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Disney Review - Fantasia

Well, that was … different.

I’ve never seen Fantasia before. Well, no, that’s a lie. I’ve never finished Fantasia. Every so often I’d start it, get about ten minutes in and be baffled by the complete lack of plot or characters and turn it off in sheer boredom. But I was but a child then, surely by now as an adult I could sit through it and be entertained and inspired and all those other things one does when one sees a movie again after being grown up. Sadly, I should have heeded my younger self’s advice – good golly is this heavy going!

Eight individual animation segments set to famous classical music. I can see what they were trying to do with this. It’s a good opportunity for the animators to reinterpret the music into a new light, while pushing their animation skills even further than before. And to its credit, Fantasia looks stunning. So many wonderful images, ranging from the abstract shapes and colours in “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” to the balletic fairies in the Nutcracker Suite to the rather funny hippos in tutus in “Dance of the Hours”. It’s all beautiful to look at, and certain images (like Chernabog in “Night on Bald Mountain”) have rightly lasted the test of time. Independently, each of these segments are quite nice, though admittedly not to my tastes. But one after another for over two hours, it honestly came to a point where I considered switching it off and moving on to watching Dumbo instead. How kids in the 40s were expected to cope with this I have no idea…

The bit I really liked is the bit everyone remembers – and indeed the reason why Fantasia was made – “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. Who can’t help but like Mickey Mouse, making his feature debut (and his debut into my reviews). Of all the segments of Fantasia, this was the one that felt more like a traditional film, including a definite plot and characterisation. Mickey gives it a centre that the other segments lacked, a focal point for the audience to care about as he frantically tries to regain control of his enchanted broomsticks. Maybe it’s the fact he’s more recognisable than a random cute flying horse, maybe it’s something innate in Mickey’s character (or the reverence Disney has for him), but I found myself sitting up and taking notice more when he was on the screen. Fantasia only ever came about as something to support “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” short film, and I think you get that sense watching it – it stands up head and shoulders above the rest as something special. Sadly it comes in at around the half hour mark meaning you’ve got the bulk of Fantasia left afterwards which doesn’t inspire half as much.

I haven’t got a lot to say about Fantasia, but there’s not a lot to get your teeth into (and I confess, by the time I got to the second half I wasn’t paying as much attention as I probably should have). Fans of classical music will get a lot from this film. Those who get excited about revolutions in animation technique likewise. However I am neither, I prefer a movie to have plot and character and jokes and story, otherwise I’m left bored…