Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Classic Films I've Never Seen: Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940)

This is the first entry in a series of classic Golden Age films that, you guessed it: I've never seen! We begin with Walt Disney's Fantasia from 1940. I've never had the chance to watch what looks to be a beautifully rendered animated film set to classical music. I'm aware of what the movie contains, and I also realize that there was some abomination of a remake in 2000, the coincidentally named Fantasia 2000, which I avoided at the time because I didn't want that to be my first exposure to the concept. Perhaps 2010 is the year that Disney will open its vaults and allow me to procure a copy of the 1940 "real deal" original--without censorious cuts, either.

I blame my not having seen Fantasia for having come of age in the late '70-early '80s, a time when the Walt Disney studio largely abandoned quality animation and instead focused on live-action epics like Snowball Express, Herbie, The North Avenue Irregulars, Freaky Friday, and The Cat from Outer Space. Nothing against those films, as I liked them all and even nursed a crush on Barbara Harris, too. I must also admit that my attention was given over to "gritty" fare like Star Wars and The Six Million Dollar Man. Still, even as a hair helmeted seven-year-old dope I knew that Disney had a reputation as an animation powerhouse and I wanted to see more of the magic I'd witnessed in Pinocchio (say the word a hundred times and it ceases to sound like a name) and Dumbo. I wasn't really interested in the animated offerings they did release during my own childhood, as they never appealed to me like the one-after-the-other masterworks they cranked out with frightening regularity in both the animated feature length and animated short films.

From what I've seen of Fantasia, it looks marvelous. Disney always gets credit for their wonderful animation--no one, but no one ever rendered water in motion like Disney. Yes, I'm easily entertained, but the Disney crew earned their reputation for excellence. Even if the scripts of most Mickey Mouse cartoons were lacking, it never mattered to me--remember my stance on plotlines--because the animation was always hypnotically watchable and it looks as though Fantasia's animation might've been the peak of that brilliance. I can't wait for the day I see it.

Postscript: In looking up Fantasia, numerous pictures of some singer come up; who the heck is she???


  1. Awww! A childhood favorite. I remember seeing this on the big screen when they re-released it in the '70s sometime. I got to see it quite a bit growing up, not quite sure how now. Did they play it on tv? Hm. Anyway, this is my favorite Disney animated movie over any of the storied ones.

  2. My dad bought Fantasia on VHS for my brothers and I when we were kids. We loved it, even when some stories are kind of boring for a child...My favorite stories/classic melodies are "A Night on Bald Mountain" (scary!!), "Symphony No. 6" & "Rite of Spring". "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" has great animation, but it's weird to watch Mickey in such a nightmare-ish sequence. Greetins from Chile.

  3. Saw this once on the big screen. It's a confection.

    Who is the singer Fantasia? It really doesn't matter.

  4. A masterful translation of classical music into animation! This was an introduction of children (and the others) to classical music par excellence. Computer age destroyed the magic.

  5. The only part I like of Fantasia is The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Trivia: Do you know why the Sorcerer's name is Yensid? Hold the computer up to the mirror to figure out the answer!

    Was the singer African American? A few years ago on American Idol there was a singer named Fantasia. Maybe its her!

  6. Pick up the DVD, you are in for a treat, even if some sequences are a bit slow. I did a post on the "Night on Bald Mountain" part on my monster blog. Click on the "Disney" tag and you'll find it.

  7. The remake isn't as bad as all that. The Al Hirshfeld-inspired sequence is brilliant and the Donald Duck/Noah's Ark is quite funny. There also some good animation moments here and there. The original is better, of course, but it has some moments where it drags.

  8. I loved the original Fantasia! My parents bought the VHS (I'm dating myself there). Some parts frightened me but mostly it was a visual feast.

    As for the singer, I looked her up. She's an American Idol winner (which accounts for the popularity in web searches) who was born in 1984.

    Perhaps her parents or grandparents were big fans of the Disney film and named her after it. Or maybe she was named after that magical land in The Neverending Story which was released in 1984.

    Anyway, if we keep talking about the movie version, maybe we can usurp her reign over web searches. :)

  9. I loved Fantasia as a child! There were certain parts in particular that I would rewind and watch over and over -- I don't know the names of the pieces, unfortunately.

    The VHS is probably still in my room at my parents' house, come to think of it. I might have to watch it again if I can get home anytime soon.

  10. I love Fantasia! Some of the most beautiful animation can be seen in this film. I remember watching Fantasia on VHS as a kid and I think it really turned me on to classical music.

  11. Belated reply... Fantasia is my favorite Disney film and, I think, Disney's pinnacle of animation as an art form. It was really daring experimentation for a time when no one was really THAT clear on what animation was good for. Snow White, the first feature-length animations, only came out three years before.

    It's what I point to when people accuse Disney of crassness and cutesy animals. Of course, the hipsterati at the time accused Fantasia that too, but compared to now it's a masterpiece. It's also good for making the acquaintance of Hollywood's darling conductor, Leopold Stokowski.

    Unfortunately, the last DVD release was flawed. Because some of the found footage of narrator Deems Taylor had some audio problems, they dubbed over Taylor's voice for the whole. The dubbed voice was greatly inferior to Taylor's own, however. It bothers me so much that I just skip the narrations altogether when I watch it (which also tends to happen after you've seen it enough anyways... It's useful for just bumping to the sequences you like and skipping the others). If you want to see the whole thing right off the bat, I recommend the last VHS release.

    But, fingers crossed, hope always springs eternal for a much-deserved Platinum edition.


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