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Original theatrical release poster
Directed by see below
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Joe Grant
Dick Huemer
Narrated by Deems Taylor
Starring Leopold Stokowski
Deems Taylor
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Walt Disney
Music by see below
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by Walt Disney Productions
RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) November 13, 1940 (1940-11-13)
(United States)
Running time 125 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2.28 million
Gross revenue $76,408,097
Followed by Fantasia 2000

Fantasia is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney. It is the third feature-length film produced by the Walt Disney Company. Fantasia features animation set to classical music and no dialogue—only spoken introductions by the host, American composer and music critic Deems Taylor, before segments. The music was recorded under the direction of Leopold Stokowski and seven of the eight pieces were performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Animated artwork of varying degrees of abstraction or literalism was used to illustrate or accompany the concert in various ways. The film also includes live-action segments featuring Leopold Stokowski, the orchestra, and Deems Taylor. Fantasia was notable for featuring what were then considered avant-garde qualities and for being the first commercial film released in multi-channel sound, using a process called "Fantasound".

Fantasia was originally released by Walt Disney Productions itself rather than RKO Radio Pictures, which normally distributed the Disney films, and exhibited as a two-hour and twenty minute roadshow film (counting the intermission) with reserved-seat engagements. The film opened to mixed critical reaction and failed to generate a large commercial audience, which left Disney in financial straits.[1][2]

Fantasia was eventually picked up by RKO for release in 1941 and edited drastically to a running time of 81 minutes in 1942. Five subsequent rereleases of Fantasia between 1946 and 1977 restored various amounts of the deleted footage, with the most common version being the 1946 rerelease edit, which ran nine minutes shorter than the original 124 minute roadshow version. A 1982 reissue featured a newly recorded digital soundtrack conducted by composer Irwin Kostal, but was taken out of circulation in 1990 after a restored version of the original Stokowski-conducted soundtrack was prepared. The original version of Fantasia was never released again after 1941, and although some of the original audio elements no longer exist, a 2000 DVD release version attempted to restore as much of the original version of the film as possible.

Fantasia, despite its initial commercial failure, went on to become one of the most popular films of all time[3] and is today considered a classic film.



By the late 1930s, Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse was losing his popularity with movie audiences. The Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts series had spawned the spin-off Donald Duck series, which was proving to be more popular and profitable than the former, but Walt Disney wasn't ready to give up on his favorite character and devised a special short that would be produced as a "comeback" film for Mickey Mouse. The Sorcerer's Apprentice, based on Goethe's balladic poem Der Zauberlehrling (1797), was planned as a special Mickey Mouse short and would be completely silent save for the program music by Paul Dukas, L'apprenti sorcier (1897). The story artists who developed The Sorcerer's Apprentice originally suggested Dopey from Snow White for the title role, but Disney insisted upon using Mickey.

As work began on The Sorcerer's Apprentice in 1938, Disney happened to meet famed conductor Leopold Stokowski at Chasen's, a noted Hollywood restaurant.[4] Stokowski offered to serve as conductor for The Sorcerer's Apprentice at no charge, and assembled over one-hundred professional musicians in Los Angeles to record the score for the nine-minute cartoon.[5][6]

At nine minutes, The Sorcerer's Apprentice ran two minutes longer than the average cartoon short of that time, whose length was nearly always no longer than seven minutes.

The animation department worked to make The Sorcerer's Apprentice one of their most ambitious works. Animator Fred Moore redesigned Mickey to give his figure more weight and volume in keeping with the modern efforts at the studio, and to give him eyes with pupils for greater expression. The film's color styling, pacing and layout, character animation, and effects animation were done with an increased attention to detail. The unnamed sorcerer in The Sorcerer's Apprentice was nicknamed "Yen Sid" in the department ("Disney" spelled backwards).[7]

All of this excess came at a high price: $125,000, a price Walt Disney, and especially his brother and business partner Roy, knew they could never make back from the release of one short film.[4] In comparison, most Disney shorts at the time averaged a cost of $40,000, which was $10,000 above the average budget for an animated cartoon made outside the Disney Studio. Disney's most successful short cartoon, The Three Little Pigs (1933), had made $60,000 in revenue. Following a suggestion by Stokowski, Walt Disney decided to expand The Sorcerer's Apprentice, originally intended as simply a regular Silly Symphonies cartoon, into a concert feature with several animated sequences set to music of which The Sorcerer's Apprentice would be one. To provide continuity and explanation, the composer and music critic Deems Taylor was recruited to provide live-action narrative introductions at the beginning of each segment. During production, the term Fantasia, which literally means "A medley of familiar themes, with variations and interludes",[8] was used regularly by Stokowski when in conversation with Disney about the composition of the music. Eventually, it become the films final title after formerly being used as way of referring to the film by Disney himself.

