Fantasia (1940) – James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe jr., Norman Ferguson, David Hand, Jim Handley, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, and Ben Sharpsteen

After Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney’s Fantasia, from 1940, was quite possibly the studio’s riskiest and definitely their most experimental film.

Before 1938, the idea of animated feature was unheard of. The thought that a story could be created, and cartoon characters could be involving enough to carry an entire full length film was unheard of.

Disney did it.

The experimental Fantasia, marrying music and image, most times without the benefit of a story, took decades longer to find a home before it was realised for the classic that it is.

It is also the first film on the What Else to Watch list following a screening of Snow White in DK Canada’s magnificent The Movie Book.

A variety of musical pieces, all recognisable, even to the most neophyte music lover have images created for them. Some of them have become iconic like, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, or my personal favourite, Night On Bald Mountain, while others are experimental creations that hint and play around existence.

I remember seeing this during the 50th Anniversary theatrical release while I was living in Halifax and I recall being stunned by the pageantry, both visual and aural on display. The only other thing I could compare it to at the time, and a comparison that still seems apt is 2001: A Space Odyssey – both are cinematic ballets.

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It’s unfortunate that Walt Disney’s original plan, to release the film every couple of years, rotating in new pieces while rotating others out making for a new experience each time the film was viewed, never came to fruition.

As it is, with a variety of pieces, there is something here for everyone, from classic Disney fans who want to see anthropomorphic animals do their thing to animation fans who want to revel on the marriage of sound and picture.

The film works so well now, though the picture isn’t in the cinemascope that is should have been made in ( I know, the expense would have been insane) and it seems perfectly suited to the home theatre – you can enjoy the impressive sound, the fantastic musical compositions in the best sound possible, and contrast it with the images on your widesceen television.

The film, for me, also shows the importance of music for animated films, it’s hard to imagine these images without the beautiful scores to go with them, or to switch studios, it’s hard to image some of the classic Warner Brothers shorts without their classic scores, What’s Opera, Doc? is a prime example.

Not all masterpieces are recognised as such initially, but the decades, artists, and cinemaphiles have elevated Fantasia to where it needs to be – a highmark in experimental animation and a wondrous experience.

Check it out if you’ve never seen it, or revisit it again, for the first time. That and other titles are at your fingertips with DK Books’ The Movie Book – check it out today.

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