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.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.F3317 C8 1999
The book includes many illustrations with relevant commentary, as well as the general history behind the film. Written just before the release of Fantasia 2000 (the "sequel"), the book explores Disney's masterpiece. It includes insight into the music behind the film, including the process of recording the music, how the animators decided to correlate images with sound, and many of the other behind-the-scenes working of the "imagineers" at Disney in 1940.
Fantasia was not just significant as a film, but this book demonstrates the groundbreaking work that went into the film's production. The piece was intended to be something monumental, and the level of man power and finance was staggering. The book provides commentary on Disney's motivations, both as a form of art and business in making Fantasia. It shows the level of expression the animators were given as well as what they intended with each piece. The cultural impact of the film is also briefly evaluated and the change in style and groundbreaking new concepts of animated film at Disney heralded by the massive production of Fantasia are also addressed. Culhane's book shows how Disney invested time, money, and intellect into Fantasia, with the intent of creating something original and influential.
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.
Jones, Chuck "Music and the Animated Cartoon" JSTOR: Hollywood QuarterlyVol. 1, No. 4 (Jul., 1946), pp. 364-370
This article from the January 1946 edition of the Hollywood Quarterly review explores the impact that Fantasia has had and how music and the animated cartoon have come together to evolve into cutting edge animation. Written by Chuck Jones of Warner Brothers, head of their animation department at the time, the article explores collaborations since then, how music has affected even the most mundane sources of animation and the future of animation. The article argues that Fantasia was essentially the first step in a whole new breed of animation, where animators have the freedom to explore the depths of the imagination and reach a wider audience. Jones further goes on to mention the vast potential of music in cartoons, such as musical education, satire, folklore, and narrative.
Contemporary sources are fantastic examples of how the industry and the public responded to something as pioneering as fantasia. On top of that, the article was written by none other than a household name like Chuck Jones. This article is an excellent source in understanding how Fantasia redefined the industry, opening doors for collaboration and widespread appeal, as well as pushing the envelope in terms of how much freedom animators should have. Jones notes that Fantasia changed the traditionally role of music as mere filler in animation, to being relevant to the narrative and obvious to the audience rather than subtle background noise. In trying to answer the question, why was Fantasia so significant, Jones' insight into how the movie changed the industry is extremely valuable.
Robins, Sam "Disney Again Tries Trailblazing" New York Times (1857-Current file); Nov 3, 1940; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005)
This article in the New York Times from November 3rd 1940, 10 days before the premiere of Fantasia, is a preview of the film. It comments on the amount of time, money, and effort that Disney put into it, as well as the level of collaboration and prowess it took to put it all together. The author, Sam Robins, notes that this is a departure from the typical Disney recreations of fairy tales, and of particular interest to him is that there is no connecting story between the pieces. Robins goes on to list each of the musical numbers from the film, and accompanying animations. The article contains several images of Walt Disney working with the animators and still images from the film. Most notably is Disney's hopes that the film will live on "after he is gone" because great music is eternal.
The article is a primary source about this historical film. It is a preview to the film that is provided not in modern context, but in the context of the 1940s release, including the expectations of any film based on contemporary culture and Disney's pervious work. The author is wary of the dramatic change in style that Fantasia represents for Disney. It is rather striking how Disney was correct about the legacy of the film, having had multiple rereleases and a "sequel" as well as having been marked for preservation by the Library of Congress for being culturally and historically significant. Even at the time of its release, there was some speculation that Fantasia was going to be significant in the realm of animated film.
"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.
Crowther, Bosley "Fantasia Revisited" New York Times (1857-Current file); Nov 17, 1963; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005)
This is a review of the rerelease of Fantasia in 1963 from Bosley Crowther, published in the New York Times. Crowther claims that the piece is no less powerful or entertaining, and will probably be more easily appreciated by audiences today. He cites numerous examples for why Fantasia did not have the appreciation of the masses that it deserved at its initial release, including the war in europe and the drastic change in Disney animation style that Fantasia represented. As well, Crowther draws a connection to the aging theaters on broadway that are showing the film in its rerelease, Fantasia represents the pinnacle of animation freedom. It is abstract and coupled with music that attempts to draw pure imagination onto the screen. The Tower East was being condemned, and Crowther saw this lack of appreciation for "art for art's sake" as reminiscent of the films original reception.
This article provides insight into both the original reception, but also the reception at its first rerelease, before the days of home video. It is a critical evaluation of the film as an work of art and as a commercial product. The article sheds light on the changes in Disney and animation in general that were heralded by the collaboration of composers, musicians, and the freedom given to the animators in the creation of the film.
Twenty-three years after its initial release, Fantasia was deemed significant enough to merit a highly publicized rerelease. Crowther is not at all oblivious to the significance of the film, he frequently mentions that it was a signal of a transition at Disney, and that the entire animation industry followed suit. Music in animation became more than just filler for gaps in sound effects and dialogue, Fantasia brought about the revolutionary concept of regarding music in animation as on par in importance to the animation itself.
Forrest, David "From Score to Screen" JSTOR: Hollywood QuarterlyVol. 1, No. 2 (Jan., 1946), pp. 224-229
This article by David Forrest from the Hollywood Quarterly review in 1946 focuses on the aspect of bringing sound to the final product of film in the process of films such as Fantasia. Forrest was an animator at Warner Brothers for many years, and his experience and background knowledge go a long way toward providing expert insight and contemporary opinion on Disney's dramatic undertaking. Forrest enumerates many of the processes, steps, and collaborations that go into bringing something like the sounds of Fantasia to life. The animators must work with the musicians to collaborate on an artistic level, let alone the measures Forrest describes that are necessary on a technical level to put it all together to create the final product.
When trying to understand a piece like Fantasia, there is little substitute for contemporary expert opinion. Forrest's article in a noted film journal is incredibly useful to anyone who wants to understand what really goes into something as groundbreaking as Fantasia really was, and the implications it had for the film industry at the time of its release. Forrest shows that Fantasia was significant because of unprecedented levels of animator freedom and the collaboration between musicians and animators made necessary by the focus on music.