Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Into Disney, where I over-analyse the Disney films made over the years.
And where we get to Walt Disney’s Magnum Opus: Fantasia. The film that he loved above all else. The film designed to totally change the way films are made. And to put no fine of a word on it… it flopped. It flopped hard. But why did it flop? Was it a case of bad timing, or an audience not appreciating it, or it just being a generally unmarketable idea? Well lets try and work it out.
Toccata and Fugue in D minor: Lets start at the start where we get introduced to the concept of Fantasia. We start off watching the orchestra, then focusing on the sounds the instruments make, and then abstract ideas and concepts that pop into our head as we watch it. Well that’s all very well and good and does do quite a lot to help immerse us. But here’s my major flaw against this section: It’s counter-intuitive. By showing us visual stimuli it defeats the purpose of us using our imagination of conjuring up images when you give it to us. A nitpick, yes. But a point none the less.
Nutcracker Suite: Not a terribly complex scene so I won’t discuss it in detail that much, except how rare it is to see the visuals react to the movies rather than the other way round. When you watch a movie, the score is made to go along with the movie. Pretty obvious stuff that doesn’t need that much elaboration. But in Fantasia, we have the reverse. We have the animation in relation to the music. Which of course leads to some odd creative choices where the animation has to be stretched to fit the music. It is a nice role reversal of how films are normally made.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Okay this was the entire reason the movie was made, so it should be talked about in some more detail. Firstly imagine if Donald Duck or Dopey were the titular character. Would it still have been as successful? It might have made Dopey a more well-remembered character rather then having him fade into pop culture background (Remember when Snow White came out, there was talks of giving Dopey his own show). With Donald Duck, would it explain the mischievous side of the character very rarely seen in Mickey Mouse today? In the short Mickey Mouse is essentially the antagonist. Sure it’s because of his own doing, but it can’t be denied that he is the ‘bad guy’ of the story. Which is odd to have him pose for pictures at Walt Disney World, since it shows him at his weakest moment. Still, what is the short actually about?
Well my interpretation is painfully obvious: It’s about the Industrial Revolution. For those not in the know (which is probably a lot) back in the Victorian times the Industrial Revolution hit and changed life forever. Now more stuff could be produced quicker thanks to the machines. There was less specialisation and more mass production. Which is all well and good except if you were a Luddite (and no, I’m not explaining the term, I can’t be your teacher all the time). In fact the iconic scene where Mickey smashes up the broom is a perfect representation of how the Luddites would smash up machines. Mickey Mouse plays a Luddite. What more do I really need to say?
Rite of Spring: The Futility of Life. Seriously it’s a short that’s just so depressing that it isn’t really that funny. You see the dinosaurs, you get scared by the scary ones, you like the cute ones… and then they die in a giant dust bowl (which had recently affected America in regards to The Great Depression, so that symbolism is hard to ignore). But what is that meant to really teach us? That everything has its time, and that everything dies? That’s actually quite an odd message to have in a film really. I mean it’s not many films that point out the futility of life, let alone Disney films. Hell I’d make the argument that this short is scarier then the infamous Night on Bald Mountain. At least the bad guys lose at the end of that short. Here death wins out, cos everything dies. Again, no other Disney film has ever done anything really like this. At least none that spring to mind. Hence making this one of the more unique shorts in the history of the company.
The Pastoral Symphony: You know, besides the ironic connection to My Little Pony, there’s not really all that much to analyse in this short. You could argue about the Westernisation of myth if you really wanted to stretch it, or the problems with censorship, but that’s about it. Next.
Dance of the Hours: Ah now this is where it gets juicy. My apologies in advance to Moviefan12 for nicking what I already wrote, but it’s an injustice to do a blog on Fantasia and not use this.
Right off the bat we see a pink-bowed ostriches dancing around some blue ribbon ostriches. Now an interesting fact about ostriches is that their eyes are bigger than their brains. Perhaps a subtle jab at female vanity, the old ‘brainless beauty’ stereotype, since we see the ostriches fight over grapes. Or a comical twist on the classic ‘swan’ metaphor seen when it comes to ballerinas (since Swan Lake is easily the most famous ballet).
Next are the hippos, once again a subtle jab against female objectification. Ballerinas, by their profession, are often skinny and petite. By using hippos the animators make the statement that even larger women can be graceful. That women shouldn’t be objectified because of their size or appearance, but how graceful (read: kind and loving) they are.
The elephants continue this theme by once again being big and beautiful. Of how they are unconventionally beautiful, that is to say that while society finds them ugly, they find themselves beautiful on the inside. Surrounding the sleeping hippo they blow bubbles, symbolize how they can be light on their feet as well. Once again, judging by appearance leads us astray, since the elephants also prove that even those that seem ungraceful can still dance in some way.
And the alligators… are just alligators. Not everything has to be over-analysed.
Just kidding. They represent the male urges caused by the beauty within the female form. They are the men of the world that love how light on their feet women can be. Remember, if we take the idea that the dancing = purity, then they represent the chivalrous knight that wants to be with a woman. How size and shape doesn’t matter, but how well she ‘dances’ (aka how wonderful she is).
As the female hippo is chased (in a representation of how women love playing hard to get and how men love to chase them) all the characters come back, representing how certain men like certain women. Some like the brainless beauty, some like the graceful big lady, some like the unconventionally beautiful women(Aka the ostriches, the hippos and the elephants).
As for the climax, well, just ask you’re parents about the birds and the bees.
So there you have it. A very short look at a piece of musical animation demonstrating the inner beauty that all women posses and how men prefer a woman’s grace to her physical appearance.
â€¦ What do you mean it’s about the four times of the day? The hell did you work that out? Madness.
A Night On Bald Mountain/Ave Maria: Again, this is actually a rather simplistic short. Devil awakens, makes minions dance for his amusement, gets sent back away again. Nothing all that complex. But what’s really interesting is the question about whether it could even be made today. I don’t mean on a technical level, but on a marketing level. Would any studio green light such a dark and risquÃ© short? I mean it stars the freaking Devil for his sake! It really does seem like that it wouldn’t be allowed because it’s too ‘dark’ for kids to understand (which is odd, cos at least Chernaborg loses at the end of A Night On Bald Mountain. Rite of Springs is more depressing because everything just dies). But this does lead onto the most important question of this blog:
Is there an audience for Fantasia? Who, exactly, is the demography for this film? Well we could say little children in regards to A Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Dance of the Hours. But the former contains much imagery that would frighten little children, whilst the other shorts would be deemed unsuitable nowadays. Okay then so it’s for adults. Which makes sense back then, because animation had yet to hit the ‘animation = childish’ problem. Although that is slowly changing. Anyway is this a film made for adults then? I suppose, but at 2 hours, it’s a bit on the long side, isn’t it? Okay so it’s made for musicians and those that love music. Yeah, but wouldn’t they rather see the Orchestra themselves then watch a recording. Okay then, animation fans. Yeah I’ll give you that. But is animation fans such a mainstream audience capable of making money? So at the end of the day it’s hard to say who’d watch Fantasia, which lead to its failure.
So there you have it. My views on Fantasia. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Next time: Dumbo: Corruption of Innocence