Cert: U Runtime: 124 mins Cast: Leopold Stokowski and Deems Taylor
What you’re going to see on the screen are the designs and pictures and stories that music inspired in the minds and imaginations of a group of artists. In other words, these are not going to be the interpretations of trained musicians, which I think is all to the good
An innovative and revolutionary animated classic from Walt Disney, combining Western classical music masterpieces with imaginative visuals, presented with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The eight animation sequences are colorful, impressive, free-flowing, abstract, and often surrealistic pieces. They include the most famous of all, Paul Dukas’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with Mickey Mouse as the title character battling brooms carrying endless buckets of water. Also included are J.S. Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”; Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite”; dinosaurs and volcanoes in Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”; the delightful “Dance of the Hours” by Ponchielli with dancing hippos, crocodiles, ostriches, and elephants; and Mussorgsky’s darkly apocalyptic “Night on Bald Mountain.”
Fantasia is the most amazing animated movie I have ever seen. It may not have the humor of Finding Nemo, nor the simple message of Dumbo. It’s so different from anything else the House of Mouse ever created. But it may well be the best. It’s a collection of short subjects with little or no plot, but what makes the compilation unique is that it’s all matched to classical music, beautifully conducted by Leopold Stokowski, and bridged by live-action footage of the silhouettes of an orchestra, narrated by Deems Taylor. Besides these sequences, there isn’t a word of dialog.Toccata and Fugue in D Minor: This is nothing but an abstract piece of animation. You see the strings of the cello, the violin, and lots of stripes and shapes that leave trails of color in their wake. Magnificently matched to the music. There’s not really that much to explain, just images.The Nutcracker Suite: An ode to nature based on Tchaikowsky’s six dances. Each dance is performed by the most unlikely dancers. Fairies, goldfish, thistles and many more perform the dances, but best of all is Art Babbit’s Chinese Dance sequence, with mushrooms. The highlight of the sequence is Hob Low, a little mushroom who seems to lag behind the rest of the impeccable act. Brilliantly animated by Babbit, one of the best sequences in the movie. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An old story starring Mickey Mouse and the intimidating wizard Yen Sid (guess what that spells backwards!), matched to Dukas’ symphony. This is without a doubt MM’s greatest performance. The animation, especially Ugo O’Dorsi’s brilliant effects, is impeccable. Funny and dramatic at the same time, everyone who’s ever heard of Mickey Mouse should see The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
The Rite of Spring: Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre was originally meant to signify prehistory, but Disney has taken it much further than a series of old tribal dances. The Rite of Spring starts out at the dawn of the planet, zooming in on our tormented home, spewing lava and rocks. Powerful scenes of the elements that ran amok, without utilizing computers at all (well, they hadn’t been invented yet). Then, we skip to the beginnings of life, from the life and death struggle of big bacterium vs. little bacterium. Skip to the dinosaurs, and the constant tyranny of the tyrannosaurus. Many powerful dramatic scenes, beautifully set to the music, until desertification, starvation, a tidal wave and an earthquake wipes out the dinosaurs. Marvelous. One of the best shorts in animation history.The Pastoral Symphony: Ludwig Van Beethoven’s masterpiece, instead of portraying the countryside, takes place in a mythological setting. From Pegasus’ family, and the adventures of the little black Baby Pegasus. Next movement revolves around the attempts of a bunch of butt-naked baby cupids trying to bring together single centaurs and centaurettes. Next, the exploits of the amorous and extremely drunk Bacchus and Jacchus, who join in the centaurs’ wine-making. But all is interrupted by Zeus, who chucks lightning bolts at the lot till he’s bored. Next movement, and order is restored, the sun sets, and Diana fires a comet into the sky. Wonderfully animated, and perfectly matched to great music.The Dance of the Hours: Ostriches, elephants, hippos and alligators dance to Ponchielli’s ballet, in a nobleman’s castle, revolving around the leader of the gators, Ben Ali Gator’s crush on Hyacinth Hippo. Beautifully animated, wonderful comic relief amidst a storm of serious art. It would’ve been just as successful as a short cartoon. Hilarious!
A Night On Bald Mountain and Ave Maria: One word: Chernabog. You have to see it to believe it. IS Bald Mountain REALLY a mountain? No, it’s the crouching figure of Chernabog, a demon who calls all manner of grotesque, undead, and demonic things to himself, and tortures them in a hellish manner, disposing of them at will. Absolutely terrifying cacodemonic animation coupled with Moussorgsky’s dramatic, intimidating score. But as dawn approaches, torch-bearing pilgrims, and Schubert’s Ave Maria in the background, subdue Chernabog and the demons, and they return to the Underworld as a masterpiece ends. Vladimir Tytla is the only man who could possible have pulled off this dramatic, spell bindingly horrific sequence. The best piece of animation ever. Fantasia is something special. Music, comedy, and unadulterated evil. That’s a strange mixture. But two hours of these elements come together to make what may be the best movie ever. Fantasia will amaze ya. 7.8/10