Fantasia (1940)

fantasia poster 1940 movie disney
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great blending of music and art for a truly unique film

Could be tough for younger children, Meet the Soundtrack portion kind of dated

Movie Info

Movie Name: Fantasia

Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Genre(s): Family/Musical/Animated

Release Date(s): November 13, 1940 (Premiere)/September 19, 1941 (US)

MPAA Rating: G

fantasia mickey mouse leopold stokowski

The Mouse meets the Maestro!

Through an orchestra and artists, music brought to life.  From interpretational art, Mickey Mouse as a magician’s apprentice, Greek mythology, and even the creation of Earth, music becomes film.  The joy of music springs to life and under the guide of Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra at the helm, the music becomes springs to the big screen.

Directed by Samuel Armstrong, James Algar, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen, David D. Hand, Hamilton Luske, Jim Handley, Ford Beebe, T. Hee, Norm Ferguson, and Wilfred Jackson, Fantasia is a musical anthology animated movie.  Following Pinocchio also released in 1940, the film was Disney’s third major motion picture and made up of illustrations of eight classical pieces of music.  Originally, the movie was perceived to be a developing film in which the movie makers would add and subtract stories from the movie and re-release it ever few years with new material.  This never happened, but in 1999, Walt Disney’s idea was finally realized with the release of Fantasia 2000.  The film was recognized with two special Academy Awards and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1990.

I remember my mom taking me to see Fantasia in the theater.  At that time, any Disney film was a big deal…but something about Fantasia hit with me.  Even as a kid I liked mythology, scary stuff, and of course dinosaurs…and Fantasia had it all.  It didn’t matter that it was music.  It was cartoons of all my favorite things.

The music program includes:

fantasia toccata and fugue in d-minor

“Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach is the first piece.  It is highly interpretational and one of the tougher segments.  It is a strange choice to start a movie aimed at children with something that is completely abstract.  That being said, the movie does a nice job transitioning between the orchestra and the animation

fantasia nutcracker suite frost fairies

“Nutcracker Suite”

Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky shows the seasons and the fairies that bring about the change.  It also has memorable moments with a school of fish, dancing flowers, and mushrooms.  It is a famous piece of music and to take it away from the classic Nutcracker ballet imagery is pretty daring.

fantasia the sorcerers apprentice mickey mouse brooms

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas is the most “Disney” of the segments and was originally going to be released on its own as a Silly Symphony.  It stars Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s apprentice that gets in over his head when he animates brooms to do his work.  It is a solid “story” with Mickey learning his lesson of being too full of himself.

fantasia the rite of spring t-rex vs stegosaurus

“The Rite of Spring”

The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky shows Earth’s creation and the evolution and death of the dinosaurs.  There is a lot of great art in this segment, and kids will enjoy it once the dinosaurs show up (though the death is a little scary).

fantasia meet the soundtrack

“Meet the Soundtrack”

Intermission/Meet the Soundtrack.  The Meet the Soundtrack is probably the most dated part of the movie.  It shows how sound has a shape by showing how different sounds create different shapes.  It is so common to see the sound waves today that it is kind of boring to hear it explained.

fantasia the pastoral symphony centaurs

“The Pastoral Symphony”

The Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven is a presentation of Greek mythology and was always a favorite of mine.  It has centaurs, satyrs, and flying horses enjoying a day and a festival with Bacchus.  Sequences of this entry were removed in the 1960s due to portrayal of African-American stereotypes involving Black female centaurs.

fantasia dance of the hours alligators hippos

“Dance of the Hours”

Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli is a short fun segment with hippos, ostriches, elephants, and alligators showing the times of the day in a ballet.

fantasia night on bald mountain demon

“Night on Bald Mountain”

Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria by Modest Mussorgsky and Franz Schubert is a great contrast between the horrors of the demons of Bald Mountain and the peaceful progression through the forest by monks to Ave Maria.  As a kid the Bald Mountain part terrified me (in a good way)…while the Ave Maria part was largely forgettable, now it a fitting ending to movie.

fantasia ave maria

“Ave Maria”

The art and style of Fantasia is Disney at its best.  While it seems rather easy now, some of the art and the pairing to music had to be extremely difficult…especially considering animation and editing processes then.  While it is easy to market things like Pinocchio or Snow White, Fantasia is a bit more of a challenge since there is no main character…but despite this the nameless creations of the film are memorable.

Fantasia can be a difficult movie for some kids to sit through.  It is good to try however.  It is an amazing early example of how art and music can come together.  If some of the interpretational stuff is too dull for them, the dinosaurs of The Rite of Spring, the Greek mythology of The Pastoral Symphony, or the creepy demons of Night on Bald Mountain might grab their attention.  Fantasia is an interesting movie and should be celebrated…plus, it could turn a child into the next great composer.  Disney followed Fantasia with Dumbo in 1941.

Related Links:

Fantasia 2000 (1999)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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