Disney's First Acid Trip (Part 2)
Hi there and welcome back to Oof! Right in the Childhood. I’m Jen, and every week, I talk to you about one of the Disney animated feature films that made up so many of our childhoods. Usually, I tell you the history of the movie and then provide some social commentary on the film, but this week it’s a little different. Fantasia, released in 1940, has an amazing history, and it’s also one of the longest early Disney Films, so I decided to break it into two separate episodes. If you missed last week, go back and listen. I’ll still be here when you’re ready.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The one that started it all! I like how our Narrator tells us everything that’s about to happen, like we aren’t going to see it.
And now we see the return of Mickey Mouse. Remember, this whole thing was started because he was failing in popularity. I can’t imagine that given how popular he is today.
The wizard made a scary bat and then a pretty butterfly.
So Mickey’s boss goes to bed and he doesn’t even hesitate to put on his hat. Does the hat carry the power? I guess so. And he’s pretty good at the first broom. He gives it two hands and little feets. And it has a butt.
Okay, but how much water does this Sorcerer need? Why is this a thing that just needs to keep happening.
Mickey is all skipping and dancing in his cloak-skirt. At first, I thought he needed to keep his hands moving for the broom to work, but then he falls asleep and makes the stars fall from the sky? That’s not good for the universe Mickey!
What a dream! He’s making clouds make lightning and waves appear from nowhere and oops! The broom brought too much water. See? I told you this wasn’t a thing that needed to keep happening. But okay. You taught the broom to do this thing, why not just command it to do like, something else instead of chopping it into toothpicks?
And now there are 80,000 brooms! The Sorcerer’s gonna be thrilled. Apparently Mickey can hear them through the door and now I want to know what 80,000 brooms sound like.
Time to try to bail out the tower with a single bucket as 160,000 fill it up!
He pours water out of the window, but when the water reaches the level of the window, it doesn’t flow out? I’m just going to have to just release my understanding of physics.
Sorcerer is Moses! He just parts the water like nobody’s business. And as predicted, he’s real mad.
And now Mickey is on stage with Stokowski.
The Rite of Spring
So, we’re talking about the Rite of Spring, and the chimes decide to fall down. I can’t decide if that was staged or if they just left it in.
So, we’re going to use a cartoon to explain evolution as we understood it in 1940. I can’t imagine that this will be any different than what we understand today. I am also completely certain that this was not at all controversial at release.
This narrator is very negative about dinosaurs. I want to fight him. “There were bullies and gangsters among them.” What?
Okay, so we start in the universe after the Big Bang, because there are stars and such. And we’ll just travel through space a while.
We arrive at earth and it’s just volcanoes and sulfur clouds making our atmosphere for us. And they’re erupting all over the place. Lava, lava, lava, lava. Gee I wonder why I thought this movie was boring as a kid.
Okay, we’ve moved on to single-celled organisms. Eukaryotes by the fact that they have nuclei. They do some mitosis and swim around. And all of a sudden we have life! Okay, so we spent like forever on lava, and these suckers are evolving at the speed of light.
Now we have trilobites and jellyfish. Another dust cloud reveals eels and man-o-wars, and fish and a nautilus. And a mudskipper’s getting brave.
And we just faded to plesiosaurs swimming in the water. I guess that was a lot to put on animators. “Go from mudskipper to plesiosaurs.” But we also have pterodactyls, and I’m way too researched out to find out if those suckers lived at the same time as plesiosaurs, but part of me doesn’t think they did.
They’re learning to fly so they can carry off guests at Jurassic Park!
We pan through all the famous dinosaurs, Dimetrodon, Triceratops, Brachiopods, and they basically ignore the Archaeopteryx which was considered the first bird.
I feel like these dinos are in for a surprise any minute now, but until they get it, I want to applaud the animators for doing as good of a job as possible for their knowledge of dinosaurs at the time. I mean, it isn’t their fault that we didn’t know as much about them as we do today.
There are baby triceratops and they are the best.
Uh oh, there’s an alert, and I take back my praise of the animators because they did not draw a t-rex, they drew Godzilla. What happened here?
