Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Fantasia Will Amaze Ya

Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

Growing up, the family had several big fat Disney books on the shelf. One of them was The Art of Animation, published in 1959 in conjuction with the release of Sleeping Beauty, also a large and battered tome entitled Fantasia, bound in linen with thick, heavy pages. Disney, apparently, gave the book out to all his employees when the picture was released. Today, this book would be categorized as a "coffee table book." In 1940, when it was published, I don't know what it was called.

But the picture above and the ones that follow are from that book (color studies, obviously). I liked them when I stumbled across them as a ten-year-old, and I like them now (and all -- here and below -- are copyrighted 1940 by Walt Disney Productions)...

Here's Mickey doing his thing...

And the 'shrooms and spirits doing theirs...

It all began as a search for a starring vehicle for Mickey Mouse. Although still as much of a public idol as he had ever been, the famous star was beginning to show his years a bit...

His manager, Walt Disney, decided that the thing to do was to provide Mickey with a story that would offer the widest scope for his talents... Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice offered itself as the ideal medium. It was enchanting music, written around a story that provided comedy and thriss alike. Only one doubt remained. The Dukas work was the most ambitious piece of music that Disney had ever undertaken to use in one of his shorts. It would have to be superlatively conducted, played, and rcorded...

At that moment -- this was the spring of 1938 -- Fate, in the person of Leopold Stokowski, walked into the Disney studios. He had long been saying that one o the things he desired to do above all others was to work with Walt Disney. When the Mickey Mouse-Paul Dukas project was explained to him, he eagerly agreed to take charge of the musical end of the production. He rehearsed the music and recorded it, and the studio went to work on the animation.

And then the idea began to grow... Why not make a feature film, present an entire concert by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Disney pictures to accompany, and perhaps enhance, the music?

In the fall of 1938 the three of us (Deems Taylor, Leopod Stokowski, and Walt Disney), abetted by the heads of the art and music departments of the Disney studio, started picking the program. For three weeks we sat, every day, listening to recordings of various orchestral works and discussing their musical qualities and pictorial possiblities....The outcome of our labors was the program that made up Fantasia and the seven chapters of this book...

--Deems Taylor, Fantasia (the book)

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