Fantasia (1940)

 

The fantasy is its entertainment value.
The fantasy is its entertainment value.

Genre: Avant-Garde Fantasy Animation

Starring: Mickey Mouse (Steamboat WillieMickey and the Beanstalk), Deems Taylor

Overview: Seven classical musical numbers are played to animation.

Mickey's cameo offers respite from the animation tedium.
Mickey's cameo offers respite from the animation tedium.

Most films have stories with plots that can easily be ruined or spoiled, and I do my best not to stray too far into that realm. Fantasia is not that sort of movie. In fact it's downright avant-garde in its plotlessness. Narrator Deems Taylor conveyed it best when he stated that Fantasia was a "new form of entertainment". The up side of that is... well, your friendly neighborhood blogger can't really spoil a montage of images set to music, and second, 1940s fans of the avant-garde get to see a movie made just for them in theaters.
 
Fun can be found just over that hill, nope, THAT one... wait... that one.The down sides of such a film are the exact same things - one may not be necessarily prepared for a night of pastoral avant-garde, especially if you aren't a fan of classical music, and of course it's largely plotless. What it has going for it is the vignette style of short films tied into a common theme: classical music and animation. What isn't so great about Fantasia, among other things, is that it took me 12 hours to get through it.  Fantasia is actually 124 minutes but with so much of that time spent in boredom, it feels much longer.
 
We open with an orchestra showing up on stage and getting ready for their show. The narrator explain to us how it's going to work, and they get into the first vignette, animation choreographed to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. Without mincing words.... this segment is, how can I say... BORING. We begin with the music in the clouds, animated lines cross the screen, sometimes looking like violin bows, sometimes like sunlight rippling on water. Then we see hills. We slowly roll along hills until cloud-capped, crystal-coloured mountains show up. It's light, it's airy, it's slow, and frikken tedious. 
 Definitely more twinkly, MAYBE mildly more entertaining.
Then with barely a moment's respite, we sink ever deeper from the droning animation into Disney's interpretation of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite. Dancing flowers and mushrooms that barely hold one's interest are set to a classical tune that's been over-played into the dirt. I will praise the fact that there was no nutcracker. In fact, The Nutcracker Suite's tale is about fairies, nippleless fairies who dump dew all over the place then bring the changes of the season with their little wands. Compared to the the last segment it's an action film.
 
After walking away for two hours to shake off the tedium, I get to finally experience the most famous segment of Fantasia, Paul Dukas' symphonic poem, The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Mickey plays said apprentice who conjures up a broom to do his dirty work of fetching water until realizing too late that he has no way of stopping it. Cute, entertaining, famous, but by far Fantasia's best.
 
 Watching a species slowly go EXTINCT is more entertaining!
Watching a species slowly go EXTINCT is more entertaining!

Thinking that I had been warmed up with the slow stuff, I was expecting the rest to be filled with fairly narrative stuff. Enter Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Aside from a few too many minutes of bursting lava bubbles, this piece, telling the tale of the extinction of the dinosaurs was genuinely awesome. A day in the life of the end of days of T-Rex and his pals was moving, impressive and just plain fun. 
 
And you thought I was kidding about My Little PonyBeethoven's 6th, otherwise known as The Pastoral Symphony was... well let's just say that die-hard fans of MY LITTLE PONY will absolutely love it. Basically this is the children's perspective of a Greek centaur orgy, with the ever-so-wittily-named 'centaurettes' - again without nipples - wooing two-toned centaur studs with the help of bare-assed cherubs. Includes the drunken Bachus getting repeatedly lightning-bolted in the arse by Zeus. Double-entendre? Nooooo.
 
Hippo ballerinas make me weep.We follow with Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours music playing to not-so graceful animals performing ballet, and yes it is about as lame as it sounds. Ostriches wake up in tutus, prance over to the hippopussameese and we are then graced with, like, an HOUR of a corpulent hippo diva and her fat elephant friends, none of it presented with nearly enough tongue-in-cheek camp to make it funny. When the alligators show up well, I'm glad it's coming to an end.
 
Luckily for me, they saved the best for second-last, playing Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, a story about Lucifer and his demons. As you can see from the incredibly impressive art, he's about as Metal Awesome as you can get. Yes this is the best part, and too quickly interrupted by the juxtaposed Ave Maria that banishes the demons from Bald Mountain, with an appropriate yet unappealing slow segment that ends my suffering.

Now there's some awesome
Now there's some awesome
 
I haven't seen many feature length Disney films, but of the ones in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, I suspect Fantasia will be, by far, my least favourite.
 

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 8 Script: 6 Plot: 6 Mood: 5

Overall Rating: 64% (Dreaming of Being Elsewhere)
Aftertaste:

The only naked women with nipples in Fantasia are the harpies, and one of those harpies' chesticles does a fly-by right into the camera. How her rock hard nips didn't crack the lens, I'll never know.

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This movie I watched about 9 years after I watched the 'updated' and, apparently, 'more modern' version Fantasia 2000 with a few children in tow. Needless to say I absolutely detested it back then -- it was boring that most of said children fell asleep within the first half hour and I, ah, followed suit soon after.

The only reason I watched the original was because of the damned list. I was actually surprised that I liked it as much as I did. There were parts that were tedious, I admit but in its entirety this one is more riveting that the remake was. Then again, it can just be me and my rather recent love for classical music but I find this pretty cool stuff. Lucifer would have given me nightmares if I'd watched it as a kid. 

Just sayin'.

 

Cool review, Squish! :) 


Thanks Carla. You're good to me!

I had fun writing this one. Ranting's my favourite.


mhmm...

 

whaddaya know, reading your rants are MY favorite. :P

 

some small part of me is right at this very moment hoping you watch another not-your-cup-of-tea one soon so I can read more. mind you, just a very small part.  

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