Disney Animated Features
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Sequel: Fantasia 2000
Release Date: 13 November 1940
Walt Disney pioneered many things and had many ambitious plans -- from cartoons with sound to the modern theme park. However, it's possible that his crowning acheivement was this film, Fantasia.
Fantasia was unlike anything that had come before, and unlike anything that came after, until Fantasia 2000. Disney, perhaps expanding on the idea of his Silly Symphonies, and under the advice of Leopold Stokowski, wanted to expose audiences to 'great' music via animation. He set his animators to work on one of the most groundbreaking films of all time.
The result is nothing less than a tour de force. The film contains seven segments, representing eight different compositions, plus some introductory segments. The segments:
- "Toccata and Fugue" in D minor, Johann Sebastian Bach
- Selections from The Nutcracker Suite, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- "L'apprenti Sorcier" ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice"), Paul Dukas
- "The Rite of Spring", Igor Stravinsky
- "The Pastoral Symphony", Ludwig van Beethoven
- "Dance of the Hours" (from La Gioconda), Amilcare Ponchielli
- "A Night on Bald Mountain"/"Ave Maria", Modest Mussorgsky/Franz Schubert
The score was performed by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestera
, conducted by Leopold Stokowski
The film did not do well at the box office, which, after Pinocchio, was beginning to look like a trend. World War II may have affected ticket sales, although the United States had not yet entered the war.
Another problem with Fantasia was the extensive sound setup recommended by Disney. For this film, the company developed a surround sound system called Fantasound, which employed ninety speakers throughout an auditorium. Theaters had to be specially equipped to handle Fantasound, and although it wasn't required, it was something Disney and Stokowski felt was almost essential to the experience. Needless to say, very few theaters installed this expensive sound system.
In time, however, Fantasia came to be recognized as one of Disney's greatest film acheivements. And it earned some early critical praise; Disney, Stokowski, and others received an honorary Academy Award: "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."
Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de/~fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.