Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.F3317 C8 1999
This segment addresses the aesthetics in the last number of “Fantasia” which combines Modest Moussorgsky’s bone chilling tone poem “Night on Bald Mountain” with Franz Schubert’s pacifying Ave Maria. Disney’s goal here was to visually shock the audience with the audio bridging of these two drastically different pieces. This would ultimately address the conflict between good and evil. Vladimir Tytla successfully conveyed the demonic aspect of Moussorgsky’s music with impressive animation amplified by special effects and camerawork. Furthermore, Moussorsky’s music was used to its full potential because the Disney Studio was able to increase the tone of a descending passage—low notes however loud they may be played decrease tone in a classical live stage setting. The transition to “Ave Maria” occurs with the sounding of a bell forcing the demons to retreat as dawn approaches and a series of pilgrims are depicted. “Ave Maria” serves an emotional relief to the audience, undoubtedly tense from the shock of Moussorsgky’s malignant music and its grim visualization. Though Disney was unsatisfied with his animator’s production of this scene, he finally realized his vision only days before the premiere; in Disney’s eyes it was finally perfect. The use of Fantasound in the scene was one of the most important technical components that aided the scenes effects. Fantasound made it seem as though “the spirits of the pilgrim choristers were in procession up the side aisles of the theater.” Disney, Stokowski, and their coworkers had created an entire animated concert while taking full advantage of the animation medium.
Moussorgsky’s piece was written to accompany a story so its style is unusual. Disney's images of demons from the underworld are uncommon as well, since Walt did not want to portray traditional horror motifs. Combining the two creates a harsh sensation while it increases the tension and discomfort of the viewer. However, the following “Ave Maria” sequence erases any fear created by "A Night on Bald Mountain" primarily through its music but also through its animation. Disney and his staff used the sound-image relationship here but they extended that concept by creating a relationship between two sound and image combinations. It is interesting to note that the music alone, the animation without sound or the separation of the two parts would have created something ordinarily unimpressive. The genius behind this last scene is the perfect synchronization of sound and image and the astute bridging of the two pieces. Musical senses are amplified by animation, and furthermore the coupling of two extremes heightens reactionary emotions. This well-constructed scene is perhaps the best example of “Fantasia” working as a form of art. Though the interpretation of the music is depicted directly, and not implicitly, the meaning of the combination of pieces is only suggested. Disney finally required interaction from the viewer perhaps hinting at "Fantasia's" artistic value or, at least, its artistic potential.