Legendary works of classical music are
interpreted through short animated segments.
Directed by James Algar, Samuel Armstrong,
Ford Beebe Jr., Norman Ferguson, David Hand,
Jim Handley, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske,
Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen
Written by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer
Starring Leopold Stokowski and Deems Taylor
Fantasia is ambitious to say the least, but it simply doesn't hold up for a modern audience. At the time of its release, I'm sure Fantasia was a marvel to Walt Disney's budding audience. It featured incredible feats of animation that they'd never seen before, and it further cemented Walt Disney's reputation as the king of animation. These days, it's more of a relic of a time long since passed. I found it to be dull with a serious pacing problem, with only two segments worth watching. As I don't want to go on a tirade about how much I didn't enjoy the other segments, this review will mainly focus on the two decent ones, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and "Night on Bald Mountain." Suffice it to say, the others are the reason the score is so low.
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is the segment that became the face of the film, and really the face of Walt Disney Studios for decades. The iconic image of Mickey Mouse in the magic hat has become one of Disney's most recognizable depictions of the character. The segment features young Mickey, a sorcerer's apprentice, stealing his master's magic hat so he can make an animated broom do his chores, which of course backfires. It's the exact kind of goofy charm people expect from a Disney production, and it's easy to see how it became the most memorable part of the film. Then, way at the end of the film, we get to see Disney's take on the Prince of Darkness in "Night on Bald Mountain," which was way more terrifying and unnerving than I expected. The dark image of the Chernabog (the devil stand-in) is haunting, and no doubt terrified young children for decades. This segment is easily the darkest Disney ever went and ever will go, which is why it's so important to the film.
However, these two enjoyable segments were not enough to redeem what is essentially a two-hour celebration of Walt Disney's own animation team showing off what they could do. I don't know why it's considered one of Disney's best animated classics. It doesn't hold a candle to most of the others. It's a chore to sit through the whole thing without falling asleep, even though the music is beautiful and the animation really is impressive even today. Maybe I'm just not the right audience for it.