unavailable by the company by the end of this month. I'm just glad I was finally given a chance to buy this film after such a long time of wanting it, making it sad that now still many more will likely end up being in the same position as I was prior to this for who knows for how long (as if I needed one more reason to hate Disney). Regardless, whatever individual flaws Fantasia has as a film, it remains as one of Disney's most significant creations, as well as a historically important film. For animation buffs with significant art house leanings, it is a must-have.
© berlioz, 2011
Fantasia is the third full-length Walt Disney animation made (after Snow White and Pinnochio) and is an absolute classic.
The film is made up of a series of shorter animations, rather than one long feature, set to pieces of classical music. The most famous story is about Mickey Mouse, who is a magician's apprentice, abusing his limited magical powers and reaping the consequences! Other animations include a dark beast on a mountain conjuring up demons, dancing hippopotamus' and an animated woodland filled with fairies and mushrooms, all very imaginative scenes which instill relaxation, fear, and amusement upon its audience.
While there is no single, exciting, climactic plot, and a lack of any dialogue, this is what makes this DVD so unique and enjoyable. The superb, lovingly produced hand-drawings and fantastically fitting musical pieces provide all the emotional and dramatic background for viewers to interpret further with their imaginations.
This DVD is incredibly worthwhile to stimulate childrens imaginations and understanding of music, and to inspire adults.
This beautifully animated wonder takes a step away from typical Disney - although it still features a sequence with Mickey Mouse, there is very little spoken word. Instead, classical music leads you through a myriad of animation shorts, the most well-known is arguably The Sorcerers' Apprentice (featuring a certain Mr. Mouse).
Although it's not aimed at any particular age group, Fantasia might be a little dull for older children, or kids who thrive on fast-paced Japanese/American animation. However, even if you begin to tire of it, it's worth sticking with, as there are some stunning sequences to be enjoyed, featuring dancing mushrooms (a personal favourite there), hippos in tutus, dancing soundwaves, Bacchus and a longer animation featuring pegasii (it's quite possible I've just made that word up - flying horses if you prefer).
If you're looking for standard Disney fare, you'll be disappointed, but if you enjoy classical music and are willing to view this with an open mind, you'll fall in love with what can only be described as a niche gem. For a film that's older than my parents (that's damn old!) at 66 years old, this still holds its' weight against a lot of more modern kids films.
One of my grandaughters favourite films has always been Fantastia which is the beautiful Disney film that features Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerers Apprentice.
It is an unusual childrens film because there is only a few words spoken in the whole film and the rest is classical music whcih in its way tells the story along with the beautiful Disney animation.
The music is lovely and I think this film introduces children to classical music in a lighthearted way because children will take to something fun like a cartoon much better than they would if I was to put a Mozart CD on. The animation is clever and very attractive to adults and children, it is drawn in a fun way and everything looks fun and adventurous.
Mickey Mouse is cute and smart like always and the lack of talking does not remove any of his character in Fantastia. I like the way he is constantly running around the screen watching views that the music has conjoured up and when he makes a mistake and uses his magic and causes chaos the panic in his movements reminds me of a child who has been very naughty and is about to be found out.
The other characters in the film are very good too. I like the little demons that come out to get into mischief and I think the looks on their faces when the sun comes out and they have to stop what they are doing is very comical. I like the brooms too when Mickey Mouse acts out the old famous scene from the Sorcerers Apprentice. He tries to use his magic to get his chores done without having to work himself but the brooms come to life and leave the room in a huge mess that is much worse that it was before he did his spell.
All the way through Fantasia the music holds mine and the childrens attention and so do the colours because one scene can be very bright and psycadelic and the next will be dark and foreboding. It is a lovely mix of light and dark all the way through the film. I also like the clever way that Disney have used just the right music for the scene and they have used lots and lots of well known classical music which you will recognise even if you cannot put your finger on quite what the name of the piece is.
There are no extras on my DVD because it was a cheap one but my grandaughters own copy at her house has facts about the more well known pieces of music in the film and an interview from the 1940s with some of the original composers and musicians.