This epic fight between, we’ll assume it’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Stegosaurus is — you know how I said in Episode 1 that kids in the 30s had to have stronger constitutions? Well, I second that again. All the other dinos are like, “Whelp, Frank’s dead, time to move on.”
Now we have climate change! All the water’s dried up! They can’t live this way! If only someone had reduced carbon emissions!
This particular idea of the dinosaurs all migrating to find water was played out in A Land Before Time as well. Is there any evidence of this? They show dinos sinking in what I assume was the La Brea Tar Pits.
Okay, so the dinosaurs all starved to death? Or are we getting an asteroid? When did we adopt the asteroid extinction event?
Oh, we are doing the splitting of Pangea instead! Of course! Why not?
The waves crash and the sun continues to eclipse. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to indicate that it was a very long eclipse, that this happened in the course of a day, or if it happens over the time between two solar eclipses? I’m very confused.
They just played a video of the orchestra walking out for intermission? Why would they do that? Do you know how long it takes to set up a full symphony? I do. I just think walking in and out and retuning sounds exhausting.
That said, they did film all of this over a few days, so maybe it was just the results of that?
Then we have improvisation
The narrator is introducing the soundtrack. Which is a thing that’s never been done ever or since.
So we’re looking at a version of soundwaves. This is a great way to wait for people to get the heck back in their seat. Something to amuse the people who were on time and the people who were at the back of the bathroom line don’t miss anything.
That poor bassoon sound wave looks all squished.
And the percussion just takes off. Sounds like most of the percussionists I know. It makes a triangle when the triangle is played. How cute.
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The Pastoral Symphony
We’ll head to the “Abode of the Gods” for this one, says the narrator.
“We’ll meet pegus’s whole family.” Then he calls centaurs strange, how dare he. And then he has the gall to call “their girlfriends” centaur-ettes.
Centaurettes are not a thing!
Also, he mentions that Vulcan will hand over lightning bolts to Zeus and — well, Vulcan is Roman. He handed lightning bolts to Jupiter. Hephestus made Zeus’s lightning bolts. And for the record, Artemis was the goddess of the hunt in Greek mythology, not Diana. She was also Roman.
Omigod, we start off with baby unicorns and all is forgiven. And baby fauns! They are so cute.
There is a black-as-night pegasus with red eyes. It feels evil. I thought from what the narrator was saying that we would only see Pegasus, the one winged horse, but we have a whole collection of adorable pegasi. That’s absolutely okay.
How do a black pegasus and white pegasus mate to produce pink, blue, and orange pegasi? Also, why do I care? They’re so cute!
They swim through the canopy that Eric takes Ariel to on their boat date. And why is the Little Mermaid’s imagery so inspired by this movie?
More pegasi! There are so many!
Centaurettes, I guess. They are getting their tails braided by cupids. And there’s a lot of G-rated nudity here. The little baby bums of the cupids are all rosy.
And here come the centaurs. The Cupids make hats for the centaurettes out of things that are lying around like doves.
Apparently, the Motion Picture association also felt that the female centaurs were a little too naked, so they got flowers around their necks to fix it!
There was also originally a black centaurette named Sunflower who has been edited out of home releases of the film because, wowsa, she was a racist depiction. I’ll post a picture of that on my blog if you want to see why she was cut.
Now we’re making wine! Because of reasons.
Okay, now we have Dionysus and his servants are black centaurettes who have zebra bodies. It’s been awhile since that Nutcracker Suite, so I’m going to throw in a second “Oof! Right in the childhood” for that.
Rain’s a comin’!
Zeus looks super happy. I’m sure he’s not going to pop down and have sex with a random person at any point. Nope, he’s just going to try to kill Dionysus? Why not?
My daughter loves to study mythology and she’s just so upset by how badly they got all these stories wrong.
Dionysus just wanted some wine! Poor guy. At least he has his — is that a Donkeycorn?
Oh, Zeus is tired, so Hephaestus is going to throw the last bolt. Sounds like fun.
