Notes for the Fourteenth Lecture

14. Fantasia

Walt Disney

Walt Disney is probably the best know animator of all time. Born in Dec 5, 1901 in Chicago He is considered a pioneer in the animation industry, introducing many new techniques into animation.

He (accompanied by his company) made an enormous number of films winning 22 Oscars, and in terms of over-all, awards won 65 and was nominated for another 47! He produced over 700 films in his life (many shorts) but a number of full-length animated films, full-length live films, and full length, which combined live and animated films. He was also responsible for a series of wild life documentaries.

Among some of his better-known films are:

Shorts (silent and sound) "Steamboat Willie" (first animated sound film)


Mary Poppins (1964)
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1954)
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Cinderella (1950)
Song of the South (1946)
Three Caballeros (1944)
Bambi (1942)
Dumbo (1941)
Fantasia (1940)
Pinocchio (1940)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The Vanishing Prairie (1954)
The African Lion (1955)
Secrets of Life (1956)
Perri (1957)
White Wilderness (1958)
Jungle Cat (1960)
Of his films The United States National Film Registry, part of the Library of Congress, includes as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant": "Steamboat Willie", "The Three Little Pigs", Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo and Mary Poppins.

When, in 1998, the American Film Institute published its list of the 100 greatest American films, according to industry experts; the list included Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (at number 49), and Fantasia (at 58).

Disney’s family moved several times as he was growing up; once, when he was four, to a farm in Marceline Missouri. Here his interest in art grew when he was asked to draw a horse for a doctor in the neighborhood. He developed skills with watercolors and crayons.

Later the family moved to Kansas City Missouri (Not Kansas City Kansas like Mr. Peacock). Here he met Walter Pfeiffer whose family introduced him to theater, vaudeville and films. He took a Saturday course in art at an Art Institute and a correspondence course in cartooning.

The family returned to Chicago where he took a few more courses in art, and joined the ambulance corps in WWI. He drew characters on his ambulance, which was published in Stars and Stripes, the army newspaper.

He moved back to Kansas City where he had a job as an apprentice artist and became friends with another named Ub Iwerks (pronounced like UB EYE-wurks). The two went into animation together and wound up in Los Angeles

The Silly Symphonies were 75 shorts produced from 1929-1939 and were buts of fluff to accompany music.

Ultimately, the two separated when their distributor, Pat Powers refused to give them a raise. (Here again you can see the problems of production distribution and management) Powers signed Iwerks and Disney went to Columbia Pictures for distribution, and Disney (after a breakdown) went off on his own.

Multiplane camera:

William Garity developed the most famous multiplane camera while at Disney Studios. It was developed to be used in the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The camera was completed in early 1937. One of the Silly Symphony cartoons called "The Old Mill" was the first place it was used. The film won the 1937 Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

Disney's multiplane camera used up to seven layers of artwork. The artists used oil paints and painted the glass. They shot the film a vertical and moveable camera set for successive frames. Technicolor, allowed for more sophisticated uses than the similar cameras developed earlier by Iwerks or by Fleischer. A camera crew of up to a dozen technicians might be required to operate and advance each of the planes. The senior Disney executive, Card Walker, rose in the company from the multiplane camera department in the late 1930s. Occasionally the studio used another camera, operating horizontally along tracks laid on a studio floor to allow wider movements (e.g. establishing shot of Pinocchio’s village) or extremely long tracking or complicated dissolve shots (notably the Ave Maria forest sequence). The multiplane was used prominently in many Disney films such as Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book. The camera would be used more rarely in later movies, like The Fox and the Hound, which contains just a single multiplane shot.

The final film in which Disney used the multiplane camera was The Little Mermaid though the work was done by an outside facility. Disney's cameras were no longer functioning by then. The process is now obsolete because of the development of computer animation.


The Silly Symphonies is a series of 75 short films created by Disney between 1929 and 1939. These were shorts, in which animated figures performed to music. The characters did not continue from one film to the next. Rather, they appeared only in one of the films. There were some exceptions like the Three Little Pigs and Donald Duck who makes his first appearance in one of them ("The Wise Little Hen" in 1934).