With The Sorcerer's Apprentice nearing completion, the rest of Fantasia entered production in early 1939, and the same attention to detail that was given to The Sorcerer's Apprentice was given to the other segments as well.

Program description

Some of the works played in the film are program music; that is, instrumental music that depicts or suggests stories in sound. However, the Disney program is generally not the same as the original. This criticism was addressed in the film itself. The host and narrator of the film, Deems Taylor, introduces each piece in the program and gives background on the original intent of the composer. There is no intent to deceive anyone into thinking that the Disney visual accompaniment was the "original intent" of the composer.

Some of the selections were shortened from their full length, for the sake of the film's running time. Of the eight pieces, four are presented virtually complete: Toccata and Fugue, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, the Dance of the Hours (which is actually expanded), and the Ave Maria. The Nutcracker Suite is shorn of its Miniature Overture and March, the twenty-five minute Rite of Spring (the longest segment in the film) is ten minutes shorter than the original thirty-five minute work, and the Pastoral Symphony segment is performed in a twenty-minute version rather than Beethoven's complete forty-minute original. There are also small internal omissions in Night on Bald Mountain.

Fantasia was produced on a budget of $2,280,000, to which $400,000 - nearly a fifth of the budget - went to the musical recording techniques.[9]

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Fantasia begins immediately (there are no opening credits or logos of any sort) with the curtains being opened to reveal an orchestra stand. Musicians are seen ascending the stand, taking their places, and tuning their instruments. Master of ceremonies Deems Taylor arrives and delivers an introduction to the film. Stokowski appears and begins conducting the first strains of his own orchestration of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, by Johann Sebastian Bach (originally written for solo organ).

The first third of the Toccata and Fugue is in live-action, and features an orchestra playing the piece, illuminated by abstract light patterns set in time to the music and backed by stylized (and superimposed) shadows. The first few parts of the piece are played in each of the three sound channels (first the right, then the left, then the middle, then all of them) as a demonstration of Fantasound. The number segues into an abstract animation piece—a first for the Disney studio—set in time to the music. Toccata and Fugue was inspired primarily by the work of German abstract animator Oskar Fischinger, who worked for a brief time on this segment. The animation segues back into the live-action footage of Stokowski as the piece concludes, setting the precedent for the rest of the musical numbers.

Although the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded the music for the film (excepting The Sorcerer's Apprentice), they do not appear onscreen; the orchestra used onscreen in the film is made up of local Los Angeles musicians and Disney studio employees like James Macdonald and Paul J. Smith, who mime to the prerecorded tracks by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Originally, the Philadelphia Orchestra was slated to be filmed in the introduction and interstitial segments, but union and budgetary considerations prevented this from coming to pass.

Nutcracker Suite

  • Musical score: Pyotr Ilyich TchaikovskyNutcracker Suite Op. 71a
  • Directed by Samuel Armstrong
  • Story development: Sylvia Moberly-Holland, Norman Wright, Albert Heath, Bianca Majolie, and Graham Heid
  • Character designs: John Walbridge, Elmer Plummer, and Ethel Kulsar
  • Art direction: Robert Cormack, Al Zinnen, Curtiss D. Perkins, Arthur Byram, and Bruce Bushman
  • Background painting: John Hench, Ethel Kulsar, and Nino Carbe
  • Animation: Art Babbitt, Les Clark, Don Lusk, Cy Young, and Robert Stokes
  • Choreography: Jules Engel

The Nutcracker Suite, a selection of pieces from Tchaikovsky's now-classic ballet The Nutcracker, is a personified depiction of the changing of the seasons; first from summer to autumn, and then from autumn to winter. Unlike the original Tchaikovsky ballet, this version of The Nutcracker has no plot. It features a variety of dances, just as in the original, but danced by animated fairies, fish, flowers, mushrooms, and leaves; no actual nutcracker is ever seen in this version. Many elements are rendered carefully and painstakingly using techniques such as drybrush and airbrush. The musical segments are as follows:

As dawn breaks over a meadow, during the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy", tiny fairies sprinkle drops of dew on every flower and stern.

A cluster of tiny mushrooms, dressed in long robes and coolie hats resembling Chinese (plus one little mushroom always out-of-step), perform the "Chinese Dance".

Multicolored blossoms shaped like ballerinas perform the "Dance of the Flutes".

A school of underwater goldfish perform a graceful "Arab Dance".

High-kicking thistles, dressed like Cossacks, and orchids, dressed like lovely Russian peasant girls, join together for the wild "Russian Dance".

