Crowther, Bosley "Yes, But Is It Art?" New York Times (1857-Current file); Nov 17, 1940; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) pg. 141
Published shortly after the Fantasia's release, Crowther further discusses Fantasia (having reviewed it only days earlier). Crowther acknowledges the debate surrounding Fantasia, does the film capture a new art form, or merely a gimmick of new entertainment? Crowther highlights all the minor criticisms of the film, that sometimes the dramatic use of sound and color on screen are overwhelming, or that some segments fall short of achieving the desired dramatic effect (specifically "Night on Bald Mountain"). However, Crowther concludes that whether or not it is an art form is ambiguous, it is truly up to the viewer to decide. Some may find it to be a dumbing down of brilliant classical music, while others will appreciate it as the imagination brought to life. Ultimately, the impact it has on the viewer defines the significance of the film and whether or not it can be considered an art form or a spectacle.
Crowther makes some key points about Fantasia and directly addresses the issue examined in this project, why Fantasia is significant. Crowther believed that for all its short comings, the final product was in fact an art form, and was successful at doing what had never been done before. Fantasia was a pioneer in animation, it was the first of its kind and marked a turning point for the continued use of music in animation. The concept of illustrating the imagination in time with classical music was unheard of, and the subsequent freedom given to the animators and collaboration between graphic and musical artists was unprecedented.
The film reintroduces the audience to classical music, hoping to improve upon the works that history has already demonstrated to be significant and universal in appeal. Disney intended the music to be considered as equal in importance to the animation, and his investment in Fantasound was an attempt to reach this goal. Crowther writes that in very few places did the music ever seen "subjugated" to the animation. Fantasia was based around a unique concept, changing the role of music in animation and illustrating pure imagination, and the resulting impact on production was a need to break the traditional mold. Crowther believes Fantasia was significant because it was a novel experience, captivating the audience on a deeper level than a traditional film. There are many elements of Fantasia that made it ground breaking and significant at the time of its release, but its legacy demonstrates that it is clearly a defining work of American Film.
Clague, Mark "Playing in 'Toon': Walt Disney's Fantasia and the Imagineering of Classical Music" JSTOR: American MusicVol. 22, No. 1 (Spring, 2004), pp. 91-109
This article authored by Mark Clague was published in 2004 in the journal American Music. Clague takes a look back at Fantasia, and the pieces that came together to produce the film. Specifically, Clague goes into great detail about the significance of the use of classical music as the background for the animation. On even a purely technical level, Disney had to modernize classical music to bring it into his film. The production team rerecorded the music with multichannel and stereophonic systems in order to optimize sound quality, demonstrating the further emphasis on the music being considered an equal player in the piece to the animations. The importance placed on the quality of the music is one of the factors that would lead Disney to adapt Fantasound for the release of the film despite the expense. Clague also notes that Disney's choice of classical music played a major role in the future significance of the film. Classical music is something that has withstood the test of time, we are all familiar with it and it has demonstrated its ability to captivate audiences through its own longevity. Disney chose something elegant and appealing for the animators to work with, and thereby heightened the impact of the film, tying its lifespan to the music it was accompanying.
Clague's article grants excellent insight into a major aspect of the film that has contributed to its significance. Disney clearly put emphasis on the music itself, investing in recording and playback sound equipment. The production team considered the music itself to be at least as central as the animation itself, something that had not occured before. The choice of classical music and the focus on the music being a major player in the piece rather than just another layer of polish were revolutionary concepts and the the film that first employed these techniques, Fantasia, has changed the way music in animation is viewed to this day.
DeCroix, Rick "Fantasia" Journal of Popular Film & Television; Summer 1996; 24, 2; Alt-Press Watch (APW)
This article, published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television and written by Rick Decroix, discusses Fantasia in light of its (at the time) upcoming sequel. Written in 1996, Decroix notes that whether or not the audience enjoys Fantasia, it is something to be commended. The film is art, taking the sound medium of music and creating its analog on the silver screen. Decroix acknowledges that Fantasia 2000 can't be the groundbreaking spectacle that the original was, but he is hopeful that it will prove to be in line with the intention of the original, to bring together two art forms into something entirely different.
