Steve’s Wonderful Reviews of Disney: Fantasia


Release Date: November 13th, 1940

Inspiration: “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Budget: $2.28 million

Domestic Gross: $76 million

Worldwide Gross: $83 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

IMDB Score: 7.8/10

Storyline (per IMDB): Disney animators set pictures to Western classical music as Leopold Stokowski conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” features Mickey Mouse as an aspiring magician who oversteps his limits. “The Rite of Spring” tells the story of evolution, from single-celled animals to the death of the dinosaurs. “Dance of the Hours” is a comic ballet performed by ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators. “Night on Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria” set the forces of darkness and light against each other as a devilish revel is interrupted by the coming of a new day.

Pre-Watching Thoughts: We now move onto a very interesting piece in the Disney film canon and that is Fantasia, not so much a film as it is basically a concert with animation. This is a film that I can say that I have never seen in its entirety as I have only seen “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and nothing else. I am curious as to how this film manages to hold up especially after how great Snow White and Pinocchio ended up being, but I have a feeling I might be in for a bit of a letdown though hopefully I’m proven wrong.

Voice Cast: So in a break from tradition, we have no voice acting as the film was mainly music pieces set to animation, but we did have a host for the event which was composer Deems Taylor who does a good job in setting the scene for each piece. We also hear briefly from the conductor of the orchestra Leopold Stokowski who speaks briefly with Mickey Mouse after “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. Finally, we do have history made here as Walt Disney himself makes an appearance as the voice of Mickey Mouse when he congratulates Stokowski for his work. While this would be the least amount of talking in any of the Disney films, it worked out since it was more about the music.

Hero/Prince: N/A

Princess: N/A

Villain: While we don’t have a hero or a princess for this film, we actually do have a villain in the film and that is the evil Chernabog who appears in the final piece “A Night at Bald Mountain”. During the piece, we see the Chernabog summoning the spirits of the dead and they roam throughout the sky until the coming of day and the ringing bells return the spirits to their slumber and the Chernabog to its place in the mountain. As a result, the Chernabog is not one of the major villains in the canon though his presence in the film is enough to cause numerous nightmares. I do want to make an honorable mention as well to the T-Rex in “The Rite of Spring” as he does battle with and ultimately kills a Stegosaurus, but he will not be included in the main list of villains.

Other Characters: This is an interesting category for this film because we have various segments throughout the film and the characters included were confined to their specific segment. We of course have the icon of Disney himself, Mickey Mouse make his official film debut as the apprentice to the sorcerer Yen Sid along with the broom that Mickey brings to life and the numerous brooms that materialize out of the remains of the destroyed brooms. We also have the various creatures that are featured in their respective segments which help the animations keep moving through the pieces, and while the focus of the film was on the music the animations were the perfect compliments to these pieces.

Songs: Now as opposed to other films which have songs that are sung, this film features some classic musical pieces from various ballets and works from some of the most influential composers in history. We kick things off with “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach and segue into “The Nutcracker Suite” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and then we have “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas and “The Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky before going into the intermission. After a brief jam session and a demonstration of the soundtrack, we continue on with “The Pastoral Symphony” by Ludwig Von Beethoven and “Dance of the Hours” by Amilcare Ponchielli. We then close out the film with “A Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky and “Ave Marie” by Franz Schubert, and this was a unique collection of music that did well complimenting each other.

Plot: This is pretty interesting as well as there really was no central plot for the film and it was just a collection of musical pieces that were coupled together with animations. Now a funny note is that “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was originally set to be a short in the same vein as the Silly Symphonies as a way to help rebuild Mickey Mouse’s popularity. Ultimately, the budget was growing too big that a simple short would recoup it so the decision was made to make this into a full-length feature film including the other pieces featured in this film. In this short, Mickey is an apprentice to the great sorcerer Yen Sid and after he retires for the night, Mickey decides to put on his hat and bring a broom to life so it can get the buckets of water Mickey is supposed to get. It works briefly until Mickey can no longer control the broom and tries to destroy it with an axe, but multiple brooms spawn out of the remains and continue to fill the room with water until Yen Sid returns and sets everything right. Realizing the error of his ways, Mickey returns the hat to Yen Sid and walks away with the buckets with Yen Sid giving him a push with the broom as punishment. While the short would’ve worked by itself, being in this setting was fine and it would end up being the most memorable segment from the film as the image of Mickey with the hat on would become part of Disney lore in the years to come.

