Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Fantasia

Fantasia, 1940

"What you're going to see are the designs and pictures and stories that music inspired in the minds and imaginations of a group of artists. In other words, these are not going to be the interpretations of trained musicians, which I think is all to the good."

 Fantasia was quite the bold move for Disney.  How do you make a movie for children that has no dialogue to it?  How do you make classical music fun?  I might be a bit biased, but I think that Fantasia is one of the greatest animated features that Disney ever made.  There are eight different "stories," each told through music and animation.  

The first (Toccata and Fugue in D minor) is abstract, alternating between live action shots of the orchestra and animated bursts of light, color, and lines.  To me, this was a poor choice to start the movie with.  It doesn't tell a story, and it is much more metaphysical than any of the other pieces.  A better choice would have been to start with the Nutcracker Suite.

The Nutcracker Suite makes up the second story, and shows a variety of dances, bringing objects in nature to life.  We see dancing leaves, flowers, and mushrooms (my personal favorite - the baby one is so cute!), as well as fish and fairies. It's much more exciting to watch than the first section, but the best is yet to come.

The third (Sorcerer's Apprentice) is the most famous segment from Fantasia, which tells the story of a magician's apprentice, played by the beloved Mickey Mouse, who thinks that he has more powers than he actually does.  The music accompanies this animation so well that I don't even really notice that there is no dialogue.  

Following Sorcerer Mickey, we see the evolution of planet earth - a long, somewhat boring segment until we get to the dinosaurs - then it gets super exciting!  It's an interesting choice of music (Rite of Spring), and even more interesting that Disney decided to animate this music with dinosaurs...especially since the original music was for a ballet.  This is actually a little morbid, because along with the evolution of dinosaurs, it also shows the extinction of dinosaurs....and the music is kinda creepy, not gonna lie.

Next we lighten up with the Pastoral Symphony, a programmatic piece of music, which means that when the composer wrote the symphony, he had a particular story in mind.  It's kind of cool to see the story brought to life in animation.  This is my favorite segment of Fantasia!  There's pegasuses, (pegusi? I don't know what the plural of Pegasus is) baby cupids, centaurs, fauns, and all sorts of mythological creatures.  We also see the gods - Zeus, Apollo, and Bacchus, the god of wine. 

Following this is the Dance of the Hours, a whimsical ballet with elephants, ostriches, and hippopotamuses (yep. seriously.)  It's completely ridiculous, but it's also very fun!

The dramatic finale is Night on Bald Mountain which transitions into Ave Maria.  Holy cow, what a finale!  First we see this big scary demon raising hell (literally) to this terrifying music - it's perhaps one of the scariest moments in any Disney movie!  When the Ave Maria starts, the demons go away, and we get a bunch of monks walking through a forest into a cathedral.  Not going to lie, I don't really love the Ave Maria part.  It's a little anticlimactic.

Overall Grade: A(-)

I love this movie.  I am also a classically trained musician, so I am totally biased.  I love seeing Disney animation paired with some of my favorite classical pieces.  While I would have done some things differently, I still think this is such an innovative and unique project, and it remains one of my absolute favorite Disney movies.

No comments:

Post a Comment