Fantasia is a 1940 animated film from Walt Disney and the third entry in the Disney Animated Canon. It's a surreal, yet classic blend of animation and classical music, often considered to have been ahead of its time back in the day. Another way to describe it as is Silly Symphonies: The Movie.The film consists of animated sequences synchronized to classic pieces of music. They are as follows:
The Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No. 6), composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. During this part of the film, mythical creatures such as centaurs, cupids, satyrs, unicorns, and Pegasi prance around, and attend a festival for the god Bacchus/Dionysus, only to have it interrupted by Jupiter/Zeus and Vulcan/Hephaestus.
Dance of the Hours, composed by Amilcare Ponchielli. In this sequence, ballet-dancing anthropomorphic animals (ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators), representing both times of day (morning, noon, evening and night) dance in time to the music.
Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria, composed by Modest Mussorgsky and Franz Schubert, respectively. The first half of this sequence is probably the most frightening sequence in Disney animation, featuring Chernabog (who is essentially the Devil, instead of an actual Slavic Pagan deity) raising the dead from the grave. The sequence leads to a contrasting sequence to the calm tune of Ave Maria, featuring religious villagers walking through a forest and an old cathedral.
Fantasia wasn't well received during its initial release. While it did modestly well, it still became the first big flop of the Walt Disney Company, since it didn't earn back the fortune invested in it (including massive revamps of a number of theaters to introduce Fantasound). Especially since Pinocchio wasn't a large success either. Only decades later, near the end of the 1960s, did it become a Cult Classic and Vindicated by History as a hallowed masterpiece of western animation. Still, the movie has its critics who claim the film bungles between pretentious artsy fartyness and grotesque kitsch.A sequel was made in 1999: Fantasia 2000.note Yes, the movie called Fantasia 2000 was released in the year 1999. Unlike most Disney sequels, this one was actually in accordance with Walt Disney's intent; the original idea was to update the film every year, animating one or two new songs every time and rotating older ones out of the print to make room for the fresh material. In addition, the prestige of being in a Fantasia film meant that Disney had no trouble lining up celebrities to introduce the various sections of film.The sequences in this one include:
Symphony No. 5, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. Like Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, this is an "abstract" sequence, featuring butterfly-like triangles flitting about.
Rhapsody in Blue, composed by George Gershwin. In this sequence, several city people in 1930s New York go about their lives, set to the lively jazz-inspired music of Gershwin with visuals inspired by the drawings of Al Hirschfeld.
The Carnival of the Animals, Finale composed by Camille Saint-SaŽns. This one centers on a flamingo playing with a yo-yo, much to the disapproval of his peers.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice, back by popular demand.
Pomp and Circumstance, composed by Edward Elgar. This scene is based on the story of Noah's Ark, featuring Donald Duck as Noah's assistant.
Firebird Suite, composed by Igor Stravinsky. A sprite brings spring to a forest, only to accidentally awaken the destructive Firebird.
Disney later planned an international-themed follow-up, called Fantasia/2006, and later Fantasia World. After the cancellation of its theatrical release, some of the completed shorts received limited or direct-to-video releases. Disney announced plans to include the feature on the Blu-Ray set of the 1940 and 2000 Fantasia movies, but by the time the discs actually came out, they decided to only include one short.The sequences prepared for this one include:
Destino, composed by Armando Dominguez. The long-awaited result of a collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali, this short depicts a woman dancing her way through DalŪ-inspired environments and the doomed love the god Chronos has for her. Premiered at a 2003 French film festival, and became available to own on the Fantasia Blu-Ray collection.
The Little Match Girl (Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2 in D Major, composed by Alexander Borodin). Disney relocates the Hans Christian Andersen story to Russia, but otherwise adapts it to a surprisingly faithful extent. Included on the 2006 Platinum Edition DVD of another Disney-produced adaptation of an Andersen story: The Little Mermaid.
