Friday, August 5, 2011
Fantasia ~ 1940
It’s Film Strip Friday!
Release Date November 13th, 1940
Unforgettable images are brought to life by some of the world's best music -- the comedy of Mickey Mouse as a troublemaking sorcerer's apprentice, the beauty of winged fairies and cascading snowflakes, even plump hippos performing ballet in tutus! This movie in eight segments that each have different stories and many different characters.
The first American film to use stereophonic sound as well as the first and only film recorded in Fantasound.
This Disney production was an ambitious experiment to try to popularize classical music, especially by accompanying it with animation. Originally, the film was to consist of only The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment, but it was expanded to include the full anthology of shorts. And it was slightly controversial for its depiction of bare-breasted centaurettes in the Pastoral Symphony segment and other stereotypical racial depictions. [Adhering to the Hays Production Code and its strict rules, the figures were garlanded with flower bras for cover-up after swimming topless (still uncensored) in a waterfall and pond (seen from a distance). Also, in later releases of the film, in the Pastoral Symphony segment (again), two black Nubian/zebra centaurs who attend the Bacchus celebration were edited out, along with a female pickaninny centaurette with braided hair named Sunflower who shines the hoof of a white female centaurette. The black centaurette was first abruptly cut from the film and as technology improved, the scene was edited or 'resized' by zooming in on the frames with the character in them so that she was not seen in the shot.] Other segments, such as Ride Of The Valkyries, Swan of Tuonela, and Flight of the Bumblebee were storyboarded but never fully animated, and thus were never put into production for inclusion in future Fantasia-style releases.
The film, with a production cost of more than $2 million (about four times more than an average live-action picture), initially failed at the box-office (partially due to the expensive installation of "Fantasound" sound reproduction equipment in theatres), but then its popularity increased and its cult status was assured when the members of the 60's drug culture adopted it as a favorite hallucinatory experience when it was re-released (alongside other counter-cultural, head-tripping favorites, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Easy Rider (1969), and the re-released Alice in Wonderland (1951) in 1974). Because of the studio's financial difficulties, its next animated feature, Dumbo (1941), was a low-budget offering
Since the late 60s, Fantasia has been warmly embraced, and a sequel titled Fantasia 2000 (1999) appeared as a widescreen IMAX attraction. Fantasia 2000 was the first feature-length animated film released in the IMAX format. The film illustrated seven new classic pieces,
Disney had wanted Fantasia to be an ongoing project, with a new edition being released every few years. His plan was to substitute one of the original segments with a new one as it was complete, so the viewer would always see a new version of the film. From January to August 1941, story material was developed based on additional pieces, including Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner, The Swan of Tuonela by Jean Siblius, Invitation to the Dance by Carl Maria von Weber, and Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, which was later adapted into the Bumble Boogie segment in Melody Time (1948). The film's disappointing initial box office performance and the advent of World War II brought an end to these plans. Taylor had prepared introductions for The Firebird by Stravinsky, La Mer by Claude Debussy, Adventures in a Perambulator by John Alden Carpenter, Don Quixote by Richard Strauss and Picture at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky "to have them for the future in case we decided to make any one of them".
The Clair de Lune segment that was removed from the film's original program was completely animated, and then left out for its already long running time. It featured two egrets flying around the Everglades on a moonlit night. The sequence was later edited and re-scored for the Blue Bayou segment in Make Mine Music (1946). A workprint of the original was discovered and restored in 1992, along with the original soundtrack of Stokowski with the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was included as a bonus feature in The Fantasia Anthology DVD in 2000.
Disney digitally re-recorded the soundtrack for the 1982 re-release because the original Leopold Stokowski soundtrack from 1940 sounded dated and very limited in fidelity. But for the 1990 50th Anniversary release, Disney reverted to the original soundtrack from 1940, which they cleaned up as best as possible (although the limited fidelity could not be corrected) and this is the soundtrack the film has today.Facebook | Twitter | Permalink:
The 2000 restoration was the first time the longer, so-called roadshow version of the film was seen after the initial release. This version contains much longer interstitials from Deems Taylor explaining what will be seen. The picture of these segments was easy to find and was cleaned up, since most of them were used in the 1990 restoration, but the soundtrack for the segments that had not been seen since the 1940s either could not be found or was in terrible shape. After much debate, actor Corey Burton was called in to dub all of Taylor's speeches, including the "Sound Track" sequence halfway through the picture.
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