The thing about this movie is that the shorts go on just a little too long. As an adult, I listen to all of these pieces on my own time, and I’m so glad Walt wanted to give people the exposure to chamber music, but as a child, I was done with this cartoon as soon as Zeus went to sleep. And it goes on for 5 more minutes. I know that’s how long the piece is, but oy.
Oh, look! It’s Iris, goddess of Rainbows!
Well, I will say Mozart did better with denouement that Disney did in those days. I guess I have to give him credit for falling action.
And Artemis shoots a star across the night sky! The End.
The Dance of the Hours
“We’re going to do one of the most famous ballets ever written.”
Again, I grew up on chamber music. I have never heard of this ballet. Maybe when I hear the music, I’ll recognize it?
Oh, it’s the Hippo song! I say as an ostrich unfolds.
Honest to goodness, who had this idea? “Ostriches have fluffy bums, they’d make great ballerinas!”
Oh it’s this music!. Okay, yeah, I’ll give it “one of the most famous” songs in the world.
My daughter absolutely loved the ostriches fighting over grapes.
Now it’s a hippo! I give body positivity props to disney for ballerina hippos.
Elephant ballerinas now. And they have weirdly lumpy heads. Why do they have lumpy heads? And why are they sneaking up on the hippo ballerina?
The elephants can form skirts out of their bubbles and float on them. Okay, I’m starting to see how Disney marketed this as “psychedelic”. And then they’re whisked away by the wind? What?
It’s nighttime and there are Alligators [or crocodiles] in cloaks sneaking up on the sleeping hippo. And I’m going to pretend they’re vampire alligators.
Theatrical alligator scares cloaked alligators off. He’s in love with the hippo? I think? She’s understandably creeped out by him watching her sleep, but then they fall in love like instantly.
Now we are doing the fast part of the music. It’s so bizarre. We have ostrich and hippo and elephants and alligators and they destroy wherever they are dancing. The end
Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria
Okay, there are no two more different pieces of music than these. Why would you put them together? Oh, the narrator explains, because they set each other off perfectly? Sure.
So we have Satan on Halloween and the triumph of hope and life over despair and death.
Night on Bald Mountain is absolutely one of my favourite pieces of all time. For the record, so is Shubert’s Ave Maria.
Satan’s hands are the shadows that haunt this town. And we have skeletons flying through a noose. And a derelict castle.
Okay, the opening said all the evil beings would come to worship Satan, but from what I can see, this is just all the dead people in this little town.
Okay, now we’ve progressed to dark horses and immortal evil warriors. They might be the Nazgȗl?
And now we have sexy fire dancers that turn into a pig, goat, and wolf, and those turn into bird men? Oh, now they’re demons.
Satan here must have been used as inspiration for the Gargoyles series in the 90s.
The harpies have nipples! The first nipples in the whole movie!
Satan’s all ready for round 2, but the bells ring, and he’s thwarted!
And all the dead people go back to where they were.
Now there are people with candles?
Okay, if I’m in this theatre after watching 2 hours of music, ending with Ave Maria is likely to put me to sleep. And I say “likely” because I am sitting in my living room fighting the nap with writing furiously.
But, boy, do I love this song. I don’t think that mushing it together with Night on Bald Mountain is my first choice, but hey, whatever made Walt happy.
As they zoom in on these people waking, it appears they do not have candles. They have giang glowing lollipops? Please, someone let me know what’s going on here.
We have a singer now, and I’m not going to fall asleep. I’m not going to fall asleep. I can do this. There are only 3 more minutes of awakeness. And the super soothing depictions are not helping.
And it just — ends? There’s no “thanks for watching,” hope you liked the music? Just...end?
All right, I have a deeper appreciation for this film and what went into it, but nope, it’s not going to ever be on my “Let’s watch this movie” list. It is still boring. Sorry dad.
But enough about how I feel about Fantasia, I want to hear from you, my listeners. When was the last time you watched Fantasia before this episode? Do you like it? Why? What are your favourite parts, and what’s less awesome to you? Did this bring up anything you’d never really thought of? Or did it just give you fond memories? Let me know on my social media. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter under the show’s name and the handle oofmychildhood.
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So, until next time, keep the magic alive.