I don't think you would like to read my opinion - but here it goes: Fantasia is the type of movie you leave on in the background just to hear it - I had to stop watching it through intense boredom. My children said that they were glad that we only rented it out instead of buying it. The music is well rounded and fluctuated in a classical style and the animation is ok too, but we all know of Mickey Mouse, and I myself prefere to see him walking and talking - messing things up or hanging around with Donald as something goes disasterous. Fantasia is a one-timer, I believe, and should never reach the heights of stardom like The Matrix has. It will remain a classic - but a classic it stays. JtheF
Fantasia was the fourth feature length animated film ever made, following Disney's own Snow White and Pinocchio, and Fleischer Studio's Gulliver's Travels. It was also the second animated feature that year for Disney's busy cartoonists, as Pinocchio had been released in February of 1940. Snow White, Pinocchio, and Disney's next classic, Dumbo (1941) were all better than Fantasia. But Fantasia is generally the more highly regarded film today. While this assessment is not correct, it is understandable. Fantasia does have some advantages over its fraternal Disney rivals. The score, featuring some of the most familiar classical compositions performed by one of the best orchestras, is outstanding. The concept is original, ambitious, and daring. Only a studio as successful as Disney could have attempted it without risking bankruptcy. Fantasia began as an innovative Mickey Mouse short, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". Mickey learns how quickly one can get into trouble when assuming skills not truly possessed. Still the centerpiece and most famous sequence from the film, it was used again in the recent Fantasia 2000. The short had cost so much money to make that Walt Disney decided he could only get his investment back if it was part of a feature film. But instead of cutting his losses, Disney extended them, and it decades would pass before Fantasia became profitable. The problem was not initial reviews. In fact, critics who saw the film were generally pleased. The film won an honorary Oscar, and made many year end top ten lists, including that of the New York Times. The problem was that Disney would not distribute the film to theaters that lacked suitable acoustics. Many areas of the country would not see the film until 1942, if then. Disney had, in fact, made a very good film, but one that was seemingly targeted to a narrow audience of intellectuals and art patrons. Fantasia was Art with
a capital 'A'. The narration, while witty, was highbrow, as was the score. While some of the animated sequences had appeal to children, others might be tedious for them. Or scare them out of their wits, such as when all the dinosaurs suffer extended grisly deaths from dehydration, or the evil god of the night summons the dead from their graves. One unexpected audience for the film emerged during the 1960s: pot smokers, who rumored that the animators must have been stoned to make such a surreal film. But most of the stories had origins in famous stage operas, with Disney adding pretensions such as 'the history of the world' (which apparently ends with its destruction, without humans ever having been around). The difficulty of the animation has to be recognized. Sometimes, the movement of every frame is synchronized to changes in the soundtrack. The vast number of directors used (sixteen are credited) demonstrates that many teams of animators were tackling different parts of the film at the same time. All of these disparate pieces had to be tied together. This was done through the narration, which accompanies silhouetted images of conductor Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Some frames of Fantasia have been altered to suit modern political correctness. One scene allegedly had a black centaur shining the hooves of a white counterpart. You won't find it on your VHS copy. Narrator Deems Taylor was a music critic and radio host for the New York Philharmonic. Walt Disney himself supplied the voice for Mickey Mouse. Bela Lugosi was the live action model for Tchernabog (or Chernobog), the evil god of the night in the "Night on Bald Mountain" sequence. While the ambition and originality of Fantasia is undeniable, it lacks the cohesiveness and energy of the best Disney features of the era. For example, compare "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" with the scene o
f Snow White dancing with Dopey while he is on another dwarf's shoulders. The latter scene is far more dynamic and colorful, with richer characters and emotions. But Fantasia is literally a high wateich he plays a significant role. While Mickey has long been Disney's mascot, his fame originated from cartoon shorts in the 1920s and 1930s that most people today have never seen. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is the best alternative to his current image as theme park greeter.
Groundbreaking on several counts, not the least of which was an innovative use of animation and stereophonic sound, this ambitious Disney feature has lost nothing to time since its release in 1940. Classical music was interpreted by Disney animators, resulting in surreal fantasy and playful escapism. Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra provided the music for eight segments by the composers Tchaikovsky, Moussorgsky, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Ponchielli, Bach, Dukas and Schubert. Not all the sequences were created equally, but a few are simply glorious, such as "Night on Bald Mountain", "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "The Nutcracker Suite". The animation ranges from subtly delicate to fiercely bold. The screen bursts with colour and action as creatures transmute and convention is thrust aside. The painstaking detail and saturated hues are unique to this film, unmatched even by more advanced technology. --Rochelle O'GormanFantasia and Fantasia 2000 are also available together in the 3-disc DVD Fantasia Collection.