Monday, May 2, 2011

Thirty Days of Disney Movies, Day Seven - Favorite Animated Feature

"The Nutcracker Suite's"
dancing mushrooms
Even with a brief but memorable appearance by Mickey Mouse, Fantasia is the most un-Disney of Disney films. There are no fairy princesses, no singing animals, no catchy popular tunes. What there is,  is music. Classical music. And lots of it.

Even more so, however, there is art. Abstract, challenging, beautiful art. It commands your attention and presents itself in ways you'd never expect. Thus, Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker Suite" is no longer a child's Christmas Eve fantasy. It's a nature ballet. Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" may still mark the passage of morning into night, but it does so by casting a delightfully absurd ballet with ostriches, elephants, hippos and alligators.

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" stays mostly true to the original story of a would-be magician who gets reckless with his master's tools, but I doubt composer Paul Dukas ever pictured a cartoon mouse as the lead character.

Fantasia spans so many musical and animation styles, you sometimes get the feeling Walt and his animators just threw every idea against the wall to see what would stick--and not every musical segment did. Both the "Rite of Spring," with its epic dinosaur battle, and "The Pastoral Symphony," with its pastiche of Greco-Roman mythology, lack the energy and verve of Fantasia's other musical pieces. Fortunately, though, they span the middle portion of the film, thus saving the best for last: the sublime juxtaposition of "the profane and the sacred," "Night on Bald Mountain" and "Ave Maria."

Was there ever an animated character more evil than the horned god Chernobog?

Fantasia was a movie ahead of its time, both technically and thematically. It was Walt Disney's most ambitious feature length film, establishing animation as a true art form (just in case there was any doubt after Snow White and Pinocchio). Despite being a box office disappointment (it would take multiple re-releases over decades before it turned a profit), Fantasia set the gold standard for all other animated films that followed in terms of passion, creativity and inventiveness.

This is part seven of my 30-day Disney movie challenge. Coming up tomorrow, intrigue, suspense, a legendary villain...and Kanine Krunchies. My favorite Disney thriller.

No comments:

Post a Comment