This film consists of animation set to eight musical pieces. Deems Taylor, the narrator, introduces himself and conductor Leopold Stokowski, then describes the three different kinds of music in the program. The first type tells a definite story, and the next, while having no specific plot, suggests a series of definite pictures. The last type is referred to as “absolute” music, that which suggests abstract images and exists solely for its own sake. The first number, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, represents the last type of music. In this segment, animated shadows of the orchestra gradually give way to more abstract images. The second number, The Nutcracker Suite, is an example of the second type of music, and this segment features ballets performed by the fairies who bring the seasons, Hop Low and his fellow mushrooms, goldfish and flowers. The third selection tells a definite story, that of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The music is based on a poem by Goethe, which was in turn based upon a 2,000 year old legend. In this number, Mickey Mouse is the young, ambitious apprentice of a powerful sorcerer. When the sorcerer retires for a nap, Mickey takes up his magic hat and acquires his powers, using them to enchant a broom to carry in water. Mickey falls asleep, and while he dreams of enchanting the universe, the broom carries in more and more water until Mickey is awakened by a flood. Mickey’s efforts to correct the situation result in catastrophe, but finally the sorcerer appears and restores order. The fourth number, Rite of Spring, illustrates the story of evolution, showing how the Earth was formed and how life grew from one-celled sea creatures to mighty dinosaurs. The dinosaurs eventually die, and evolution continues.
The next segment, The Pastoral Symphony, presents a lovely day on Mt. Olympus, where cherubs, fauns, unicorns, pegasuses, centaurs and centaurettes frolic. Bacchus, the god of wine, arrives with his trusty steed Jacchus, and a bacchanal begins, only to be interrupted by Zeus and Vulcan, who shower lightning bolts on the merrymakers. Zeus eventually wearies of his game and peace is restored as Isis, the goddess of the rainbow, spreads a rainbow over the land. Apollo drives his sun chariot across the sky, and as he disappears, Morpheus, the god of sleep, draws his blanket of night over everyone. The mythic creatures fall asleep as Diana shoots an arrow of fire and covers the sky with stars. The sixth selection is Dance of the Hours. This ballet, depicting the passage of time, is performed by a talented corps of ostriches, hippos, elephants and alligators, who represent morning, day, evening and night. The final two numbers, Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria, are, according to Taylor, a picture of the struggle between the profane and the sacred. The segment begins on Walpurgis night, when Chernabog, the black god, who lives in Bald Mountain, casts a spell on the sleeping town and raises up ghosts from their graves and demons from the fiery depths. The evil creatures dance for Chernabog’s pleasure until dawn comes and the church bells, calling the faithful to worship, begin to ring. The ghosts and demons return to their origins, while Chernabog folds himself back into the top of the mountain. The faithful begin their candlelit procession through the forest as they sing “Ave Maria,” and the film ends as the sun rises. –AFI
Director, writer, producer and narrator James “Jim” Algar loved the action and adventure associated with creating Disney’s nature and animal pictures. While directing the True-Life Adventure “The African Lion” in 1955, he lived among the lions of Kenya and while producing the feature “Ten Who Dared” in 1960, he challenged the raging white water rapids of the Colorado River.
Among the many hats he wore, however, the most important was that of storyteller. Jim penned five Academy Award-winning motion pictures for Disney, including “Nature’s Half Acre,” “The Living Desert” and “The Vanishing Prairie.”
As vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company Roy E. Disney once recalled, “Jim was a great storyteller, who made invaluable contributions to our animated classics, theme parks and especially, our nature films. He added tremendously to the Studio’s reputation for superior storytelling.”
Born June 11, 1912, in Modesto, California, Jim attended Stanford University, where… read more
Animator Norm Ferguson, affectionately called “Fergy” by his friends at The Walt Disney Studios, was never inhibited by anatomy and drawing rules. An instinctive artist, he drew what felt right, often surprising his peers with the unlikely results.
As animator Fred Moore once said, “Fergy doesn’t know that you can’t raise the eyebrows above the head circle, so he goes ahead and does it and it gives a great effect.”
Fellow Disney Legend Marc Davis summed up Fergy’s contributions when he said, “Norm Ferguson was a sharp performer and a showman.”