Carl Stalliing, a theater organist, and Disney were in New York getting ready to add sound to some Mickey Mouse shorts, when Stalling suggested making series. The first, "The Skeleton Dance". Ub Iwerks, an early partner of Walt Disney, did the drawings and Stalling supplied the music.

Anthropomorphizing of animals

Disney seems to enjoy "humanizing" (anthropomorphizing) animals. Not only do they often walk like humans (Mickey Mouse and crew), but dress in something akin to human clothing. He also, most importantly imbues them with human emotions – even going so far as to do this even in his documentary films!

Disney expanded into Television and Developed Theme Parks (Disneyland, Disney World etc.)

Expanded into TV and appears to have instrumental in the development of color TV not as an inventor but as a broadcaster. People didn’t want to buy color TV because almost everything was broadcast in B&W. No one wanted to produce color because it was more expensive and no one had color TV. When Disney’s programs came on they were all broadcast in color and people bought color TVs to see his films since he was running his own already made color films,

He built both Disneyland and Disney World and Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). Disneyland first appeared in Anaheim California and the theme parks can now be found worldwide.


Started as a search for a vehicle for Mickey Mouse. Hit on the Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas based on a poem "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (German: "Der Zauberlehrling") by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe written in 1797. The poem is a ballad in 14 stanzas.

Two major figures in music take part in the film: Deems Taylor and Leopold Stokowski

Deems Taylor (December 22, 1885 – July 3, 1966) was a famous American music critic and composer and a proponent of "Classical music"

Leopold Stokowski (18 April 1882 – 13 September 1977) was a British born conductor Polish background. He had a long time affiliation with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which appears in the film.

The pieces of music are composed by different composers:

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) Nutcracker Suite
Paul Dukas (1865-1935) Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) The Rite of Spring (Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827 Pastoral Symphony
Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886) Dance of the Hours from La Giaconda
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) Night on Bald Mountain
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) "Ave Maria" ("Ellen’s Third Song") Not originally written as "Ave Maria" as sung today for Walter Scott’s poem &quoy;Lady of the Lake"
Disney (and Stokowski) took advantages with some of the music and made cuts and rearrangements. Stravinsky was the only composer involved who was alive when the film was made. Initially he was positive about it (apparently not minding that the music was altered and was the "story" of the ballet, which involves groups of "prehistoric" people (Pagan Russians) involved in a ritual in which a girl dances herself to death for the god of spring.

The conversion to something more elemental was something Stravinsky seemed to have a problem with (although paleontologists object to the T-Rex Stegosaurus fight since they did not live at the same time) – but who cares. We suspend disbelief although maybe we learn the things we should disbelieve.

The film is often seen as "cutesy" with its a classic example of elves, fairies, dancing ostriches and other animals and mythological centaurs etc. frolicking in the woods - all of which are typical of Disney. Bambi is the classic example of animals being anthropomorphized – being dealt with having human emotions and so on

There has been some discussion as to whether Bela Lugosi was the model for Satan in the Night on Bald Mountain segment. He certainly posed for it – there are photos of him doing so, but the question is whether they used them in doing the animation. It was not unusual for Disney artists to use models for animated figures. Bobby Driscoll, a Disney child actor (So Dear to My Heart, Song of the South and the Window – for which he got an academy award, at age 13 for best Juvenile actor. He not only voiced the Peter Pan character in Disney’s 1953 animated version, but also acted it out so the animators could use him as a model for the sketches. Driscoll died at the age of 31. His voice and facial appearance were no longer what they had been. He became addicted to drugs and was arrested. He tried his luck in NY but his reputation preceded him.

On March 30, 1968, two playing children found his dead body in an abandoned East Village tenement. Believed to be an unclaimed and homeless person, he was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave on Hart Island, in New York where he remains.

The film remains unique in its conception and approach. The use of classical symphonic music as the bases for a full-length animated feature was unique. The idea of linking (Disney) animators’ ideas of what the music creates in their minds was also unique.

