82 years ago: the story of ‘Fantasia’, the Disney film that changed cinema

It was November 13, 1940. That day the third animated film from a company called Disney. His founder, walt disneywas reaping great success with films at that time revolutionary What Snow White (1937) Y pinocchio (1940) and now he was going to launch a new creation that he hopes will be as successful as the previous ones. It was called Fancy.

walt disney he was used to betting big and risking big. When he started his famous Silly Symphonies in 1929a kind of animated short films –first in black and white and then in colour– with characters who later became famous (such as pluto or the duck Donald), many told him that they were going to be a failure. And the truth is that the first ones weren’t very successful, but as soon as he started doing them in color and focusing on popular tales -like The three Little Pigs either The tortoise and the hare–, the formula had an enormous response both in terms of audience and prestige. The three Little Pigsfor example, took a Oscar for best animated short in 1933. The tortoise and the hare he took another in 1935.

a visionary

walt disney I could have kept making those shorts for years. However, in his mid-thirties, he decided that the formula was no longer valid. Or, rather, that we had to make the leap to something more ambitious: it was time to make feature films. An entire animated feature had never been made, and when Disney proposed making one, many on his team threw their hands up. That was a waste of time, some thought. An announced failure. A huge mistake that they were going to pay dearly.

They were wrong, what if they were wrong: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was not only a technical feat for the time, it was also a huge success. It is estimated that he earned eight million dollars at the time, quite a feat. Three years later, Pinocchio would achieve similar success.

Again Walt Disney could have continued exploiting the formula, but again he felt that a new twist had to be given. and he thought of Fancy.

a risky bet

The bet was risky: Fancy It wasn’t exactly like the previous movies. Disney. She was much riskier artistically speaking, with a much more sophisticated, demanding and experimental visual language. For starters, she was going to have no dialogue, just music, classical music really. Secondly, it was going to have the little mouse as the central protagonist Mickeynow the most well-known and iconic character of the factory Disney, but at that time just one more character and not necessarily the most famous. In fact, it is said that the first idea that walt disney had for Fancy it was a simple short focused on Mickey for him to gain notoriety. In those years, goofy and, above all, the duck Donald they were taking all the limelight. Another character from a rival studio, a certain Popeye, was gaining ground on them. Disney wanted to give the friendly rodent a push.

Walt Disney had a grandiose vision for his new movie: he wanted to do some kind of animated classical music concert, bring an opera to the screen while Mickey conducted a fictional orchestra or participated in a well-studied choreography with objects that moved and danced. And he told conductor James Algar to take inspiration from the orchestral adaptation that the French composer Paul Dukas made of poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice of goethe. Disney wanted the score to be the main character and dictate the action on the screen. Obviously, the music had to sound as expressive as possible and Disney asked his friend Leopold Stokowskidirector of the Philadelphia Orchestra, who was in charge of representing it.

An overly ambitious project

When they learned the details, managers of the Disney company began to get nervous. The project was visually and artistically ambitious, but as a commercial product it seemed doomed to failure. Disney couldn’t make shorts anymore, they had to keep making movies. So Walt decided to double down on his bet and expanded Fancy: from a short they would go to a long concert of classical music, with more pieces of music apart from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That’s how they selected Toccata and fire in D minorof Bach; pieces of The Nutcrackerof Tchaikovsky; A portion of Spring consecrationof Stravinsky; and the Pastoral Symphonyby Beethoven, among others.

For everything, many who believe that Fantasia is a mere cartoon movie are very wrong. Actually, it is one of the most cultured and experimental films in cinema, pure art with a capital letter. Despite the fact that many only see choreographies of cubes and brushes dancing, or dinosaurs moving, we are actually in front of an avant-garde production, much more ambitious than some hipster movies that go over and over again.

But, as usually happens in these cases, the public at first did not know how to appreciate the technical display in front of them and Fancy it was not a huge box office success. It was not until many years later that it began to be valued as it should. Like one of the best movies of all time.

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82 years ago: the story of ‘Fantasia’, the Disney film that changed cinema

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