Happy Birthday Fantasia

Fantasia is a weird entry in the Disney canon but it is maybe one of its more original cartoons.  It is a collection of short films accompanied by beautiful music. From a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon to a demon who summons souls from the dead. The film has famous music accompany all its famous stories.

In 1936 Walt Disney decided that the company needed to raise Mickey Mouse popularity and developed the Sorcerer Apprentice based on a Goethe short story.  But he wanted to go beyond the usual slapstick, and produce shorts where “sheer fantasy unfolds … action controlled by a musical pattern has great charm in the realm of unreality.” He wanted to combine it with to the orchestral piece by Paul Dukas. Disney met with Leopold Stokowski, conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra to score the film. But they felt that the story need to be extend and came up with the other shorts by creating cartoons around the beautiful music which ended to be an incredible endeavor because of its complexity. But the end was not in sight because the distributor, the RKO, wasn’t too pleased with such a long cartoon with only music. To promote the release of the film they both agreed on 13 roadshows throughout the United States. After that the problems between the RKO and Disney continued on the length of the film and they finally found an arrangement with its 1h40 running time.

The film wasn’t an immediate success at the box-office.  But the strategy of Disney was longevity, the company decided to bring it back to the screen every few years. More and more people discovered the magic of the music and short stories.  Looking back now we discover how many generations the film touched and how it influenced other films. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice  was the title of a video game in the 80’ from grandmaster Atari and also a film in 2010. Both had different concepts but shared the same base: the Mickey Mouse cartoon.  A Live-concert tour was also organized all the around the world.

All the film elements have European influences; from the music pieces they chose to adapt to the stories from European literature grandmasters. This film is Disney’s homage to Europe.

Stanley Berenboom

One Comment

  1. It is a relatively simpel concept but executed with such splendour.
    I must have seen it about a dozen times as a kid. It’ll have played a pivotal role in what would later turn into a deep fondness of classical music.Thanks mum for buying the VHS and parking our little butts in front of this remarkable film!

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