Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: Fantasia

Walt Disney Animation Studio’s 3rd feature film.

http://viooz.co/movies/331-fantasia-1940.html

This year is a great year for this blog. My 2013 Best and Worst, and my Snow White and Pinocchio are already more popular than half of my other posts, and I have gotten the most hits this month. Thanks to you all.

My opinion right after watching movie

My opinion on the film is that it is extremely long. Some segments are brilliant and expresses what it needs, but the middle of the film has so many mediocre ones, and it kind of bores you. It holds well as a package film though, with all of them focusing on something serious and took itself seriously. It is honestly a mixed bag of enjoyment for me.

Production

In 1936, Mickey’s popularity was declining, and Walt Disney wanted his favorite bland character to be popular again, so he decided to make an adaption short of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and finally got the rights to it in 1938. He heard music critic Deems Taylor on the radio and asked him to join the project, which he eventually did. Somewhere around here, they decided to make it a package film and to make shorts off classical music. Disney did not have much to do with the film in early production because he was too busy with Pinocchio and the never-ending project of Bambi, and the fact that he was untrained in music.

The name of the film had trouble. It was called The Concert Feature or Musical Feature in November 1938, but was changed to many things before finally setting on Fantasia. Recording started in 1939 and an orchestra dude signed up and recorded the music and score of the film in 18 months.

The budget of this film was the most expensive one yet, because of all the sound technology installed in the theaters and many other things.

Story

I am not a classical person or a person who knows the formula of such, so bear with me. So we are introduced to our host Deems Taylor, and he gives us a lengthy speech of what we are in for in the program.

So we start with the first short film called Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which is practically what the title is. It has beautiful animation, nut it is just a bunch of lines and colors swirling around, but it does makes sense for the short. The imagery is beautiful, but not that creative. Nothing else to say about this one.

Next is the Nutcracker Suite, and this is by far my favorite one out of the bunch. I LOVE the animation on the fairies, the droplets and flowers, and it is so unique and detailed. They tried something different with it. I like how it is about the changing of seasons from Summer to Winter, and they showed this with the fish, mushroom, fairies and more dancing, showing emotion. It is brilliant all around.

The next scene is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and with the amount that is hyped up by everyone, I thought it was mediocre. Don’t get me wrong, the animation is great (though lacks compares to the other ones), and it is one of the others that have a consistent plot. The apprentice Mickey is trying to do magic from the sorcerer’s book and cannot control it, and in the end, he has to learn patience……and…… I don’t really know. This scene did enough for me though.

The next short Rite of Spring is a pretty good short explaining the beginnings of the Earth all the way to the extinction of the dinosaurs. It does set the right emotion and theme for the appropriate moments, and the fight at the end is pretty good. The characters are flatter than crepes, but that can be said for all of the shorts in the film.

The Pastoral Symphony is a bore. The centaurs all hook up and run around for like 5-8 minutes, and then the god of wine Bacchus comes down for a ceremony, and Zeus randomly strikes them down.  Next.

Dame of the Hours is clearly supposed to be the comedic, filler one, and this is another weak entry. They just dance and prance around, and then the four groups (ostriches representing morning, hippos the afternoon, elephants the evening, and alligators the night). It just drags on for too long.

The final segment ends the film on a strong note with Night on the bald Mountain.  Not only because it has an interesting promise, but its dark tone and the animation speaks volumes. Chernabog is so deliciously interesting and dark, taunting the souls because he is bored. It also had Ave Maria in it, so it makes it even better.

Let me make this clear, this film is great. The shorts all have a similar theme and don’t clash, but I believe that some of the ones in the middle could have been put to the curb. Some of the shorts did not have a story (some of those could have been taken out), but the ones with a plot are really good.

Characters

I understand that this is a short, and characters don’t get much development in shorts, but they are at least characters. In this film, the characters are the absolute last thing of importance and it shows. Even Chernabog and Mickey could not boost up the marks for the characters much. Both are entertaining, and Chernabog is excellent though.

Animation

I raved on the animation much above, but I will say it. There are so many different types of animation and they are all pulled off brilliantly. The colors are used right to signify emotions, the textures are brilliant, and the animation carries the film and adds some depth into the shorts. Brilliant job.

Music

Since everything is built on and from the music, the music has to be great. We have music from Johann Sebastian BachPyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Paul Dukas,  Igor Stravinsky,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Amilcare Ponchielli, and  Modest Mussorgsky, and all of their compositions are great, and provide a strong form for the rest of the film to build on. They are entertaining, but listening to 2 hours straight of them can get a bit too much.

Reception at Release

When the film was released on November 13th 1940, it was released as a roadshow attraction instead of a normal theater release like Pinocchio and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were. It was the first film to be released for more than a year and closed on Broadway on February 28, 1942 (After Dumbo was released and a few months before Bambi was released). It was opened at 12 other places but with all of this, it FLOPPED HARD. The promotion and the technology that Disney demanded be installed at each playing really raised the cost, and the lack of European market caused it to lose a lot more money than Pinocchio. 1940 was a crappy year for the company.

Unlike Pinocchio, the reviews and the reception was mixed for this movie. Positive comments were like the one form New York Times “motion-picture history was made last night…. Fantasia dumps conventional formulas overboard and reveals the scope of films for imaginative excursion…. Fantasia… is simply terrific”. The negative reviews were like this “left the theater in a condition bordering on nervous breakdown,” because the film was a “remarkable nightmare”. Many did not like that Disney was trying to be more serious and felt that he should stick with silly cartoons. This really crushed him, since this was a pet project of his.

Reception Today

The film became more popular and made a profit in the late 60s, with all the stoners and the hippie fad becoming popular, and it has been seen as a classic since; though this was after Disney died. It garnered a sequel Fantasia 2000 60 years later, and it is seen as an extreme masterpiece.

Final Score

Story = 8/10

Characters = 4/10

Music = 9/10

Animation = 9/10

=30/40=  75% 

Next Time……

Review: January 27th, 2014
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16 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: Fantasia

  1. Great job watching thru this. When I watched it the first time, everything bored me, except for the frightening chernabog part. But as time passed, the segment eventually downgrades for me….
    However I do love the animation and music. Have fun going thru WW2. The only one that I hail as a classic is the last one of the bunch…..
    Oh, and about why the recent posts became popular: coz its disney. And Disney’s going thru a revival, so people r more interested. DreamWorks history and films r bores when compared to disneys rich history.

    1. I would watch the shorts separately, but not as a 2 whole hour movie. I am in the middle of writing the WW2 package era, and I am not enjoying it. I guess because it was Disney I am getting more views.

      1. You said yourself that you are not a classical person.

        I don’t think that you can judge Fantasia by the characters. It is essentially a celebration of animation and music. That’s what it is about, not about the characters. Or the story, since a lot of segments are not about telling a story in the first place. This movie needs its own rating system.

      2. What I meant when I said that is that I don’t know much about classical music, so I could look like a fool critiquing the music. I was thinking about changing the grading system, but since it IS a package film and some package films have actual characters and actual development, I decided to keep it. I like listening to oldies music though, just don’t know too much about classical music.

      3. Mmmm…perhaps I should do an article about Fantasia at one point. I guess I have more of an appreciation for it, because I love the ballet, too.

  2. I don’t see why you can’t break it up and watch in smaller batches. They even give you an intermission on this one. If you will enjoy it more and that’s your main barrier to liking the film watch it that way. I think it is a masterpiece. I’ve been reviewing the canon on my blog. Would love for you to take a look sometime. http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com/

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