Week 3: Fantasia

Mickey Mousing at its Absolute Finest


Originally Released: 1940

It still surprises me that Fantasia was only the third full-length animated feature released by Disney, being released the same year as Pinocchio. I don’t know how they came up with the resources and technique to create this film only three or so years removed from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But not only did Disney and his team pull it off, they managed to make one of the most unique experiences in entertainment of the 20th century.

From the moment this film begins with the orchestra warming up and the narrator giving giving his explanation about stories and music, it is something special. Fantasia manages to take some of the best of the music realm and merge it with the best of the visual arts realm to create an entirely different and fantastic experience. The result is more than simply a story with music in the background, or music with a visual accompaniment. It is like that favorite song that you could just close your eyes and listen to over and over, but rather than just listening, you open your eyes and see your favorite piece of artwork laying in front of you as well. That is about where Fantasia belongs. It ends up being more than the sum of its parts and is a fine example of what the arts should be all about.


One thing that impressed me as I watched this time is just how well the animation flowed with and complemented the music. The technique of having something on the screen sync with or mimic the soundtrack is called mickey mousing, due to extensive use by Disney in early shorts and films. There are good examples and bad, cheesy examples of this technique in both live action and animated films, but nowhere have I ever seen better use of the technique than what is exhibited in Fantasia. Perhaps it helps that the music hails from greats such as Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Bach, but whether it is a completely abstract piece with no clear story to tell (Toccata and Fugue in D Minor) or music based on a clear story and using the actual character Mickey Mouse (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), the technique stays effective and greatly adds to the experience.


It is no wonder that Walt Disney wanted Fantasia to be a living, continually updated piece of work. His idea was to add pieces and subtract others to continually keep it fresh and play it across the country. However, this never really panned out because they couldn’t make enough money with the first movie. Imagine, though, having a live orchestra playing the music while the animation is shown on a giant movie screen. That is something I would definitely want to experience. Maybe someday there will be another chance. But until then, I will be content with Fantasia and its ballet-dancing hippos, fighting dinosaurs, frolicking fauns, and ghosts on Bald Mountain. Fantasia is a masterpiece.




6 thoughts on “Week 3: Fantasia

  1. Annie says:

    Great movie for introducing kids to classical music, huh!

  2. Ben Walser says:

    I’ve been posting these to the Re-Discovering the Magic page on Facebook. Awesome work, keep it up!

  3. I’m of the minority of people who doesn’t like this movie at all! It bored me terribly and I vastly prefer “Fantasia 2000” over this!

    • Ophiuchus says:

      I’d have to agree with you, TAC. Fantasia is quite possibly the most boring film in the Disney canon.

      • John says:

        I suppose if people go into it expecting a traditional plot, then yes, they are certainly going be disappointed. I’ve known a few people this happened to. That’s not the point of Fantasia, though. It was never meant to be a traditional film with a 3-act plot (although the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment does have some of that in it). It really should be classified in a similar category as going to the local philharmonic orchestra concert or the art gallery, and less in the category of going to the movie theater.

        I think once people realize this difference and accept Fantasia for what it is, and do not judge it by sets of standards it does not belong to – then it becomes much more tolerable. But I do understand why people can get put off by it. There are some people who simply don’t like that kind of entertainment, and there is nothing wrong with that.

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