One By One, composed by Lebo M. This short features South African children preparing and flying colorful kites to the accompaniment of a deleted The Lion King song. Included on the 2004 "Special Edition" DVD of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
Lorenzo, composed by Osvaldo Ruggiero. A cat is jinxed into having a tail with a separate personality. Premiered during the theatrical release of the 2004 Kate Hudson movie Raising Helen, but has yet to receive a DVD or Blu-Ray release.
Adult Fear: When Rachel's parents look out their office windows (after the ball bounces off them) and see their daughter running into crazy traffic.
Amazing Technicolor Population: Rhapsody in Blue does this to everyone no matter their race, keeping with the cool tones of the style. This also applies in "Pastoral Symphony" for everyone, notably the centaurs.
In the original theatrical release, there was a centaur named Sunflower, with glossy black DONKEY (not horse) parts, brown human parts, and a stereotypical blackface head. Her function was to serve the others—polishing their hooves, bringing them refreshments, etc. She was removed from theatrical rereleases after 1969 and is missing from home video releases.
Pomp and Circumstance seems to feature two male ostriches being led into the Noah's Arc.
The Male-colored ostriches in Dance of the Hours were obviously intended to be female.
Animation Bump: Both are considered this for Disney. The 1940 version included dynamic backgrounds, color shifts, changes in lighting, translucent paints and numerous effects shots that had simply never been done before (lightning, waves, stars, lava, earthquakes). The 2000 version had combination of traditional animation and CGI (that was actually started back before production on Toy Story began), as well as watercolor cells for the Carnival of Animals and pastel backgrounds in Beethoven's Fifth.
Eldritch Abomination: Chernabog from the original; the Firebird from the sequel may also qualify. Chernabog, if interpreted as evil, is an identifiable evil, motivated by sadism and boredom. The Firebird, however, is a force of nature; it is nigh-incomprehensible in motives, just laying waste to everything in front of it.
Evil Is Burning Hot: Chernabog covers himself in fire near the end of "Night on Bald Mountain". The Firebird may also qualify, as it is a destructive force.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: See Explosive Breeder in the Fantasia 2000 section. And in the "Night On Bald Mountain" sequence, naked women can be seen several times — most blatantly in the form of three flickering flames. Of course, they're so artfully drawn that no actual naughty bits can be discerned, but it's the thought that counts.
The harpies that start flying around not long before the Church bells start chiming have nipples, and fly right towards the camera.
In the last sequence of the original Fantasia the whole "undead being raised" thing in Night on Bald Mountain ends with churchgoers singing Ave Maria in a sharp contrast to the first part of the segment.
In Fantasia 2000 the humor in Rhapsody in Blue is interspersed with scenes that remind you that it takes place during the thirties, which can be a bit depressing.
Pomp and Circumstance does this a few times where it starts off with a hilarious slapstick sequence where Donald tries to get the animals to board the ship, but changes to sad when Donald and Daisy both think the other was killed in the flood, then goes back again to slapstick.
The Firebird Suite begins with sweet, gentle lilting music as the Sprite awakens, greets the new day with her animal companion, and begins spreading the growth of spring; switches to trepidation and unease as she discovers the dormant volcano, only to explode into full-out nighmarish horror when she unwittingly releases the Firebird which destroys her home; and then after a deeply sorrowful My God, What Have I Done? moment, returns to celebration, joy, and awe as she draws upon her powers stronger than ever to completely restore the land.
No Name Given: In many of the numbers with original characters, the main characters' names are never mentioned in the movie, but according to Word of God, they do have names.
For example, in Rhapsody in Blue they are, in order of appearance: Duke, Jobless Joe, Rachel, and John. Rachel and John are named after Eric Goldberg's youngest daughter and animation historian John Culhane, respectively.
The same goes for Carnival of the Animals, where the yo-yo playing flamingo is called "Our Hero" and the other flamingos are named "The Snotty Six."
The little mushroom in The Nutcracker Suite is named Hop Low.
The leads in Dance of the Hours are Madamoiselle Upanova (ostrich), Hyacinth Hippo and Ben Ali Gator.
Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Some of the sequences in the original. The intro to the "Pomp and Circumstance" segment brings up this trope as well.
Public Domain Soundtrack: The point was to introduce children to not only to classical music, but to post-modernism as well.
Averted with "Rhapsody In Blue", which they had to get permission from the Gershwin estate to use. They probably didn't have much difficulty.
Averted with "The Rite of Spring", as Igor Stravinsky was still alive at the time of the 1940 film's production, and the development team had to get permission from him, also without any difficulty.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: The T-Rex in "Rites Of Spring" has devilish ones, as do the Sewer Rats in "Steadfast Tin Soldier."
Roger Rabbit Effect: Mickey shaking hands with Leopold Stokowski, and in the sequel, adjusting James Levine's outfit.
Scare Chord: Built into some of the pieces, and taken full advantage of by the animators.
Scenery Porn: Most of the sequences in both movies, with Firebird and Pines of Rome showing some particularly stunning backgrounds.
Even for the 40s, many pieces, even the deleted "Clair de Lune", had beautiful backgrounds.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Arguably, the Firebird (well, maybe sleeping evil). More so with the "Cutterflies" in the "5th Symphony". Chernabog is sealed in a timed can, since he gets let out of the peak of Bald Mountain once a year on St. John's Eve.note (Which in the Russian Orthodox calendar is July 6th.)
Dark Is Evil / Light is Good: Played straight with Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria sequence - in the first piece everything connected with Evil and Death is portrayed by the darkness, fires of Hell etc etc. during a dark and gloomy night, while the second piece is more lightened with sunshines and glowing candles symbolizing that the powers of light are triumphant over the powers of Evil.
Dark Is Not Evil / Opposites Attract: The Pegasus mother and father. The father's coloration makes him look very gothic, almost sinister while his wife's coloration makes her look angelic.
Door Closes Ending: The "Dance of the Hours" segment ends with the palace doors slamming so hard they're knocked off their hinges.
Double Take: An elephant does one when she realizes that the bubble she just blew has a goldfish in it.
Downer Ending: The Rite of Spring. If it hadn't been for the Executive Meddling, Walt Disney would have kept the happier ending where a band of early humans start a bonfire and dance in celebration of their discovery.
Everybody Hates Hades: Chernabog was a black god, but wasn't evil as a pre-Christian Slavic deity. Subverted as Walt said he was meant to be Satan anyway, and in the roadshow version, Deems Taylor identifies him as such.
Gone Behind The Bend: During the "Dance of the Hours" segment. Ben Ali Gator is chasing Hyacinth Hippo, who hides behind a column that is far too narrow for her to hide behind. Ben runs around the column a couple of times but can't seem to find her, until she comes from behind and tramples him.
Intermission: The original roadshow version included one. Later versions re-edited the footage of the orchestra leaving for intermission and then returning for the opening and closing of the film. The DVD version restored the original intermission footage.
Knight of Cerebus: While more antagonists than outright villains, the appearance (and build-up) of Vulcan and Zeus in The Pastoral Symphony changes the tone from whimsical to dramatic. Justified, as their sequence accompanies the fourth movement of the Symphony which supposedly depicts a violent thunderstorm.
Large Ham: Chernabog is a rare non-speaking example.
Satanic Archetype: "Night On Bald Mountain" was originally introduced as starring "Satan himself" when Fantasia first premiered. His name was later changed to Chernabog (an obscure Slavic Pagan deity) in what was a reverse Jesus Taboo.
Science Marches On: The dinosaurs in the Rite of Spring sequence are hopelessly inaccurate today, but were fairly in-line with scientific thinking at the time.
Artistic License - Biology: A flagellate protozoa in an early part of the sequence is shown using its flagellum as a feeler rather than a propulsion organ. The animator may have only looked at microscopic still photos, though.