In the final musical segment, "Waltz of the Flowers", autumn fairies color everything they touch brown and gold with their wands. Then the frost fairies arrives and everything becomes part of an icy, jewellike pattern among falling snow flakes.

One quaint novelty of the full-length roadshow version of Fantasia is that, during his commentary on the Nutcracker Suite, Deems Taylor observes that the complete ballet The Nutcracker "is never performed anymore", a statement which may have been true in 1940, but is certainly not true today, as many productions of the complete Nutcracker are now performed throughout the world at Christmas time.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

The Sorcerer's Apprentice, perhaps the best-known Mickey Mouse short after his debut in Steamboat Willie (1928), was adapted from Goethe's poem "Der Zauberlehrling". It is the story of wizard Yen Sid's ambitious, but lazy, assistant who attempts to work some of the magical feats of his master before he knows how to properly control them. Mickey plays the role of the apprentice. After the wizard leaves, apparently to go to sleep, he leaves behind his wizard's hat. Mickey takes the hat and after reading a few pages of the Sorcerer's spell book, magically causes a broom to come to "life" and perform his chore (fetching water from the well and pouring into a stone basin in the wizard's laboratory). Mickey directs the broom in his chore but falls asleep and dreams that he is a powerful wizard controlling the mighty seas and starry skies; he wakes to find that the basin is overflowing and the broom is still filling it up. After trying repeatedly to halt the broom, Mickey panics, grabs an axe and chops the broom to pieces, but each piece comes to life, forming hundreds of new brooms which continue to fill the basin over and over, causing a monstrous flood. Mickey races to the wizard's spellbook to find a counter-spell, but to no avail. After nearly drowning in a giant whirlpool, Mickey is rescued by the wizard, who returns and magically halts the flood and causes all the brooms to vanish. Angrily, he surveys the damage wrought by his apprentice (giving what Disney animators termed "The Dirty Disney Look"; the one raised eyebrow was an oft-repeated stare of disapproval from their boss). The embarrassed apprentice sheepishly defers to his master and returns to his work. The wizard displays a hint of a smile, secretly enjoying the humor of the situation, before giving his assistant a quick whack on the behind with the now-inanimate broom, sending him scurrying from the room. (The sorcerer's anger with his apprentice as depicted in Fantasia does not appear in the Goethe poem.)

After the music ends, Mickey and conductor Leopold Stokowski, seen in silhouette, congratulate each other with a live-action/animation handshake. In the original roadshow version, after Mickey leaves, Deems Taylor and the musicians are seen applauding Mickey and Stokowski.

The Rite of Spring

  • Musical score: Igor StravinskyThe Rite of Spring
  • Directed by Bill Roberts and Paul Satterfield
  • Story development/research: William Martin, Leo Thiele, Robert Sterner, and John Fraser McLeish
  • Art direction: McLaren Stewart, Dick Kelsey, and John Hubley
  • Background painting: Ed Starr, Brice Mack, and Edward Levitt
  • Animation supervision: Wolfgang Reitherman and Joshua Meador
  • Animation: Philip Duncan, John McManus, Paul Busch, Art Palmer, Don Tobin, Edwin Aardal, and Paul B. Kossoff
  • Special camera effects: Gail Papineau and Leonard Pickley

Disney's imaginitive re-interpretation of the music to The Rite of Spring features a condensed version of the history of the Earth from the formation of the planet, to the first living creatures, to the age, reign, and extinction of the dinosaurs. The sequence showcased realistically animated prehistoric creatures including Tyrannosaurus, Dimetrodon, Parasaurolophus, Apatosaurus, Triceratops, Ornithomimus, and Stegosaurus, and used extensive and complicated special effects to depict volcanoes, boiling lava, and earthquakes. The large carnivorous dinosaur attacking the Stegosaurus is a Tyrannosaurus according to the preliminary introduction to the segment by Deems Taylor, and concept sketches by the artists. Disney also changed the order of the movements in the piece. The segment, after beginning with the first, second and third movements, omits the fourth and reorders all the others. The Danse de la terre is placed near the end of the cartoon rather than midway through the work. At the end, the orchestra replays the slow introduction to the Rite, which does not happen in the original work. (The original ends with a violent Sacrificial Dance - also omitted in the Disney version - and an orchestral crash.)

The roadshow version of the film features a humorous moment omitted from the general release version. When Deems Taylor announces the title of the work, there is a sudden loud crash in the percussion section, and we see that the chimes player has accidentally fallen against his instrument. He sheepishly gets up, to the amused chuckling of Taylor and the other musicians.