The author of this review acknowledges the legacy of Fantasia. He claims that the original movie possessed an undeniable "artistic genius". Decroix recognizes the influence and importance of Fantasia 56 years later, with the added contemporary insight granted by having seen the films effects over half-a-century and knowing that Disney is working on a sequel.
Sequels are mixed bag in Hollywood, some fail to capture the success of the original, some are remarkably successful, some are just more of the same, and some destroy the integrity of the original. Fantasia however, had no plot or recurring characters. Therefore, the only element linking these two films is the concept behind them. Fantasia was based around an idea, to animate classical music to add an extra sensory level and help the audience connect. This was an entirely new idea at the time of its conception. Let alone the unprecendented levels of freedom the animators were given, technological improvements, and levels of collaboration that went into the film, the film was founded on a revolutionary concept. The very basis of Fantasia was to connect music and animation, with no regards to traditional plot or character development. The movie was entirely about the music, and this driving force alone made the film unique and pioneering. Fantasia's legacy is long-lived, having taken a whole new approach to what can be done with music, animation, and imagination.
"Disney's Fantasia" JSTOR: The Musical TimesVol. 82, No. 1183 (Sep., 1941), p. 349
This review of Fantasia, printed in The Musical Times in September 1941 is a mixed criticism of the film. The author is nothing short of brutal in his detraction, commenting on audience members walking out of the film and going so far as to call the film a "failure". The critic acknowledges the bold attempt Disney is making at marrying the two art forms of animation and music, but feels that the patterns in one do not translate well to the other. The author of the review makes one great exception however, the sorceror's apprentice (the famous sequence involving Mickey Mouse himself) was incredibly well recieved. The critic thought the piece was well concieved, the animation matched wonderfully with the piece and goes so far as to say that "it is as if Dukas' little masterpiece has been waiting all these years for Disney to complete it."
This review from the film's original release is excellent in answering the question of Fantasia's significance because it looks at the piece with a focus on the music. The author goes through each sequence and detracts for the most part, understanding Disney's intent in linking animation to music to create something better than either media lone, but states that the film simply fails to hit the mark. It was a noble effort but a failure in the end. Where the critic does praise the film is where its significance is really shown. When Disney does get it right, he creates a masterpiece, something that fits with the music so naturally that it is as though the piece was originally concieved with the accompanying animation in mind. Fantasia blended music and animation on a level never before achieved, and the result was something revolutionary that not everyone initally approved of, but has had an undeniable impact on animation and a powerful legacy.
"Walt's Masterworks: Fantasia" The Walt Disney Family Museum (Nov. 30, 2008) Retrieved from http://disney.go.com/disneyatoz/familymuseum/collection/masterworks/fantasia/index.html
This article taken from the Walt Disney Museum website gives an overview of the production of the film Fantasia. The film actually started as a relatively smaller scale work, just another of Disney's ongoing "silly symphony" series. As production progressed, Walt and the animators realized that they had too many ideas for just a minor film, and it was decided to create a film based entirely around music, one that could showcase all of the animators brilliant and creative ideas. Disney himself had high ambitions for the film, he toyed with pumping smells into theaters to make the film a complete sensory experience, but instead opted to invest in "Fantasound." Fantasound was an expensive and elaborate new sound system, and Disney felt that it would help to put the music at the forefront of the audience's attention and truly definite it as the revolutionary piece he intended. Though RKO forced disney to cut the piece down to 81 minutes from his original 125, the core elements of the film remained intact and the pioneering work was produced.
Fantasia recieved mixed critical reaction. It was a dramatic turn from Disney's traditional style and many felt the disparity between highbrow classical music and the mass-appeal of animation to be too jarring to be enjoyed. Though Disney's intent to illustrate the imagination as it listens to music may have been initially missed, the films legacy has proven that it was in fact the revolutionary piece he intended it to be.
This is an excellent starting place for my project. Coming from the company itself, the article gives an account of the production of the film, Disney's intent, and the legacy of the film. If one is to answer "Why was Disney's Fantasia so significant?", all aspects of the film must be examined; its production, its initial reception, and its legacy are all crucial factors.