Random Watching Thoughts: I wonder what people were thinking when the film started and the first thing they saw was the orchestra taking their place; First film to not have an opening card or even credits; Did they film this in front of a live audience because we don’t hear a lot of crowd chatter; I also wonder how much this orchestra got paid to do this film; What kind of name is Deems Taylor?; It is interesting that this is considered part of the animated canon since it is a mix of animations and live action; The animation for the first song was really well done even though it was just a random sequence; It is funny that Tchaikovsky detested the Nutcracker Suite and it ended up being his most popular piece; It is weird hearing the Nutcracker Suite and not seeing anything related to the actual Nutcracker ballet or even Christmas; According to one of the animators, the Three Stooges were used as inspiration for the dancing mushrooms; Considering that there was a scene later in the film that caused a lot of controversy, I’m surprised the dancing mushrooms weren’t called out as a potential stereotype against Chinese people; Kudos to the animators for doing a great job matching the choreography to the music perfectly; The goldfish in the Nutcracker Suite looks like it was modeled off of Cleo from Pinocchio; How naïve is Mickey to think that Yen Sid’s powers came completely from his hat and not from years of work?; Of all the things to bring to life to help you, why would you pick a broom?; Mickey got pretty cocky with his ability so it shouldn’t come as a surprise what happens; It is fairly interesting that Mickey’s debut on the big screen in a film involves no dialogue during the short; Mickey learns the important rule about magic in that it’s all about being able to control; How many brooms were able to materialize out of the shards of the broom Mickey destroyed?; Shouldn’t the water be flowing out of the window when it reaches it?; Where did those whirlpools come from if they are in an enclosed room?; Of course, Yen Sid is such a badass that he can cause all the water to disappear in such a short time, but where did all the brooms go?; It was cool to see Mickey appear with the conductor after the short ended; So to fill time, they had the chimes fall apart and cause a scene even though it was pretty humorous to see; The Rite of Spring was apparently supposed to feature the early days of humanity, but reportedly creationists threatened action because of their beliefs; I wonder if the scene where the water overcame the volcano was an inspiration for Roland Emmerich’s “2012” when the water rushed over the mountains; The scene where the dinosaurs are being chased by the T-Rex is a pretty terrifying scene and of course the slow Stegosaurus would be the one he catches; How thick is the T-Rex’s skin because you would think the Stegosaurus’ giant spikes would pierce right through and kill him?; Considering there is only one T-Rex, wouldn’t the other dinosaurs help the Stegosaurus instead of just watching the T-Rex kill him?; It is weird hearing the upbeat music in between the shots of the Stegosaurus dying; It is interesting that they depicted the dinosaurs going extinct due to the lack of resources when the common theory is an asteroid hitting the Earth wiping them out; Did we really need an intermission and I wonder if it really was 15 minutes in the theaters because it wasn’t that long in the Disney+ version; Very rare to see the title card in the middle of the film; It was pretty cool to hear the orchestra do a jam session and to see how sound is rendered through visual film, but it does kind of bring the film’s momentum to a halt; It was pretty risqué for an animated film to have the female centaurs originally be bare chested before having something covering their breasts; Even more controversial was that there were black female centaurs acting as servants to the white female centaurs though that was cut out of future airings including the Disney+ version; I feel bad for that poor unicorn that has to carry Bacchus; Why is Zeus so upset that he crashes the party and has Vulcan throw down lightning bolts, was he not invited to the party?; Only in a Disney film can they bring together ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators to act out a comic ballet; So the 1940s had a bunch of ostriches fighting over a thing of grapes while the 2010s had a group of Minions fight over a banana; Those must be the most light-footed hippos if they are able to keep that sort of balance on their toes; That must’ve been an extremely strong gust of wind to blow all those elephants away; If the T-Rex was terrifying, the Chernabog is the stuff that nightmares are made out of; This last scene is so creepy yet so disturbingly beautiful in terms of the animation coupled with the ominous music; For as powerful as the Chernabog is, it is weird that it simply takes the tolling of bells and the coming of day to put him and the demons to rest; How many monks are there walking through this forest?; It is pretty unsettling to see a film just end without closing credits.

Overall Thoughts: Overall, this ended up being a pretty solid film though unfortunately it was a step down from the previous two films. While the film was not actively bad as the music was really good and the animations were beautifully done, it does seem like this film requires a certain taste since it is not like the rest of the films in the Disney canon. It almost feels like the film is in its own category apart from the rest of the canon since there is no real story and it is just a collection of animations coupled to the music. Considering that this was just supposed to be a simple short that was changed to a full-length film, Disney did a good job in making this film and a lot of credit goes to the animators who worked on the film. These next few years are going to be an interesting time for Disney as we inch closer to World War II, but we do have two films to get too before we get to that period of time. As for Fantasia, it is a pretty solid film though again it is a bit of an acquired taste to enjoy otherwise you might find yourself a bit bored even with the beautiful animations.

Final Grade: 6/10

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