Fantasia, though initially a financial flop, has become a classic example of the early work of Walt Disney Animation. It features seven vignettes and an intermission, showcasing various styles of animation and experimental work with music and a mix of live and animated scenes.
My two favorites are the Nutcracker Suite and The Pastoral Symphony. In the Nutcracker Suite, the popular ballet orchestration composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is highlighted by all kinds of fantastical creatures. While Tchaikovsky apparently disliked this particular ballet, I love the music from it, and I loved what the Disney animators did to bring the music to life. I thought this segment was the best example of different animation styles, and it even includes creatures designed by Mary Blair, one of my favorite Disney artists.
For overall style, I loved the artwork in The Pastoral Symphony. The animators made everything have a soft and (appropriately) ideal pastoral look, and the color palette used in the segment was bumped just enough from reality to give it an otherwordly feel. I loved the character designs as well. This is probably my favorite segment.
The iconic segment everyone remembers from Fantasia, however, is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, featuring Mickey Mouse. It is a fun sequence showing the value of hard work and making sure you understand how to do something before trying to use it as a shortcut for the hard work. I enjoy the segment every time I see it.
By way of confession, I used to fall asleep during the “Ave Maria” part of final segment every time I would watch the film, perhaps because the music is so peaceful. More recently, I have been able to stay awake to catch the final few minutes. The first part of this final segment, Night on Bald Mountain, is somewhat dark, but purposefully so. This segment may not be good for some younger children due to some of the scary imagery in it.
The other segments in the film are well done for the most part, but not my favorites and not as interesting to me as those I mentioned above. Taken as a whole, Fantasia is somewhat weakened by all the different experimental film and animation techniques used within it. Despite this, it is still a good film for showcasing those different techniques, and definitely worth having in any good Disney Animation collection.
Release Date: November 13, 1940 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (drunken revelry with Bacchus)
Nudity: 1 (brief, female centaurs topless, nude fairies (though they are too small for it to make a difference))
Sexuality: 1 (Bacchus throws a party, flirting among the centaurs)
Violence: 1 (some scary images, Zeus throwing lightning, demons dancing and cavorting, dinosaurs, death)