Happy 80th Birthday, Fantasia!

Fantasia is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and released by Walt Disney Productions on November 13, 1940. It is the third Disney animated feature film, and consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski, seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Music critic and composer Deems Taylor acts as the film’s emcee, providing a live-action introduction to each animated segment.

Disney settled on the film’s concept in 1938 as work neared completion on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an elaborate Silly Symphonies short designed as a comeback role for Mickey Mouse, who had declined in popularity. As production costs grew higher than what it could earn, Disney decided to include the short in a feature-length film with other segments set to classical pieces. The soundtrack was recorded using multiple audio channels and reproduced with Fantasound, a pioneering sound reproduction system that made Fantasia the first commercial film shown in stereophonic sound.

Of course, I have several books about the movie, published in 1940.

This is THE book of Fantasia – Walt Disney’s new full-length feature production. Just as the movie Fantasia represents an entirely new departure in the art of the motion picture, this book is a unique publishing venture. It is the first Disney book designed for adults, the first comprehensive record of Walt Disney’s revolutionary contribution to contemporary art – painting in motion.

Fantasia is a sort of symphony between book covers – a new and exhilarating form of entertainment for the printed page – conceived by Walt Disney and worked out by him in collaboration with a distinguished company of writers, artists, and musicians.

In a profession that has been an unending voyage of discovery in the realms of color, sound, and motion, Fantasia represents our most exciting adventure.  At last, we have found a way to use in our medium the great music of all times and the flood of new ideas which it inspires.      

Walt Disney

Here are the other 1940 books about Fantasia: the movie premier booklet, and several books about individual pieces within the movie.

My favorite part of Fantasia, though, is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. As noted above, it was originally intended to be a Silly Symphony animation short to revive interest in Mickey Mouse. Instead, it became the centerpiece of Fantasia, and the Mickey Mouse character most-recognized of all time.

A 1940 book released with the film

Every time I visit a Walt Disney property where Sorcerer Mickey “lives,” I stop by for a quick visit.

My last visit in early February 2020

Sorcerer Mickey has been very visible around the world over the years: character appearances (as above), park attractions (Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Fantasmic, Mickey and the Magical Map, Starlight Dreams, the World of Color), and video games. His most recent feature film appearance was a cameo in Ralph Breaks the Internet.

My personal favorite appearance of Sorcerer Mickey was in the logo of Walt Disney Imagineering from 1986 – 2019.

With the launch of Disney+ and a greatly-increased interest in Imagineering through the series, The Imagineering Story, Sorcerer Mickey was dropped from the logo design.

Tonight I’ll be watching Fantasia to celebrate its 80th birthday – and of course, who do they choose to illustrate the movie?

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