Putting animation (or any visuals) to classical (or any type of instrumental music…maybe music in general) seemed like a great idea, and when Fantasia did this, I would have thought this would have been the first of many films (whether feature length or not) to follow. Why hasn’t this happened? Does the lack of films that have done this signify that the idea isn’t as good as it seemed? If the idea has merit, were there problems with some of the shorts in Fantasia?
I’m curious to hear responses from others, but here are some of my thoughts:
1. My sense is that translating the instrumental music into visuals—abstract or concrete—doesn’t seem to work so well as it seems to diminish the music. With instrumental music, I would guess imagining visuals isn’t part of the experience of enjoying the music. And when it does happen the images exist in the person’s imagination, which is probably richer and more powerful than the images presented in a film. (My sense is that the approach works best when the music is composed to accompany specific images and/or story [as in a ballet or movie score].)
2. Perhaps, the lack of an ideal format is one of the big reasons this concept hasn’t taken off. The feature length doesn’t seem an ideal format as one would probably have to break up the movie into little “vignettes” like they do in Fantasia. I don’t know if this would appeal to a wide audience—it might try the tax the patience of the audience. It would work better as a short, possibly shown before a feature film. Or maybe something used on the internet.
3. Another problem might have been Disney and the targeting children or at least heavily accommodating them. There’s a cutesy element (as in the Beethoven section) that, while sometimes fun and charming, might have limited the power and effectiveness of the translation.
4. I’d be curious to see more experimentation with the concept. For example, I’d like to see the use of jazz or other types of music, possibly music with lyrics as well. I’d like to see live action footage used as well. (Oh, I guess I should have mentioned Geoffrey Reggio’s films, which basically uses a similar concept. I generally like Reggio’s results, and I’d be interested in seeing more films like this.)
I love the idea of animating musical pieces, and I welcome your call for all types of instrumental pieces to be explored in this way.
Back in my youth it was Fantasia that introduced me to classical music and began a life-long love of it. When I discovered LSD (in a later period of my youth) I set the film to other types of music, the most rewarding, at the time, being a live recording by Eisturzende Neubaten, which is a German Industrial band. The ways it synched up, especially during the Rite of Spring section, were incredible.
Anyway, I’d love to see more (and I haven’t done LSD in a long, long time ;)
I once had the idea to animate a narrative film based on the song Hotel California, but that didn’t go anywhere. The kinds of music I’d like to see treated in this way the most are non-narrative, though. The more experimental the better. My favorite sections of Fantasia are the more surreal ones, like the introductory Bach segment in the original film. Artists creating based on nothing more than the sounds themselves.
Back in my youth it was Fantasia that introduced me to classical music and began a life-long love of it.
That’s cool, and I think it’s a great way to introduce this type of music to younger viewers. I would think people from both the classical and jazz communities would be jumping all over this idea.
The ways it synched up, especially during the Rite of Spring section, were incredible.
Yeah, but you were on LSD, so…;)
Btw, do you know of any other films that have done this?
It’s not a film, per se, but it’s still sublime.
Horrible presentation, but nevertheless:
Awesome. Thanks, Dib.
In terms of Jazzahola’s inquiries into Fantasia, Oskar Fischinger is very important because he was signed on by Disney to work on it, but they two split because Fischinger demanded abstraction and Disney demanded narrative.
So the question is, is the dearth of purely music based synchronized imagery in the mainstream due to the requirement of narrative as Disney sees it?
Oskar Fischinger is very important because he was signed on by Disney to work on it, but they two split because Fischinger demanded abstraction and Disney demanded narrative.
But Fischinger’s has as specific notion of abstraction. To me, his approach is almost too literal, focusing on representing each note and its relationship to other notes, using different positions in space for harmonic and melodic relationships, movement for tempo and size for dynamics. My feeling is that the results are not aesthetic so much as didactic or pedagogic—as if the video is a tool to teach music appreciation more than to enhance the aesthetic experience. (I don’t know, that’s how I feel about the approach now, but I might change my mind.)
I think one can use abstraction that doesn’t try to represent the notes/sounds, but uses form, line, color in to represent the feeling or ideas of the music. Concrete images could also be used in a non-narrative format as well.
I must say that Disney’s idea of a narrative is bit narrow as well. One could use more concrete images in a way that doesn’t adhere to a clear-cut narrative. Also, Disney’s narrative seemed targeted towards children, which results in cute and silly (for comical effect) vibe. Godfrey Reggio’s films or moments in Tree of Life examples of alternatives that lie between narrative and abstraction.
“My feeling is that the results are not aesthetic so much as didactic or pedagogic”
Fischinger would disagree. He considered his work to be revelations in synaesthesia. But I do see your point.
“Godfrey Reggio’s films or moments in Tree of Life examples of alternatives that lie between narrative and abstraction.”
Some guys at a production office showed me this the other day. Oddly enough they ’didn’t know what to do with it.’ For some reason they really liked it and were rolling it into some programming, but had no idea how to label it or describe it.
Montage, stop-motion animation, visual abstraction somehow just not being acceptable vocabulary?
I don’t have a link, but Eisenstein often saw his process of montage to be like visual symphony. In a few experiments, he edited montages to symphonies — in some sense music video of the early sound era but in another sense the visuals encompassed a newer meaning beyond the service of the music, so the two were supposed to be sutured together. One of those is available on Kino’s Avant Garde collection.
Disney originally conceived of Fantasia as a continuing series, with new pieces being incorporated all the time.
I would guess this hasn’t happened because Americans, by and large, don’t care about classical music and won’t pay money to see it in movie theaters. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.
I think part of it is a mismatch of appeal. The people who appreciate classical music aren’t the same as the people who will go to see an animated feature. Particularly in the US where animation is something that’s more delineated as ‘childish’ than in other countries.
Check out the Italian film, Allegro Non Troppo. It’s as good as, or almost as good as Fantasia, in my opinion. It’s actually supposed to be a parody of Fantasia, but it ends up having many of the same strengths and weaknesses.
“I would guess this hasn’t happened because Americans, by and large, don’t care about classical music and won’t pay money to see it in movie theaters”
Fantasia is the 22nd highest all-time gross, adjusted. 2000, however, indicates that people were not strong on the sequel (I happen to own a DVD copy of it and haven’t watched it, hehe!) But I like the idea of the movie continually expanding. The only problematic issue of that is the quite literal ‘Disneyfication’ of classical music. It was a very long time before I could listen to some of those compositions without imagining the images Disney gave me, instead of (in some cases) the intended narrative or (in other cases) my own imagination.