1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Reviews #3 - Fantasia

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Disney Animation Reviews #3 - Fantasia

Disney Animation Review: 3/52 - Fantasia

Ryan Dosier - The third animated feature film from Walt Disney is the two-hour animated concert picture Fantasia (1940). The film combines the stunning animation of Walt Disney’s team of artists with beautiful classical music performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Leopold Stokowski. There are a total of seven performances in Fantasia, and I would be lying if I said I liked more than three of them.

For what it’s worth, Fantasia is one of the most visually stunning Disney features. You would be hard pressed to find animation this good, colors this dynamic, and layouts this breathtaking anywhere else. But what Fantasia excels at in artistry, it lacks in entertainment value (for the most part). Many of the segments go on for far too long, such as the “Nutcracker Suite,” which lasts at least 15 minutes. These lengthy run-times for the less impressive segments mean that Fantasia struggles to hold your attention for too long.

However, there are some very notable pieces in the film, including “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” starring Mickey Mouse, “Dance of the Hours” with ballet dancing hippos, and “Night on Bald Mountain.” These three, of all the pieces present, are the most entertaining, Disney-esque, and drastic.

Take “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” which is by far the most fun and entertaining of the bunch. Perhaps it commands attention and adoration so easily because it stars Mickey Mouse, but it succeeds nonetheless. The colors are a vibrant mixture of reds, blues, and yellows that strike or fade at the perfect moments. Mickey has never been better as he fights the magical broomsticks and dreams of greater things. This is truly one of Mickey’s crowning achievements as a character. It leaves me wondering why Disney chose to make a horrible live-action version with Nicholas Cage instead of adapting it into a feature film for Mickey Mouse… but I digress.

"Dance of the Hours" is the funniest and cleverest of the shorts. Disney had the genius idea to turn this into a comic ballet featuring ostriches, hippos, elephants, and alligators. Not only is it funny, but the character animation on the animal dancers is superb. If you ever wondered how a hippo dances, Fantasia has the answer. The hippo’s fat rolls and bounces and squishes in all the appropriate (or shockingly inappropriate) places. Even the alligators, led by the charming Ben Ali Gator, move realistically on their hind legs, even though that’s impossible. “Dance of the Hours” is a truly paramount moment for character animation—plus it’s hysterical.

And then there’s “Night on Bald Mountain,” one of Disney’s darkest pieces of work. Demons and ghosts and ghouls come from all around to gather at Bald Mountain, where the hideous Chernabog uses them at his will. He plunges them into hell, transfigures them, and is just plain spooky. The animation is some of Disney’s creepiest and best. The Chernabog’s hands, especially, move with eerie realism. The dancing demons are frightening, the skeletons and ghosts are perfect with pastel outlines, and everything just builds and builds and works brilliantly. Kudos to Disney for taking such a risk with this piece in particular.

All in all, Fantasia is not a bad film by any means. It just doesn’t fit my preference for narrative storylines and consistent characters. I believe that taking the movie in chunks, not all at once, is the best way too enjoy it, but to each his or her own.

Despite my misgivings about it, Fantasia is still one of the most gorgeous pieces of animated cinema ever. Walt Disney and his team stretched themselves to their limits creating this piece of art, and it shows. Like all good art, Fantasia takes some getting used to and requires time and thought to appreciate. I’m sure that’s why it doesn’t connect as well with me, but darn it if I’m not already wanting to watch “Dance of the Hours” again.

3/5 Hyacinth Hippos

The Mickey Mindset, mickeymindset@gmail.com

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