“Then the music begins to suggest other things to your imagination…”
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that Fantasia was Disney’s attempt “to impress the highbrow audience”, but he “was viciously attacked for taking much leeway with the music and for being so pretentious as to try to teach others about classical music when he himself was completely ignorant of the art”. Peary argues that “today one will probably be less upset by the mishandling of the music … than by the repetition of the images (characters napping, reflections on water); the lack of good personality animation (a Disney trademark) as characters of the same type tend to act identically; and the predictable way that nature goes haywire in almost every sequence… and the way scenes end as they begin, in tranquility.” Bah, humbug, Peary! In our post-modern era, the complaint that music can possibly be “mishandled” by an artist attempting to use it for secondary purposes seems naive at best — and while some of the imagery and/or thematic constructs may be repetitive, the animation is so consistently well-drawn and creatively conceived that one doesn’t really mind. Meanwhile, “good personality” isn’t exactly what one expects in a film like this.
Despite his grumpy overall attitude, however, Peary does call out a number of the film’s undeniable highlights — including “the exciting ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’, starring Mickey Mouse and featuring a cosmic storm and march of the brooms; the creation of the world in ‘The Rite of Spring’ with otherworldly Kubrick-like shots of a newly formed volcanic landscape; ‘Dance of the Hours’, which has acrobatic ostriches, hippos in tutus, elephants, and alligators parodying ballet with a knockabout dance; and the spooky ‘Night on Bald Mountain’, featuring Vlad Tytla‘s magnificent demon”.
Interestingly, sixty years later, Disney Studios released Fantasia 2000, consisting of six new vignettes (and the original “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” thrown in for good measure). This is in keeping with Disney’s original intent for the film, which he envisioned as a true cult favorite which would stay in theaters permanently, with new vignettes gradually inserted over time. To that end, I should note that the Hollywood Bowl screening also included a couple of “new” vignettes — such as the Dali-inspired “Destino”, and the never-completed segment “Clair de Lune”. Very fitting, indeed.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)