Intermission/Meet the Soundtrack

  • Directed by Ben Sharpsteen and David D. Hand
  • Key animation by Joshua Meador

Deems Taylor announces a fifteen-minute intermission following the conclusion of The Rite of Spring. The musicians are seen departing the orchestra stand, and the doors close to reveal a title card. In a proper roadshow of Fantasia, the theater's curtains would close simultaneously with the closing doors on the screen, and the title card would remain projected for fifteen minutes while the guests are briefly excused. Following the intermission, the film would be started again. Onscreen, the stage doors are opened again, and Taylor and the orchestra musicians are seen returning to their respective places.

After the intermission there is a jam session of jazz music led by a clarinetist in the orchestra, followed immediately by the brief Meet the Soundtrack sequence which gives audiences a stylized example of how sound is rendered as waveforms to record the music for Fantasia. The sequence features animation by effects animator Joshua Meador and his team, who give the soundtrack (initially a squiggly line which changes into various shapes based upon the individual sounds played on the soundtrack) a distinct personality.

The instruments are a harp, violin, flute, trumpet, bassoon, and percussion including the bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, and triangle

The Pastoral Symphony

The Pastoral Symphony utilized delicate color styling to depict a mythical ancient Greek world of centaurs, pegasi, the gods of Mount Olympus, fauns, cupids, and other legendary creatures and characters of classical mythology. It tells the story of the mythological creatures gathering for a festival to honor Bacchus, the god of wine riding his horned donkey, Jacchus, which is interrupted by Zeus, who decides to have a little fun by throwing lightning bolts at the attendees.

Disney originally intended to use Cydalise by Gabriel Pierné as the music for the mythological section of the program. However, due to problems fitting the story to the music, the decision was made to abandon Cydalise for other music.[10]

This portion of the film was criticized for brief yet blatant nudity on the part of the female centaurs. Other criticisms center on the racial images of a female centaur servant named Sunflower, who is part African human, part donkey, and two attendants to Dionysus who are part African Amazons, part zebra. The servant has been excised from all prints in circulation since 1969 (often by the use of pan and zoom, so the scene doesn't focus on her), although the clip has recently turned up on various blogs and internet media.[11][12][13] The zebra female centaurs have always remained in the film.[14]

Dance of the Hours

  • Musical score: Amilcare PonchielliLa Gioconda: Dance of the Hours.
  • Directed by T. Hee and Norm Ferguson
  • Character designs: Martin Provensen, James Bodrero, Duke Russell, Earl Hurd
  • Art direction: Kendall O'Connor, Harold Doughty, and Ernest Nordli
  • Background painting: Albert Dempster and Charles Conner
  • Animation supervision: Norm Ferguson
  • Animation: John Lounsbery, Howard Swift, Preston Blair, Hugh Fraser, Harvey Toombs, Norman Tate, Hicks Lokey, Art Elliott, Grant Simmons, Ray Patterson, and Franklin Grundeen.

The dancers of the morning are represented by Madame Upanova and her ostriches. The dancers of the daytime are represented by Hyacinth Hippo and her servants. (For this section the piece is expanded by a modified and reorchestrated repetition of the "morning" music.) The dancers of the evening are represented by Elephanchine and her bubble-blowing elephant troupe. The dancers of the night are represented by Ben Ali Gator and his troop of alligators. The finale sees the chaotic chase that ensues between all of the characters seen in the segment until they eventually decide to dance together. The segment ends with the palace collapsing in on itself.

Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria

  • Musical score:
  • Directed by Wilfred Jackson
  • Story development: Campbell Grant, Arthur Heinemann, and Phil Dike
  • Art direction: Kay Nielsen, Terrell Stapp, Charles Payzant and Thor Putnam
  • Background painting: Merle Cox, Ray Lockrem, Robert Storms, and W. Richard Anthony
  • Special English lyrics for Ave Maria by Rachel Field
  • Choral director: Charles Henderson
  • Operatic solo: Julietta Novis
  • Animation supervision: Vladimir Tytla
  • Animation: John McManus, William N. Shull, Robert W. Carlson, Jr., Lester Novros, and Don Patterson
  • Special animation effects: Joshua Meador, Miles E. Pike, John F. Reed, and Daniel MacManus
  • Special camera effects: Gail Papineau and Leonard Pickley

The Night on Bald Mountain segment is a showcase for animator Bill Tytla, who gave the demon Chernabog a power and intensity rarely seen in Disney films. The nocturnal Chernabog summons from their graves empowered restless souls, until driven away by the sound of a church bell. Noted actor Béla Lugosi served as a live action model for Chernabog, and spent several days at the Disney studio, where he was filmed doing evil, demon-like poses for Tytla and his unit to use as a reference. Tytla later deemed this reference material unsuitable and had studio colleague Wilfred Jackson perform in front of the cameras for the reference footage.

