Thursday, November 5, 2015

AFI Top 100, #58: "Fantasia" (1940)

Movie Stats:
Released 1940 (USA)
American, in English
Director - The only credited director is Norm Ferguson (he did the segment “Dance of the Hours”) but there are ten other uncredited directors.
Stars - There are no stars per se. Deems Taylor does the limited narration. The real stars are the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Leopold Stokowski, and the animators.

Plot Summary:
It’s a series of dialogue-free animated segments set to famous pieces of classical music.

Violence; nudity - for the most part you don’t see anything (the nude fairies and cherubs aren’t exactly anatomically correct), but in the last segment there are some boobs that are quite literally, albeit briefly, in your face (bear in mind that they’re cartoon boobs though).

Bad Stuff:
If you’re wedded to the idea of your films having plot, character development (or even characters really), dialogue, and/or action, then this probably isn’t the movie for you.

The dancing mushroom scene could be construed as racist. It certainly made me uncomfortable.

I thought it was too long. I really enjoyed it in the beginning, but then it felt like it started to drag, particularly during the dinosaur segment.

Good Stuff:
It’s such a cool concept. It’s basically an early form of the music video. I kept thinking about about how awesome it was that the writers and artists got to come up with these ideas to match these classical music pieces. I know I would’ve felt privileged to be a part of it.

A lot of it is very beautiful. Compared to today’s cartoons, the animation isn’t exactly spectacular, but I found it stunning nonetheless. The timing of every scene was flawless. I particularly loved the early segments with the fairies and flowers.

Great soundtrack!

The Verdict:
I was surprised by how thematically dark some of the segments were. I wonder if that’s why my mom never showed it to us; she preferred her entertainment to be very 1950s “wholesome.” And yes, you read that right, not only did I never see this movie as a kid, I never saw it before today! I knew about the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment, and there was something familiar about the hippo ballerina, but other than that, it was all new to me. I really enjoyed the idea of it, and loved the earlier segments. Once it got into the second half, it began to lose my interest. I found my mind wandering, noticing that the filmmakers didn’t seem afraid of science (refreshing in this day and age) and feeling a bit confused by the Greek segment because the Greek revival had its heyday in the early 1900s, so it seemed a bit out of place in a 1940 movie. At any rate, I liked it well enough and thought it was well done. I can see why it’s beloved by so many people.

I give it 3.75 stars.


Patricia said...

I was super excited when this was released on VHS for the first time. I think I even had a Fantasia t-shirt. And then, when I watched it for the first time, I was kind of disappointed at how many segments I'd already seen. I think I saw some of them on the Wonderful World of Disney, and they played some of them regularly on the Disney Channel, which we had cable by then, so I'd seen them there. I think we even saw the dinosaur one as a film played for us in elementary school.

Did you know that this was considered a flop when it was first released? People thought it was too high-brow married with too low-brow and not many people liked it. Us 1980s kids, though, primed on the music video, we thought it was just fine. Or at least this one did.

balyien said...

I didn't know, but am not surprised that it was considered a flop. When I was watching it, I kept thinking, "this seems oddly high-brow/esoteric for a kids movie." Then I was like, "Well, maybe kids were more mature back then." I guess not!

Patricia said...

I think too, that animated movies had not yet officially claimed the "kids" realm. This wasn't long after Snow White, which was supposed to be a flop, because what adult would sit through a feature-length cartoon?--but was actually hugely successful. So I think this was Disney's attempt to further the "cartoons are for everyone" aesthetic. Sadly, the adults weren't so into it.