Shown Their Work: At the time Fantasia was made, the only well-known version of "Night on Bald Mountain" was the one streamlined and rearranged (the All Music Guide says "bowdlerized") by Rimsky-Korsakov. However it was the third version. The first version by Mussorgsky ("St. John's Eve at the Bald Mountain") was about a witches' sabbath on St. John's Evenote June 23rd in the Western Calendar, July 6th in the Orthodox Calendar, and, like the Eve of All Saints (Hallowe'en) and the Eve of St. Walburga (Walpurgisnacht), a traditional time for the grand Sabbat of the witches, mentioned Satan explicitly and was rejected by the organizer of the festival for which it was written. The second and most obscure version of the music was heavily reworked, called "Dream of the Young Peasant Lad" and intended to be part of an opera which he never finished. According to the All Music Guide as a boy dreams on a hill, he is threatened by inhuman voices and finds himself mocked in the realm of shadows. The voices warn of the Devil and the "Black God" Chernobog; as the shadows fade, both appear. Chernobog is glorified, a Black Mass is sung, and a Witches' Sabbath breaks out. As a church bell intones, Chernobog disappears and the demons writhe in agony. A church choir sings, the demons fade away, awakening the boy. Sound familiar?
Solid Clouds: The cupids from the "Pastoral Symphony" segment sleep on clouds.
Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Hyacinth Hippo is comically obese whereas her partner Ben Ali Gator is very slim, short, and flexible. He can't even lift her over his head while they're dancing without great difficulty.
What Could Have Been: Online photos of conceptual art pieces for The Pastoral Symphony suggest that nymphs and nixies were intended to make an appearance, and that male zebra centaurs were considered to be boyfriends/dancing partners for the zebra centaurettes attending on Bacchus.
The procession in Ave Maria was originally supposed to enter an actual church.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which appears in both films, provides examples of
Absurdly Dedicated Worker: Mickey, as the Apprentice, sets a magic broom to the task of fetching water from a well and pouring it into a cauldron, then goes to sleep and wakes to the room flooded with water since he never told the broom to stop. Then he finds he can't stop it and when he tries chopping the broom to bits, every bit becomes a new broom, all "programmed" to fetch water and throw it into the cauldron. It takes the return of the Sorcerer himself to stop the brooms (and save the apprentice from drowning).
Adaptation Expansion: A comic adaptation added in an opening in which Mickey, wfanting to be a sorcerer like Yensid (who in the movie, has no onscreen name), comes to his castle.
Gory Discretion Shot: Played with. Mickey's chopping up the broomstick is shown only as a shadow on a wall.
Hat of Power: The sorcerer's wizard hat that Mickey borrows.
Hope Spot: Mickey stops the out of control broom by chopping it into little pieces. Just when he thinks his troubles are over, each broom piece starts to twitch, and then the pieces reconstitute themselves into hundreds of new brooms.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Literally, as Mickey tries to destroy the water-bucket-carrying broom with an axe, only for each splintered piece of wood to grow into another full-sized water-bucket-carrying broom.
Oh Crap: The look on Mickey's face when he stops in the middle of walking away, and realizes that the broom he just chopped up into hundreds of pieces reconstituted into hundreds of brooms.
Power Incontinence: Mickey finds it quite easy to animate his master's broom and have it fetch water for him, but he isn't experienced enough in magic to know how to make the broom stop fetching water, and when he tries to chop the broom into pieces, all that does is create more brooms with more buckets, and poor Mickey soon finds himself in way over his head.
Reality Subtext: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" has an interesting variation: it was around the time Fantasia came out that Walt's life didn't go according to plan, much like how Mickey loses control of the brooms.
Animated Actors: In one of the Blu-Ray commentaries of Fantasia 2000, Mickey Mouse commentates with Roy Disney on Sorcerer's Apprentice; apparently it took over forty takes to dance down the stairs and they had to borrow brooms from Warner Bros. in addition to bringing in the whole union. During Pomp and Circumstance, Donald Duck comes in near the end asking where the song they promised him for working with all those animals is, which results in the commentary room flooding. "Does anyone remember where we parked the ark?"
Conspicuous CG: The Symphony No. 5 is the most obvious offender, but the Pines of Rome has several long shots that are incongruous to the close-ups.
