English, Horace B. “’Fantasia’ and the Psychology of Music.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 2.7 (Winter, 1942-1943): 27-31. Blackwell. JSTOR. Van Pelt Library Philadelphia, PA. 30 Nov 2008.
English reminds the reader that the combining music and dramatic production is an old technique. Therefore, there has always been music that was written to accompany drama. Such music is composed around the story in order to enhance it. Some of the pieces in “Fantasia” were written as such, and therefore Disney’s visual accompaniment does not destroy the music. On the other hand, most of the sequences in “Fantasia” use the music as the base and write the story around the music, ignoring the inherent differences between visual forms and musical forms. He explains this by describing man’s relationship to sound. Sounds have become abstractions and carry an infinite variety of plastic meanings. There is no fixed meaning of a musical sound. On the other hand, the eye is an organ of reality meaning that what is seen—painted, written, pictured, etc.—holds far more acceptability than what is heard. “Seeing, not hearing, is believing,” he asserts. He says that when we are really responding to music, we are creating something unique and individual; and at the moment of such creation, anyone else’s response, be it ever so beautiful, is only a distraction and an annoyance.
This article exemplifies one of the biggest critiques of “Fantasia:” mixing two forms of art inappropriately. According to English’s view on music, Disney ends up annoying the viewer with this combination rather than impressing him. In the context of “Fantasia’s” purpose, English seems to take the repercussions of the sound-image relationship too far. Disney wanted to expose lower-class audiences to the mysteries of classical music while demonstrating his talent in animation. However, with an intellectual mindset, the viewer sees the images as “a distraction and an annoyance.” Disney thus succeeded in entertaining his uneducated viewer, but he could not gain approval of intellectuals. English describes music, which is not written around a story, is an art form of its own. As such, artistic music provokes individual emotions that should not be normalized as they are in “Fantasia.” Unfortunately, Disney’s attempt failed to consider the musical characteristics that were the cause of much critique. As an entertainer, Disney seems to be doing the job with this film. On the other hand, as an artist, Disney overlooks fundamental aspects of art. Disney’s lack of basic artistic comprehension contributes to “Fantasia’s” failure as a work of art.