Re-Viewing Fantasia: Artistic Innovation and Walt’s Enormous Balls

Hey, did you guys know I had a blog?

I should probably write on that again.

Also I think I was doing some sort of series where I “re-view” all of the Disney animated films…?


Yeah. Sorry. Been away. I can only blame rabid panthers who destroyed my typing fingers.

That’s nerft true. I tyepe just fyneeee.

Whoops. Had a relapse. Back to the blogosphere!

So today we’re talking about Walt’s pet project Fantasia.

I originally envisioned that I would use this post to talk about all the bizarre “what dafaq” moments of this film. Because there are a lot of them. There’s hippos in tutus that dance with vaguely sinister crocodiles, bizarrely racist depictions of mythical creatures (if you have one of the old school VHS versions of the film), not to mention the random boobage and centaur mating rituals.

I just love that I run a site where “random boobage” and “centaur mating rituals” not only are things that go in the same sentence together, but are also a link to something else. My mama must be so proud.

[Big Bro’s note: Sorry, mom.]

Anyway. The point is that a lot of weird things happen in this film that, when thought about logically, tend to make you tilt your head in confusion like a cute little puppy dog.

Sound familiar? It should, because of course you have been reading my other “re-views” and have noticed that a lot of Disney’s early work makes absolutely no sense. The experiences are purely sensual (in the non-dirty way) and aesthetic. Fantasia is no exception. In fact, it’s the most extreme example.

Since then, of course, Disney has grown into a film company that utilizes more grounded, cerebral, and emotionally complex forms of narrative to give you completely unrealistic expectations about your love life.

The point is that, although they tend to be more idealistic and fantastical, today’s animated films, in general, mimic the structures of their live-action counter parts. But they might not have ended up that way if Fantasia was a (commercial) success.

We can see that Disney’s animated films started from a place of emotional simplicity and idealistic beauty. In many ways, Fantasia was a simple evolution in the opposite direction of where the movies after Snow White ended up taking us. Instead of mimicking traditional narration, it threw those elements entirely out the window. It took the thinly constructed plot and said, “Eh, we don’t need that.” Characters with dialogue? “Nah. This is a visual medium. Let’s embrace that. No talking. Just moving art.”

That’s what I believe Fantasia is. Moving art.

I don’t really think of it as a film, persay, since it doesn’t have much in the way of story. At least, not in the way most films do. If it does have a story, it is in the abstract, minimalist way that a piece of music or a painting has a story.

In Fantasia, Walt created a brand new art form. I don’t turn on Fantasia when I want to watch a movie. Because, as I’ve said, it really doesn’t hold up as a movie since it lacks character development, inciting incident, climax, resolution, etc. You could argue there’s an emotional climax in the Night on Bald Mountain segment, but that’s the same sort of intangible climax you get from, well, an orchestrated piece of music.

I turn on Fantasia when I want to admire art. To me, watching Fantasia is more like going to an art museum. Except I can admire it without getting my fat ass off my couch! The importance of which cannot be overstated.

Honestly, I have a hard time watching it all in one sitting because, well, I have a short attention span and can only look at beautiful art for so long before I demand a plot. Leopold Stowkowski (the conductor) becomes like that boring tour guide you want to shut up already so you can just sit down and eat your overpriced sandwich at the museum cafe.

But I still love going to the art museum. Just like I love watching the segments of Fantasia. I just need to understand before I watch them that it’s not a movie.

It’s moving art.

Which is why I think it failed at the box office initially. People weren’t expecting it. They wanted a silly cartoon to entertain their kids and make them laugh. You wouldn’t take your kids to stare at Renoir paintings for two hours without some serious preparation and promises of Chuck E Cheese if they managed to get through the trip without a meltdown that gets you escorted out of the museum by the security guards (totally not a true story).

[Big Bro’s note: I still have the mental scars to prove it.]

Which is why you have to marvel at Fantasia for its sheer ambition. It was so innovative and so gutsy. Walt wasn’t content at merely having invented feature length animated film. He was like “Hey, that thing I created three years ago? Yeah. It’s time to revolutionize it.”

So it’s pretty sad that it failed. It makes me wonder, what would have happened if it hadn’t been a box office failure? Would Walt have continued to make more “moving art” films like Fantasia, instead of more fairy tales? Would today’s landscape of animated films be a very different place? Or would there still be animated fairy tales and traditionally narrated films while this new art form took its own, separate place in our artistic culture?

I dunno. But it’s fun to hypothesize about things that have very little productive value! Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Seriously, please do it. It makes me sad when I ask questions and then no one comments. It’s worse than when no one likes your Facebook status.

Join us next time when I re-view…

  • Chinoiserie

    I should see the entire thing someday, so far I have only seen segments of it.

    • LeahIsMagical

      Absolutely! It’s really beautifully done. At times, even mesmerizing.