Chernabog is first seen when he awakes on top of Bald Mountain. It is Walpurgis Night and, using the powers of darkness, he raises ghosts, skeletons, demons, witches, harpies, goblins, and zombies from a nearby town and cemetery. He then summons fire and lava and makes the damned and the other creatures in his control dance and fly around, much to his delight, before he destroys them. In one part he picks up a patch of fire and transforms it into naked women, then into demonic animals, a fleet of imps and finally into fiery, blue satyrs. Ultimately, he drops them into the lava which seals their fiery doom.

The horror of the demons, ghosts, skeletons, witches, harpies, and other evil creatures in Night on Bald Mountain comes to an abrupt end with the sound of the Angelus bell, which send Chernabog and his followers back into hiding, and the multiplane camera tracks away from Bald Mountain to reveal a line of faithful robed monks with lighted torches. The camera slowly follows them as they walk through the forest and ruins of a cathedral to the sounds of the Ave Maria. The animation of the worshipers is some of the smallest animation ever done: the camera had to be so close to some of the work that it had to be rendered at only an inch or so high. Even a slight deviation in the width of the final painted line would have been distracting to a movie audience on the big screen. In fact, as told by animator Frank Thomas in the book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life the entire sequence had to be reshot twice, once because the wrong focal length lens was used, and once because of a small earth tremor that shook the animation planes out of alignment. The multiplane camera then finally tracks through the trees to reveal a sunrise as the film fades to its conclusion.

Originally the plan was for the procession to enter an actual church, and there are numerous concept drawings of gothic architecture, stained glass windows, and actual statues of the Virgin Mary as can be seen on the Fantasia Anthology bonus disc. Ultimately, this ending was deemed too overtly religious by Walt, and he opted for a more natural setting instead. However, the forest design in the segment still mimics that of a cathedral with an overtly gothic motif.


Not only did Fantasia establish animation as a true art form, it also introduced film audiences to multi-channel sound, which played an important part in Fantasia. After the completion of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Stokowski enlisted the Philadelphia Orchestra, of which he was the conductor, to record the music for the six remaining segments. Walt Disney was present on the sound stage during an early session, and was very pleased with what he was hearing until he heard the playback from the recording engineers. He felt the recorded version of the music sounded tinny and undynamic, and asked his engineers to see what they could do about developing a better sound system. The engineers, led by William E. Garity, responded by creating a multi-channel sound format they called Fantasound, making Fantasia the first commercial film ever to be produced in a form of stereophonic sound. The film also marked the first use of the click track while recording the soundtrack, overdubbing of orchestral parts, and simultaneous multi-track recording.

Always wanting to try new things, Walt Disney also had plans to film Fantasia in widescreen, to have the Toccata and Fugue be filmed to be 3-D and to spray different perfumes into the theater at appropriate times during the Nutcracker Suite, but those plans were never carried out.[4]

Film presentation

Poster for the original release of Fantasia.

Walt Disney intended Fantasia to be more than just a film. It was to be an event, complete with reserved seating and fancy dress. Special program books were prepared for the film, featuring production artwork and photographs, dedications by both Walt and Stokowski, and the credits and synopsis for each segment. Each theater was rigged with 30 or more speakers, all lined around the perimeter of the ceiling, to provide the full Fantasound experience. The format of the film follows that of a concert rather than a motion picture. Besides the Deems Taylor narration passages, a proper presentation of Fantasia features a 15-minute intermission, which falls between The Rite of Spring and the Meet the Soundtrack segment.

Unusual for an American animated film (or any film of that time for that matter), Fantasia had no opening or closing credits in its original version. The film opens with curtains parting to reveal the orchestra entering and taking their places. During the film's intermission, a solitary title card was to be played over the movie theater's closed curtain, reading:


Copyright MCMXL Walt Disney Productions (Inc.). In Technicolor. Approved MPPDA Certificate No.5920. RCA Sound System.

When RKO assumed distribution of Fantasia in 1941, the RKO logo was added to the intermission card.

For the film's 1946 rerelease, and for all later theatrical releases, the title card seen during the intermission was transferred to the very beginning of the film (in regular main title fashion), but no other credits appeared. This was the way the film was shown until 1990, when closing credits, listing the entire technical staff and those involved with the 1990 restoration, were added to the end of the film. These credits were shown against a background of the orchestra exiting, using footage taken from the "intermission" segment, which had not been seen since its original 1940 release.

