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Monday, September 6, 2010

Monday at the Movies: "Fantasia" (1940)

So, I'm starting a new weekly blog topic on Smoldering Rose called "Monday at the Movies," where I watch and discuss a film that fits the romantic/fantasy/fairytale aesthetic. Today's film is Disney's classic Fantasia.




Fantasia is one of those you-either-love-it-or-you-hate-it Disney movies. The premise: give the feeling of a live classical music performance, complete with an onscreen orchestra and emcee. Only, instead of just our watching the musicians, Disney creates a series of animated vignettes to go with each musical number. As a fan of classical music, this is totally awesome to me. It reminds me of when Disney did musical short cartoons, only this is on such an enormous level. There have been sequels like Fantasia 2000, but to me, nothing can replace the artistry of the original.

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Here are five reasons I love this movie, and why you might too:
1. This movie is not just for kids: unlike many animated films, Fantasia is really better experienced by mature audiences who appreciate music and art on the level the animators and orchestra do. It is a celebration of the imagination of classical music visualized through the imagination of Disney animators. Not that you won't enjoy it if you have no interest in classical music, but this movie is definitely a gem for classical music fans--I mean, they got Leopold Stokowski to conduct for goodness sake! It was meant to be an art event, not just another Disney film.



2. Flower Fairies and Gold Fish in the Nutcracker Suite: Disney puts Tchaikovsky's famous ballet suite to a series of vignettes featuring a dancing goldfish, faeries bringing the frost, and dancing flowers and mushrooms. Very creative and otherworldy, which is how the music has also sounded to me( the Nutcracker is also my favorite ballet, so I guess I'm a bit partial to this piece):



3. The Pastoral Symphony: Also known as Beethoven's 6th, instead of a day in the countryside, Disney takes us through a day in the midsts of the mythical Olympians. With centaur couples, cherubs, and a baby pegasus' learning to fly, this is one of the most memorable fantasy sequences in Disney history:



4. The Dance of the Hours, with Hippos and Alligators: From the famous ballet in Ponchielli's opera La Gioconda, this ballet is the same setting as usual--Alvise's palace. It is an allegory of the times of day, with dancers representing dawn, midday, dusk, and evening. The difference in Disney's version is that the dancers are now ostriches, hippos, and alligators. And it's absolutely delightful:

5. Night on Bald Mountain into Ave Maria: This is my absolute favorite sequence--I love juxtapositions, and no two musical pieces have themes and tones more in opposition than Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain (where the subject is the debauchery of Satan's followers on a fiery mountaintop) and Schubert's Ave Maria (where the subject is the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ). In a provocative contrast, the sequence begins with monstrous figures heading toward a dark and looming Devil and ends with the coming of daylight where pilgrims with candles head through a beautiful forest over a cathedral-like bridge. Spiritual, invigorating, and brilliantly animated, this sequence is the reason I'm still amazed by this movie:




2 comments/comment?:

Himemiya said...

I haven't seen this movie in so long, is it out on DVD?

beata-beatrixx said...

Yes, I believe it was re-released on dvd just before Fantasia 2000 came out. I think the N. Asheville library has a copy too.