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|Movie Review by James |
May 23rd, 2019
Walt Disney strived to create some of the best content when concerning animation. He stunned audience's ears with 1928's "Steamboat Willie" becoming the first ever cartoon with synchronized sound. He defied the movie industry with the first ever feature length animated movie: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937. And in 1940, Disney did it again with two features: "Pinocchio" and "Fantasia". And while "Pinocchio" may have been given appeal to families, "Fantasia" appeals to everyone. While it may not have been a huge success during Walt's time, in more recent years, the movie has gained quite a bit of attention, mostly in part due to the artistry that went into making the film a reality. Since its inception, "Fantasia" has been regarded as Walt Disney's masterpiece; a very notable fact. In fact, out of all of the animated films that the Disney company has released, "Fantasia" is my personal favorite for reasons I will explain below.
"Fantasia" is a masterpiece of cinema. From creating stereo sound, to making a more modern interpretation of Mickey Mouse, "Fantasia" defined what Disney was capable of. It starts off with a collection of people sitting down to perform an orchestration of great classical music under the guidance of Leopold Stokowski. And from there, brilliance is included.
The film is divided into eight unique animated segments; each one standing out from the rest. Here they are with a brief analysis of what they represent and mean.
First, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Bach. After a brief interlude of the orchestra, the animators take control and produce a series of abstract images that do not tell a complete story. Lines and shapes take the stage, all of which intertwine with the beautiful colors from all of the artists working at the Disney studios. There is no real story; just let the eyes and ears feast on the magic being presented before you.
Next, The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. A series of dances set to fantastical images, quite literally. We see fairies, flowers, fish, and the mushrooms come to life through magic, as unique and wonderful things happen. Starting with fairies dancing on flowers just to make them look beautiful, the scene transitions to dancing mushrooms, flowers performing ballet, fish slowly dancing to music, Russian roses, and finally back to fairies to turn autumn to winter in one of the most beautiful transitions ever. This segment showcases the fantastical side of nature, without showing a single nutcracker. This segment makes one feel like they are at a concert in real life.
Next, The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas. This is the most infamous segment of the entire program. Mostly because, it features Mickey Mouse, and everybody knows him. This one tells a more cohesive story- a young apprentice dabbles with magic, and unfortunately cannot control it. Mickey Mouse is given a better design, thanks to animator Fred Moore, and returns to the mischievous mouse from the early days of his career. What else can be said? The Sorcerer's Apprentice is something that everyone has seen, and is pretty iconic. Also, the wizard in this segment is named Yen Sid...
Next, we have the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. Here we see the evolution of Earth from its primordial stages, all the way to the age of the dinosaurs. Here, we see how terrifying early Earth was as interpreted by science and animation. The dinosaurs might not be the most realistic when it comes to interpretation, but the designs are truly worth noting. Plus, this segment is the most mature out of all of them, and that is fine with how things are represented here as the mature nature only brings up more questions younger viewers may not have the answers to.
After a short intermission, we get some fun with the soundtrack, and what sound looks like.
Soon, we get The Pastoral Symphony by Beethoven. Here, we see a day in the life of several mythological creatures, and some Greek gods. This is one of the more comical segments, as the movements of the characters due have that cartoonish feel to them. On top of this, the segment does contain the most creativity that Disney's animators had conceived.
Next, it's Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli. This is the most humorous segment out of the program. Instead of having something serious, we are offered a collection of animals dancing to various times of the day. We have ostriches, hippopotamuses, elephants, and crocodiles representing various times throughout the day. And it's all done via comedy and dance.
Finally, we have two very contrasting pieces: Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky and Ave Maria by Schubert. On Night on Bald Mountain, we witness the demonic Chernabog raise evil creatures to to watch them suffer for his own amusement. Only until church bells ring out does the party end, and Ave Maria comes with a group of religious individuals holding candles signifying the sunrise. This is the darkest segment of the entire program as there is a lot of dark elements present, and even some scary images that might terrify younger viewers. However, with Ave Maria, the darkness is taken away to bring forth calmness and tranquility, and the short ends on an iconic view of the sunrise thanks to the multiplane camera from Disney. This final segment makes a bright contrast between light and dark in a very effective manner.
"Fantasia" uses all of these segments to create a unique blend of music and animation. Nothing had been done like this before, and it is hard to top it since. There had been other films that have copied the style used in "Fantasia", like "Allegro Non Troppo" and this film's sequel "Fantasia 2000", but nothing can top the original. "Fantasia" blends animation and music so perfectly, it invented the modern music video as we know it. The movie is a milestone in cinematic history, and it should not be ignored.
Running at two hours long, the film can be a bit slow at times. But as it is trying to emulate the feeling of being at a concert, that it to be expected. The long run time is needed for this type of film. It makes the viewer comfortable enough to know that they will be in for a long time, and that they should use their time wisely.
But of course, this is a movie where the animation is the main star. Every segment has a different style to it, and each one works effectively. There isn't a single segment that looks out of place, nor do they feel dated. "Fantasia" brings forth everything Walt Disney was trying to accomplish with his team of animators in bringing the impossible to life. And they succeeded.
In conclusion, "Fantasia" is an ambitious project that Walt Disney made, that still holds up to this day. Each piece of classical music is unique and stylized in their own way, and each showcases various styles of animation. "Fantasia" not only is a great Disney film, it's one of the best films period.
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