Release history


Fantasia was originally released in 1940 by Walt Disney Productions itself as a roadshow release, since Disney's distributor RKO Radio Pictures backed out of the film. Its first playdate, the film's premiere, was in New York City on November 13, 1940. The final scene to be shot (the long multiplane pan in the Ave Maria sequence) was completed, developed, printed, and rushed via airplane to New York that same day, where it was spliced into the film a mere four hours before showtime. Primarily because of the amount of audio equipment required and the time necessary to make the installation, the full-length Fantasound version of Fantasia was only shown at 12 theatres, and only 16 Fantasound-equipped prints were ever made. This, coupled with Fantasia's extremely large budget, meant that the film was unable to turn a profit during its initial release.[15]


Starting with the January 29, 1941 play date in Los Angeles, California, RKO assumed distribution of Fantasia. They had the film's soundtrack remixed into monophonic sound, to make it easier to distribute, and added their logos to the film's solitary title card.

In late 1941, RKO had the 125-minute Fantasia edited down to 81 minutes (done by deleting the entire Toccata and Fugue in D Minor segment and shortening the live-action Deems Taylor sequences as much as possible). This version of the film was released nationwide on January 6, 1942 — the first time Fantasia was given a wide release — with the tagline "Fantasia Will Amaze Ya!" With a world war now looming, the edited film didn't capture large enough audiences to become profitable and it quickly disappeared from the screen. The financial failure of Fantasia left the Disney studio in difficult financial straits, and made it necessary to quickly produce a relatively low-budget feature, Dumbo, as their next project.[4]

According to Time magazine, the film was popular with audiences that saw it, and also boosted the classical music industry.[16] However, most sources cite the film as Disney's first great box-office failure, and commentators such as Leonard Maltin blame its initial failure on the public's unwillingness to accept Disney as a popularizer of classical music.


Fantasia was revised once again in 1946, restoring Toccata and Fugue, but still keeping the Deems Taylor sequences to a minimum. This is the version most familiar to the public and the version most future releases of Fantasia would be based upon, and is therefore called the "General Release Version". It retains all of the animation from the original, but omits portions of the live action.


Stereo sound was restored to Fantasia in 1956, when it was released in CinemaScope-compatible SuperScope. Only one operating Fantasound setup, and one Fantasound-equipped print, had survived by this time; the sound negatives were stored on nitrate film and had already deteriorated.[17] The output from the four-track Fantasound system was transferred via high-quality telephone lines to an RCA facility and recorded onto magnetic tape. The magnetic recording was mixed to create a new final four-channel stereo mix for the widescreen release.[17] The film was projected in various aspect ratios by actually changing the anamorphic properties of the lens on the fly by using the fourth sound track as a control track, much like the original control track was used to redirect the sound in the 1940 release.[18]


Fantasia did not make a profit until its 1969 rerelease. By then, Fantasia had become immensely popular among teenagers and college students, some of whom would reportedly take drugs such as marijuana and LSD to "better experience" the film.[4] Disney promoted the film using a psychedelic-styled poster. The rerelease was a major success, especially with the psychedelic young adult crowd, many of whom would come lie down in the front row of the theater and experience the film from there.

The film was once again edited for the 1969 release, this time to remove the character Sunflower, a centaur depicted as an African-American girl in the Pastoral Symphony segment. According to the Memory Hole, "Performing menial duties for the blonde, white female centaurs, Sunflower is a racial stereotype along the lines of Amos and Andy, Buckwheat, and Aunt Jemima."[19]


For its 1982 reissue, as motion picture sound technology was advancing, the 1956 Fantasia sound master was deemed both unusable and unsalvageable. The Disney Studios decided to completely rerecord the film's soundtrack, and a new digitally recorded score arranged and conducted by Irwin Kostal was made. This marked the first time a motion picture's score was recorded entirely using digital technology. Additional edits included replacing Deems Taylor's original narration with new introductions spoken by voice artist Hugh Douglas and removing most of the live action. This version of Fantasia would be rereleased again in 1985.


For Fantasia's 50th anniversary in 1990, Disney decided to go back to the original Stokowski recording. Using the 1956 stereo soundtrack and the 1941 mono soundtrack as his source material, Disney audio engineer Terry Porter restored the Stokowski soundtrack using digital technology to an approximation of the original multi-channel Fantasound mix.[17] In the meantime, Peter Comandini at YCM Laboratories worked on restoring the picture from original camera negatives, edited and duplicate negatives, and, in the cases of some scenes, archival prints.[17] The film was re-edited to closely resemble the 1946 General Release Version, save for the retention of the 1969 censorship edit and the addition of an end credits sequence (played over footage from the original roadshow version's intermission). This restored version of Fantasia was also released on VHS and laser disc home video in 1991.[4]


For its 60th Anniversary DVD release in the year 2000, Disney's manager of film restoration, Scott MacQueen, supervised a restoration and reconstruction of the original 125-minute roadshow version of Fantasia. The visual elements from the Deems Taylor segments that had been cut from the film in 1942 and 1946 were restored, as was the intermission. However, the original nitrate audio negatives for the long-unseen Taylor scenes had deteriorated several decades earlier, so Disney brought in voice actor Corey Burton to rerecord all of Taylor's lines.

