Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fantastic Cartoons

Tonight we watched Barry's latest Netflix pick - the 1940 full-length animated classic Fantasia.  If you've never seen it, the soundtrack of Fantasia is a lush classical music concert performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski.  Most of the visuals are Disney cartoons "suggested" by the music.

I last saw Fantasia about 30 years ago and I vividly remembered the Mickey Mouse version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the hippos frolicking to Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours, and the illustrations to Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, but I had forgotten much of the rest of the film.  In particular, I had forgotten (or not noticed the first time around) the richness and detail of the animation.  While not pretending to the photorealism of Avatar and its ilk - these are supposed to be cartoons - almost all the animated scenes have fully realized "sets" with gorgeous colors, layers of depth, and atmospheric "lighting."  The artwork is still fresh and beautiful; only the elves, fairies, and other semi-human characters look a little dated, being obviously children of the 1930's.

I was surprised to realize how much my own art has been influenced by Fantasia and its Disney siblings.  Here's a screenshot from a Flash animation I did a few years ago:

With longer fins, my tropical fish could have been some of the synchronized swimmers who perform to Arab Dance from Tchaikowsky's Nutcracker Suite, and my merperson is clearly related to the centaurs in the sequences set to the movements of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.  I suppose I'd rather have the denizens of Fantasia lurking in my subconscious than, say, the characters from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; I just hope the ever-vigilant Disney lawyers don't decide to sue my socks off.  (My socks are about all they could get.)

Back to the movie, though - if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it for all ages with the possible exception of the penultimate Night on Bald Mountain sequence, which may be too intense for small children.  Disney also released an updated IMAX version of the movie in 2000 that I haven't seen yet; I understand it's even bigger and better, although frankly that's a little hard for me to believe.

"What you're going to see on the screen are the designs and pictures and stories that music inspired in the minds and imaginations of a group of artists. In other words, these are not going to be the interpretations of trained musicians, which I think is all to the good." ~Deems Taylor, introduction to Fantasia


  1. Wow, this post makes me want to watch 'Fantasia' right now... I forgot about all the amazing music that is in it.

    Thanks for posting :)

  2. Yes - great music, beautiful cartoons, and Mickey Mouse - you can't help but feel better after watching it!