The film starts with Deems Taylor explaining different kinds of music – abstract (Toccata and Fugue in D. minor, programmatic with a story line (Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and a kind of "tone poem" which musically depicts an idea of event without a direct story (Night on Bald Mountain/ Ave Maria).

Bach’s Toccata and Fugue is originally composed for the organ but has been orchestrated. How would you compare this to colorization of films?

There are shots in the film which one suspects had later influence on other filmmakers. Does the lining up of the earth and the sun sound like something out of 2001?

Do the Apatosaurs in the water remind you of Jurassic Park?

It is possible to analyze the pieces from a filmic point of view. Each episode (or two) was under the control of a different person. One person sketches out the scenic design and "Camera placement" watch for example in the Dance of the Hours where the camera is "placed".

The appearance of dinosaurs in animation and cartoons has been silly or funny. Disney attempted to make them look more natural and with the exception of the baby dinosaurs (Disney can’t resist some things) they are not "cute". The infamous battle between the he Tyrannosaur and stegosaur is anything but "cute". (The original idea was the battle was to be between a Triceratops and the Tyrannosaurus, which would have been scientifically possible since they lived at the same time. They opted for the stegosaurus because of the neat tail with the spikes on it even though they knew there were 10s of millions of years between the time the stegosauruses (150.8-155.7 million years ago) lived and the time of the Tyrannosaurus (about 66-68 million years ago)

The opening of The Rite of Spring segment starts with a red color predominating, but finally at the end of the first sequence, blues appear in the form of water. At the end of the sequence similar colors occur. There is a change in the world at the end. The dinosaurs are gone. The film shows the sun being eclipsed and will reappear the same way life was eclipsed and reappeared (the dinosaurs and the age of the reptiles ended and the age of mammals begins.)

Despite scientific inaccuracies (called "artistic license") and musical manipulations, the artistic handling of The Rite of Spring remains something that almost everyone who has seen the film remembers. Even prominent scientist like Jay Gould have said that the depiction of the dinosaurs impressed him so much that it basically started him on his road to being a scientist.

There are several ways to regard animation as it exists along side of "live" film.

(1) The project manager lays out the general "story board" for the film. This would include such things as "camera angles", movement ((e.g. tracking shots, pans, etc.) and all the other aspects of film making that would have to be decided on by film makers. In the case of animation, such techniques as camera placement are not actually camera placement, but instruction to the artists as to how they ae to draw the shots as though the camera were placed in a specific position. Notice for example the low angle shots of the Tyrannosaurus rex in The Rite of Spring

(2) The animator chooses colors much as the set designer and costume designer would. Notice how the Rite of Spring section starts off once it gets to Earth with heavy dark red colors. Near the end of the opening sequence before life appears, the water floods in and film has become largely blue. The entire piece ends with a section in which the main color is a dusty red and as the earthquakes occur, the water floods in and again the film sequence shifts from red to blue. So both the beginning and the end of the film mimic the opening and closing sequences. The opening sequence goes red to blue; the closing sequence goes red to blue and so the film is "y;book-ended" by red to blue sequences. Since the first sequence starts red and the sequence ends blue, the entire film follows the same pattern. Even more, the film starts and ends in outer space so even the parts that are in space open and close the film.

(3) At the end there is some symbolism and the sequence shows an eclipse which can be read as the dinosaur rule on earth is now eclipsed.

(4) There are some "synesthesia" moments. *quot;Synesthesia" refers to sensing certain things by other than normal sense organs – that is "seeing" sound or "hearing" . vision. Notice that low ranges of sound often appear as dark red, while brighter higher tones often appear as yellow or white or at least pastel colors. This is especially obvious in the "anstract" musical piece "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor".

(5) It also seems clear that the animators tend to see movement to music as dance. While the " Nutcracker Suite stems from a ballet, the figures all perform as dancers or ice skaters, moving in time with the music. This continues through the film, but is much more marked in the "Nutcracker Suite" and "Dance of the Hours". But even in the other sections, a similar pattern emerges (remember the term "Mickey Mousing"?