Although it was advertised as the "original uncut" version, the Sunflower edit in Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 was maintained. In this version it was accomplished by digitally zooming in on certain frames to avoid showing the black centaurette character. The Disney editor responsible, John Carnochan, was quoted as saying, "It's sort of appalling to me that these stereotypes were ever put in."[20]

With the exception of these changes, this is the most complete version of the film that currently exists. The restored roadshow version of Fantasia debuted in June 2000 at the Animation Film Festival in Annecy, France; accompanying its sequel, Fantasia 2000.

This restored roadshow version of Fantasia was first released on DVD in 2000, and is the only version of the film to appear in that format. Its sequel Fantasia 2000 soon followed, but both were removed from circulation in late 2004.


A new home video edition has been announced by Disney for release in 2010 in both Blu-Ray and DVD formats. It will also contain Fantasia 2000.[21][22]

As of 2010, all of Fantasia 's animated segments have been shown on television at one time or another, but the actual film has never been telecast from start to finish, not even in its general release form. It is one of only two Disney classics that has still never been shown complete on TV; the other is Song of the South.[citation needed]

Critical reception

The film holds a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a website which aggregates film reviews, with the consensus, "A landmark in animation and a huge influence on the medium of music video, Disney's Fantasia is a relentlessly inventive blend of the classics with phantasmagorical images."[23] Most critics admire the film greatly, particularly the animation work, and as an American animated feature film made with an unprecedented level of artistic ambition.

Still there are some who have taken a more negative view, sometimes labeling it as kitsch. Famed movie critic Pauline Kael wrote, "'The Sorcerer's Apprentice,' featuring Mickey Mouse, and parts of other sequences are first-rate Disney, but the total effect is grotesquely kitschy." The Beethoven sequence is frequently singled out for criticism, because of the editing of the piece and the juxtaposition of the piece with the ancient Greek setting. Richard Schickel also criticized the film harshly in his revisionist biography The Disney Version, first published in 1967.


The film won two Special Academy Awards in 1941:

  • Walt Disney, William E. Garity and J.N.A. Hawkins — For their outstanding contribution to the advancement of the use of sound in motion pictures through the production of Fantasia (certificate).
  • Leopold Stokowski (and his associates) — For their unique achievement in the creation of a new form of visualized music in Walt Disney's production Fantasia, thereby widening the scope of the motion picture as entertainment and as an art form (certificate).

In 1990, Fantasia was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Fantasia has been twice recognized by the American Film Institute:

Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice

Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer's Apprentice has become such an iconic role for the character that he is regularly depicted as such in the Disney parks. Mickey is seen wearing his famous red wizard's robe and blue sorcerer's hat in numerous parades as well as in the nighttime spectacular Fantasmic! at both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. The sorcerer's hat is also an official symbol of Disney's Hollywood Studios and also is involved heavily in the plot of Mickey's Philharmagic at The Magic Kingdom. A very large version of the hat is also seen at the entrance of the Disney Animation building at the Disney Studios in Burbank, California (and can be easily seen from both Riverside Drive and the 134 Freeway). Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Disney's home video sales division featured "Sorcerer Mickey" on its covers starting from its inception in 1980. The 1986 Walt Disney Home Video logo and the 1988-92 Walt Disney Classics logos also featured Sorcerer Mickey.[24] Furthermore, Sorcerer Mickey serves as the logo for Walt Disney Imagineering, the subsidiary of the company responsible for designing the Disney parks and resorts.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice was the only sequence from the original film carried over into Fantasia 2000.

A comic adaptation of The Sorcerer's Apprentice was featured in Mickey Mouse Adventures #9, published by Disney Comics at the time of the film's 50th anniversary.

In Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, The Sorcerer's Apprentice is reenacted as part of Mickey's story in the game. Also, Mickey, dressed in his Sorcerer's Apprentice garb, has been confirmed as a D-link for Aqua, his Finish move being called "Holy Charge."

Additional material

Disney had wanted Fantasia to be an ongoing project, ideally with a new release each year. The plan was to repeat some of the scenes while replacing others with different music and animation, so that each version of the film would include both familiar material and new segments. However, the film's disappointing box-office performance prevented such plans from being realized.

