Disney at the Movies – Day 3


Fantasia Day 3

photo by Martin Blanco

                 Disney at the Movies – Day 3

  1. Cartoon Shorts    Music Land and The Band Concert
  2. Main Feature      Fantasia
  3. Live Action          Almost Angels

It’s hard to believe that Disney released Pinocchio and Fantasia in the same year, but indeed they did.  Today’s main feature, Fantasia, had its world premiere on November 13, 1940 in Manhattan.  Not content to rest on any laurels, Disney perfected if not invented the music video, pioneered new achievements in audio technology, and augmented the artistic potential of animated film with its third full-length feature.  Fantasia was ahead of its time, despite the lukewarm initial response, because almost 80 years later, it remains a vital part of cinematic history and Disney culture.  Fantasia presents eight pieces of music from the classical (writ broadly) tradition covering almost four hundred years of music by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky. The most enduring is “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment.  Even if you’re not familiar with Paul Dukas’ music, everyone will recognize Mickey Mouse in his iconic star-adorned blue hat and red wizard cassock. This segment also revealed a new Mickey Mouse, taller and with sclera surrounding his pupils.  This rendering of Mickey remains the standard to this day.

The music is performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the finest in our country, and conducted by Maestro Leopold Stowkoski. The music is interspersed with brief segments about orchestras, basic music theory, and introductions to the pieces themselves.  These are narrated by Deems Taylor, a celebrated composer and music pundit of the day.

I’ve come across criticisms that assert that literature has been debased by the Disney animated film adaptations and similarly, that Fantasia does a disservice to the music it showcases.  I would counter-argue that while the Disney films are wonderful in and of themselves, they are not an alternative to literature and music.  Rather, they are excellent gateways to the joys of reading literature and listening to orchestral music.  The best films from the Disney canon beckon one to read further, to listen more deeply, and to explore.  I feel the same way about the Disney theme parks, which is why we strive to keep the spirit of the parks active in our daily lives.

Fantasia pairs well with Music Land (1931).  This Silly Symphony is set in a magic land of sentient musical instruments. It is a love story reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet where the violin Princess from the Land of Symphony and the saxophone Prince from the Isle of Jazz must bridge the Sea of Discord that is keeping them apart.  The difference in musical styles is what fuels the animosity between the lands. The conceit is imaginatively rendered.  Rest assured there is a happy ending as true love triumphs over the Sea of Discord with a Bridge of Tranquility.  The cartoon opens with a map of Music Land, and if you only glance at it, it looks a little like an early draft of the Magic Kingdom.   It’s not, but you can almost see the Disney wheels turning.

Next, we recommend The Band Concert.  I know we just watched this, but it’s our project and we can do whatever we want.  Besides, it’s so good it deserves a second viewing and it fits in perfectly with the musical theme.

Finally, we’ll end the evening with Almost Angels.  This 1962 gem is a coming of age story set in the world of the famed Vienna Boys Choir.  It’s a sweet story, but the film is all about the music and the scenery.

This evening is also all about the music.  The corn is popped, and we are ready to embark on Day 3 of Disney at the Movies.  Hope you enjoy this!

#Fantasia #TheBandConcert #MusicLand #AlmostAngels #sillysymphony #disneymovienight #MickeyMouse


Disney A to Z The Official Encyclopedia Fourth Edition Dave Smith c. 2015 Disney Editions

The Disney Films Leonard Maltin c. 1978 Popular Library

c. Martin Blanco, Kathryn Blanco, and Disney at Home April 25, 2020

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