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Fantasia is a 1940 motion picture, the third in the Disney animated features canon, which was a Walt Disney experiment in animation and music. The soundtrack of the film consists of eight pieces of classical music, played by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. Animated artwork of varying degrees of abstraction or literalism is used to illustrate or accompany the concert in various ways. The film also includes live-action segments featuring Stokowski, the orchestra, and American composer and music critic Deems Taylor, who serves as the host for the film. Besides its avant-garde qualities, Fantasia was notable for being the first major film released in stereophonic sound, using a process dubbed "Fantasound".
Originally released by Walt Disney Productions without then-distributor RKO Radio Pictures as a roadshow film with booked engagements, RKO eventually picked up Fantasia for release in 1941 and edited the film drastically in 1942, leaving the film with only 84 minutes of running time. Future re-releases restored various amounts of the deleted footage, with the most common version being the 1946 re-release edit. The original version of Fantasia was never released again after 1941, and although some of the original audio elements no longer exist, a 2000 DVD release version attempted to restore as much of the original version of the film as possible.
Groundbreaking on several counts, not the least of which was an innovative use of animation and stereophonic sound, this ambitious Disney feature has lost nothing to time since its release in 1940. Classical music was interpreted by Disney animators, resulting in surreal fantasy and playful escapism. Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra provided the music for eight segments by the composers Tchaikovsky, Moussorgsky, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Ponchielli, Bach, Dukas, and Schubert. Not all the sequences were created equally, but a few are simply glorious, such as "Night on Bald Mountain," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," and "The Nutcracker Suite." The animation ranges from subtly delicate to fiercely bold. The screen bursts with color and action as creatures transmute and convention is thrust aside. The painstaking detail and saturated hues are unique to this film, unmatched even by more advanced technology. --Rochelle O'Gorman