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Fantasia

A Disney Tale: As you will probably know, Fantasia is not a film with a plot.  It was designed to be a concert feature: a series of music pieces with accompanying animation.  The segments include: an abstract piece to Toccata and Fugue; a Greek myth-inspired animation set to the Pastoral Symphony; fairies assisting nature to the soundtrack of the Nutcracker Suite; hippos, crocodiles, ostriches and elephants dancing to the Dance of the Hours; a terrifying visit to Bare Mountain; the evolution of dinosaurs set to the Rite of Spring and, of course, the classic Mickey Mouse animation - The Sorcerer's Apprentice.


Disney Heroines: Although there is no 'Disney Princess' as such, in this feature, there are numerous female characters, mostly of a magical nature; fairies and centaurs for example.  It's interesting to note how the fairies in the Nutcracker Suite segment are using their magic to assist nature in a similar way to how the Tinker Bell films show fairies having similar roles many, many years later.  The centaurs also raise an interesting point because, in the original release there was a black centaur seemingly in the position of servant to the other, predominantly white centaurs (although they are a mixture of colours).  It is probably more to do with the stereotypical facial features given to the centaur that identify her as 'black African' but the connotations are clear and in all subsequent releases this scene has been excised from the film.  There are also, of course, the hippo, ostrich and elephant ballerinas.

Disney Heroes: The most recognisable character in Fantasia is, of course, Mickey Mouse himself.  The 'hero' of The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment, we see him foolishly taking the magical hat of the Sorcerer (apparently called Yensid in subsequent writings about the film).  Chaos ensues when he attempts to use the magic to save him from doing chores leading to the iconic scenes of hundreds of magical brooms carrying buckets of water.  Mickey is also the only animated character to speak during the film, although this is not until a brief scene where he comes into where the orchestra are seated, rather than in The Sorcerer's Apprentice section itself.  The other male characters include centaurs, the God Bacchus and the crocodile ballet dancer.


Disney Villains: With no plot, a villain isn't really a necessity, but Fantasia has a dark figure who has become synonymous with evil and features on many a 'Disney Villain' poster or ornament, and apparently features highly in the Kingdom Keepers series of novels, according to my wife.  This character is the demon atop Bare (or Bald) Mountain - Chernabog (like Yensid, named after the fact).  He is one of the most terrifying and demonic figures Disney has ever included in one of their films and the sequence involving him also sees horrific spirits and creatures dancing, almost satanically, at his whim.  It is a very dark and not particularly child-friendly sequence.

Disney Sidekicks: Sidekick wise, I would include the cherubs in the Pastoral Symphony section who act as matchmakers to the male and female centaurs, but other than this there is no real comedy/conscience sidekick in the vein of Jiminy Cricket or Timothy Mouse.


Disney Creatures: Fantasia is full of animals.  There are flying horses and unicorns in the Pastoral Symphony section, along with Bacchus' steed: a rather tiny donkey.  In the Rite of Spring section we see the evolution of dinosaurs from basic amoebas to their extinction.  There are stegosauruses, triceratops, diplodocuses, brontosauruses and, of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex.  As they have been anthropomorphised, I won't include the animal ballerinas here.


Disney Magic: Fantasia abounds with magic from Mickey's ill-advised spellcasting, to the fairies, to the Greek myths, all the way to the dark magic of Chernabog.



Disney Land: With each segment having a different setting we have an indistinct countryside of flowers, leaves and water; a mythologised Greece; the land of the dinosaurs (whichever continent was accepted theory in 1940, I presume); a large courtyard for the Dance of the Hours and Bare/Bald Mountain.

Disney Songs: Being all about classical music, Fantasia doesn't feature any original songs.  The only singing comes in the very final section based around Ave Maria which begins with church bells banishing Chernabog to his mountain as morning dawns.


Disney Finale: As mentioned above, the film ends with a combination of Night on Bare Mountain and Ave Maria with a dramatic contrast between dark and light.  It is a rather odd end to a rather odd film.  It has been said by many that it is more or less impossible to sit through Fantasia in one go - it is 2 and half hours long - and it is fairly true.  The original feature included an intermission after the dinosaur segment (which is nearly half an  hour long itself) and this is needed.  I have seen the film in a cinema and on the big screen it is very impressive and easier to view (there may well have been an intermission, but I can't actually remember).  But on DVD (or VHS as we haven't updated our copy of this yet) it is a film best watched in segments.  Walt Disney's original plan to re-release the film every few years with new segments never came to fruition but the follow up Fantasia 2000 did appear (and to my money is more entertaining, although I haven't seen it for many years).  An interesting experiment and something only Disney could pull off, but maybe one for the afficionadoes rather than the casual viewer.   That said, my wife - a huge Disney fan - hates it....

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