Fergy’s sense of showmanship stemmed from the old vaudeville comedians, who he loved to watch perform during his formative years in New York City. Their influence on him surfaced in the famous flypaper sequence, which Fergy animated in the 1934 Disney short “Playful Pluto.” The memorable 65-second sequence, which begins with Pluto sitting on a sheet of flypaper and leads to a string of hilarious gags as he attempts to free… read more
“T.” (Thornton) Hee (March 1911 – 30 October 1988) was an American animator, director, and teacher. He taught character design and caricature. He is always credited as T. Hee.
Hee worked at Leon Schlesinger Productions from 1935-36 as a character designer. He designed many of the celebrity caricatures used in The Coo Coo Nut Grove (1936) and The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (1937). A 1936 Christmas card that he drew, featuring caricatures of the Schlesinger animators, was used to design the gremlins in the 1944 animated short Russian Rhapsody.
Hee joined The Walt Disney Company around 1937. He is most recognized for directing the Dance of the Hours segment of Fantasia. He left after the strike, but returned to work there twice, from 1940 to 1946, and again from 1958 to 1961. Hee also worked for United Productions of America (1951 to 1958) and Terrytoons (1961 to 1963).
Hee was one of the co-founders, along with Jack Hannah, of the Character Animation program at the… read more
Walt Disney first came to rely upon Wilfred Jackson’s genius and sense of perfection, the year Mickey Mouse was born, 1928. At that time, Walt had conceived the notion of marrying music and animation during what was the age of silent movies. Then a new kid in the Studio’s animation department, Wilfred devised a method of synchronizing animation with music, by using a metronome to mark time that could then be converted to a music track. The innovation, which was featured in Mickey Mouse’s debut film “Steamboat Willie,” revolutionized the entertainment medium and competing studios spent more than a year trying to figure out Disney’s production “secret.”
Walt quickly promoted “Jaxon,” as he was called, from animator to director. And as Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston wrote in their book, “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life,” — "Jaxon was easily the most creative of the directors, but he was also the most “picky” and took a lot of kidding about his thoroughness."
Born… read more
Ham Luske, a business major, with no formal art education, was the first animator cast by Walt Disney on his daring new project, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the Studio’s first full-length animated feature film. In a memo dated late 1935, Walt wrote, “From now on Ham Luske is definitely assigned to Snow White.”
As the film’s supervising animator, Ham was responsible for the most difficult character of all – Snow White. The audience had to believe in her for the picture to be a success, which led to the use of such groundbreaking techniques as live-action reference films. Ham adeptly directed live-action model (actress Margie Bell) on film, which artists then referred to as they brought the character to life.
Animator and fellow Disney Legend Ollie Johnston recalled, “Ham’s careful planning and shooting of the live-action footage, always with the idea in mind of how it would be used in animation, resulted in a very convincing character.” So much so that Snow White… read more
When Ben Sharpsteen joined The Walt Disney Studios in 1929, he quickly became Walt´s right-hand man in animated and live-action film production. As Walt once wrote, “Concerning Ben Sharpsteen and his contributions to the development of the Disney organization, I want to say he played a very important part.”
Born in Tacoma, Washington, on November 4, 1895, Ben was raised in Alameda, California. He studied agriculture at the University of California at Davis and in 1917, joined the U.S. Marines serving in World War I.
A gifted artist, after the war he won a job with the Hearst International Film Service, working on such early animated series as “Happy Hooligan.” He went on to work as an animator at the Paramount Studio, Jefferson Films and the Max Fleischer Studio in New York.
A mutual friend recommended Ben to Walt Disney, who sent a letter inviting him to visit the Studio in Los Angeles. The day Ben arrived, Walt showed his prospective employee Mickey Mouse cartoons… read more
This movie has had such an impact on me when I was young for how beautiful some of the scenes were. There is so much work of beauty in every frame, the colors, the animation and storyline. Nowadays we don't have much stories of centaurs and gods in the sky or ballet dances of demons. Fantasia is a light-hearted poetry of fascination with nature and magic.
Also: See It Big! in New York, Clouzot at Harvard, Mapplethorpe in Paris and Jeunet’s next project.