Produced by Walt Disney Productions. Inc. Music played by Leopold Stokowski and Philadelphia Orchestra. Narrative by Deems Taylor. Fantasound recorded by RCA and reproduced by specially designed RCA Fantasound theater equipment Running time, 125 minutes.
This new $2,200,000 Walt Disney adventure into visual concert is difficult to describe. To eight musical masterpieces Disney and his staff have created fitting stories and action in animated cartoon. These drawings in color ride upon music recorded and conducted by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, the eight numbers, distinct in themselves, being linked together by amusing and informative narrative by Deems Taylor.
The whole idea started when Disney was working with Stokowski making a short based on Paul Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice with Mickey Mouse as the lad who, using magic, put the magician's broom to work carrying water — and then didn't know how to stop the broom. Then Disney went on, did seven more links in the strange chain of music and drawing.
The result is a stiff dose of animation and music. It frequently touches imaginative beauty of design, is often delightfully humorous, is sometimes dull for long stretches, now and then gets a little on the garish Christmas-card, trite comic-supplement side.
I found Mickey's short joust with magic to be funny. There are top moments when tiny mushrooms burst into dance as little coolie boys to Tchaikovsky's Chinese Dance of the Nutcracker Suite. There are strangely exquisite and beautiful flashes of fairies, pixies, blossoms and milkweed fluffs riding the sunbeams, also to Tchaikovsky. There is a fantastic, scientific vigor to the re-creation of the prehistoric dinosaur days of the Mesozoic era done to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and lovely interludes of the winged horse, Pegasus, and his family galloping the skies to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. Far less successful is the comic-strip interludes of a giant hippo doing Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours.
This isn't for children. The horrors of demons, cadavers, and devils emerging from tombs to Moussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain pack terror for the kiddies. I grew bored, too, with repeated returns to the southern exposure of Stokowski in the act of conducting. Indeed, your Beverly Hills found this, on the whole, to be a courageous, provocative adventure (hence the ★★★½) but far too long, far too tough, sometimes too noisy, a dose of animation and music.
Mr. Disney gives us something new.
VITAL STATISTICS: The idea of Fantasia started in December, 1937.... The studio sent a crew of technicians and studio musicians to Philadelphia where, from March 17 to May 5, 1938, the business of recording the Philadelphia Orchestra, with its 103 musicians, went on; 420,000 feet of music was recorded, of which 18,000 feet was finally used. Then the studio artists got busy creating stories to fit the music.... A new type of dimensional sound, called Fantasound, was worked out by Disney engineers and RCA Victor. The orchestra was divided into sections and recorded on film in nine different recording channels. The first and second violins and violas had one channel the cellos, basses, and harps another, and so on. One channel picked up the over-all sound. The sound tracks then were taken to the Disney studio at Burbank, California, edited down to three tracks and a control track. This last determines the volume of the music, which parts of the orchestra are to scar above others, from which loud-speakers the sound is to come.... Disney plans to present Fantasia as a road show, carrying its own sound equipment. There will be twelve such units, costing about 330,000 apiece.
Publication Date: December 26, 1931