Fantasia (1940)


I do love Disney and the wonder it can communicate is second to none at times but with this film, in which ashamedly I’d only seen a few segments of, I found myself mightily bored on the most part. There are some unquestionably magical moments, beauty and music work in harmony well a lot of the time but it’s very hit and miss and I just don’t get the universal praise it has.

This film, the third Disney movie is narrated by Deems Taylor who briefly explains orchestral suites before telling the audience how the works will be interpreted by Walt Disney and his animators. So it’s a combination of classical music with visual stories, some concrete tales and others abstract as they come. It’s conducted by Leopold Stokowski and there are eight sections in all.

It can’t be denied that the sounds of the Philadelphia Orchestra are amazing and of course music is a tool that stirs up imagery, so it only makes sense that this film plays on that but some of the images stirred up are slow or downright mad that they don’t work or bring about boredom. If a child saw this, I could only see them liking little animated moments but on the whole I’m sure they’d find it uninteresting, there’s not the clear cut beginning middle and end structure with characters to identify with. It’s perhaps too different and abstract to really be deemed a classic. I get it changed things with music and visual and that’s impressive but it’s not just fantastic.

There are some elevated moments that take you out of the declining slump you feel yourself sliding into and thanks to the return of a then less popular Mickey Mouse, that Disney magic starts to worm back into your being. It goes without saying that ‘The Sorcerers Apprentice’ is a recognisable sequence and the score by Paul Dukas mirrors the fantastical and worrying story of Mickey and his quest to stop working really well. The bouncy feel of it lifts the film especially after the frankly dull Nutcracker suite interpretation of fish and flowers that came before.

The entire section with dancing ostriches, hippos, crocodiles and elephants is bonkers. The ‘Dance of the Hours’ music isn’t that energetic or interesting enough to make the animated ballet come alive and so that’s another moment that had potential but fell to the curb. It’s like the ‘Rite of Spring’ which had moments of volcanic fury and dinosaur beauty but at times it lagged or never inspired which as a fan of dinosaurs is a real sad thing. It’s a film, that I feel, comes across as misguided, it has grand intentions and some of those strike the bullseye but the majority get lost on the path to the target board.

There are fun and quirky moments such as the quite brilliant post intermission chat with the soundtrack, which is a cool and unique idea and as the vertical character responds with waves of trumpet or violin sounds you get that feeling of magic and wonder that Disney is so renowned for. In some of the sections there are cute and fun things to watch so it’s not all bad, the Olympus cartoon with the rites of the multiple baby Cupids helping lady centaurs is nice to see unfold and the cute baby Pegasus might capture some little children’s imaginations as a character to love but it’s Mickey who steals the show as the wannabe wizard who dreams bigger than he’s capable and so the story of heart, ambition and power manifest into the famous mop and water calamity.

An undeniable quest of brilliance into exploring two art forms in different methods but it sometimes loses impact or interest with some slightly slow segments. It can quickly become boring but there are patches of wonder that save it from being the worst Disney film.



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