About the Little-Known Fantasia

Fantasia was a movie experiment by Disney. In the late 1930s, Disney had the idea of coming up with a project that no one had ever done before. The movie featured a combination of classical music and animation. It was based on the story “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and therefore, Disney bought the rights to it. The year 1940 saw the release of Fantasia and today it is regarded as a masterpiece. 

However, unfortunately, it is one of the most unfamiliar movies in Disney’s portfolio. Even some Disney fans find it hard recalling it. Therefore, we are going to discuss some facts about the little-known Fantasia that you probably did not know before. Let’s begin. 

The First Film To Use Stereophonic Sound

Fantasia movie was the first film to use stereophonic sound. Back then, the soundstage and scope of the movie were so high-end that even the standard theaters of the 1940s could not handle it. However, Disney could have made a movie within the limitations of the technology but he along with his team had to develop a way to match the concert experience of the film. 

As a result, more than a dozen theatres or so across the country had to upgrade their equipment to show Fantasia, which was known as “Fantasound”. This type of system involved installing more speakers in the room instead of just behind the screens in addition to new reproduction machines and projectors. 

At the time, it cost on average $85,000 per theater. However, if you manage it according to inflation, that would make it $1.5 million today.

Disney’s Longest Animated Film

One of the least known fantasia movie facts relates to its running time. Although Fantasia had reduced its running time but it still came out to be a two-hour and six-minute film, which made it the longest animated film by Disney. 

The company had to reduce the time for past restorations and general releases. It is said that the movie could have been longer but the ninth segment, “Claire de Lune” was nixed during production.

Walt Disney Wanted It to Be a 4D Experience

When it comes to discussing about the little-known fantasia movie, Walt Disney wanted it to be a 4D experience. It was not only transcendent sound that Disney had in mind for his concert feature. 

Under the direction and lead of Leopold Stokowski, Disney had assembled a super classical music squad. Disney’s imagination was at its best as he did everything to make the 4D experience possible. 

Technically, Disney introduced plans and ideas to “stimulate the audience’s senses”. For instance, Disney assumed that it would be a good idea to blow perfume on fans in the theater while showing “The Nutcracker Suite”. 

Additionally, during the showing of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, Disney wanted the theatre rooms to fill with gunpowder smell. And to top it off, Disney along with Stokowski liked the idea of showing the concert using 3D projection. However, it was limited to black and white imagery at the time. 

Fantasia Was a Commercial Failure at First

One of the most important fantasia movie facts is that it was a commercial failure at first. It was able to pull over $83 million at the box office if adjusted for inflation, however, it did not open to huge numbers. Since special equipment was needed to show the film and the theatrical release was small, the movie failed to make enough sales. 

What helped Fantasia become a commercial success, later on, was its longevity. The film ran for 49 consecutive weeks in New York and nearly as long in Los Angeles. As a result, it set an all-time record in 1941. Plus, over the course of 50 years, the movie returned to theatres several times. The disappointing initial performance along with World War II killed Disney’s dream of a sequel for which he had already begun working in his head.

It Changed the Way Mickey Mouse Was Drawn

Mickey Mouse was created by Disney back in 1928. Over the years, it evolved quite as compared to its initial appearance but Fantasia marked a major change for Mickey Mouse by artist Fred Moore. 

One of the major changes Moore offered to the character were pupils instead of the black ovals used to represent his eyes. In addition to that, Moore is also credited for shortening Mickey Mouse’s nose and giving him his signature white gloves

Stokowski Did Not Agree With the Idea of The Mouse Being the Lead

Another fact about the little-known fantasia film was that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment kicks off Fantasia with Mickey wearing the famous and iconic blue hat and red robe. However, if Disney had listened to Stokowski, things would have been a lot different. 

It is said that Stokowski penned a letter to Disney mentioning that Mickey would not be the right choice for the role of apprentice. He suggested the idea of creating a new personality instead of using Mickey. 

A personality that would represent both Disney and Stokowski and those who watch the film. This would improve the experience of the viewers, as everyone would indulge in the drama and engage with the emotional content in the most intense manner. 

Furthermore, Stokowski also suggested a new character that would contribute to the “worldwide popularity” of the film. He was right because Mickey Mouse was not that dominant in the late 1930s. However, Disney did not agree.

People Were Used as Live-Action References

Even though the movie featured very few humans but they were extensively used during the production process. For instance, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo members were hired as models for dancing crocodiles, ostriches, and demons. In The Pastoral Symphony segment, the artists also used people as models for centaurs but according to many, it was a mistake. 

The critics bashed the movie as they felt that it needed much thorough analysis. The team needed to study and understand circus horses instead of carrying baskets on their backs and skipping like centaurs. The fact of the matter was that they were skipping like human beings and not like horses. 

The Restoration Took Two Years to Complete

For its 50th anniversary release, the engineers at YCM Laboratories had to spend two years restoring the film since the original negatives had been sitting in the vault since 1946. Each time the movie was released post-1946, it was done through duplicate films and not the master film. 

As a result, the restoration team had to work with two incompatible formats for the negatives. Meanwhile, the Disney sound engineers had to work from a copy of the soundtrack since the original had vanished and nobody knew what happened to it. Even after all the hardwork, not everyone was happy with the work. The movie did make some headlines and was enjoyed by many. 

Final Word

Although Fantasia was not a commercial success in its initial days but many years later, it turned into one of the most successful Disney movies. Considering Disney’s ideas about the film, it can be said that he was way ahead of his time and took all the risks to complete the project instead of playing it safe. It surely failed to produce impressive numbers commercially but made it go down in the history books.