Fantasia came in to Walt’s mind because of Walt Disney’s concern for the career of Mickey Mouse. To Walt, Mickey Mouse was not just a “money making” cartoon character, or a repeating gag maker. Walt
Disney was Mickey’s voice, alter-ego, and it troubled Walt to see Mickey Mouse’s Career decline. It was inevitable, the mouse was an international attraction for more than a decade, many actors couldn’t sustain a career for that long.
In 1938, Walt decided to include his star, Mickey Mouse, in a cartoon version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a fairy tale which had been interpreted as a poem by Goethe, and a concert piece by French Composer, Paul Dukas. Mickey was cast as the apprentice whose misuse of the sorcerer’s powers wreaks disaster.
Walt decided to use the conducted of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, to conduct the music for the short. Stokowski once said: “The beauty and inspiration of music must not be restricted to a privileged few but made available to every man, woman and child. That is why great
music associated with motion pictures is so important, because motion pictures reach millions all over the world.”
Prior to the production of Fantasia, Walt was making “Silly Symphony’s.” Most of these shorts included wonderful music, and fantastic animation. Shorts such as “The Three Little Pigs” combined Music and Animation to create a thrilling theatrical experience.
Walt’s idea for Fantasia was that it be “music you hear, and pictures you see.” Production began in 1937, with the Sorcerers Apprentice as the main segment. In this animated sequence, Mickey Mouse would star as the “everyday man.” There would be no dialogue, just the music, and, of course, the animation. As animation continued Walt and Strokowski realized that one segment would not be enough, and expanded to other musical pieces.
The costs of Fantasia rose, and rose, during production. One year after production started, costs rose to four times the amount a Silly Symphony would normally cost. Walt struggled to find more funds, and realized that when the movie was released, that the viewer should truly “hear” the music. Thus, began the creation of “Fantasound.” A new revolutionary sound system, especially made just for Fantasia. This new system would ensure proper sound synchronization, and quality.
Walt Disney asked Stokowski to help advise him with choosing the other pieces for
the rest of the feature feature. Walt also hired noted music critic and composer Deems Taylor to help select extra musical pieces for the movie. After much research, listening and work, final peaces were chosen
The name “Fantasia” does actually have a meaning. It means two things, a compositions in which the composer strays from the accepted form, and a potpourri of familiar arts, both apply to the film. A contest was held among Disney employees to choose a title. Over 2,000 entries came in, and “Fantasia” was picked, as quite a proper name.
Pieces in Fantasia include:
-Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
-The Nutcracker Suite by Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky
-The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas
-The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky
-The Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven
-Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli
-Night on Bald Mountain by Modeste Moussorgsky
-Ave Maria by Franz Shubert
Nearly 1000 people were involved in the production of Fantasia. The full magnitude of Fantasia was not realized until everything was brought together. Each part of the film was specialized and compartmentalized. Walt Disney did not set out to establish their conceptions as the definitive depiction of the music, but the familiarity of Fantasia has produced memories that seem tied to the music in today’s world
Walt Disney commented about Fantasia, “Fantasia’ is timeless. It may run ten, twenty, thirty years.””Fantasia’ is an idea in itself. I can never build another. I can improve. I can elaborate. That is all.”