Clair de Lune

One segment intended for the original Fantasia was completely animated, and then left out of the first release. Clair de Lune, based on Claude Debussy's piano piece, was a casualty of Fantasia's excessive length: the sequence made it to the final pencil test stages before being deleted. Ink and paint and Technicolor photography were completed in January 1942 with the intentions of releasing Clair de Lune as a short subject, which would not be done for fifty-four years. Instead, the sequence was later completely recut and rescored as the Blue Bayou segment of Make Mine Music (1946).

A workprint of the original version of Clair de Lune was finally discovered, restored, and released by Disney as a stand-alone short subject in 1996; the accompanying Deems Taylor/Stokowski footage was never found, so edited footage of the latter from Fantasia's Toccota and Fugue segment was used. This version of Clair de Lune can be found on disc 3 of the Fantasia Legacy DVD box set, or on the Disney Classic Fantasia DVD (released in 2000) as a special feature. This segment features two cranes flying around a lagoon on a moonlit night.

  • Credits for Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy
    • Direction: Samual Armstrong
    • Art Direction: Robert Cormack and Van Luven
    • Backgrounds: John Hench, Nino Carbe, and Nick Stahley
    • Animation: Cy Young, Bob Totten, Broni Nelken, Harry Hamsel, and Noel Tucker
    • Assistant Direction: Lloyd Richardson

Other proposed sequences and Fantasia 2000

Other segments such as Ride of the Valkyries, Swan of Tuonela, Flight of the Bumblebee, Invitation to the Dance, and Adventures in Perambulator were storyboarded but never fully animated, and thus were never put into production for inclusion in a future Fantasia release. Both World War II and overseas costs prevented Disney from revising Fantasia during his lifetime. Other proposed segments that only made it into the conceptual stage include: The Firebird, Petrouchka, Renard, Baby Ballet, Danse Macabre (Saint-Saëns), Don Quixote, Hary Janos, La Mer, The Love for Three Oranges, The Magic Flute, Mosquito, The Planets, Pop Goes the Weasel, Roman Carnival Overture, Schwanda the Bagpiper, and Till Eulenspiegel. The never-realized Flight of the Bumblebee sequence later turned into the Bumble Boogie sequence from Melody Time.

Disney's dream was belatedly and partially fulfilled with the release of Fantasia 2000 in IMAX theaters on January 1, 2000. The film was put into general release half a year later. Fantasia 2000 repurposed The Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence with Mickey Mouse, but otherwise consisted entirely of new material. Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, James Earl Jones, Quincy Jones, and several other actors and musicians served as hosts of the various sections of the film.

See also


  • Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516729-5.
  • Maltin, Leonard (1980, rev. 1987). Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-452-25993-2.
  • (2001). "Fantasia Publicity" supplemental features from The Fantasia Anthology [DVD release]. Burbank: Disney Enterprises, Inc.


  1. ^ Fantasia at Allmovie; accessed December 7, 2007.
  2. ^ Dirks, Tim. Fantasia at Film Site; accessed December 7, 2007.
  3. ^ Box Office Mojo lists Fantasia as the 20th most successful film when its gross receipts are adjusted for inflation. "All Time Box Office". Box Office Retrieved August 22, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Fantasia (1940) – Trivia
  5. ^ Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons. New York: Oxford University Press. Pg. 243.
  6. ^ Thomas, Bob (1991). Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Beauty and the Beast. New York: Hyperion. Pg. 86
  7. ^ Disney, Roy E., Levine, James, Canemaker, John, and MacQueen, Scott (2001). DVD audio commentary for Fantasia [DVD release]. Burbank, California: Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
  8. ^ fantasia – Definitions from
  9. ^ Gelder, Peter Van (1990). That's Hollywood: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at 60 of the Greatest Films of All Time. New York: Harper Collins. pp. 87–90. ISBN 0060965126. 
  10. ^ Culhane, John (1983). "The Pastoral Symphony". in Darlene Geis. Walt Disney's Fantasia (1987 ed.). New York, New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc.. pp. 134. ISBN 0-8109-8078-9. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ <>
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Fantasia
  16. ^ Prairie Pirouette – TIME
  17. ^ a b c d Aldred, John (Winter 1995). "Fantastic Fantasia". Retrieved July 16, 2007.
  18. ^ Wasserman, Norman (March 1956). "Special Projection Process Gives 'Fantasia' New Look" International Projectionist. pp. 14–15
  19. ^ "The Memory Hole". 
  20. ^ Daly, Steve (November 29, 1991). "New Rating for 'Fantasia':PC". Entertainment Weekly.,,316319,00.html. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Rotten Tomatoes - Fantasia
  24. ^ Walt Disney Home Entertainment – Scratchpad Wiki Labs – Free wikis from Wikia

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