A Look Inside Disney's Fantasia and Fantasia 2000

Fantasia, released in 1940 by the Walt Disney Productions, is an animated film consisting of eight separate animated features set to classical music, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

Fantasia was an immense technical undertaking on Disney’s part. Existing movie theatres had to be fitted with “Fantasound” in order to play music alongside the film. It employed more than 1000 artists, musicians, and engineers, plus dancers, ballet, and orchestra members. 

Keri Lowe, President of Compass College of Cinematic Arts, and former employee of the Walt Disney Company, shares her views. “When Disney invests in an idea, they invest in it wholeheartedly. Fantasia started from a much smaller idea and budget. As they were creating it, they saw that it could be bigger than they originally thought.” Despite the heavy technical requirements and initial difficulties, several re-releases have made Fantasia the 12th highest grossing film of all time, earning $76.4 million, adjusting for inflation.

Walt Disney created the idea for Fantasia to counteract a slump in his beloved Mickey Mouse’s popularity. Disney artists redrew and reanimated Mickey specifically for “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” one of the most well-known parts of Fantasia. Mickey gained pupils and a more expressive face, giving him the distinctive character we know today. 

Fantasia 2000, like its predecessor, sets animated features to well-known classical music. However, it uses well-known celebrities, as opposed to a conductor, to introduce the features.  Some of the segments in Fantasia 2000 are pieces were considered for the original production in 1940. For example, Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” when scrapped originally, stuck with Disney through the years and was included in Fantasia 2000. 

Fantasia 2000 served as the testing grounds for what would become much of the computer animation that Toy Story would be based on. Animators used the “Pines of Rome” segment to demonstrate the new technology by animating a pod of flying humpback whales set to Ottorino Respighi’s music.  

“Fantasia allowed for different audiences to appreciate what they created. The Grand Rapids Pops bringing Fantasia here is another way of reaching an audience with great music through that original theme,” Keri Lowe says. 

The Grand Rapids Pops has a history of performing great music from popular movies, including Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and more. Experience Fantasia Live in Concert with the Grand Rapids Pops, November 13 - 15 at DeVos Performance Hall. Tickets are available here

Written by Matthew Lesky, Grand Rapids Symphony Public Relations Intern

Posted by Sam Napolitan at 6:00 AM

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