Granted, the Pines of Rome animatics actually were started several years before the film was released.
Continuity Nod: Besides the actual discussion on the first film, 2000 begins with a speech on the "types of music" that is taken straight from the first film.
The ending of the first film, with its Mood Whiplash, Dark Is Evil/Light is Good structure set up between Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria, is mirrored in the ending for 2000, where the horror and evil of the Firebird is contrasted within one song by the sprite and her glorious restoration of spring.
Corrupt Cop: A brief but rather funny example in "Rhapsody in Blue". Jobless Joe picks up an apple that seems to have fallen from a fruit stand, and heavily considers eating it himself (being broke and starving), but ultimately chooses to leave it. Just as he's about to put it back, a cop shows up and chases him for stealing...and then proceeds to eat the apple himself once Jobless Joe is gone.
Creator Cameo: Eric Goldberg was one of the four main artistic directors on 2000 and animated the flamingos and Rhapsody in Blue. That's him drawing at the light table, and handing James Earl Jones the sheet of paper.
A posthumous, animated creator cameo is done with George Gershwin in the "Rhapsody In Blue" segment. Gershwin is the man playing the piano, upstairs from the little girl's piano lesson.
Easter Egg: If you've got time to kill, watch the Rhapsodie in Blue sequence with your finger on the pause button, to see all the names hidden in the background elements. It's a Shout-Out to Al Hirschfeld, who hid the name of his daughter Nina in his drawings from time to time.
Furry Confusion: Lampshaded most brilliantly in Pomp and Circumstance, when Donald does a double take at a pair of realistically-drawn ducks boarding the Ark. (This is the current page image for that trope.)
Imagine Spot: The skating rink scene in "Rhapsody In Blue", where all the characters imagine what their fantasies would be.
Jump Scare: The chord when the firebird first opens its eyes.
Lonely Rich Kid: Rachel (the little girl) in "Rhapsody in Blue." Unlike most Lonely Rich Kids, though, what she longs for is not friends her own age, but to spend quality time with her hard-working parents.
The Marvelous Deer: In the Firebird suite, the being that wakes the nature spirit, and encourages her.
Murder by Cremation: At the end of "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" segment of Fantasia 2000, the evil Jack-in-the-Box is flung into a fire while attempting to kill the titular tin soldier. To be fair, all the tin soldier had to do was put up his staff when the Jack-in-the-Box was flying at him with his sword; Jack's own momentum carried him the rest of the way. (Though it's pretty clear that's what the soldier was going for).
To past Disney films and characters, especially "Pomp And Circumstance". The snake that's about to eat the mice towards the end of "Pomp and Circumstance" looks an awful lot like Kaa from The Jungle Book.
Ripped from the Headlines: "Firebird" is based on the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens (but with more lava than a pyroclastic flow). It also includes the hollowed out volcano post-eruption and could possibly allude to the incredibly fast regrowth of the forest decimated by the Mount St. Helens eruption (though not as fast as the animation, or course.)
The whole concept of Donald and Daisy narrowly missing one another in "Pomp and Circumstance" was partially inspired by Sleepless In Seattle.
The scene in "Pomp and Circumstance" when the multitude of bunnies exit the ark is a nod to the Silly Symphony "Noah's Ark".
Much of the text that makes its way into the animated sequences are shoutouts to the creators. In the "Steadfast Tin Soldier" sequence, "Ernst's Fish" is a reference to producer Don Ernst.
Rhapsody in Blue for a 12 minute number, is nearly Reference Overdosed. Sequence director Eric Goldberg's name pops up very often, noticeably on the plaque for the "Goldberg Hotel". The "Ninas" that Al Hirschfeld (the artist whose style inspired the look for the number) added in his drawings are present in the animation as well. Hirschfeld, his daughter Nina, his wife Susan, and writer Brooks Atkinson are among some of the people rushing out of the Goldberg Hotel. The original song's composer, George Gershwin, shows up in the sequence as himself, playing the piano one floor above Rachel during her piano lesson.