The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was a symphonic poem composed by Paul Dukas in the late 1890s. By 1936, the popularity of Mickey Mouse was starting to decline, so Walt Disney decided to produce an animated short set to the music of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and featuring Mickey Mouse. Disney even recruited Leopold Stokowski to conduct the music. Production costs on the short grew too expensive, however, and it was decided to include the short in a feature film that would also include other segments set to classical music. The resulting film, Fantasia, would become a landmark film and ultimately a Disney classic. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment proved so popular that it was featured in the sequel Fantasia 2000 nearly 60 years later. For this installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be taking a look back at Fantasia (now celebrating its 75th anniversary) and Fantasia 2000.
Directed by Ben Sharpsteen, Norman Ferguson, James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr., Jim Handley, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, and Paul Satterfield, 1940’s Fantasia consists of eight animated segments set to classical music: Toccata and Fugue In D Minor, The Nutcracker Suite, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Rite of Spring, Meet the Soundtrack, The Pastoral Symphony, Dance of the Hours, and Night On Bald Mountain. Featuring music performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra, this critically acclaimed film initially grossed $1.3 million domestically on a budget of $2.28 million (its release was limited due to World War II; multiple re-releases have increased its gross to over $76 million). Animators on the film (over 500 in total) used a variety of sources for visual inspiration, ranging from the Three Stooges to ballet performers to observing real-life animals as well as studying comets and nebulae at an observatory. Walt Disney wanted to have audiences feel that the orchestra was actually performing in the theaters, so he collaborated with RCA to help pioneer Fantasound, a stereophonic surround sound system which innovated some processes that are still widely used today, including simultaneous multi-tracking recording, overdubbing, and noise reduction. Among the film’s accolades are a Special Award from the NY Film Critics Circle and an Honorary Academy Award.
Directed by Don Hahn, James Algar, Gaetan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi, Hendel Butoy, Francis Glebas, Eric Goldberg, and Pixote Hunt, 1999’s Fantasia 2000 consists of seven new animated segments set to classic music: Symphony No. 5, Pines of Rome, Rhapsody In Blue, Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102, The Carnival of the Animals, Pomp and Circumstance Marches 1, 2, 3, & 4, and Firebird Suite- 1919 Version. The classic animated segment The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is also included in the new film. Featuring music mostly performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, this critically acclaimed film grossed over $60 million domestically on a budget of $80 million (it added $30 million internationally for a worldwide total of almost $91 million). It became the first animated feature to be shown in IMAX, breaking then-IMAX records for highest IMAX gross and highest weekly total for an IMAX release. The film, which got the green light after the successful 1990 theatrical re-release of Fantasia and its 1991 home video release, was spear-headed by Roy E. Disney and contains a mix of traditional (hand drawn, pastels, watercolor paintings, etc.) and computer animation. Sources of inspiration for the many animators included studying the movements of zoo animals and ballerinas. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice even received a digital restoration for its inclusion in the new film. Among the film’s accolades are five Annie Award nods (including three wins), and Best Animated Feature nods from the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Phoenix Film Critics Society.